By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Gbenga Oke
ABUJA — IT is certain that the list of ministers is ready, and President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the prized document should be submitted immediately to the Senate, which resumes from its six-week break, today.
The list was said to contain the names of people like former Rivers State Governor, Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi; a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Rotimi Akeredolu; former Army Chief, Lt-Gen. Abdurrahman Dambazzau, and activist lawyer, Femi Falana, among others.
It was gathered, yesterday, that President Buhari handed the list to his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, and directed him to forward it to the Senate President.
Therefore, Senate President, Bukola Saraki will tomorrow formally present Buhari’s ministerial list to senators.
President Buhari, currently attending the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, was said to have given the list of 36 ministers to Senator Ita Enang in New York.
It was gathered that President Buhari directed Senator Ita Enang to either hand over the list to the Senate President at the resumption of the plenary today or on Wednesday, depending on the mood of the Senate.
However, it was learned that Enang who left New York for Nigeria, yesterday, will not arrive Abuja before 3pm today, when the Senate would have concluded its business for the day. The Presidency had repeatedly promised that the list would be available this month and tomorrow is the last day of September.
Meanwhile, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has dismissed as a family affair perceived misgivings between the party and President Buhari over the ministerial list.
Fresh primary poll in Bayelsa
This came as APC National Working Committee, NWC, yesterday, said the party was going ahead with the conduct of a fresh governorship primary in Bayelsa State, insisting that the previous one was invalid.
It also asked the former governor of the state, Timipre Sylva, who purportedly won the last primary election, to approach the court should he find the decision of the NWC unwholesome.
Asked if the NWC discussed the ministerial list, Odigie-Oyegun said: “We know that the President will do what he needs to do. What happened or did not happen between us and the President is a matter for the party as a family. It is a family affair, but he will do what he needs to do, when he needs to do it. You can trust him on that.”
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, who was the chairman of the election panel, testified before the NWC that there was no election, stressing that hoodlums attacked him, making the exercise inclusive.
Briefing journalists after the NWC meeting at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, Odigie-Oyegun said the process for fresh primaries would commence today.
He said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase, had been notified of the decision.
His words: “The main issue that occupied us today at the NWC meeting had to do with the Bayelsa governorship primaries. We want to make it very clear that as a party, the APC guards very jealously its records of free and fair primaries.
“The NWC sees it as a duty to provide a level playing ground for all those who aspire to offices in this party, unfortunately, in Bayelsa state, we had serious security challenges and so the process could not meet the standards which this party has set for itself and so we had no alternative but to stop the process by ensuring that the chairman of the panel was effectively moved out of the venue with the help of security agencies.
“We decided thereafter that there should be a proper primary. So, we have written to INEC appropriately and decided to conduct fresh primaries for the Bayelsa governorship election beginning tomorrow. We are getting in touch with the Inspector General of Police and all the other security agencies to please assist us in ensuring effective security.”
Oyegun stated that the party was not interested in who emerged the candidate eventually but that due process must be followed as APC stood for change and must reflect it in its dealings.
“Let me make one thing clear. The issue of who is candidate or not is not the issue here. That is not what is in consideration because it can be any of the 19 aspirants that obtained the form to contest that election.
‘’But for the APC, the party of change, it is essential that in party processes, elections within the party are also seen to be free, fair, totally above board and without any form of force.
‘’That is what we hope to achieve beginning from tomorrow. The venue remains Yenagoa because by law, you cannot change the venue because that is part of the electoral act,” he said.
Primary election c’ttee returned Sylva under pressure
The national chairman also exonerated the panel that declared Sylva winner, saying anybody could have done so under the intense atmosphere.
“We sent people to do a job and it got to a situation where they had reasons to fear for their safety, rightly or wrongly. Anything that anybody does in such a situation to keep body and soul in one piece is welcome,’’ he said.
Reminded that Sylva might challenge NWC’s decision, Oyegun said: “That is what the courts are for. We will cross that bridge when we get there. The Saraki issue is in court and I will not want to say one word about it.”
Speaking on security arrangement for the fresh primary, he said: “They say once beaten, twice shy. I am not a security man; I am not a security expert. But I am sure that the IGP is fully abreast of what happened that day as well what can be done and need to be done to avoid a repetition and we trust his judgement.”
Cancelled primary was a mini-war, says Oshiomhole
Meanwhile, the chairman of the election panel, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, appeared before the NWC and testified what transpired at the Yenagoa election.
Briefing journalists, the governor stated that he was not on any revenge mission but was being truthful about the situation, admitting that what happened in Bayelsa was a mini war.
He said: “I along with six other colleagues of mine were a panel to conduct the primaries. We have reported back and we have signed the report, five of us and that report has been presented formally to the party and it details all the issues. You know them and that is how far I can go. The report belongs to the party. It is not for me as a steward to tell the master what to do, but we have reported.
“I really don’t want to go back to those issues. These are not issues that transpired in a bedroom. I do hope that some day we get to a point where even the media must defend the democratic space, concerning what happened in the stadium I have seen independent reports, “gun shots were being fired”, “AK 47 were recovered, two of them, Pump action, live ammunition.
“These are not secrets that transpired. I am not the issue and I don’t want to be the issue. There are issues that are important to me. I didn’t go there as a governor. I went there as a party member on a national assignment for the party and it is a great honour.
“I have done that job along with my colleagues to the best of my ability and I have reported with the fear of God the truth as I know it and this has been signed by every member and we have forwarded the report.”
Oshiomhole also denied speculations that he planned to favour one of the aspirants, Mr. Timi Alaibe, emphasizing that Sylva was his “brother”.
“You know Sylva is my brother and I can show you my phone, I’m not just calling him my brother, I have sent him a text saying my brother and he will remain my brother. So, if there is an argument or somebody is under tension what you need is our help, I know what it takes contesting for an election and I have passed through all of that and happily, I’m doing my second term.
“So, I will not create burden for anyone except that because of the tradition I’m coming from, democracy has only one meaning “one man, one vote”. It is a covenant between me and my God. I have fought electoral fraud in Edo and God mercifully aided me and we defeated some of the retrogressive forces and if there is nothing else I can do, the principle of one man one vote is something I’m committed to so. If he is offended by that it is a pity. For emphasis, Sylva is my brother and I’m not going to fight him in the street”, he stated.
Meanwhile, there was palpable fear earlier in the day when the NWC meeting came on stream as the party secretariat witnessed an unusual horde of stern-looking police men and operatives from the Department of State Service, DSS.
Vanguard gathered that the development was a measure to prevent anticipated showdown should there be an attack from, perhaps, Silva’s camp.
It will be recalled that the social media went viral with the news credited to Sylva that the APC national chairman could not upturn his electoral victory or stop him from contesting the December 5 governorship election in Bayelsa State.