By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru, Demola Akinyemi & Omezia Ajayi
ABUJA—The All Progressives Congress, APC, was last night putting finishing touches to tomorrow’s ‘coronation’ of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as its new national chairman in the nation’s capital city that has been suffused in an air of political festivity.
The pathway to a rancour-free convention was being paved by meetings here and there by governors and other major stakeholders to reduce tension by political gladiators whose aspirations may have been underpinned by projecting their interests in the new national executive.
The focus of the meetings which were still on-going at press time, Vanguard gathered, was to ensure that a new executive is enthroned with as little rancour as possible.
With security being tightened in all the major hotels in the capital city fully booked, it was no surprise that Abuja suburbs normally strange to the trappings of political entrepreneurs were yesterday having a new feel of entitlement to the political capital of the country with some of the hotels in the fringes raising their rates in anticipation of the influx.
Oshiomhole’s triumph came after his only challenger for the office of national chairman, Mr. Clement Ebri stepped down from the contest.
Ebri, a former governor of Cross River State forwarded a letter withdrawing from the contest to the National Convention Committee earlier, yesterday. He subsequently made his decision public in a press statement issued late yesterday.
He said: “I believe that those who occupy formal positions in the APC are the helmsmen of the Nigerian ship of state. What happens in the leadership of this country’s ruling party, the APC is directly responsible for whether we can deliver on our promises to our people to provide them with a new lease of life. This was the core conviction that drove me to declare my candidacy for this office in the first place,” he said.
Ebri had some days ago told Vanguard that he was offering a non-combative leadership that would help steer the party towards drawing out the best from its men and women in government for the betterment of the society.
Besides Ebri, there were also pressures, last night, to make many of the aspirants to step down ahead of tomorrow’s national convention.
It’s about conflict and resolution— Ajimobi
Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Chairman of the media sub-committee of the National Convention Planning Committee, following an inspection of the convention ground at Eagles Square, yesterday gave an indication of the prospects of some candidates dropping out of the race after the meetings.
“Politics is about conflict and resolution, today we are meeting the aspirants to interview them, there will be a give and take so that it will be a smooth operation on Saturday,” he said.
However, at the end of one of the meetings between the Convention Planning Committee, and the aspirants at about 5.30 p.m. yesterday, there were no indications that any of the estimated 164 candidates screened to contest had dropped out.
Governor Ajimobi was nevertheless, optimistic of a rancor-free convention, irrespective of the outcome of whether more candidates dropped out or not.
“We are very happy about all the preparations, everything is in place, you can see what we call a very professional arrangement for tomorrow,” he said.
Also speaking, former Governor of Zamfara, Sen. Ahmad Sani, who is the Chairman of the Convention Sub-committee for Accreditation, said the committee had commenced the screening and accreditation of delegates from the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory.
He assured that delegates would be properly scrutinised before entering the convention venue.
“We are going to put numbering and security code so that as soon as you come to the gate you are properly identified, screened and then you enter.
“Even as they vote inside, you have another card that you present so you can be allowed to vote” he said.
Govs bid to avoid chaotic convention
At a meeting of the 24 APC governors, Wednesday night in Abuja, multiple sources informed Vanguard that the governors were concerned that some aspirants who do not have presidential backing for their bids could protest at the convention grounds and even stage a walkout.
At the hours-long meeting which held at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge, the governors had midway into deliberations, invited the Directors of Administration and Organization of the party, Abdulahi Gashua and Abubakar Kyari respectively. They came in at about 9:15pm clutching several party files.
Also, Senator Binta Masi Garba, a member of the convention sub-committee on logistics; Sen. Uche Ekwunife, Abdulmumuni Jibrin and Senator John Eno were briefly present at the meeting.
Aside Rochas Okorocha the host governor, other governors who attended the late-night meeting were Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Ahmed Abdulfatai (Kwara), Kashim Shettima of Borno, Samuel Ortom of Benue, Aminu Masari of Katsina, Jubrilla Bindow of Adamawa, Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Umar Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa, Yari of Zamfara, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, and the deputy governors of Lagos and Kaduna.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar said rather than having the so-called “Unity List”, the governors resolved to go back to their zones and work out modalities for a consensus. Both the governors of Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun and Nasarawa, Umar Tanko al-Makura spoke in the same vein.
“We met and discussed the convention. We still affirm that we will hold the Convention on June 23 and the governors are giving all the necessary support to make it successful, rancour-free and that we come out of the convention stronger”, Badaru said.
