An attempt by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Abdullahi Adamu, to select Senate President Ahmad Lawan – a northerner – as the preferred candidate of the APC, failed on Monday as both the Presidency and 12 northern governors of the party openly distanced themselves from the move.
Adamu had summoned a meeting of the 25-member National Working Committee at the party’s headquarters in Abuja ahead of the presidential primary slated for Tuesday (today).
At the meeting, Adamu informed the NWC that Lawan was the anointed candidate of the party, a move which was not accepted by all of the members.
It was gathered that the national chairman insisted the choice of Lawan was arrived at after due consultation with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
After the meeting, Adamu hurriedly jumped into his vehicle and zoomed off.
The APC’s stand on Monday threatened the hope of the South to produce the next president as a northerner, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, on May 28 got the presidential ticket of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party after defeating southern aspirants including the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel.
But northern governors in the APC, at their meeting on Saturday night, raised the hope of the South when they insisted that the presidential candidate of the party should emerge from the southern part of the country.
Adamu’s plot to impose Lawan was on Monday greeted by a groundswell of opposition from some NWC members, northern governors and other presidential aspirants.
Moments after the NWC meeting, about seven members led by the National Organising Secretary of the APC, Suleman Argungu, told journalists at the party secretariat that Lawan was not the preferred candidate of the party.
Argungu stated, “We want to state that the pronouncement of Lawan as the consensus candidate was the chairman’s opinion and he is entitled to his opinion. It is not the position of the party.”
Others who supported Argungu were the National Vice Chairman (North-West), Salihu Lukman; Deputy National Chairman (South), Isaac Kekemeke; the National Youth Leader, Dayo Israel.
Amid the commotion, 12 northern governors emerged from a meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa where they stated that the President had confirmed to them that he had no preferred candidate.
The governors said they stood by their decision to zone the party’s presidential ticket to the South, a move which angered Kogi State Governor and Presidential aspirant, Yahaya Bello.
According to a communiqué issued after the meeting, the governors said, “After careful deliberation, we wish to state our firm conviction that after eight years in the office of President Muhammadu 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 any way affected by the decisions taken by another political party.”
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong of Plateau State regretted that the communiqué from the earlier meeting, where they endorsed power shift, had leaked to the public before they officially informed the President of their resolution.
He, however, noted that the governors had to inform the President in person as part of last-minute preparations for tomorrow’s primary elections.
“Mr. President, as a believer in democratic process, believes that any candidate must emerge through a transparent process and the emphasis that Mr. President told us that for this election, for now, he has no anointed candidate and therefore directed that the Progressive Governors Forum meet with the National Working Committee of the party to agree and proffer further solutions and recommendations for his own succession.”
Asked why their Kogi State counterpart was absent from the meeting, a distraught Governor Nasir El-Rufai (of Kaduna) said it was not compulsory for all 14 of them to agree on the southern ticket.
According to him, Bello had excused himself from the meeting with the President because he rejected the resolution made by the governors. El-Rufai argued that 13 out of 14 yeses are enough to front the agenda for a southern candidate.
“We all met before coming to meet with Mr. President, including the governor of Kogi State. As you can see, he’s not the only aspirant, the governor of Jigawa State is also an aspirant and he’s here with us and we met.
“But the governor of Kogi State chose to excuse himself from meeting with Mr. President because he believes that he does not agree with our position. There are 14 APC governors out of the 19 northern states. The 13 of us are on one page on this subject and we all came to see the President, but the governor of Kogi State excused himself and it is within his democratic rights to excuse himself. But 12 out of 14 is a super majority. 13 out of 14 is an even bigger super majority and the 13 of us met with the President today,” he said.
El-Rufai argued that the governors do not need a 100 per cent agreement rate to proceed with their decision.
On his part, the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Atiku Bagudu, accused the main opposition of ignoring the south and throwing open its Presidential ticket, despite having zoning in its constitution.
According to him, the APC will look out for the interest of the South in its considerations.
“Remember, the main opposition party PDP, they even have zoning in their constitution. But when it came to the selection of candidates, they ignored sections of Nigeria that are saying it’s our turn. In our party, we don’t even have zoning in our constitution, but knowing our president, how magnanimous he is, we felt comfortable to make a recommendation to him that even though we don’t have zoning, Mr. President, can we consider this?” Bagudu explained.
Other northern governors in attendance were: Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Aminu Masari (Katsina) Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa) Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Yahaya Inuwa (Gombe), Babagana Zulum (Borno) and AbdulRahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara).
Agreeing with the governors, Buhari in a statement afterwards said he had not anointed any of the presidential aspirants.
This was as he said the party’s delegates would decide the outcome of Tuesday’s primary elections.
