By Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, James Ogunnaike & Demola Adegbite
The speculation that the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may emerge by consensus arrangement at the prodding of President Muhammadu Buhari is creating chaos in the ruling party at the federal level.
Whereas the camps of some presidential aspirants of the party embraced the consensus option, the camps of others, notably that of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are opposed to the alleged plan.
Buhari had hinted of his wish to have his potential successor from the party picked by consensus when he addressed governors of the APC last week.
The President had said at the occasion: “In a few days, the party will be holding its Convention during which primaries would take place to pick the presidential flag bearer for the 2023 general elections.
“This is a very significant process and its outcome should prove to the world the positive quality of the APC regarding democratic principles, culture, as well as leadership.
“As we approach the Convention, I appeal to all of you to allow our interests to converge, our focus to remain on the changing dynamics of our environment, the expectations of our citizens and the global community. Our objective must be the victory of our party and our choice of candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence, even before the elections.
“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the Convention in a few days, therefore, “I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.
“I wish to assure you that the consultation process shall continue to ensure that all aspirants and stakeholders would be brought on board right through to the convention. This would also ensure that any anxiety occasioned by different factors is effectively brought under control and that our party emerges stronger”.
Besides Tinubu, 22 other party stalwarts are jostling to pick the APC ticket for the presidential election scheduled to hold in February 2023.
They include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahman Lawan, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, immediate past Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, immediate past Minister of Science and Technology and Chief Ogbonnaya Onu.
Others include a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole and former Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
All the 23 aspirants faced screening by a committee headed by a former National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, last week.
Submitting the committee’s report to the national leadership of the party on Friday, Odigie-Oyegun said 10 of the aspirants failed the screening.
Speaking on the consensus chaos, immediate past Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu, said the option is not the best for the party and Nigerians.
According to him, delegates from the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria must be allowed to decide the fate of their flag bearer.
Shittu, a notable ally of Buhari, commended the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for conducting what he called free, fair and credible presidential primary, saying it was a precedent to follow.
“I cannot guarantee the authenticity of the statement on consensus. But like the National Chairman of the party had said, it is possible to have consensus agreement for the national chairmanship of the party, but for the presidential candidate, it is a different ball game”, the former Minister told Sunday Vanguard in Ibadan.
“This is a different ball game in the sense that the position of those who are representing each local government must not be resolved in the continuity of who flies the flag of our party and wins presidential election.
“If you talk about governors, we have about 22 governors. Their wisdom cannot be equated with the wisdom of all the representatives of 774 local governments in the country.
“The PDP has already established a precedent which is appreciated by all who are lovers of democracy.
“Delegates must be allowed to elect their presidential candidate. It is not all about our party but about Nigerians.
“I want to affirm that if we do not want to destroy APC, we must allow all delegates to have a sense of belonging. “They must be allowed to decide who gets the ticket of our party. “The long and the short of it is that consensus is not the best for this country and it is not the best for our party.”
The Director-General, Network for Bola Tinubu in Ondo State, Mr Tolu Babaleye, spoke in similar vein, reminding that there are conditions to be met before a consensus candidate can be picked.
“Under the current situation, APC as a party will have to be very careful in the way they handle this primary in order not to play into the hands of the opposition”, Babaleye said in an interview with Sunday Vanguard.
“Buhari does not have the power to choose for over 200million Nigerians when we are not operating a monarchical system, this is democracy for crying out loud.
“We want genuine democracy and we want free and fair primary election but we don’t want consensus because consensus is indirect imposition.
“You cannot tell somebody who has bought a form for N100million, someone who has travelled the length and breadth of this country for several times canvassing for votes and who has spent some much money on logistics and travelling and on hotel accommodation, at the end of the day, to go away, that you have zeroed-in on somebody else, it will generate bad-blood and that will not be good for the party.
“I don’t want to anticipate what may happen but if the party goes for consensus, consensus means 100 percent agreement.
“99.99 percent, where an atom of .01 is still contesting, saying I do not accept consensus, the party will not go for consensus.
“And when you look at the Electoral Act, to achieve consensus, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a consensus to be achieved because, according to the Electoral Act, the candidate must write formally to withdraw and say he has not been coerced to withdraw from the race.
“So, as long as one of the presidential aspirants has refused to sign that ‘I’m not going to sign off, withdraw and do not subscribe to consensus’, there must be a primary election, otherwise the party will not have presidential candidate.
“INEC is very serious this time around. They are empowered by law to enforce discipline in all the parties”.
A former Chief Whip of Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Abiodun Adigun-Hammed, in his contribution, rejected consensus presidential candidate for APC.
Adigun-Hammed said it is undemocratic to go for consensus after about 23 stalwarts of the party had obtained nomination and expression of interest forms.
He urged APC governors and the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party to prevail on the President to allow delegates to pick the candidate of their choice.
Another party chieftain from Oyo, Moshood Abdulfatai, said: “We will not support that. Why consensus? Let’s go to primary, and whoever loses will take it as fate from God.
“Why was he (Buhari) talking like this? He was planning to install his stooge and we will not take that from him. We are going for primary.”
