By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu

AFTER initial hitches and several hours delay, the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential primaries kicked last night with most of the aspirants taking part.

The Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led screening committee had last Thursday  pruned down the aspirants from 23 to 13. On Sunday 13 Governors of the party from the North, who are insisting on power shift further reduced thee number to five in consultation with the National Working Committee, NWC, following directives of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The governors and members of the NWC had on Monday kicked moves to make Senate President Ahmad Lawan the consensus candidate by National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who claimed  he did so with thee backing of President Buhari.

The five aspirants were Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Chief Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).

However, some of the aspirants including Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and seven aspirants kicked against the move.

Hitches, hurdles

The primaries started on problematic note. The organisers had huge challenges accrediting Jornalists and delegates. As of 3pm, yesterday, accreditation of Jornalists and delegates was still on.

Access into the Eagle Square venue was also a thug of war as security agents on many occasions tear-gassed  Jornalists and delegates including a Vanguard reporter.

The blocking access roads to Eagle Square also caused traffic gridlock in the capital city and made movement tortuous for people in the city that does not have mass transit system or metro.

A delegate who simply identified himself as Tayo attributed the acreditatiob  hitches to “lack of organization.”

He said at 1.30 pm: “We have been here since 8 am and only delegates from three states have been accredited. This is due to lack of organization. When are they going to round up today because they still have 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to do.

“If they don’t speed up this process, we may not be able to vote at the convention and if we don’t have a consensus candidate,  the party will be in trouble if delegates are unable to vote. And we can’t vote without accreditation.”

Our correspondent learnt than the strange accreditation process adopted as against the usual practice of accrediting states in alphabetical order is partly to blame for the slow pace of the process.

A total of 2, 340 delegates are expected to cast their votes to determine the Presidential flag bearer of the party in the 2023 election

APC Govs, NWC prune down presidential aspirants to five

Following intense consultation and deliberation as directed by President Buhari, Governors elected on the platform of the APC, and the NWC, had in Tuesday morning pruned down the number of aspirants for the presidential primaries to five.

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, disclosed this in an interview with Channels Television.

Those recommended in alphabetical order, according to him are former Lagos State governor.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi; Governors Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

With this, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who the National Chairman, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, told members of the NWC, was consensus candidate, has been thrown off.

Others thrown off among the 13 recommended by the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun Screening Committee include Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Senator Goodwill Akpabio and Chief Emeka Nwajiuba.

However, Lalong said aspirants among the initial 23, who are displeased with the decision could still contest the primaries.

Cede power to S’East, six Igbo presidential aspirants write Buhari

Before the primaries began six presidential aspirants of Igbo extraction in the APC wrote President Buhari, demanding for power-shift to the South East.

The aspirants are Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu, Dr. Christopher Onu, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Gov. Dave Umahi, Senator Rochas Okorocha and Barr. Uju Ken Ohanenye.

The letter dated June 6 2022, read: “We the undersigned, who are aspirants to the office of President on the platform of our party the APC, write to commend your fatherly leadership of our country and our party.

“We also commend your unequivocal approval of the position of the 14 Progressive governors from Northern Nigeria, to ensure that your successor is elected from the southern part of Nigeria. We also commend the governors for this patriotic and unifying stand. United we stand – Our unity in diversity has been the rallying point of all patriots.

“Your Excellency, we most humbly request that this position of our brothers from the North be deepened and made even more wholesome by further zoning this position to the South-East.

“We are all aware that no President can emerge without the support of various geopolitical zones and without the express collaboration of our brothers and sisters from other zones of Nigeria. 5. With our Convention at hand, your kind directive for the deepening of unity in diversity championed by our founding fathers solely on the basis of strengthening national unity and cohesion and for rousing victory at the 2023 elections, are stated objectives in your speeches to the Progressive governors forum, the APC aspirants dinner and the meeting of APC stakeholders.

“Furthermore, we are humbly requesting that you consider and pick your chosen. candidate from the South-East aspirants in line with your stated objectives of handing over to trusted party loyalists.

