The Presidential primary of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) finally kicks off in Abuja on Monday with all the 21 presidential aspirants still in the race putting up the final act to win the ticket.
This is coming against the background of an attempt by the party’s Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, to foister Senate President Ahmad Lawan – a northerner – as the preferred candidate of the APC
just as the governors elected under the party were believed to have submitted the names of five presidential aspirants to President Muhammadu Buhari to select a consensus candidate from.
The selected aspirants are the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti State), Rotimi Amaechi, former Minister of Transportation, and Governor Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State).
“They picked one from South-East, one from South-South and three from South-West geopolitical zones in line with their position that power should shift to the South,” a source said.
President Buhari is expected to pick from the list
But analysts believe the battle for delegates’ votes was largely between Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President; BolaTinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and former Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
Others in the race are Tein Jack-Rich; former Governors Godswill Akpabio, Ibikunle Amosun, Ogbonnaya Onu, Sani Yerima, and Rochas Okorocha; Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Governor Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Governor Bello (Kogi), Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Ajayi Boroffice; a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Mrs Uju Ken-Ohnenye; Pastor Nicholas Nwagbo, a former Minister of Information, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu and a former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba.
Both Governor Badaru of Jigawa State and a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, have withdrawn from the race.
Badaru withdrew from the race after the APC Northern Governors Forum endorsed that the APC should pick its presidential candidate from the South. Nnamani announced his withdrawal during a meeting with journalists in Abuja on Monday, saying that “it does not make any sense for me to continue in the race as I have not had the opportunity to market my profile and ideas to the delegates of our party in a manner that allow for deliberation and introspection.”
Adamu, who had summoned a meeting of the 25-member National Working Committee at the party’s headquarters in Abuja ahead of the presidential primary slated for Tuesday, told the meeting that Lawan was the anointed candidate of the party.
This was rejected by the other members of the NMC and the 12 Northern governors of the party, who abruptly rose from the meeting to head to Aso Rock to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.
After the NWC meeting, about seven members led by the National Organising Secretary of the APC, Suleman Argungu, stated that Lawan was not the preferred candidate of the party.
“We want to state that the pronouncement of Lawan as the consensus candidate was the chairman’s opinion and he is entitled to his opinion. It is not the position of the party,” Argungu said.
Others who supported Argungu were the National Vice Chairman (North-West), Salihu Lukman; Deputy National Chairman (South), Isaac Kekemeke; the National Youth Leader, Dayo Israel.
Also after their meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa, the northern governors stated that the President had confirmed to them that he had no preferred candidate.
The governors said they stood by their decision to zone the party’s presidential ticket to the South, a move which angered Kogi State Governor and Presidential aspirant, Yahaya Bello.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong of Plateau State, regretted that the communiqué from the earlier meeting, where they endorsed the power shift, had leaked to the public before they officially informed the President of their resolution.
He, however, noted that the governors had to inform the President in person as part of last-minute preparations for tomorrow’s primary elections.
“Mr. President, as a believer in the democratic process, believes that any candidate must emerge through a transparent process and the emphasis that Mr. President told us that for this election, for now, he has no anointed candidate and therefore directed that the Progressive Governors Forum meet with the National Working Committee of the party to agree and proffer further solutions and recommendations for his own succession,” Lalong said.
Other northern governors in attendance were: Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Aminu Masari (Katsina) Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa) Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Yahaya Inuwa (Gombe), Babagana Zulum (Borno) and AbdulRahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara).
Also, Buhari in a statement after the meeting with the Northern governors, said he had not anointed any of the presidential aspirants.
Garaba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, said Buhari spoke at a meeting with 12 Northern APC Governors at the State House, Abuja, saying he has “no preferred candidate,” and has “anointed no one.”
The statement is titled ‘I have anointed no one, there shall be no imposition, says president Buhari’.
While noting that he is determined to ensure that “there shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party,” Buhari said the party is important and its members must be respected and made to feel they are important.
The President said he had a clear mind about what he was doing and asked the APC governors to feel the same way: “You were elected as I was. Have a clear mind as I have. God gave us the chance; we have no reason to complain. We must be ready to take pain as we take joy. Allow the delegates to decide. The Party must participate, nobody will appoint anybody.”