Also speaking, Ogun State Coordinator of South West Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, Senator Olugbenga Obadara, said he believed in the ability of APC governors to find a suitable successor to Buhari.
But Mr Fasoranti lfeolu, the Director-General, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation in Ondo State, rationalized the need for consensus.
“We have to look at the remote causes of the narrative of consensus,” Ifeolu said.
His words: “The exclusion of major stakeholders from the electoral process by the National Assembly is a major cause of this development.
“The choice of delegates being chosen to elect presidential candidates of the parties cannot be said to be a product of democracy.
“In most cases, delegates names are written by a small group by one single person.
“This concentration of delegates cannot be taken as a full product of democracy.
“Calling on these delegates to elect all alone will be tantamount to building something on nothing.
“The choice of consensus is to allow leaders to come together to determine who the President or flag bearer should be.
“It will cure the anomalies of the omission caused by the National Assembly which to me is the way forward in this circumstance”.
Niran Moyosola Oladunni, a leader of Pastor Yemi Osinbajo (PYO) Group in Ondo State, echoed Ifeolu’s sentiment, describing it as a welcome development. “That will also reasonable reduce the influence of money to induce delegates”, he told Sunday Vanguard at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Sunday Vanguard gathered that some of the aspirants have vowed to oppose consensus.
I’ll align with Buhari’sposition— Bello
Asked about his take on consensus, Kogi State governor and one of the aspirants, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, said he trusts President Buhari to show the way forward.
“President Buhari is the leader of the party. He is not just any leader, he is a leader that is tested and trusted. He understands what he needs to do to keep the ruling party in power,’’ Yemi Kolapo, Director, Media and Publicity, Yahaya Bello Presidential Campaign Organisation, said.
I want free, fair primaries —Tinubu
Former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said he wants due process followed in determining the party’s flag bearer.
His words: “My aspiration to be President of Nigeria is based on my want to serve the nation and not that I feel some personal entitlement to high office. The governance of this nation is a sacred and solemn duty. It is neither to be given as a favour to someone who is unqualified nor should people be motivated by personal reasons to prevent the most qualified person from attaining the office.
“The wellbeing of over 200 million souls is at stake. Let us all realise this and act accordingly, I only desire a level-playing ground for all aspirants and adherence to stipulated rules and due process. If in the fairness of such a process, I do not emerge as the party’s candidate, I shall have no complaints regarding an honest primary and will accept the fair outcome as a true democrat.”
We’ll accept consensus—Ajulo, PLO convener
However, the Convener of Progressive Lawyers for Osinbajo, PLO, Dr Kayode Ajulo, said the group supports the move for a consensus, noting describing it as legal.
Ajulo said: “Consensus is acceptable as it is legal, the Electoral Act of 2022 permits consensus. It is one of the three methods the Act stipulates for choosing a candidate in elections.
“It never negates democratic tenet, as democracy is about choice and combatants may elect to agree and go for consensus in choosing their choices.
“Inter-party affairs are mostly rooted in conventions. Hence the admonitions and authority that the court should not dabble in internal affairs of any political party.
“Parties, therefore, adopt conventions to run their affairs from which such rights like the right of first refusal is inferred.
“My position is, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has the right of first refusal which he could be asked to invoke, and which in itself is a consensus agreement.”
Omo-Agege, Ayade, Kalu, Akume, Babachir lead 2,340 delegates
Meanwhile, some top leaders of the APC across the states including presidential aspirants, governors and senators among others have emerged as delegates for tomorrow’s primaries.
A list of delegates obtained by Sunday Vanguard showed that Governor of Cross River State and one of the aspirants was elected as a delegate.
His Gombe counterpart, Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya, also emerged as a delegate.
Other top shots from Cross River include Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Senator John Owan Enoh, Senator Matthew Mbu (jnr), Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba and Senator Stephen Odey.
According to the party’s guideline, the 774 Local Government Areas, LGAs, and six area councils of Abuja are to produce three delegates each making 2,340 delegates.
In Adamawa State, the top delegates are former Secretary to the Government of the Federation,SGF, Babachir David Lawan and Maryam Barde.
Among the delegates in Akwa Ibom State include former Governor Godswill Akpabio and his wife, Ekaette Godswill Akpabio.
In Anambra State, the delegates include Senator Andy Uba, Nze Chidi Duru, Senator Emma Anosike, Amb Jerry Ugokwe, Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah, Afam Ogene, Senator Joy Emordi and Senator Margery Okadigbo
Benue State delegation comprises Senator George Akume, Chief Mike Aondoakaa, and Lawrence Onoja (jnr).
Abia State delegates are Senator Orji Kalu, High Chief Ikechi Emenike, General Onyeato Ihejirika, retd., Rep Neiiruka Onyejeocha, Rep Benjamin Kallu, and Make General Okoro Ogbonna, retd.
Delta State delegates include Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Leroy Edozien, Senator. Peter Nwaoboshi, Ngozi Olojeme, Ede Dafinone, Ayiri Emami, Bernard Okumagba, Chris Ekiyor, and Austin Izagbo.
In Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Major-General Charles Airhiavbiere ,retd, are among the delegates.