…Aspirants shun consensus, devise fresh strategies to woo delegates

…Delegates to be housed, shielded from opponents, driven to the venue on D-day

…South-East not working on any consensus arrangement – Nwajiuba

…APC S-West consensus candidate not in view — Source

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Omeiza Ajayi & Chioma Onuegbu, LAGOS

With the non-assent to the amendment of Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act by President Muhammadu Buhari, governors have a tough nut to crack in their quest to produce their successors and deliver their states to their preferred presidential aspirants.

Vanguard gathered that some governors are lamenting their imminent absence at the primaries unlike in the past. There are also fears that the governors may lose their hold on states’ delegates, especially during the presidential primaries.

Currently, presidential aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are devising fresh strategies to woo the few delegates that will elect the standard-bearers.

Non-assent to the crucial amendment transmitted by the National Assembly to President Buhari on May 13 has many implications.

It means that elected officials, such as the president, governors, lawmakers, local council chairmen, ministers and other high-ranking political top-shots who used to be super delegates at party conventions in the past will not be part of the delegates now.

It also means that only ad-hoc delegates elected for the purpose at the congresses of the parties in the various states will elect the presidential candidates.

The absence of statutory or super-delegates means that only 810 delegates will be at the PDP presidential primaries, while that of  APC is 2,340 delegates.

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Given the development, many presidential aspirants, who were thinking about consensus candidates have decided to test their strength and popularity in the primaries.

Indeed, immediate past Minister of State for Education, and presidential aspirant on the platform of the APC, Chief Emeka Nwajiuba, said yesterday that the South-East zone is not working on any consensus arrangement. Aspirants from the zone had earlier said they would support any of them who wins the ticket.

A source told Vanguard yesterday that the emergence of a South-West consensus presidential candidate in the APC, ahead of the May 29 primaries is no longer feasible, despite the promise of party leaders in the zone after a meeting in Lagos, recently.

Speaking on the absence of governors at the primaries, Akwa Ibom State Governor and PDP presidential aspirant, Mr Udom Emmanuel, told reporters after the PDP State House of Assembly and House of RRepresentative’sprimary on Sunday, said the development was never contemplated.

His words: “Today (Sunday) I decided to obey the rules of the Electoral Act that disqualifies me from being a delegate. That is why I couldn’t go near the venue of the event. That is number one.

Number two, I am made to understand in this life that anything that comes our way we see is an Act of God.

“What is happening today is that the party has to use only ad-hoc delegates, nobody can explain.  Right from the day the Act was signed up till today nobody detected it, it was detected so late. We can’t blame anybody.

“We can only see it as an act of God and that it is how it is meant to be. I keep telling people no two elections are the same. So this is how God wants it this year. So let’s leave it that way.

“If God is doing a new thing in Nigeria I pray that new thing will dovetail to a new order, a new system for 2023 when we will have a new set of leaders, a president who will not be up to 60 years, and who will have the energy to take care of Nigeria, and that person will be Udom Emmanuel.”

South-East not working on any consensus — Nwajiuba

Meanwhile, Nwajuiba has advanced reasons for the high number of presidential aspirants from the South-East running on the APC platform.

With seven aspirants from the South-East, some stakeholders had felt that the zone should have queued behind one aspirant to strengthen her demands for a power shift.

Speaking at a media interface Monday in Abuja, Nwajiuba said the South-East would have been more comfortable having more aspirants from the zone so that Nigerians can have a wide range of options to pick from.

Presidential aspirants of South-East extraction in APC had on Sunday met in Abuja with a resolution to queue behind any of them who clinches the presidential ticket of the party at its forthcoming primaries.

Demanding that the ticket be ceded to the zone, the aspirants commended Nigerians for their support and commitment to having a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction.

The meeting which was hosted by Senator Rochas Okorocha and chaired by Dr Ogbonnaya Onu had five other aspirants in attendance. They were Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu, Senator Ken Nnamani, Mrs Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, Governor Dave Umahi and Nwajiuba.

However, Nwajiuba said even though only seven of the aspirants are from the South-East, party delegates have a sufficient range of options to choose from.

He said: “The South-East does not want to arrive at a consensus. South-East wants to work with Nigerians. We are very disappointed; we thought about 10 to 20 people from the South-East will buy these forms so that we can make a case. When you are making a case, you can make it one way, let all of us come out; men and women and say yes, we believe in Nigeria.

“We have only seven aspirants and that is very small but I am sure out of this seven, we have those in their 70s, we have those in their 60s, we have those in their 50s. We have every type you need. Nigeria must have the full breadth of Igbo diversity. Any type you need, Igbo people have it. So, what we said yesterday was that anyone you choose, we are going to back him or her.”

The former minister also cautioned Nigerians against electing moneybags, saying Nigeria needs a leader with a full grasp of the issues that afflict the nation and also armed with solutions.