According to a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Garaba Shehu, Buhari spoke at a meeting with 12 Northern APC Governors at the State House, Abuja, saying he has “no preferred candidate,” and has “anointed no one.”
The statement is titled ‘I have anointed no one, there shall be no imposition, says president Buhari’.
While noting that he is determined to ensure that “there shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party,” Buhari said the party is important and its members must be respected, and made to feel they are important.
The President said he had a clear mind about what he was doing and asked the APC governors to feel the same way: “You were elected as I was. Have a clear mind as I have. God gave us the chance; we have no reason to complain. We must be ready to take pain as we take the joy. Allow the delegates to decide. The Party must participate, nobody will appoint anybody.”
The Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, through his Special Adviser on Political Communications, Alhaji Bashir Adigun, told The PUNCH there was no going back on the southern Presidency.
Adigun said, “We have been inundated with enquiries on whether our Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq supports the resolution of Northern leaders on power shift to southern Nigeria.
“We like to state emphatically that the governor was ab initio fully part of the meeting and resolution of the northern leaders that the next President should come from southern part of the country.
“The governor could not immediately sign the resolution of the meeting because he was at his niece’s wedding held on Saturday June 4,2022 where he was the Chief Host .
Meanwhile, The PUNCH learnt on Monday that although 21 APC Presidential aspirants were in the race, the battle for delegates votes was largely between Lawan, Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and former Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
Others in the race are: Oil mogul, Tein Jack-Rich; former Governors Godswill Akpabio, Ibikunle Amosun, Ogbonnaya Onu, Sani Yerima, and Rochas Okorocha; Governor Ben Ayade (Cross River), Governor Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Governor Bello (Kogi), Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Ajayi Boroffice; a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; fiery Lagos cleric, Tunde Bakare; Mrs Uju Ken-Ohnenye; Pastor Nicholas Nwagbo, a former Minister of Information, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu and a former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba.
Both Governor Badaru of Jigawa State and a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, have withdrawn from the race.
Nnamani announced his withdrawal during a meeting with journalists in Abuja on Monday.
He said, “In the present circumstances, it does not make any sense for me to continue in the race as I have not had the opportunity to market my profile and ideas to the delegates of our party in a manner that allow for deliberation and introspection.
“Therefore, I discontinue my aspiration and wish the party successful primary and unity of purpose so that we can win the 2023 general elections.
“I will continue to engage with the party and its leadership to make sure that the ideas and values that I cherish and propagate find strong footing in the party administration and in public leadership after election.”
Meanwhile, the legal department of the Bola Tinubu Campaign Organisation on Tuesday rejected attempts to anoint Lawan as the party’s candidate, insisting that the Electoral Act says consensus must be agreed to by all aspirants before the party can adopt it.
The Director, Legal Directorate, Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), said this in a statement titled, ‘Consensus Candidate a Legal Impossibility’.
The statement read in part, “While the national chairman has yet to deny or offer any clarification on the alleged declaration, it is necessary to state that such a declaration is a legal impossibility. This is because under the regime of the Electoral Act 2022, consensus, though provided for as one of the means by which a political party may produce its candidate, must specifically occur in a precise form.”
Veteran journalist and spokesman for the Bola Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga, says he was the one who introduced Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to then Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, in 1999, a decision he now regrets.
Onanuga said this in a statement on Monday in reaction to an interview by The PUNCH with a former National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Buba Galadima, who had lambasted Osinbajo for daring to contest against Tinubu, his former boss.
A’Court restrains NASS
In a related development, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on Monday issued an order restraining the National Assembly from imposing statutory delegates at the ongoing convention of the APC.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Haruna Tsammani also restrained the enforcement of the judgment of a Federal High Court in Kano delivered on June 3 granting the enforcement of the amended Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The ex parte application by the APC national chairman which was moved by A.A. Popoola and Karma Fagbemi, had pleaded with the Appeal Court to stay the execution of the judgment of Justice A.M. Liman of a Federal High Court in suit No. FHC/KN/CS/137/2022 permitting Senator Mas’ud El-Jibrin Doguwa, Hon. Habila Sani, Hon. Bilyaminu Yusuf Shinkafi, the Senate, the Speaker of House of Representatives and the Independent National Electoral Commission to enforce the amendment.
Justice Tsammani also ordered the service of processes of the order by substituted means against the parties in the matter and adjourned hearing of the motion on notice for stay of execution to June 9.
Adamu had contended that Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act on statutory delegates participation in the primary, which amendment was still awaiting presidential assent was not in conflict with Section 223 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and Article 20(iv) of the APC constitution.
He had further argued that the suit was filed in Kano on May 24 without joining of the Attorney General of the Federation as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.
The APC said its constitution recognised two categories of statutory delegates, being elected and non-elected delegates.