*Associates pick forms for Lawan, say PDP driving APC to discard zoning

*Fulani group buys forms for Jonathan

*Orji Kalu backs Lawan, says he can’t run without zoning to S-East

*Bakare unveils 4-point agenda

*30 aspirants pick forms

*Adamu seeks prayers to succeed, promises level-playing field for all aspirants

By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Omeiza Ajayi & David Odama, LAGOS

The race to clinch the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential ticket got more interesting yesterday with the entrance of former President Goodluck Jonathan; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade; and Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva.

Various groups and supporters of the quartet obtained the N100 million nomination and expression of interest forms for them.

Apart from intensifying the jostle for the APC ticket amid contestations over zoning, the emergence of Jonathan, Lawan and Sylva, has raised further puzzles over President Muhammadu Buhari’s perceived anointed successor.

Recently, President Buhari said he would not disclose his preferred successor because if he did, the person would be killed.

Of late, fingers had been pointed in the direction of many aspirants as the would-be-anointed candidate.  Also, no fewer than five aspirants had at one time or the other been presumed to be the anointed one.

They include Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of State for Education, Chief Emeka Nwajiuba; Science and Technology Minister, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu; African Development Bank, AfDB, President, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina; and Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.

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Yesterday, the number of those perceived as the preferred choice rose to eight with the emergence of Jonathan, Lawan and Sylva.

Political associates of Lawan under the aegis of the National Stability Project, NSP, led by  Chief Sam Nkire, who is a member of the National Caucus of the APC as well as  pioneer caucus leader of Abia APC, and 15 serving senators, purchased the form for the senator, who represents Yobe North in the Senate, saying they have Lawan’s backing to buy the forms on his behalf.

Also, while a group of Fulani herdsmen and Almajirai picked the forms for Jonathan, some APC faithful under the aegis of Northern Solidarity Group, NSG, obtained the forms for Sylva.

PDP driving APC to discard zoning – Lawan’s associates

Associates of the Senate President said they picked the forms for Lawan because Nigeria needs a “Nigerian president” and not one given to ethnic proclivities.

“We are not here on our own, we have his backing. Even though friends and brothers contributed to purchase this form for him he has given us the go ahead,” Chief Nkire said at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja where they picked the forms.

Nkire also accused the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of driving the APC into abandoning zoning of its presidential ticket, saying if the PDP cedes its presidential ticket to the North it would amount to political suicide for the APC to act in the contrary.

He said: “We are here; you can see beside and behind me senators and senior members, businessmen and politicians, who are members of the APC and some other Nigerians who want a new president.

“We want the current Senate President to be the president of Nigeria for many reasons. National stability is one. The president that we are bringing for the Nigerian people is a Nigerian president, not an Igbo president, not a Fulani president, not a Yoruba president, but a Nigerian president who we have watched and seen that there would be no other candidate that will be so level-headed.”

On the issue of zoning, Chief Nkire said: “Let me tell you, every politician is in politics to win. It is PDP that is driving us to do this. We have said so, but we don’t want PDP to take the government from us. If you give the position to a southerner and PDP gives it to a northerner, APC will go into the wilderness and we are not ready to go into the wilderness.”

Soon after purchase of the forms, members of the group drove straight to the Maitama Guest House of the President of the Senate to present the forms to him.

Receiving the nomination forms, Lawan who assured that he would place his trust totally in God, said that  it was not his Journey, but the journey of all, just as he urged that all hands should be on deck to realise the project.

Formally joining the presidential race, Lawan said: “I have listened to various calls from all parts of our dear country, Nigeria for me to show interest to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I took my time to pray to Almighty God to guide me; I took my time to consult widely, to consult Nigerians from all parts of the country.

“This is to ensure that I get the  understanding of the citizens of this country on whose behalf, we will by the grace of God win the election and run the administration.

“I want to commit myself to this call and to this movement of Nigerians from all walks of life; rich, poor, North, South, East and West. This is not my journey, this is our journey. This is our journey because every hand must be on deck for us to achieve exactly, what we need to achieve.”

Orji Kalu backs Lawan

Meanwhile, Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has withdrawn from the 2023 presidential race and thrown his weight behind the ambition of Senate President Lawan. Kalu said that his withdrawal was occasioned by non-zoning of the presidential ticket to his zone, South-East.

In a statement, Kalu said: “I congratulate my friend, former room-mate and boss, Senator Ahmad Lawan as he picks form to run for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria  under our great party, All Progressives Congress. I am most glad because he is from the North-East, the only zone alongside South-East that is yet to produce President of Nigeria.

“I have always maintained an unambiguous stand that for justice, equity and fairness in our country, the next president of Nigeria after President Buhari should come from the South-East or the North-East.

“I have also told Nigerians that I would only run for president if the two major political parties (APC and PDP) zone their tickets to the South-East. That is why I was disappointed with our southern brothers who are talking about fairness and equity but has zero tolerance for the same fairness and equity in the South.

“In the absence of a South-easterner being president of Nigeria in 2023, I have my full support for a North-easterner. This is because it would be the closest to the equity, fairness and justice everyone is talking about. It further means that justice is on its way to the South-East.

“I thank those who said they have picked presidential form for me because they meant well for Nigerians. However, since there is no zoning and the contest is open to all Nigerians, I officially withdraw from the presidential contest in 2023. I have also picked ticket to run for Abia North Senatorial zone and to complete the good work I started in Abia North.”