“We humbly seek your Excellency’s prompt and kind intervention to enable the party delegates assume proper guidance.

“Please accept as always, our continuing loyalty and assurances of our esteem regards and obedience to whichever candidate your Excellency deems fit and appropriate to adopt as the candidate of the party”.

Excluding me from ballot, recipe for crisis–Yahaya Bello

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State warned the APC that excluding his name from the ballot in the convention would be a recipe for trouble.

Governor Bello, who is one of the 23 aspirants cleared to contest for the party, ‘s presidential ticket in the 2023 election, said there is a conspiracy against him, accusing the APC northern governors and some elite of gang-up.

Describing himself as a leading aspirant that would win overwhelmingly if the process is transparent and credible, Bello said the only thing that could make him not contest the presidential primary is only if President Muhammadu Buhari tells him to step down.

Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with the President, Bello said that the APC will retain power at the center if only it plays by the rules.

“Getting into the arena today, I will win overwhelmingly if the process is credible,” he enthused.

He said there was no need for him to be excluded in the primary, claiming that he represents the youths and the downtrodden.

Bello said that the APC governors of northern extraction did not consult him when they took the resolution that power should shift to the south and that the resolution was not bidding on him.

He reiterated his opposition to the rotational presidency, saying that it doesn’t give room for the emergence of a competent person to pilot the affairs of the country.

APC will only win presidency if it plays by the rule–Yahaya Bello

Bello said that the only thing that will make the APC win back the presidency in 2023 is if it plays by the rules of the game.

Governor Bello, who vowed not to step down said any attempt to exclude some persons from participating in the electoral process or skew the process to favour some persons or groups against others would spell doom to the party.

Speaking after meeting behind closed-doors with President Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, the governor alleged that governors of the party from the North and some elite conspired against him to muscle him out of the contest.

Asked if he was sure that the ruling party will win the presidency in 2023, governor Bello said, “I’m very optimistic that APC will return to power, if we play by the rules of the game.”

Further asked to explain what he meant by playing by the rules of the game, he said, “Follow all the laws, non-exclusion of anybody who wants to participate and carrying everybody along and ensuring that there’s fairness, equity and justice.”

He reiterated his opposition to the rotational presidency, saying that it doesn’t give room for the emergence of a competent person to pilot the affairs of the country.

On what was the agenda of his meeting with the President, the governor said, “Of course, you know that today (yesterday) is the special national convention of our party, where a presidential candidate from the All Progressives Congress will emerge. Leading up to today, there have been various controversies and issues before today.

“Yesterday (Monday), a certain video went viral, that I got angry and I left a particular meeting and then, of course, this is a period when a lot of lies, a lot of misconceptions, will fill the air.

“Then, we have our father, the leader of our party, who should always know the reality or the truth, and then I came to brief him exactly what happened.

“Well, some of my colleagues, led by the self-proclaimed leader of them, ganged up to suppress the voice of the people, the voice of over 26 million Nigerians, the voice of the women, the voice of people living with special needs, the voice of the choice of the party.

“So that’s exactly what I revolted against. I decided to leave the meeting where such concoction were ongoing. So that’s exactly what took place.”

Asked to mention the name of governor that he was talking about, he said, “I wouldn’t mention a name because I am honorable enough. The office I occupy today is an office that should be dignified.

“Myself, I have respect for leaders, for elders, even if some elders do not respect themselves, I have high respect for those in positions of authority. So, I wouldn’t mention names.”

Fielding question why he was not on the same page with APC governors from the north after several attempts made by the governors as revealed by the Kaduna state governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai to make him consider his colleagues’ position of conceding the presidency to south, he said he was not consulted by anyone.

According to him, “I am a unifier, I have demonstrated that severally in my state, I have demonstrated that severally in the various tasks that were given me by the party.

“So, nobody consulted me. Nobody consulted me over the decision that they took and I will rather say that they were railroaded by certain interest who want to be VP at all costs.

