•How initial plot to co-opt ex-President hit brick wall
•Why cabals want Jonathan back as President — Olu Falae
•Southern candidate no longer feasible in APC —Kalu
•Osinbajo, Fayemi’s supporters talk tough
•Changes in date suspicious —Tinubu group
•APC NWC to discuss Atiku’s emergence, others today
By Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Omeiza Ajayi
GOVERNORS elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have rebuffed moves by two of their colleagues and presidency power brokers to co-opt former President Goodluck Jonathan into the 2023 presidential race with a view to ceding the party’s ticket to him.
The governors, who had before the last national convention of the party in March traded off the national chairmanship position for the presidency had met at least twice in the last 10 days but could not agree on who among them to put forward for consideration by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Four governors – Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) are in the race alongside more than 20 other party chieftains to succeed Buhari.
However, most of the governors are said to be displeased with reported attempts to drag Jonathan into the race.
The move to draft Jonathan and the attendant misgivings, Vanguard gathered are partly responsible for the inability of the APC to raise its presidential screening committee, screen the aspirants and hold the presidential primaries. So far, the primaries have been postponed four times.
It was also part of the reasons the party pressured, and finally with the support of some political parties, got the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to extend by six days the June 3, 2022 deadline for parties to conclude their primaries.
With the extension of the deadline to June 9, the APC promptly moved its presidential primary from May 29 and 30 to June 6 and 7.
APC govs unyielding
“Of course, you know that the four governors who are in the race are unyielding to any consideration regarding Jonathan’s ambition. Apart from it being a serious campaign dilemma for the party, that is, having to wash up all the dirt it threw on Jonathan in 2015, it is also an indictment on the quality of contestants in the APC.
“The governors had made that position known to the president before and I believe it will still form part of the talking points whenever they meet him again before the presidential primary.
“To them, if the president cannot support any of the governors to emerge as standard bearer of the party, then he should just stay aloof and allow the process play out naturally without endorsing anybody outside the fold. This is not to say that you don’t have those who are canvassing for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. So, as it is, the governors are divided by their various interests. All they can ask for now is just a level playing field,” said a chieftain of the party who is an ally of one of the governors.
How initial plot failed
Inside sources in the APC have given an insight into how the plot to co-opt former President Jonathan into the 2023 election race hit the brick wall following the dissolution of the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, in March.
The plot said to have been hatched in 2020 by party strategists close to the defunct CECPC had not only advanced the now-popular reason of Jonathan serving a one term and power returning to the North, but that Buni would deputize for the Otuoke-born politician.
Sources said the move which did not have the backing of most of the governors was sponsored by two governors – a first term governor from the North-East and a second term governor from the North-West.
“The plot was hatched by a Kogi politician, who was close to the CECPC leadership. It was essentially to get Governor Buni to deputize for Jonathan who would serve for one term and then power would return to the North.
“It was principally because of that plot that its arrowheads were doing everything to frustrate the last national convention and pave the way for the Buni CECPC to remain in charge to conduct the convention alongside the ongoing primaries. That way, it would have been easier to get the delegates to vote for Jonathan. But unfortunately, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, came in the way of that plot. He was insistent on the right thing being done. He was the first to announce that the last convention would hold and that the party had even agreed on zoning. It was like a subtle ambush but it worked.
“The plot did not however die as its promoters kept trying to recruit more supporters. With what is going on now, they appear to have secured the support of more power brokers around the president. Jonathan is essentially a candidate of a section of the North”, said a party source.
Indeed, a Federal High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Friday, held that Jonathan is eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election, and that he had been elected as president as once in 2011.
The Constitution provides for a maximum period of two terms for a president. Jonathan as vice president completed the tenure of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when the latter died in 2010. He contested the 2011 election and won but lost his re-election quest in 2015 to President Buhari.
Recall that Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham (plaintiffs) asked the court to prevent Jonathan from running for the office of president by invoking Section 137, subsection 1b and 3.
We must conclude high-power game this week —Party leader
A leader of the party, who attributed the delay in screening the aspirants and conducting the presidential primaries to “Mr Consensus (President Buhari)” said, the plot to draft in Jonathan “is a high-powered game. Buhari is keeping everything to his chest. A lot will happen during the week.”
The party leader also agreed that the PDP’s successful conclusion of its presidential primary has put pressure on the APC, and lamented that the party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was not pulling his weight.
“Abdullahi Adamu is a mere stooge. Buhari is the one with the remote control. The week will determine many things. It’s going to be an interesting week. Whatever happens between Tuesday and Friday will shape everything,” he said.
He’s not allienating any one—Jonathan camp
An aide to Goodluck Jonathan said: “There is no great movement without opposition. We sympathise with the genuine feelings of those opposing the former president.
“However, GEJ is not about allienating any one, or suppressing legitimate concerns. Those opposed to him should note that no great leap has happened to mankind without genuine descent. I believe GEJ has the depth of heart to assuage such patriotic fears in event. Right now it should be about the country Nigeria and how to move it forward.”
APC NWC to discuss Atiku’s emergence, others today
The Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee, NWC, of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC will today discuss plans for its presidential primaries and the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the PDP, and map out fresh strategies.
While Atiku’s emergence had been largely envisaged by strategists within the ruling party, Vanguard gathered that the issue would be raised at the NWC meeting in order to discuss its implications for the APC.
Shift in primary aimed at modified consensus—Source
A source, familiar with the workings of the APC, told Vanguard that the shift in date of the primary was aimed at arriving at a modified consensus.
The source disclosed that though there are talks with Jonathan, and some APC leaders are narrowing it down to the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu.