How Fulani group, Almajirai sold cows to pick APC forms for Jonathan

A group of Fulani herdsmen and Almajirai after obtaining the forms for Jonathan, noted that the former President had a lot of initiatives for them, and must be encouraged to come back and continue the good works he started for the Fulani.

Spokesman of the group, Ibrahim Abdullahi said they decided to pick the forms in order to beat the APC deadline, not minding if the former president accepts them or not.

Asked whether Jonathan is a member of the APC, he said; “yes, he is”.

Addressing journalists, Abdullahi said: “I represent two of the most vulnerable communities in our country. The nomadic pastoralist and the Almajirai communities, who have decided to purchase these forms for our former president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to come back and rule this country and continue with the good work he has started. “You may recall that during Goodluck Jonathan’s era he was the first president since independence of Nigeria who found it expedient, who was magnanimous enough, some of us remember the Almajiri community, he brought a comprehensive policy of reformation and integration of the Almajirai into the mainstream educational system in Nigeria.

“It was the dream and the vision of President Jonathan that if that programme had continued it would one day produce from the Almajiri system of education doctors, engineers, etc. Unfortunately, that programme was kept aside as soon as he left. Other parts of the community (the vulnerable community) that Goodluck Jonathan wanted to really give a sense of belonging was the Fulani community — the nomadic pastoralist.

“He set aside N60 billion in the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria which was to be used to develop livestock in Nigeria. I believe if the government had continued with that programme, today, we would have been the Denmark, the Sweden, the Holland of the entire Africa in terms of livestock, beef and so on. Looking at this situation and of course the problems Nigeria today is facing, we believe that only a leader with that kind of patriotism, a leader with that kind of fairness who is ready to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging, can be able to rule this country and that leader is Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.”

Sylva receives forms, seeks consultation with Clark, others

Also, some APC faithful under the aegis of Northern Solidarity Group, NSG, yesterday besieged the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC Towers, with a demand on the Minister of state for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to enter the race for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC. The group also presented an APC Presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination forms to the Minister.

The large crowd comprised women groups, youths groups and members of the NSG.

Spokesman of the group, Suleiman Abdullahi, said the minister has better chances of winning both the ticket and the general elections, hence their decision to queue behind him.

Abdullahi said: “We picked this presidential nomination forms to surprise the Minister State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to contest for the presidency of this country, which we have found him capable to do. We are his fans from the northern part of Nigeria. “Nigerians can see from his antecedents from the state level to the federal level that he has garnered necessary experiences and is well acceptable across the country. So, we know that his chances of winning ticket of the APC are brighter.”

Addressing the mammoth crowd at the entrance of the NNPC Towers, Abuja, yesterday, Chief Timipre Sylva expressed joy for the solidarity shown him by Nigerians and requested for time to consult with critical stakeholders, especially South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who has publicly declared his support for the zoning of the presidency to the South-East zone.

Sylva said: “I feel very honoured and humbled for the show of love and this show of commitment not to me, but to Nigeria. I have tried my best since I was appointed by Mr. President to this office to do my service to Nigeria, but to realise that my efforts have been noticed by you Nigerians and that you Nigerians by yourself will go and take the trouble of obtaining the nomination and expression of interest forms for me is very humbling, and I must also say, very shocking at the same time.

“I thank you very much. So you will give me a very short time. I will start right away with the consultations. I will go to my leader, for example the Ijaw Leader Sir EK Clark, I will talk to him. I will also consult other leaders of the country and I will get back to you.”

Bakare unveils 4-point agenda

Meanwhile, the Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Nigeria, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has expressed commitment to the realisation of a new Nigeria in his life time, promising to be the bridge between the past, present and the future.

“I will be a conciliatory bridge between what was, what is and what should be”, he stated.

Bakare stated this in Abuja at the declaration of his intent to run for presidency on the platform of the APC.

He unveiled a four-point agenda which he said are peace, progress, prosperity and possibility.

Bakare recalled that as running mate to General Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 election, they jointly designed a framework to get Nigeria working and that the framework was adopted as the manifesto of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and also formed the bedrock of the APC manifesto.

Controversies over zoning as 30 aspirants pick forms

Amid the rat race for the APC presidential forms, sources said the rush is part of moves to influence the zoning of the ticket. So far, of the 30 aspirants that have got the forms eight are from the South-South; seven from South-West; nine from South-East; and two each from the North-East, North-Central and North-West.

So far, those who have obtained the forms include National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (South-West); Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello (North-Central); Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umah (South-East)i; and Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba (South-East), Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State (South-West);  Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio (South-South); and a female aspirant, Uju Kennedy (South-East)

Also with the prized APC document are  Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (South-West);  former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole (South-West); former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (South-West); former   National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (South-South); former Governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani (North-West).

The rest are Jigawa State Governor, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar (North-West); Labour and Employment Minister, Senator Chris Ngige (South-East); Senator Rochas Okorocha (South-East); Ihechukwu Dallas Chima (South-East), Senator Orji uzor Kalu (South-East); Usman Iwu (North-Central); Cross River Satte Governor, Ben Ayade (South-South); Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi (South-South); Mr Tein Jack-Rich (South-South); and Adamu Garba (North-East), CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele (South-South) Science and Technology Minister, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu (South-East); Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva (South-South) and immediate past former President Goodluck Jonathan (South-South).

Vanguard News Nigeria

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