By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omezia Ajayi
Few hours to the presidential primary of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the identity of President Muhammadu Buhari’s preferred successor was still shrouded in secrecy and causing tension among the aspirants and stakeholders.
Multiple presidency sources pointed at four persons as the likely choice.
Those mentioned were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, and Chief Emeka Nwajiuba.
Some party leaders said last night that they could not read President’s “body language” on the issue.
Many leaders of the party and the various convention committees were locked in meetings at many locations in Abuja, last night in readiness for tomorrow’s primaries.
Leaders of South-West were also holding a make or mar meeting to forge a common front on consensus candidate at the home of former Ogun State governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
Buhari hosts APC stakeholders
But last night, President Buhari hosted stakeholders of the APC to a dinner.
The event, which took place at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was said to be a follow up to the meeting he had with the national leadership and presidential aspirants of the party on Saturday night.
It was gathered that yesterday’s dinner was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the leadership of the National Assembly, including President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, and other prominent members of the ruling party.
The president was expected to use the occasion to press ahead with his desire to achieve a consensus on the race for the party’s presidential ticket before the convention.
Earlier, National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu had promised that all stakeholders of the party would be reached in the consultation process.
Responding on behalf of the aspirants, former governor of old Abia State and immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, and Vice President, ‘Yemi Osinbajo, thanked the President for his leadership and guidance, pledging that they would hold the consultations as counseled “for the unity and strength of our party, the APC.”
Confusion among aides
Meanwhile, there is confusion among the aides and supporters of President Buhari over who is his preferred candidate among the presidential aspirants.
About five of the aspirants have been mentioned by some people as the President’s choice.
The names that appear regularly are the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the former Minister of Science and Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba and of late the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi.
Some of the President’s aides that were approached to mention Buhari’s preferred candidate said, “up till now, we are confused, Mr. President is keeping everything to himself unlike the position of the party’s national chairman where he mentioned the name of Senator Adamu before the convention.
“All the names people are mentioning are mere guess work. His body language has not revealed his preferred candidate.”
All aspirants’ve agreed on consensus— Yahaya Bello
This came as Kogi State governor and one of the 23 presidential aspirants, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, disclosed that at the meeting with President Buhari on Saturday, they all agreed to accept any one of them he chooses as the consensus candidate.
Bello, who spoke on The Channels’ Politics Today programme, said he agreed with President Buhari’s request to have input in the selection of his successor as was extended to APC governors.
“I am ready for consensus if it comes from the President,” he said, adding that he was ready for consensus or primary because he had the support of 50 per cent of the expected 2,340 delegates.
On how other aspirants were taking President Buhari’s move for consensus, he said “at the dinner the 23 aspirants had with the President, almost 100 per cent of the aspirants agreed that whoever he chooses among us we will abide.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was seated at the meeting. He did not oppose it. Dr Onu and Governor Bagudu spoke. The Vice President also concurred. If the President comes up with a candidate and a Vice Presidential candidate today, all of us will follow.”
Lawan, Yahaya Bello must step down— Tinubu campaign organization
Meanwhile, the Bola Tinubu Campaign Organisation, yesterday, asked the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and former Zamfara governor, Ahmed Yerima, to withdraw from the presidential race.
On Saturday, the northern All Progressives Congress, APC, governors, in a statement, urged presidential hopefuls from the region to withdraw from the APC presidential race.
Reacting to the development, the Tinubu campaign organisation’s spokesperson, Bayo Onanuga, described the northern governors as worthy patriots for their decision to support power shift to the south.
Onanuga said: “We enjoin other aspirants such as the Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Governor Yahaya Bello and former Governor Sani Yerima to also bow out of the race. History will be kind to them all.
“We salute the courage of the APC governors from the north for their patriotic decision to sustain the unity of the country and that of the party. The decision of the Northern APC governors has once again confirmed that our country will make tremendous progress when the bond of our unity is strengthened and preserved,” he said.
“Our APC northern governors have shown that the APC believes in power rotation in the true spirit of national equity and justice, unlike the opposition Peoples Democratic Party that abandoned its zoning policy for hegemonic political expediency, ethnic and religious calculations that grossly undermined the party’s commitment to the 1999 constitution.
“Asiwaju Tinubu believes that our country does better when leaders across the country rise above personal, ethnic and religious sentiments to uphold justice and fairness.
“These governors are patriots and honourable men who will be remembered for acting to save Nigeria from potential political crisis and another round of national distrust and mistrust.”
APC rules out statutory delegates
But the APC, yesterday, restated its position on statutory delegates, ahead of its Presidential Convention slated to begin today.
While the party had stated that only elected ad-hoc delegates would participate in its presidential primary election, there was confusion at the weekend, following reports that a High Court in Kano had given its nod for statutory delegates to participate in the exercise.
However, in a chat with Vanguard, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, said the special convention and presidential primary will proceed as planned with adhoc delegates.
Morka said: “Our Special Convention on Presidential Primary will proceed as planned. Only elected Ad-hoc delegates will be accredited to vote at the primary.”
The party had, few days ago, ruled out participation of statutory or super delegates following the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act 2022 Amendment Bill which would have provided roles for such category of delegates.
Inaugurates Convention Sub-c’ttees
Similarly, the party inaugurated 18 sub-committees for its special convention and presidential primary slated for June 6-8, 2022.
Inaugurating the sub-committees, National Chairman of the party,
Senator Adamu, said: “This convention this year is a bit different from the other conventions. It is different because it is the first transition convention of our great party.
‘’The forthcoming convention will be expected within our constitution to produce the flag bearer of our great party to contest the presidential slot.
“We are very careful that we chose different persons to be part of the committees that have been enumerated by the national secretary.”
We’ve begun work in earnest—Bagudu
In his remarks, the Convention Planning Subcommittee Chairman and governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, on his part, noted that members of various subcommittees had begun work in earnest since their appointments were announced.
Bagudu said: “I know that even before the inauguration of this committee, many people have been at work and it is quite commendable that we are on time. And, coincidentally, INEC had rolled out many events and was forced to be done quicker than usual.
“I believe that from comments I have been hearing from party members, we are all energized to ensure that we have a befitting and successful convention.”
Also, Co-chairman of the convention planning Subcommittee, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State assured the party of the readiness of members to discharge their mandates accordingly.
“It is my singular honor and privilege to speak on behalf of our great members of the committees, and the sub-committee chairmen and secretaries to assure the leadership of our great party that we have just been called to serve and we will serve to the best of our abilities and work towards ensuring that the confidence reposed on us will be justified,’’ he said.
While Gombe governor, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, and Minister of Finance, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, chair the budget sub-committee, Finance and Logistics is chaired by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State.
Also, accreditation and decoration will be handled by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, while his counterpart in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, takes charge of security and compliance.
He will be assisted by a former Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, retd.
Election Planning Subcommittee is jointly chaired by Governors Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State and Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, among others.