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APC’s knife fights with long knives climax in do-or-die primary election

By Tunde Joshua, Gabriel Omonhinmin

The die is cast as the ruling All Progressivs Congress (APC) picks its presidential candidate. Will the knives that have been out for the knife fights be sheathed amid President Muhammadu Buhari’s silence on his anointed successor despite his call for deeper consultations among governors and other chieftains of the party?

Well, some say Northern governors’ nod for a southern candidate’s emergence has whittled down the chances of Senate President Ahmad Lawan who at the weekend was said to be strongly in contention for Buhari’s greenlight with former Transport minister Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as his running mate or vice versa or Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu as dark horse.

Surely, APC has a date with history as it goes into a Special National Convention to elect its presidential candidate for the 2023 election.

The party had managed to survive some political and legal undercurrents to reach this mileage. A total of 23 aspirants were shortlisted for screening by the party out of the 28 that bought the N100m expression of interest and nomination forms.

But after a two-day screening, the John Odigie-Oyegun-led screening committee announced that 13 aspirants scaled the hurdle and were cleared to contest the shadow election while 10 failed.

Declining to mention names of those uncleared gave room to speculation and further heightened the already charged political turf as different names surfaced in the social media.

A clarification was later made indicating that aspirants cleared were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Bola Tinubu, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi Ahmad Lawan Yahaya Bello, Kayode Fayemi , Emeka Nwajiuba Ogbonnaya Onu Ibikunle Amosun David Umahi, Abubakar Badaru Godswill Akpabio and Tein Jack-Rich. Further clarification revealed that those disqualified were Tunde Bakare, Rochas Okorocha, Ben Ayade, Sani Yerima Ken Nnamani, keobasi Mokelu Deimeji Bankole, Felix Nicholas, Ajayi Borrofice and Uju Ken-Ohanenye.

One of the 13 contenders is preferred by President Muhammadu Buhari to succeed him. But he is keeping the name closer to his chest thereby allowing speculations to grow among party members and Nigerians generally. The president had at a meeting with APC governors and other stakeholders last Monday and requested that he should be allowed to pick his successor.as a sign of reciprocity.

According to him, while governors, who just served their first term were given the privilege of securing second term ticket. Outgoing ones, after serving out their consti tutional two terms of eight years, also had the privilege to choose their successors, and so he asked to be allowed to choose his successor.

The 22 APC governors met twice (Tuesday and Wednesday) in Abuja to deliberate on Buhari’s request but the two parleyss were stalemated as there was no meeting point on the issue of consensus.

The idea of a northern consensus candidate was vehemently rejected by southern governors and proTinubu camp of the divided Progressives Governors’ Forum.

Sensing inconclusiveness, Buhari upon return to the country from Spain held another dinner meeting with the aspirants at Aso Rock Villa where he called for further consultation and a final push towards consensus. At the Saturday meeting, the President said: “Our party, the APC, has won two successive presidential elections in 2015, first when we were in the opposition and in 2019 when I sought reelection.

Both processes were achieved through unity of purpose, strategic alignment, consultation, fairness, determination and effective leadership. In both instances, national and party interests were overriding factors in our deliberations and decisionmaking.

“I am pleased to note that the party, recognizing the significance of all these demands, has over time developed several democratically acceptable processes and policies, that promote consultation, internal cohesion and leadership to facilitate victories at the polls.

“Given these circumstances, I charge you to recognize 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 capacity to address our critical challenges.

“Ahead of the Convention, the party machinery has screened and found all aspirants eminently qualified. Recognizing this fact, the Screening Committee has, amongst others, recommended that consensus building through consultation, be intensified.

“Without prejudice to your qualifications, I urge all of you to hold consultations amongst yourselves and with the party, with a view to building a consensus in a manner that would help the party reduce the number of aspirants, bring up a formidable candidate and scale down the anxiety of party members.”

Earlier at the meeting, 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, Osinbajo as well as the immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, 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.”

