By Henry Umoru, Abdallah el-Kurebe, Omezia Ajayi, Bashir Bello
…President first challenger emerges
…Afenifere tackles Bisi Akande on restructuring
The national leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was, last night, trying to fend-off possible schisms in the party over the declaration by the South-West caucus that the 2019 presidential ticket would be open to all zones should President Muhammadu Buhari decides not to run.
The party’s intervention came amid strong claims to the ticket by northern chapters of the APC which insisted that the presidency would remain in the North irrespective of Buhari’s intention.
This happened on a day Senator Adamu Aliero, a former governor of Kebbi State, indicated that he would challenge Buhari for the APC ticket ahead of the 2019 election.
The controversy was stoked on Thursday after the immediate past National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, at the end of a retreat for South-West leaders of the APC, declared that the 2019 presidential ticket remained open to all sections of the country in so far as the President had not declared his intention for a second term.
Akande had said: “He (Buhari) has not told us that he is contesting again. Anybody in our party is free to become the President of Nigeria. As soon as they indicate interest, we will set a process through which a candidate is elected. If he is lucky to have the ticket, we will present him as our candidate.”
The President’s on-going first term has been marked by ill-health and absence from office with the latest episode happening between May and August this year.
Remarkably, Katsina State chapter of the party was indifferent to the position of the South-West, saying that while Buhari remained its preferred aspirant for the presidential ticket, the declaration of the South-West would be subjected to a democratic exercise in which it said Buhari would triumph.
Reacting to the development, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, told Sunday Vanguard:
“I can’t see anywhere the ‘South-West APC’ said there is no automatic ticket for Buhari. What I have read was a statement credited to Chief Akande saying that President Buhari has not declared interest in 2019, which is a statement of fact; and that anyone was free to contest from any part of the country, which again is a statement of fact as far as our party is concerned”, Abdullahi said.
Meanwhile, the Sokoto State Chairman of the party, Alhaji Suleiman Danmadamin-Isa, told Sunday Vanguard that the South-West APC was at liberty to take any position, for now, adding that the North had no candidate now other than Buhari.
“For now, until President Buhari tells us he is not interested, the North has no other candidate. Since the position is zoned to the North, if whoever wants to contest hears that Buhari will contest, he will step down.
“As far as zoning is concerned, this is still the turn of the North to produce a candidate,” he said.
The National Vice Chairman (North-West) of the party, Inuwa Abdulkadir, drew away from reacting to the declaration, saying the party had spoken.
Asked about the specific reaction, he said: “You still want me to repeat our reaction, and I am not ready to do that.”
Adamawa State Chairman of the APC, Alhaji Ibrahim Balal, however, rebuffed entreaties on the issue, saying that there was a regional agreement by stakeholders not to comment on the issue. Adamawa is the home state of a possible 2019 presidential aspirant and an APC member, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Katsina State Chapter of the party, which is Buhari’s base, was, however, not afraid of a possible contest, saying last night that its endorsement of President Buhari should be subjected to a democratic approval.
The state Chairman of the party, Shittu S. Shittu, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said the APC was adhering to the principles of democracy and not a dictatorship.
Shittu said that anyone who expressed interest or wished to vie for the presidency should be accommodated as provided for in the democratic practice.
He cited the primary election, which saw Buhari emerged as the party’s flag bearer in 2015 after stiff opposition from other aspirants.
“It is a democracy, it is a must that the seat is open to all”, the party Chairman said.
“Even the President, when he was asked if he would vie for the seat, he said he would but on the condition that the EFCC cleared him that he is not in possession of public funds.
“When we, APC Katsina, say we endorse Buhari and Masari for 2019, we won’t stop anyone from purchasing the form to contest for the presidency. It is a democracy, but, as far as we are concerned, we, the party leaders, have said we are endorsing Buhari and Masari. So if he (Buhari) picks the form and we deny others the chance to pick the form, then it is not democracy that we are practicing. It should be declared vacant for all. Whoever is interested or wishes is free to do so. It is politics.