“I must agree with you that we have a monetized political system but I can assure you that we have a Buhari who was elected and who didn’t have money. I am only presenting myself for you to choose from. I am not saying I can buy. I am not sponsored by the oil industry. So, the only people who can sponsor me are Nigerians. 3,150 people made contributions and we bought the forms.

“So, I know that if Nigerians are willing, once my party selects me, APC will be speaking to 90 per cent of the demographics of Nigeria, speaking to the 70 per cent of those who are below 50 and who believe it is possible to vote for somebody who is 55.”

S-West consensus candidate not in view in APC — Source

Also, the possibility of a consensus candidate emerging from the South-West on the platform of the APC may not be feasible, Vanguard has gathered.

A source disclosed that the only way a consensus candidate can emerge is if there is an imposition.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had disclosed that the South-West leaders and elders would soon reach a consensus on producing a presidential aspirant for the zone ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

He said consultation is ongoing daily and he is optimistic that the region may reach an agreement soon over the differences among the contestants.

Osinbajo said: “I believe strongly in the wisdom of Yoruba elders and leaders, and consultations are always ongoing. I believe that very soon we will resolve whatever differences that exist and we will reach an agreement on the way forward.”

‘Contest looking tight’

However, a source familiar with the workings of the APC, said the contest is looking tight and aspirants from the zone may not step down for others.

The source said: “Between you and me, the contest is looking tight. You want to talk to someone about consensus and the aspirants have gone far in meeting with the delegates.

“As an aspirant, you have an idea of the number of delegates who have assured you of supporting you at the primary; at that point, a consensus arrangement cannot work. That is what I have read and seen. Is it the Vice-President, who has gone round the states of the federation and getting assurances, whether genuine or otherwise, you will ask to step down for someone?

“If you have been doing that and someone or groups are asking you to support consensus, would you agree to it? If you look at the race now, the game is narrowing down.

“Consensus is not impossible but what I am saying is that it is going to be tight because aspirants have gone far in their campaigns.”

The source further noted that imposition of any aspirant may affect the fortunes of the party, insisting that only leaders of the APC, who are not interested parties, can make the move for a consensus.

The source said: “The only way consensus can work in the South-West is if there is an imposition or if you ask the presidential aspirants to go and choose among themselves. If you say one aspirant should step down for another, it will be difficult.

“The V-P cannot talk about consensus; it is the leaders that would say it. Just like the South-West APC leaders’ meeting, it is only the leaders that can make that move but the leaders who called the meeting are interested parties.

“During the time of Pa Abraham Adesanya, it would have worked because they are not interested parties. When they are interested, they will veil it. The likes of Adesanya will not contest and it is easier for them to make that move. Those who called for the APC meeting are interested parties, and we know which aspirant they are working for. People only went there to attend the meeting out of respect.

“That is why it will be difficult for a consensus candidate because those who called the meeting are interested parties in the South-West. We don’t have leaders that are detached and can sit down and look at Yoruba interests. If a leader calls you, it is in the interest of his friend he is looking out for or the interest of the highest bidder. Such a leader will not be able to justify why such an aspirant should step down for Mr A or Mr B and state the reason why an aspirant should step down for others in the South-West.

“For now, nobody can say that because we don’t have such leaders in the South-West. That is why a consensus will be difficult. At the campaign ground, anything can happen.”

We’re optimistic on consensus — Ajulo, PLO convener

Nevertheless, Convener of the Progressives Lawyers for Osinbajo, Kayode Ajulo, expressed optimism about the emergence of a consensus candidate.

Ajulo said: “There is no aspirant in the current dispensation that has expended so much than Osinbajo. As of today, he has been in 31 states, he has crisscrossed the country. For the past seven years, he has had every opportunity to meet everybody. If not for the fact that some people are trying their luck, there is no way anybody can stand Osinbajo in an election.

“Our faith in Osinbajo is not because he is the Vice President, he reminds everybody of what it takes to be an Omoluabi (responsible Yoruba man) and that is the mantra of the Yoruba.”

“Chief Segun Osoba did a good job by assuring everybody during the South-West APC meeting that he would be fair and just. Whatever may be the consensus, he stands a better chance than any other aspirant in 2023.”

Why Tinubu remains the best — Shettima

On his part, National Coordinator and Director-General of the Asiwaju 2023 Presidential Campaign, Senator Kashim Shettima, described Bola Tinubu as the most suitable and qualified candidate to rule the country among all the aspirants.

He said the former governor has sacrificed a lot and contributed immensely to the survival and stability of the party right from the cradle to its infancy and maturity stages obediently.

He said Tinubu has the determination and commitment to serve Nigerians diligently and remove the county from the shackles of insecurity and underdevelopment.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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