…Our plans for Nigeria — APC  aspirants

…Sole female aspirant steps down for Tinubu

…Party intact, won’t implode — Adamu

By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu. ABUJA

Three presidential aspirants including former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi were ahead in last night’s Special Convention of the All Progressives Congress, APC, which held at the Eagle Square in Abuja.

While six aspirants stepped down for Tinubu, one stepped down for Osinbajo but Amaechi put up a strong defence of his aspiration.

This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari, in his address, urged members of the party to remain united and avoid acrimony.

Avoid acrimony, Buhari tells delegates

The President, who spoke to the delegates before the voting to elect the presidential candidate commenced, urged party officials and delegates to follow due process and abide by all extant laws and regulations pertaining to the election of the party flag bearer.

His words: “My fellow party members and compatriots, I commend you for your various roles and contributions towards the successful conduct of the various APC primaries across the nation.   I commend the party stakeholders, officials, organs and the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC.

“I commend your efforts in organising party exercises and urge you not to rest on our achievements so far. Now we have a big task ahead: the special convention for the presidential primary.

“I congratulate all the winners, our newly emerged party flag bearers, so far, for the 2023 general elections and urge you to be magnanimous in victory, particularly towards your fellow aspirants who conceded to you. I urge you at all times to abide by the Party rules and follow party reconciliation processes.

“In every competitive event, there are bound to be winners and runners-up; and as such, all the aspirants who lost or conceded at the primaries, I equally urge you to maintain the spirit of sportsmanship and to stand by our great party for the next challenges ahead.

“As we go into the presidential primary, I urge all to keep to the same spirit. We must avoid acrimony and maintain the spirit of sportsmanship. The critical task ahead of the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC remains to continue to forge the unity of purpose among party members and to keep securing needed compromises in the interest of our great party.

“I enjoin you all to be fair to all and to create a level playing field for all the presidential aspirants in the coming crucial party exercise.

“Please, follow due process in all the party decisions and I call on all party members, particularly the party officials and delegates to abide by all extant laws, rules, and regulations and to consider voting for the presidential candidate with the best chances of securing victory for our great party in the coming general elections.”

On governance issues and how his administration has steered the ship of state in the last seven years, the President said: “Many people have short memories. But let us remember the situation we inherited.

“A nearly dead economy in spite of oil being over $100 per barrel for many years. Vast areas of our country under insurgent control. Salaries, wages, pensions unpaid for months in many states.

“Problems were left unattended or ignored. Infrastructure left to decay. Internationally we were despised.

“Your APC Government has changed all that. Our response to any new challenges, whether banditry, kidnappings, insurgency has been prompt and head-on. Rehabilitation of infrastructure has taken place on a massive scale. Our response to COVID-19 is second to none in Africa.

“We have made substantial progress in governance, in implementing reforms, in democratic processes and in social care.

“We are now respected in Africa and across the world. These major achievements by APC are historic and far-reaching.

“We now have to choose a leadership not just to win elections next year but to continue and improve on these landmarks.

“We must choose a knowledgeable, fair minded nationalist with a very strong belief in the unity of our Nation, Nigeria, and strength of character and purpose to steer the country forward. We should not allow the PDP to drag the country backwards.”

Aspirants in last-minute push

Meanwhile, aspirants engaged in last minute campaigns as they asked delegates to vote for them.

Nwajiuba absent

But in a curious twist of event, one of the presidential aspirants and immediate past Minister of state for Education, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba was absent from the convention.

He was called upon at last three times to come and address the delegates, but he was nowhere to be found. There was no official explanation as to his absence.

Osinbajo to delegates: Don’t vote for someone you hate

Also speaking, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo advised delegates not to vote someone they do not like.

Osinbajo, who was the last to address the delegates, had a hectic time trying to calm his supporters who sang praises of him.

For over five minutes, the crowd of enthusiastic supporters of the vice president disallowed him from speaking as they cheered him to high heavens. 

Addressing the delegates, he said: “I am a Nigerian. I was born here. My parents were born here. I went to school here. I have worked here all my life.

“You cannot wish this country well and vote for somebody you don’t believe in. So, our dear delegates, when you vote tonight, be sure and know that your vote carried the answer to the prayers you have prayed for the future of our country – our children.

