President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday, asked presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress to consult among themselves and choose a formidable candidate before the party’s presidential primary on Monday.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President gave the advice during a meeting with all the APC presidential aspirants at the State House, Abuja.
“Without prejudice to your qualifications, I urge all of you to hold consultation among yourselves and with the party, with a view to building a consensus in a manner that will help the party to reduce the number of aspirants, bring up a formidable candidate and scale down the anxiety of party members,” Buhari was quoted as saying by his spokesman.
The statement was titled, ‘President Buhari to APC presidential aspirants: Consult, build consensus and come up with a formidable candidate’.
According to Adesina, the President said the meeting was the second in a series of consultation with party stakeholders to ensure that the unity and cohesion of the APC were sustained and to provide direction.
Recalling the consultation he had with stakeholders “that would help the electoral fortunes of our party, beginning with the state governors. This is the second in the series and I still look forward to meeting with party stakeholders. These steps are being taken to ensure that the unity and cohesion of the party are sustained and to provide direction.”
Noting the forthcoming presidential primary that would midwife the emergence of one candidate to fly the party’s flag in next year’s presidential election, Buhari said he was aware that there was anxiety among party members about the outcome of the process.
The President was further quoted as stating, “Given these circumstances, I charge you to recognise the importance of the stability and unity of the party, which cannot be overemphasized.
“Similarly, I wish to remind you that our choice of flag bearer must be formidable, appealing to the electorate across the board, and should command such ability to unify the country and the capacity to address our critical challenges.
“Ahead of the convention, the party machinery has screened and found all aspirants eminently qualified. Recognising this fact, the screening committee has, among others, recommended that consensus building through consultation be intensified.
“Without prejudice to your qualifications, I urge all of you to hold consultation among yourselves and with the party, with a view to building a consensus in a manner that will help the party reduce the number of aspirants, bring up a formidable candidate and scale down the anxiety of party members.”
The President assured attendees that in the interest of the nation and the party, he would continue to provide effective leadership during the transition processes and ongoing consultation “until we successfully make the choice on the candidate that will fly the flag of our party for the presidential election and make the party stronger. I seek your support in this all-important responsibility.”
Earlier, National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had promised that all stakeholders would be reached in the consultation process.
Responding on behalf of the aspirants, the 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 consultation as counselled “for the unity and strength of our party, the APC.”
Those in attendance included a former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu; an ex-Zamfara State governor, Ahmad Yarima; former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha; former Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun; and Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Others are governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Ben Ayade (Cross River); former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Goodwill Akpabio, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Onu; former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and businessman, Tein Jack-Rich.
The Secretary of the APC, Senator Iyiola Omisore; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, also attended the meeting.
South should produce presidential candidate, say northern govs
Meanwhile, 10 northern governors of the APC have agreed to ensure that the party’s presidential candidate is from the South.
The governors signed a joint statement demanding that the South produces the presidential candidate of the APC.
To this end, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State has withdrawn from the presidential race.
Other northerners in the race are Lawan, Bello and Yerima.
The governors who signed the joint statement are Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi). Former Governor Aliyu Wamakko signed on behalf of Sokoto State.
It was titled, ‘Statement by Northern States’ APC Governors and Political Leaders’, and dated June 4, 2022.
The northern governors said the decision was sequel to an invitation by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to them and other stakeholders to contribute to the emergence of a strong presidential candidate for the APC.
They argued that with Buhari’s tenure coming to an end, it would only be fair for the South to produce the next President of the country.
The northern governors praised Badaru for withdrawing from the presidential race.
The statement read in part, “We, therefore, wish to strongly recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari that the search for a successor as the APC’s presidential candidate be limited to our compatriots from the southern states. We appeal to all aspirants from the northern states to withdraw in the national interest and allow only aspirants from the South to proceed to the primaries.
“We are delighted by the decision of our esteemed colleague, His Excellency, Governor Abubakar Badaru, to contribute to this patriotic quest by withdrawing his presidential aspiration. The APC has a duty to ensure that the 2023 elections offer a nation-building moment, reaffirming that a democratic pathway to power exists for all who value cooperation and build national platforms.
“This moment calls for the most sober and inclusive approach to selecting our party’s candidate, and we call on all APC leaders to fulfil their responsibility in this regard.”
There had been an intense debate in the APC on the issue of zoning. Some had argued that with the emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, the APC would also need to produce a northerner that could match him in the region.
Attempts to get a response from the Director of Media, Yahaya Bello Campaign Organisation, Mrs Yemi Kolapo, proved abortive as she did not respond to an inquiry regarding whether the Kogi governor would step down.
Yerima’s spokesman, Baraden Dosara, also did not respond to calls on Saturday.
But Senate President Lawan’s campaign manager, Iyke Ekeoma, said the northern governors only expressed their opinion and it was left for the APC to take it or leave it.
He said, “Well, they have yet to take the decision at the party level, because they’re meeting with the President. The northern governors have expressed their wishes. You know what should happen, but the parties concerned have to accept what they have said and know whether they will step down.
“But in the meantime, all the aspirants are meeting with the President. If that’s the decision they arrive at and the party agrees to it, I’m sure they will all be obeying the party’s decision on it.”