The readiness of the aspirants to abide by APC’s consensus decision was acknowledged in the report of the screening committee which said it was surprised that 98 to 99% of them agreed that the party is supreme.

“Against every aspirants, the issue of consensus and it is pleasant surprise that And that whatever the party finally decides with proper consultation, they will likely to accept”, he said but was emphatic in saying “we had only one exception who said yes, he will accept consensus so long as it is build on him,” adding that the party should not be afraid for a contested primary if anybody insist on the contest,” the report read.

However, the OdigieOyegun Committee in form of recommendation sent a word of caution to the party, saying “that there is this cleavage that is gradually becoming the Centre stage in a national discourse. As between the north and the south and the presidency.

And we just want to advise strongly that the party should please think of it in making its decision, address it and let it influence their thoughts because it has its own implications.” Probably considering this advice that stakeholders should note the influence of the north- south regional discourse in their decision, 12 Northern States APC governors on Saturday agreed to cede power to the south.

They urged all northern aspirants to opt out of the race while commending Badaru for withdrawing. The APC governors and political leaders from the northern states of Nigeria at the meeting reviewed the political situation, welcomed President Buhari’s invitation to them and other stakeholders to contribute to the emergence of a strong presidential candidate for the party.

In a statement jointly signed by all the governors, they agreed that “ after eight years in office of Buhari, the presidential candidate of the APC for the 2023 elections should be one of our teeming members from the southern states of Nigeria. “It is a question of honour for the APC, an obligation that is not in anyway affected by the decisions taken by another political party.

“We affirm that upholding this principle is in the interest of building a stronger, more united and more progressive country. “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 the 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 decision, no doubt, will whittle down the confidence that the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has in the race.” Increase in cross-country consultations and activities within the Lawan’s campaign organisation in the past one week was informed by permutations that the APC might be compelled to settle for a northern candidate following the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as candidate of the opposition PDP.

However, a few hours to the primary, there is unease in the camp of one of the leading aspirants, Tinubu as events in the last few days around the political juggernaut may be a great threat to his chances.

On Thursday, June 2 in Ogun State, Tinubu in an emotion-aden address to the state delegates had painted a picture of how he assisted a democratic pathway to power exists for all who value cooperation and build national platforms.”

This decision, no doubt, will whittle down the confidence that the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has in the race.” Increase in cross-country consultations and activities within the Lawan’s campaign organisation in the past one week was informed by permutations that the APC might be compelled to settle for a northern candidate following the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as candidate of the opposition PDP.

However, a few hours to the primary, there is unease in the camp of one of the leading aspirants, Tinubu as events in the last few days around the political juggernaut may be a great threat to his chances.

On Thursday, June 2 in Ogun State, Tinubu in an emotion-aden address to the state delegates had painted a picture of how he assisted Buhari to gain power in 2015. Many Nigerians particularly northerners felt insulted and termed Tinubu’s statement as meant to denigrate the person of the President. One of the persons who condemned Tinubu’s statement was one of his staunch supporters and promoters in the north, Babachir Lawal, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

In a refuttal on Friday, Tinubu said his comments were not meant to disrespect the President and had been taken out of context. He said reactions suggesting he had been disrespectful were sensational and incorrect. But, the former Lagos State governor was also reprimanded by no other person than the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu who threatened possible sanction.

In an interview with journalists on Saturday at the party secretariat, the chairman said “within the last three days, the country, and the world of the social media have been undaunted with the report of one of our leaders Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State when he went for his campaign in Ogun -Abeokuta in the course of his address he went as far as to mention what happened between him and president Muhamadu Buhari. “He went as far as to tell his audience how Buhari went to him, even prostrating in tears, begging him to endorse him for the presidency. He claimed Buhari went to him, The Trumpet gathered.

“The words in Youruba language, the interpretation was very very insulting, very very unbecoming of a person of that standing to do what he did to a sitting president produced by the votes of APC. It is amazing how a fellow APC person to make that kind of comments about the president.