”They are trying to negotiate with Jonathan to emerge as the party’s flagbearer. I know they are negotiating and talking with him but some APC stakeholders are divided over Ahmad Lawan (Senate President).
Lawan also has people who are backing his aspiration particularly now that Atiku Abubakar has emerged as PDP candidate. Some of Lawan’s backers are talking about the APC zoning the presidency to the North and that is the advantage Lawan has.
Lawan is a serious contender and part of the shift in the primary is to come up with a modified consensus. The APC is working on a modified consensus but that will not be easy because of Bola Tinubu.
“With the emergence of the PDP candidate, some APC leaders believe that Tinubu is the best aspirant to face Atiku Abubakar. The whole scenario is still not clear but I know that in a couple of days, there will be a direction.”
Why cabal want Jonathan back as President— Olu Falae
Former Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF, and a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Chief Olu Falae, yesterday, said cabal in the Presidency want to draft former President Jonathan into the 2023 election because plots to quickly return power to the North.
His words: “The man you threw away from government, Goodluck Jonathan was ‘a problem man, an incompetent man, he was an idiot, an imbecile.’ There was no name they didn’t call him. Now you are going back to ask him to come back to rule. There is only one reason for that. The only reason they are asking Goodluck Jonathan to come back is because he has spent one term as president.
“They don’t want the presidency to be in the South for more than four years. They want it quickly back in the North. So they want to use Goodluck to achieve that objective against his own people.
“They don’t care what he does if he goes back. If he is more ‘incompetent’ this time, it does not bother them as long as they get power quickly back. Are we on the same plane? Do we have the same objective? They will sacrifice anything as long as they get what they want. So this is where we are, and that’s why we need a political party not what I call an opportunistic gang up for power. That’s what PDP is; that’s what APC is – opportunistic gang up for power, not parties.”
The Afenifere leader likened the APC “to the army which after forcefully assuming power seizes the control of apparatus of power at the national and state levels including the nation’s treasury and the state governments among others.
“Look at the run off to the party primaries. It’s like war at all levels. That is because the objective of the aspirants is personal, financial. It’s not how to get Nigeria out of the crisis and unemployment into prosperity. That’s not why they are fighting. They are fighting because they want to be the ones to grab the national treasury.”
We’re not disturbed by postponement—Ajulo, convener PLO
Meanwhile, Convener of the Progressive Lawyers for Osinbajo, PLO, Dr Kayode Ajulo, has said he was not disturbed with the postponement of the primary but expressed optimism that it will work in favour of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Ajulo said: “Consensus here is giving the VP right of first refusal. He deserves it. It’s a convention of party politics. Here is a man who has been faithful and dedicated to his job. I must say his emergence goes beyond APC but other parties, they’re comfortable with him and if APC sincerely want to win this election and ready to move Nigeria forward they need to settle for Prof Osinbajo.
“The question about whether there will be primary or consensus should be left to the leadership of the party. Our assurance lies in the aspirants we’re rooting for, he comes with experience, his dedication to duty is second to none. He’s primed for the job.
“We are not affected with the postponement so long it’s for the good of the party and to allow popular participation. Yes, it’s costly as most of the VP support groups have relocated to Abuja paying hotels bills and doing everything permissible for their choice but we believe no price is too big to give Nigeria the best among the aspirants.
We’ve done our ground work—Fayemi’s ally
Also speaking, an ally of Governor Kayode Fayemi said the presidential hopeful is prepared for the contest just as he expressed optimism that Fayemi will get the APC ticket.
The ally, who spoke in confidence, said: “Once you are prepared for an exam and the school authorities call for a postponement for the examination, you will still continue with your preparations.
“We are fully prepared; we have gone round over 25 states of the federation meeting with leaders and stakeholders.
“We have done our ground work properly and we are optimistic. We have absolute confidence in the system that there will be a level playing field.”
Southern candidate no longer feasible in APC —Kalu
Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, said that the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the PDP candidate has made it unrealistic for the APC to look in the direction of the South for its presidential candidate.
In a statement, yesterday, Kalu, a former governor of Abia State, urged President Buhari and the APC to expressly zone its presidential ticket to North-East and subsequently elect the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, as the candidate of the party.
The Senator, who congratulated the PDP for electing a north easterner in the person of Atiku as its presidential candidate, said that APC will go into political retirement if it refused to heed his advice on the issue.
He wrote: “Congratulations to the PDP for electing a North-Easterner. Nigerians must have seen what I saw yesterday. For our party, the APC, it is no longer feasible to talk about a Southern candidate except the APC wants to go on political retirement.
“I urge the National Chairman of the party and the entire NWC to stamp their feet and zone the APC presidential ticket to the North East.
“President Buhari has a right to choose his successor and I call on him to pick Senator Ahmad Lawan as his successor. In every democratic setting, presidents and governors support and pick their successors.”
Changes in date suspicious —Tinubu group
The Director-General, Network for Bola Tinubu in Ondo State, Mr Tolu Babaleye alleged that the change in the convention date by the APC was suspicious.
Babaleye said: “Something is fishy about the continued changes in the date for the Convention. We are surprised at what is happening because nothing is certain again in the APC.”
“The reason they gave for this last change was that since INEC has extended the window by six days, they feel that they should still reassess themselves and organize a proper convention. That is why I want to give them the benefit of doubt.
“But if we want to think like politicians, we will be saying that something is fishy because we are reading and hearing so many rumours, though unsubstantiated.
“You know out of every rumour, there is an element of truth there. We are just waiting for the party.”