“Over the past several weeks, I have gone the length and breadth of this country. I have engaged with you deeply and we have had wide ranging consultations. We have reasoned together about the future of our country and by the grace of God I have served for the past seven years as Vice President. I have seen firsthand the nuances and complexities of the challenges that confront us as a nation.

“One thing is certain – our circumstances will not afford the next leader of our country any time to learn on the job. In discharging my duties as Vice President for the past seven years, I have been prepared in the most profound ways for the task that lied ahead and I will be ready from Day One.”

Hire me, but fire me if I fail— Amaechi

Also speaking, former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who refused to step down, urged delegates to hire him for the job but should also not hesitate to fire him should he fail to fulfill his electioneering pledges.

Addressing the delegates, Amaechi said: “Dear delegates, assess us by our contributions. Do not assess us by how much we being here because if you assess us by how much we bring here, ask all of us what is our source of revenue? How did we get all these funds?

“The problem of the Nigerian state is all of us. Nigerian politicians will come and talk to you, bring out money and we accept them. Four years after, they will come back and still make the same promises. Do not vote for me if I lie to you. Do not vote for me if I have not performed but I have performed.

“There is need to move forward, to ask Nigerians to hire me and fire me if I fail. If you vote for me, the first thing is that we must develop our economy, bringing it back to industrialization and production. We will rebuild our universities to be places of learning. There will be rule of law. People will be punished for their crimes.”

I’ll replicate Kogi achievements in Nigeria — Yahaya Bello

Governor Yahaya Bello, on his part, said he has fought insecurity, ensured ethnic harmony, improved on education, healthcare and ensured youths and women empowerment.

Promising to do these at the centre, he said he would consolidate on President Buhari’s achievements.

He said with the support of millions of youths, he would win the presidential election before 2 pm on Election Day, February 25, 2023.

Why I stepped down for Tinubu — Fayemi

Fayemi, who stepped down for Tinubu said: “Our brothers from the Northern Governors Forum of the APC have led by example by proposing to party members that the next candidate of our party and by God’s grace the next president of our country must come from the Southern part of this country and I have come to a difficult but necessary decision and that decision is that we must look for the most appropriate person at this time to do the job.

“I am prepared to sacrifice my ambition to be president of Nigeria. I am a young man and I still have a lot of time ahead of me and one person I have worked with in the trenches of democratic struggles and in the cause of governing Nigeria side by side, shoulder to shoulder, my mentor, my leader and supporter of mine and great fighter for the unity of Nigeria that I will recommend to all my supporters and my delegates starting with the 48 delegates from Ekiti state alone and others from across the country is that you please accord me the respect to offer the support you are giving me to my elder brother, Asiwaju Tinubu. I am not doing him a favour but doing a duty of care for Nigeria.”

Aspirants, who stepped down for Tinubu include Akpabio, Amosun, Fayemi, Bankole, Badaru, Boroffice and Ohanenye

Sole female aspirant steps down for Tinubu

Also, the only female presidential aspirant in the race, Mrs Uju Ohanenye stepped down for Tinubu, saying he remains a lifesaver.

Ohanenye said; “Nigeria needs a mother and that is why I have come. I love you all. I am pleading with all the delegates to know that their votes are life savers. We have our children and nation to think of. Let them tey and vote right for the brighter future of our children. I have decided to step aside for that life saver who is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

Akpabio, Amosun, Fayemi, others step down for Tinubu

Earlier, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole, Governor Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa State, Senator Ajayi Boroffice.

Control of delegates

Though Amosun and Bankole, who hail from Ogun State, stepped down for Tinubu, they do not have control of the delegates from Ogun State.

Also, the Senator Boroffice, who hails from Ondo State, does not have control of the 54 delegates from the state.

But Governors Fayemi of Ekiti and Badaru of Jigawa, who control 48 and 81 delegates respectively, threw their weight behind Tinubu.

Governor Badaru, who said in agreement with Northern APC Governors for power to shift to the South, noted that they are trained to be fair and just.

He withdrew from the race and stepped down for Tinubu

Aspirants who stepped down for Tinubu

Kayode Fayemi

Mohammed Badaru

Ibikunle Amosun

Godswill Akpabio

Dimeji Bankole

Ajayi Boroffice

Our plans for Nigeria — APC presidential aspirants

Meanwhile, the aspirants angling to pick the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, ticket reeled out what they would do for the country, if they get the ticket and win the 2023 presidential poll.