“We take exception to this and this doesn’t show any appreciable level of respect for the office of Mr President and the person of Mr President. Therefore, we want to make it public that we are saddened about the audio and video in that reportage and we condemn it in the strongest terms… those of APC extraction to make those kind of unbecoming comments. “Between yesterday and this morning it was retract but that effort is not adequate, it doesn’t wipe out the impression that event has left in our minds.

This our position. I as chairman of the ruling party has the duty to come out and stand by our government, to stand by our president.” Asked whether punitive measure could affect Tinubu’s screening outcome, the national chairman said “I don’t want to take this together because they are mischief laden.

I don’t want to take the primary screening to answer this question because doing so is finding the way to justify, give some reasons that may have caused what he did. For one thing I know at the time this event took place the screening committee had not made the report to us at all.

“The question of punitive measure yes and no. This morning we saw some traces of withdrawal statements. You see these are statements that can emerge not with the intention of the actual actions. So yes, we can’t say we don’t see in the papers what was reported. It happened.

What is out is out. It is not an apology, it is trying to retract. We will be on the watch…for us to penalise any member of the party not just Bola Tinubu, anybody.

We will watch events as they unfold.” Rising in defence of Tinubu and discarding Adamu’s sanction threat as empty, the APC National Vice Chairman (North West), Dr. Salihu Lukman it was unfortunate that Tinubu made those statements and it is his right to express his frustration, but should be recognised as such.

Challenging Adamu’s threat, he said “but nobody, no matter the position of the person can use it against him unless the party follow 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 organ of the party, it cannot be considered as the position of party. It is not the position of APC, it is his personal opinion”.

Also, there is a legal case challenging the eligibility of Tinubu to contest the party’s primary election. Some APC members under the aegis of Gaskiya Youth Movement, had approached the Federal High Court in Abuja asking the court to disqualify Tinubu, from the party’s presidential primary.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/ CS/774/2022, filed before the Court, the plaintiff listed the APC and Tinubu as first and second defendants, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is listed as the third defendant. Part of their prayers include, asking the court to determine whether Tinubu can participate in the APC primaries or that of any other political party, given his “questionable educational background and date of birth”.

They are also asking the court to declare that “upon consideration of the relevant laws, Tinubu cannot participate or contest in the primary election on the platform of the first defendant (APC)”.

They are also seeking a “declaration that given the questionable educational background and date of birth, (Tinubu) among other questionable issues, the first defendant (APC) cannot allow and/or permit his participation in the primary election for the office of the president”.

The group also wants the court to declare that Tinubu “cannot participate by presenting himself in any primary elections with any political party in Nigeria to be nominated as a presidential aspirant for the 2023 general election.” This no doubt will be a great distraction to the Tinubu’s ambition. However, the national chairman, Adamu has cleared the air on delegates eligible to vote in today’s convention.

This is coming against a purported court ruling in Kano which allowed statutory delegates to participate at the convention. Adamu said “well, I am a lawyer,. We have serve notice of appeal and matter is in the court and as far as we are concerned, this convention is concerned, statutory delegates are excluded.” Party members look up to the 2322 elected delegates across the country to do APC proud by electing its flag bearer in the 2023 presidential election.

Last minute intrigues and the resolve by some APC Governor’s to teach Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo a political lesson he will not forget in a hurry, have revealed that at least 17 APC governors may have backed the presidential aspiration of their Ekiti State counterpart, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

The Trumpet gathered that 17 governors include Babagana Zulum of Borno and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano States, among some loyalists of Tinubu.

Multiple sources confirmed that diverse re-alignmenis were on-going to ensure that the APC state helmsmen put Fayemi, who is the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, on the party’s ballot for the 2023 presidential election. Sources further confirmed that that the Ekiti helmsman has been able to reach and regrouped 17 out of the 22 APC governors delegates who are sympathetic to his presidential ambition.

But five governors have prevented him from having access to their delegates. The source said: “In light of the push by the governors for one of their own to take over as president, Fayemi has been rallying them around his candidacy.” There are more twists and turns.