Akeredolu hails decision
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has hailed the position of the northern governors, saying it was a demonstration of courage.
He said in a statement, “We, therefore, wish to strongly recommend to President Muhammad Buhari that the search for his successor as the APC presidential candidate be limited to our compatriots from the southern states. We appeal to all aspirants from the northern states to withdraw in the national interest and allow only aspirants from the South to proceed to the primary. We are delighted by the decision of our esteemed colleague, Governor Abubakar Badru, to contribute to this patriotic quest by withdrawing his presidential aspiration.
“We did not expect anything short of this heart-warming decision from our colleagues, great patriots and reliable partners in the collaborative efforts geared towards the attainment of nationhood for our dear country. This is indeed another landmark achievement in our quest for understanding, rapprochement and continual engagements for mutual beneficence.
“We acknowledge this courageous stance for equity and moral rectitude. We applaud the zeal and determination of our brothers to engage realistically and honestly. We salute this uncommon resolve to confront issues militating against the march towards nationhood and ultimate greatness. By this gesture, we are convinced of the seriousness of our colleagues to join other patriots in ensuring that the ascendant march towards stability, progress and prosperity is not truncated by indiscretion.
“We congratulate our brother, Governor Abubakar Badaru, for his exemplary conduct. Posterity will remember him for good. We thank the leadership of the Northern Governors’ Forum for the patriotic zest displayed at this crucial moment. We look forward to conducting a hitch-free convention, which will culminate in the election of a suitable candidate who will hoist the flag of the party with a sense of mission.”
APC threatens ex-Lagos gov over comment on President
In a related development, the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, lambasted Tinubu on Saturday over his outburst in Abeokuta on Thursday, where he said Buhari could not win previous presidential elections until he agreed to support him.
Tinubu had also said it was the turn of the South-West to produce the presidential candidate of the party and he should emerge as the APC flag bearer.
Reacting to the aspirant’s comment, Adamu stated that it was unbecoming of a leader of his stature, adding that the party found his statement insulting to the President.
Adamu said, “We are saddened by what we saw in the video and pray that we don’t see such again. I, as the chairman of this party, have a duty to stand by Mr President.
“Tinubu went as far as saying how General Muhammadu Buhari went to him, citing instances of even prostrating in tears and begging him to endorse him and to support him for the presidency. He claimed that Buhari went to him. His utterances are very insulting. It’s very unbecoming for a person of that standing to do what he did to the sitting President of Nigeria, the President produced by the votes of the APC.
“Therefore, we want to make it public that we are saddened by what we saw in the video, in that reportage and we condemn it in the strongest of terms. We do hope that he will never say that kind of thing again, particularly of the APC extraction to make such kind of comment.”
Adamu added that he found it disturbing that rather than apologise, Tinubu made an unsuccessful attempt to twist what he said.
He stated, “There was no remorse. We saw some traces of withdrawal of those statements. You see these are statements of his intention of actual action. Yes, we can’t say we refuse not seeing on the papers. It happened. He said he has the greatest respect for the President.
“What is out is out. What he did say was not an apology. It’s just like trying to retract and you say I didn’t mean this. It’s a problem of misinterpretation. It is not regret.”
Asked if the APC would punish the national leader, Adamu said a decision had not been taken.
He said, “If there is the need to penalise any member of the party, not just Bola Tinubu, but anybody, we will bring such to the party’s book.
“At the time this event took place, the screening committee had not presented its report to us or suggested that anybody was under any threat. So, there was no justification for the time that this thing happened.”
When contacted, the Director of Media, Tinubu Campaign Team, Bayo Onanuga, simply said, “We don’t want to take issues with the (APC) chairman. That is our position.”
Also, the senator representing Osun Central, Ajibola Bashiru, advised Adamu to seek out a good Yoruba translator and not rely on “beer parlour” translation before meting out sanctions against Tinubu.
Bashiru, via his official Twitter account, tweeted, “I think the National Chairman of our party needs a good Yoruba translator so he will not rely on beer parlour translation in meting out his threatened sanctions.”
Tinubu has right to vent frustration, APC NWC replies Adamu
The North-West National Vice Chairman, National Working Committee, APC, Mallam Salihu Lukman, has said Tinubu will not face any punitive action for expressing his opinion at a public function.
Reacting to Adamu’s statement, Lukman emphasised that the issue should not be blown out of proportion, saying everyone was entitled to their opinion.
He stated, “We all, including Asiwaju himself, acknowledged that it was unfortunate that he made those statements and it is his right to express his frustration, it should be recognised as such.
“But nobody, no matter the position of the person, can use it against him unless the party follows due process through the rightful organs of the party to discuss it.
“So, the opinion expressed by Abdulahi Adamu was his personal opinion and it is his own right to present it to any organ of the party for consideration
“But until that opinion is adopted by the organ of the party, it cannot be considered as the position of the party. It is not the position of the APC; it is his personal opinion.”
Buhari’s aide defends Tinubu
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Duties, Ya’u Darazo, has urged Nigerians, especially members of the APC, to ignore the malicious attempt by the opponents of Tinubu to misrepresent what he told party leaders and delegates in Abeokuta on Thursday.