On the purported unity list, he queried: “Is there any Unity List? What we ask is for the governors to meet at the zonal levels with the aspirants to see if we can reduce the number of people contesting the elections by consensus and it is accepted in our party but no list has been drawn yet.
“It is not a list. It is to reduce the number by consensus. The meeting should be before Friday but it is not a list.
“There is no list. There are offices where we have eight people contesting for an office, and there are some that we have unopposed, some two and so on. So, we will discuss with those where we have two contestants to see if one can step down for the other but where they do not agree, we go on with the elections.”
On the final number of aspirants that have been disqualified, the Jigawa governor said the number was in the region of 15 and 16. “I think it is somewhere around 15 or 16 but I am not too sure because I do not have the data offhand but some of them have been screened out; most of them for the position of youth leader because of the age limitation.”
The governor added that the convention committee was still awaiting the report of the Governor Okorocha-led screening appeal committee on the petitions written against the National Working Committee, NWC.
According to him, “the screening appeal committee had looked at it and they will submit the report to the general committee to look at.”
Amosun on his part simply said the APC will resolve all issues ahead if the convention. “You know we at APC, we have ways of sorting our matters out and I think that is ongoing”, he said.
On the issue of Unity List, Amosun asked: “Is consensus not part of democracy? If 20 people are in a place and all of them are saying this is who we want, is that not democracy? We are not stopping anybody from contesting.”
Also speaking, Almakura said the governors were working to ensure a hitch-free exercise that will produce competent party leaders that the nation would be proud of.
“As a committed party member, I want to wish all the contestants across the country a very good luck in this election and I want to call on all eligible delegates in the country to vote in people that will make the party proud in the discharge of their responsibilities when they emerge as leaders of this party.
“As governors, we are talking to ourselves, to ensure we have a consensus so that the election will be rancour-free and will be for the betterment of the party. We are almost there but I do not want to let the cat out of the bag yet. I assure you, at the end of the day that, we will have a team that all of us as APC will be proud of”, he added.
We’ll be at the convention —nPDP
Meanwhile, the New Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, bloc in the party yesterday said that its members would attend the convention, according to the chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, in a statement.
Baraje, who had been leading other members of nPDP in consultations with APC leadership, returned Wednesday from Saudi Arabia where he had gone to perform the lesser Hajj.
He emphasised that his group has no cause not to attend the convention.
According to him: “We are looking forward to the Saturday convention, we will be at the convention and after that, we shall see how things unfold.”
Baraje further explained that, as a member of the convention committee of the party, he attended a meeting once with other members of the committee but after that initial meeting, he had not been chanced to attend subsequent ones.
Reacting to various issues, statements, reactions and counter reactions about the claims in some media that President Muhammadu Buhari is not interested in meeting with the members of the nPDP, Baraje said though, he was not privy to such statements the group or himself as the leader of the group , would not officially react now.
“At the appropriate time, I will react. Definitely not now” he stressed.
He further explained that when it is necessary for the presidency to invite them for discussion, talk or dialogue, they will invite the group as they are also waiting.
Ignore nPDP’s antics — Adamu
Also ahead of tomorrow’s National Convention, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, APC, Nasarawa West, asked the leadership of the party to ignore what he described as antics of the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP.
Senator Adamu, who hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for refusing to meet with the aggrieved members of the APC, said the group’s claim of marginalization and insistence on meeting with the President was to blackmail, intimidate and ambush him.
In a statement yesterday in Abuja, the former Nasarawa State governor said it was good that the President did not interfere in the nPDP issue, since the matter was already receiving the attention of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and the leadership of the party.
Senator Adamu said: “I belonged to the nPDP and as I had said before, there was nowhere we held a meeting to resurrect the group for the purpose of protesting alleged marginalization of our former members by the APC-led federal government. Apart from that, the basis of the group’s allegation is tenuous.”
Adamu, who is the north central zone’s coordinator for Buhari’s presidential campaign, said the latest media report of President Buhari’s resolve not to interfere in the APC’s leadership meeting with the nPDP was a welcome development.
He stated that President Buhari’s position that Vice President Osinbajo and the party leadership should interface with the nPDP was salutary to the supremacy of the APC.
“While the antics of the so-called nPDP to portray the Buhari administration as being unfair to the group in its appointments are reprehensible, I commend the President’s governance style and his litany of progressive decisions that are in tandem with the collective aspirations of our party,’’ he said.