Contrary to reports that Buhari had during a meeting with presidential aspirants, discussed that the Presidency should go to the South in 2023, Malam Garba Shehu ,a Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, has said that nothing as such was discussed. Speaking in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Sunday, Garba Shehu said “the meeting was among the series of meetings that President Muhammadu Buhari commenced with the chieftains and party bigwigs in the APC, to ensure that the APC Presidential primary election is conducted peacefully; and to make sure the APC is placed on the right pedestal that will bring victory to the party during the forthcoming presidential election in 2023.”

When asked if the issue of power shift was discussed at the meeting, Malam Garba Shehu said “ no,that was not discussed. What President Muhammadu Buhari said was that he had called them to advice them.

That they should go and discuss within themselves, in their capacity as Presidential aspirants,they should deliberate among themselves and with the party on how they could bring forth a sole candidate for the presidency.” When told that some Nigerian newspapers had written that the President was in support of power to go to the South, Garba Shehu said “ nothing as such was discussed as even if the President had such an opinion, he did not come out to say it at the meeting.

“When reminded that, that were rumours President Buhari might come out to announce the person he was supporting to succeed him, Malam Shehu explained that “ what the President was saying was that he was prepared to continue providing the leadership that would lead to the emergence of a candidate through a peaceful and harmonious process that the aspirants, governors and other party leaders would adopt .But these talks that the President had said he alone would bring out the presidential flagbearer of the party, no , this is not Buhari’s character. That is not even democratic.”

Asked if time was by their side , Shehu recalled that such had happened previously when the party leadership was elected. “ It was on the edge that the party stood firm and agreed on one person to be the leader. Also, in 2015 it was a day to the election that the governors gave the delegates the direction to follow, who to vote.

So I don’t think it would be any different, this time around,” he said. When asked what President Buhari would do if the aspirants fail to arrive at a consensus arrangement, Garba Shehu said the President would’ve no choice . “ We have to follow the election process,” he concluded.

And following the decision of the northern APC governors to cede power to the south, the race for the presidential ticket was trimmed down to just seven southern aspirants. A source said the northern governors in specific terms want the ticket to go to the South West.

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This leaves Osinbajo, Tinubu, Fayemi and former Ogun State Governor bikunle Amosun as serious contenders. The Trumpet gathered that meetings of the South West aspirants with critical stakeholders from the zone held Saturday night till early Sunday morning without concrete agreement on consensus.

This it was learnt was followed up with another meeting Sunday which further reduced the contest to Osinbajo and Tinubu. As at press time, there were conflicting stories speculating that either of the two had stepped down for the other. Our source said leaders of the party persuaded Tinubu to consider stepping down for the Vice President. Reasons advanced according to the source were that Osinbajo has age on his side and that having served under Buhari for two terms, he will be preferred by the President as a reliable successor.

Also, Osinbajo is seen by interests close to the Presidency as a veritable vehicle for the continuity agenda of the APC administration. The leaders thought Osinbajo will be sellable to Nigerians than either Tinubu or Fayemi. It will also douse southwest tension and resentment to the APC at the 2023 polls.

Our source said after much ado, the former Lagos State governor agreed in the interest of the zone, accepting to once again make sacrifice for the South West not to lose the offer which Buhari might give on a platter of gold. The leaders, the source added assured Timubu that certain interests of his would be taken care of if the APC retains power under Osinbajo.

According to the source, there was no much ado in convincing Fayemi who was said to be willing to step down for Osinbajo. But earlier, an unconfirmed report had it that Tinubu was given the nod as a consensus Yoruba candidate because of the belief that he has political structure, sagacity and financial muscle to tackle Atiku.

The proponents of the Tinubu candidature at the meeting were said to have argued that Osinbajo is a neophyte in politics, who has no structure and political associates across regions.

Giving the ticket to him, they argued , may spell doom for the APC because of the believe that Osinbajo can easily be trounced by Atiku and the PDP in 2023. It is expected that a few moments to the ballot, a clearer picture of who really will be the APC candidate, will emerge.

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