They spoke as the primaries got under way after National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; the Chairman of the Convention Planning Committee, Governor Hope Uzodimma; and Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Governor 

Atiku Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State assured of a free and fair exercise.

It was a night of endorsement for Tinubu. As of press time no fewer than six of the 23 aspirants had stepped down for Tinubu. They are Senator Godswill Akpabio, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Senator Ajayi Borrofice, Mr Dimeji Bankole, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, and .Senator Ibikunle Amosun

APC intact, no imploding — Adamu

In his opening remarks, Senator Abdullahi Adamu dismissed concerns that the party was fast on its way to implosion following the series of crisis it has faced in the lead up to its Special Convention and Presidential Primary.

Adamu assured that things were not falling apart in the ruling party.

According to him, things have been taking shape since he assumed office about two months ago.

I’m a unifier — Tinubu

In his remarks, former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu said he was the best among the aspirants to take the country to the next level.

He said: “Today, we, as members of the All Progressives Congress, gather both in celebration and in stern test of our democratic fitness. We have all waited and worked for this day to come. Now it is upon us, we must all rise to the occasion.

“We now stand before all Nigerians. We have always said this party may well be the last best hope for Nigeria to attain its finest destiny. Thus, we shall use this convention to show the world that the APC celebrates democracy by faithfully practicing it.

“Soon, we will freely and fairly nominate the person to follow President Buhari as our next standard bearer. For you delegates, this is a heavy responsibility. I know you will meet this duty with the seriousness it deserves. 

“This convention also marks the end of the first phase of the 2023 election cycle. This primary season has been one of intense competition among those who aspire to the nomination. I commend the other aspirants for the dignity and zeal with which they have conducted their campaigns. Such strong, persistent competition will make us better as a party.

“By today’s end, you would have selected the party’s candidate. We shall then enter the terrain of the general election. To win, we must emerge from today a unified force focused on cooperation and shared victory.   

“As President Buhari has said, our party’s objective must be to triumph in next year’s election at all levels. The candidate you select must deliver victory in the national elections and have the personal gravity and national recognition to pull us to victory in state and local elections as well. He must instil a sense of victory and confidence.

“Moreover, the candidate must unite Nigerians of all walks of life, from all parts of the country. He must have the experience, leadership, knowledge, and extensive personal contacts to steer a diverse, complicated Nigeria through this challenging period in a dynamic world.

“The other candidates are all good men. But I sincerely believe I am the person this moment calls for.

“I have the expertise. My record of corporate leadership, my financial expertise and my experience as an executive governor make me unique among the aspirants; giving me the requisite skills to accelerate progressive reforms that will change the face of the national economy.

“I humbly ask that you nominate me as the party’s presidential candidate. Together we shall forge an even better party and a greater Nigeria.”

I’ve needed experience — Lawan

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who was the second aspirant to speak, acknowledged what he described as the successes of the Buhari administration, saying as a lawmaker of many years standing, he would easily fit into the president’s shoes and continue from where he will stop next year.

He said: “I am running for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because I believe that this party has been built on ideals that all of us share. Today, we are proud that having sustained our democracy, that despite all the difficulties in the world, our economy is still performing well.

“You have tackled the insurgency in the Northeast even though we have some challenges of banditry in the North-West and some parts of North-Central.

“I will therefore appeal to you to ensure that we elect someone who will ensure that the achievements so far by our administration are consolidated and others continue.”

I refused to sign anti-grazing law to promote unity — Ayade

On his part, Cross River state Governor and presidential aspirant, Senator Ben Ayade said: “This is a great opportunity for all delegates to make a choice for the future of the country”, and that he refused to sign the anti-grazing law in his state because he did not want to cause any division.

He said he understands the economic and security challenges facing the country and that he recognizes the need to harness Nigeria’s vast natural resources for the greater good.

Ayade said Nigerians must be resolved to jointly tackle the nation’s security challenges which he said has some level of international dimension.

“We must realize that I am governor of Cross River State who refused to sign the anti-grazing law. I am not one of the people who would divide this nation.”

It is time for justice — Onu

Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who recalled how he stepped down after winning the APP ticket to allow the South-West produce the president to diffuse tension in the country said justice requires that the South-East produce the president now.

Dr Onu said he will focus on science and technology if elected with massive investment in education and to establish a ministry of national unity and values among others, if elected.

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 power-shift to the South East.

The aspirants  include 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 in part: “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.

“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.”

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