“The issue of turn-by-turn presidency, I continue to oppose it because the insecurity that is facing us today does not respect turn-by-turn presidency, every part of this country is faced with insecurity.

“Every part of this country is wanting prosperity and the seeming or the disunity that we experiencing today in Nigeria, we want unity in this country and that is exactly what I stand for.

“Who is that person that is coming to solve the problem, that should be what should preoccupy our minds and not the turn-by-turn presidency. It’s not in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Further asked whether he was not worried that he was on a lone path, he responded, “At least what is important is let me clear the air, let Mr. President not to have a misconception. a That is number one. Number two, I have always been a loner, when you talk of human beings, but in the sight of God Almighty, I am not a loner. I will cast your mind back to when the issue of Coronavirus broke out. I made my stand and position known, I have been vindicated today and those who championed that business that time today probably may hide their heads in shame.”

When asked whether he had a chance in the race after the governors and members of the National Working Committee, NWC, had shortlisted the list of the aspirants to five, he said he was not bothered at all.

“I am a free citizen, a free member of the party, a qualified member of the party, I contested and contesting, I bought the form, I was cleared to participate in the election and no reason for me to be excluded from the ballot. If they do so, then that is a recipe for a bigger trouble for the party.

“However, I don’t think it’s a decision of the party. It is a decision of few elites, who may decide to use their whatever position to suppress the so-called minority.

“But I want to prove that in this country, I am not in the minority. We have the majority. I belong to the younger generation, I belong to the generation of Nigerians that are oppressed and they are saying they must have their voice.”

7 presidential aspirants reject governors’ list, back Abdullahi Adamu

Like Bello, seven other  Presidential aspirants rejected the list of the APC governors and threw their weight behind the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.

The aspirants, a source said dismissed the names of five presidential aspirants purportedly submitted to President Buhari to select a consensus candidate, stressing that they were not consulted before the Governors arrived at the decision.

The aggrieved aspirants  in a terse statement issued in the early  hours of Tuesday shortly after a brief meeting in Abuja described the move as shambolic and an already failed attempt to sideline other aspirants particularly those from the South-East and South South

According to them, the move is a joke taken too far as they disclosed that the move is in total absurdity as against the directive of President Buhari.

The Presidential aspirants are Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade; former minister for state for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former Minister for science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, former governor Rochas Okorocha and businessman Tein Jack-Rich in a joint statement issued by Ogbonnaya Onu on their behalf distanced themselves from the purported list.

According to them, the motive of the Governors is in their personal selfish interest not the South . They also clarified that at no time the President equivocally support zoning of the Presidency to the South , saying that though they were support of the Presidency to the South especially the Southeast neither them nor other South-East Presidential aspirants were consulted before any or such decision was taken.

Urging Nigerians to disregard the report, Onu stressed that neither the Governors Forum nor Northern Governors had any moral or constitutional jurisdiction to determine the political fate of the South.

The aspirants queried the alleged selection of only one candidate from South East which had never Produced Nigeria’s President and the picking three from the South West, a zone that has had 16 years at the Presidency and the inclusion of the one from the South South a zone which has also produced a President for six years.

Onu pointed out that the Governors were merely acting based on gratifications being promised to them by a certain Yoruba aspirant from the Southwest, who was also included in the list.

Onu said that five of the  northern governors have been promised the office of Vice President, which has suddenly prompted some of the governors to push for the zoning of the All Progressive Congress presidential ticket to the South.

According to him, Governors are paying lip service to their reason for zoning the Presidency to the South based on equity and justice, he said that if truly they meant their words , the Southeast must be the considered first for the Presidency and its aspirants subsequently tabled before Buhari to select from .

Rallying support for the National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, the Presidential aspirants commended the decisions made so far by the party leadership, just as they also held that the party leadership remains the official organ through which decisions are made and adhered to, while urging all stakeholders to galvanise support for the Adamu led executive.

