Senate President, Ahmad Lawan
…Intrigues heighten as influential presidential aspirant sponsors 7 co-contestants
…Party concludes screening of govs, senatorial candidates
By Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA
Ahead of the presidential convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, indications have emerged of a battle of supremacy between state governors and senators over the party’s choice of a presidential candidate.
Trouble started with the senators’ rejection of a request by President Muhammadu Buhari to expunge an aspect of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended), which bars executive appointees from voting as delegates at party congresses and conventions.
Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 (As Amended) stipulates that political appointees, including ministers/commissioners and special advisers, must quit their offices to be eligible to participate either as delegates or contestants at the convention of their respective political parties.
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Specifically, the section states that; “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election”.
Failed judicial bid
Attempts by the executive to use the judiciary to delete that aspect of the law however fell flat, a development which Vanguard learned, forced some of the governors to vow that all Senators involved in drafting and supporting that portion Act would not get a return ticket.
Before now, state governors usually had the upper hand as most of their appointees including unelected local government administrators or caretaker chairmen formed part of the delegates they often took to the conventions.
A party official who is in the know of the power play told Vanguard that the lawmakers have also vowed to queue behind the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, in his quest to clinch the APC presidential ticket.
Lawan was drafted into the race at the eleventh hour by some bigwigs in the party, who were initially backing an aspirant from the South-South. But following the discovery that the said aspirant could be impeded by the amended Electoral Act, the party chieftains switched their support to the Senate President.
“The thinking is that the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is likely to emerge from the North, North-East precisely. If that happens that way, there are some chieftains who believe Lawan can fight anyone from the zone since he is also from there”, said the party source.
‘Legislators using Lawan as trump card’
Noting that Lawan has the support of his governor, Mai Mala Buni and Imo state Governor, Hope Uzodinma, the party official said the Senate President’s camp is working on securing the support of more governors.
“However, the senators are also not backing down. If they won’t get return tickets, they have also vowed to give their delegates to Lawan. Don’t forget that some of them are former governors too and they are still very much on ground in their states.
“The genesis of the matter is the new Electoral Act which has reduced the influence of state governors on party delegates,” he said.
Aspirant sponsors 7 others
Meanwhile, despite attempts by the party hierarchy to dissuade some wealthy politicians from sponsoring multiple candidates for the same seat, one of the influential presidential aspirants is alleged to have sponsored no fewer than seven of the 28 presidential aspirants in the APC.
However, of the 28, both former President Goodluck Jonathan and Central Bank of Nigeria CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, did not submit their forms while the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige withdrew from the race. Vanguard also gathered that a former national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did not eventually pick the presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms.
In the past, with lower cost of nomination forms, the APC had often been confronted with a situation whereby an aspirant would procure forms for several others who would later announce their decision to step down for their sponsor.
“The said aspirant sponsored about seven people. He bought the forms for them in spite of the cost. Some of those he bought the forms for are from the South-South and South-West. The reason is that he does not want a consensus arrangement. So, when there is a meeting of aspirants, he would have a lot of supporters among fellow aspirants.
“Since the law requires that aspirants who agree to a consensus arrangement would have to put it in writing, these sponsored aspirants would insist on not stepping down and where you have about eight people not agreeing to step down, of course, you have to go for the election — whether direct or indirect,” said the source.
Party concludes screening of govs, senatorial candidates
The APC has also concluded screening of 145 governorship aspirants and 351 senatorial aspirants. The screening of 1,197 aspirants for the House of Representatives was still ongoing as of press time Sunday evening.
Vanguard gathered that the 17 panels which undertook the screening had some challenges regarding the attitude of some of the aspirants who forgot to attend the exercise with vital documents.
“Some of them did not have tax clearance certificates. They had to be given time to go and bring them the same day. There were others who had not paid party dues in their wards for several months and as per the guidelines, we had to calculate that for them to pay and issue them receipts. Those were some of the challenges we encountered”, said a member of one of the panels who said he was not authorised to address the media.