“So, I don’t see it as a problem or anything. It is democracy. It is compulsory they allow everyone to express his wish. As far as I’m concerned, if you say you want to practice democracy, everyone has a wish.
“Even the last time (2015), he was not the only one that vied. He contested the party primary with Rabiu Kwankwaso, Rochas Okorocha, Sam Ndah Isaiah, and, with God on his side, he emerged the flag bearer of the APC and became the President. So by the time he completes his tenure, the people will judge, and, if they find him worth or capable of continuing, they will do the needful. It is democracy and not dictatorship.”
I will challenge Buhari —Aliero
Reacting to the position that Buhari was yet to indicate interest in running for re-election in 2019, Aliero, senator representing Kebbi Central, yesterday, told Sunday Vanguard: “I am interested”.
Restructuring: Afenifere takes on Bisi Akande
In a related development, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), yesterday, expressed deep concern on what appeared to be a disquieting position of the Yoruba leadership in the APC. In a statement , ARG leader, Hon Wale Osun, faulted a statement credited to Chief Akande.
“The Yoruba people are now at a crossroad. Its leadership under the former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, at the Ibadan meeting of selected leaders of APC, took a position on Constitutional reforms in Nigeria that is completely at variance with the decision of their followers in the same Party”, the statement, titled, `Yoruba people at a crossroad’, said.
It went on: “On Monday, September 18, 2017, the All Progressives Congress held a conference at the University of Ibadan on the issue of constitutional reforms in Nigeria. A similar conference was held in Akure four days after and the clarion call emanating from the two conferences of the party in the zone was for a wholesome restructuring of the system and structure of our politics and governance. That decision certainly transcends the call for mere devolution as it raises the fundamental need for a change in structure of government in order to make even the issue of devolution a sustainable process.
“How the leaders of our party in our zone whose followers spoke in definitive language can back away from such a decision is totally unacceptable and even in the realm of spirit, not to talk of physical realm, the tail can never wag the dog. And they are the ones we expect would negotiate on our behalf!
“On the same day the western leaders met, northern leaders rose from a meeting in Kaduna and Daily Trust reported of the meeting that ‘the North tilts toward return to regions’.
“It is necessary to clarify that a federation which Nigeria purports to be should comprise of a central government and federating units that are in parity and are mutually agreed as to which powers each should exercise. It is therefore in a federation that you speak of restructuring which is that there is a demand for change in the way things are done. When you speak strictly as was the Ibadan outcome you are asking the Almighty Central government in a Unitary system to allow other levels of government exercise some powers and at its pleasure. The crisis in Nigeria today can only be resolved when all Nigerians have a say in which powers to allow one another.
“For the avoidance of doubt restructuring entails much more than devolution and it includes the Constitutional reform that will enable the sustainability of the power sharing agreed to. For instance the Yoruba people at all conferences held to date, including those that led to the production of Yoruba Agenda, the Summit and the All Progressives Congress conferences on restructuring (respectively held in Ibadan and Akure), agreed that there is need to return to regions as federating units, and that each federating unit would have its own Constitution that would guide how all its internal governance is enabled, particularly other levels of government lower than the federating unit level.
Nigerians would agree on what percentage of resources generated by federating units are paid as tax to the federal government and the Yoruba people have indicated that for a virile Central government, taxes paid to the Central government by the federating units should be not more than thirty five percent of all accruals. Only Constitutional reform or restructuring can facilitate this, mere devolution of power cannot. And who is devolving the power by the way.
“We, and I mean Yoruba people, are progressives and by culture welfarist and have remained largely so in politics and civic engagement. We certainly would contest the ground and state categorically that there is no other side in Yoruba land on the issue of the clamour for restructuring. If it is anyone’s intention to create the other side on this issue that is Germaine to Yorubaland and overall peace of our country, the person is free to do so.
But the history of Yorubaland stands on a clear and firm ground on the issue. It should be a great tragedy if elected and appointed Yoruba office holders cannot and will not stand up for and in Yoruba interest, the same interest they espoused to catapult themselves into office. What then defined the NADECO struggle which claimed lives and liberty, if not the need for the restructuring of Nigeria?”