The statement read ; “In the past few hours we have been bombarded with calls and messages from my supporters and concerned Nigerians on a list of five Presidential aspirants submitted to President Buhari to choose from.

“As long as we are concerned no list has been submitted to Mr. President, the move by the Governors is considered a joke taken to the extreme with the aim of playing with the intellect of Nigerians particularly us from the South-East.

“Mr. President’s directive is very simple, that all Presidential aspirants including those from the North should meet and harmonise inorder to produce a single candidate.  As it stands we have not been consulted or attended a meeting where it was agreed that such names be sent to Mr. President.

“In the so-called list out of the five names only one was selected from the South-East and we are talking about fairness and justice to the South. What the Governors have done is a mere picnic in the park. These are the same Governors talking about Equity, justice and fairness yet in a clandestine manner purportedly sidelined the South East.

“In the absence of any harmonised agreement no list has been submitted to Mr. President, what they have done is just nothing but a charade which is bound to fail.

“We also have it on good authority that the majority of these Governors have been promised and also given various forms of gratifications in order to thwart the process in favour of one aspirant and such grand plot will fail woefully.

“Moreso, the party led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu remains the official organ of the party through which decisions taken by stakeholders in the party will be communicated and acted upon, in the absence of that any other move remains null and void.

“We urge all well meaning Nigerians to disregard such information, as we remain in the race hence no consensus agreement has been reached amongst all contestants.

The names, according to the source, included that of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti State), Rotimi Amaechi, former Minister of Transportation, and Governor Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State).

The governors after meeting with the President said they will return to the villa after meeting with the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, and other stakeholders.

“They picked one from South-East, one from South-South and three from South-West geopolitical zones in line with their position that power should shift to the South,” he said.

The presidential primary of the party is to be held today. The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan was named as the consensus candidate by the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and this  has however generated both commendations and rejections.

Tinubu, Osinbajo last men standing — Gaya

Before the event started, ormer Governor of Kano State, Senator Kabiru Gaya said that stakeholders of the party had  trimmed down the number  of the presidential aspirants to two.

Gaya who is the Chairman, The Progressive Project TPP, an umbrella organization for all pro-Osinbajo support groups disclosed this in an interview with Channels TV.

According to him, only Osinbajo and Tinubu were remaining in the race.

Gaya did not however mention how and where the stakeholders arrived the decision.

Speaking on the ongoing negotiations, Gaya said; “They (stakeholders) are still in the process of negotiation. You know during conventions or congresses like this, decisions are taken by the aspirants and even at the last minute, people are still taking decisions. They are trying to trim down.

“All I know is that we believe that the Presidency should go to the South and finally we have agreed to that now so that we can have a northern running mate and win the election.

“I believe that in the next few hours, we shall come to a conclusion on one person.

“On the number of aspirants, we have Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The whole thing comes down to the Southwest. The party would not simply say they have dropped any aspirant but I am aware that three aspirants including Senator Ken Nnamani have stepped down for the vice president. The other two I cannot immediately recall their names now but I think that will be announced later”, he stated.

Speaking on the presidential aspiration of Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Senator Gaya said; “In principle, when we have President Muhammadu Buhari from Northern Nigeria and he is serving for seven years going to eight years, I think naturally the power should shift to the South and that is what we have been talking about for the past two years and that is how to make Nigerians believe that APC is a party for all, not a regional or sectional party.”

Roll call

President Muhammadu Buhari 7.43

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Senate President Ahmad Lawan

Governor Dave Umahi (Ebonyi)

Governor Yahaya Bello (Kogi)

Governor Babagana Zulum (Borno)

Governor Bello Matawalle (Zamfara)

Governor Hope Uzodimma

Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat (Lagos)

Deputy Governor Placid Njoku (Imo)

Mr. Trim Jack-Rich

Senator Chris Ngige

Alhaji Lai Mohammed

Senator It’s Enang

Senator Opeyemi Bamidele

Senator Abdullahi Adamu

Senator Iyiola Omisore

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.