Over 2,340 delegates of All Progressives Congress (APC) will Tuesday, (today) decide the fate of the party’s presidential aspirants.
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This is as president Muhammadu Buhari on Monday threw the contest open.
The delegates from the 774 local government areas in the country and area councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will cast their votes to elect a presidential candidate of the APC.
President Buhari had cleared all doubts about where he stands on the choice of a presidential candidate for the governing party, declaring before the party’s 13 northern state governors that he has “no preferred candidate” and has “anointed no one.”
11 APC governors from the North had in a statement last Saturday announced their decision to support rotation of power to the South in 2023.
However there was palpable tension in the APC yesterday following the announcement by the national chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, that Senate President Ahmad Lawan had been endorsed by the presidential candidate of the party.
Members of the national working committee (NWC) immediately rebuffed attempt by Adamu to impose Lawan as consensus.
Our correspondent reports that until late last night, governors on the party’s platform and members of the NWC were still running from pillar to post to resolve the crisis generated by the issue of consensus presidential candidate for the party ahead of today’s presidential primary billed to hold at Eagle Square, Abuja.
News of the endorsement of Lawan by the NWC had made the rounds in the media, with online newspapers reporting that Adamu told NWC members at their meeting at the party’s secretariat that President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed Lawan as consensus candidate for the 2023 presidential poll.
He told the NWC members that he arrived at the choice of Lawan after consultation with President Buhari.
But some members of the NWC, had opposed the move, insisting that other presidential aspirants must be allowed to contest the primary election at today’s special convention.
Apparently jolted by the online reports, members of the NWC led by APC national organising secretary, Suleiman Argungu, were forced to come out and address journalists on the issue.
Speaking with journalists at the party’s national secretariat, Argungu said the NWC stands by the position taken by northern governors that the South should be allowed to produce the next president of Nigeria.
Argungu, in the company of four other members of the NWC, stated that the NWC only treated the issue as information from the national chairman and did not deliberate it at the meeting.
Noting that like every other member, Adamu was entitled to his opinion, he national organizing scribe said, “It is just a piece of information that he gave us. It is not an issue that has to be deliberated by NWC.
“It is information. All of us are entitled to our opinion.
We are all democrats. This decision was never taken by the NWC. That is just information and not an issue that was discussed by the NWC. Just recently, the northern governors had their meeting. We as members of the NWC, are with the governors on what they have said.
“He did brief us that Ahmad Lawan is our consensus candidate. That is just information, not an issue that was discussed by the NWC.”
Meanwhile, APC governors who had earlier held their meeting at Kebbi Governors Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja later met with President Buhari at the presidential villa.
At the meeting, the president told the governors that he was 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.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as saying 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,” Buhari said.
Earlier in their addresses, the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Governor Simon Lalong and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, said they had come to affirm the position of the Northern governors that the party’s candidate in the presidential election should come from the southern part of the country.
They apologised to the president for the leakage of their signed memorandum which was not in support of any particular candidate and gave assurances to the president on their readiness to accept his leadership on the matter.
The governors said they restated their call for the rotation of the presidential ticket of the party to the south, affirming that it was their decision, which they were standing by.
He said, “We had a meeting this afternoon with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, our dear President Muhammadu Buhari and this meeting is also in line with part of the consultations that Mr. President had.
“Of course, Mr. President had a meeting with us governors and series of people, but at the APC Northern Governors’ Forum, we sat down, we reviewed a lot of things in this country and we discussed at length the unity of this country, about the need for progress and the need for inclusiveness, and also the need for accommodation.
“We sat down in the last few days and 13 out of 14 governors agreed. We took the decision to go and advise Mr. President. While we were on our way to advise Mr. President, I think part of the discussions that we had leaked out to the press.
“Well, we still went ahead and we told Mr. President. Mr. President, being a democrat, said no, he must listen to us, he would listen to us. And so, Mr. President granted the opportunity today.
“Our mission today is to reaffirm our position on that statement. We also apologised to him that, that statement was made by all of us and we reaffirm the position, but we apologised that the statement leaked out before even our consultations with him.
Explaining the reason for the absence of the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, from the meeting, the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i, explained that the presidential aspirant/governor did not agree with the northern APC governors’ position.
“We met before coming to meet with Mr. President. We met all of us, 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. 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. 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. What our leader has communicated to you is a summary of the discussions with Mr. President”, he said.
After the meeting with the president, the governors moved to the APC national secretariat where they met with members of the party’s NWC.
Almost all the NWC members and the APC governors were present at the meeting which started at about 8pm at the party’s NEC Hall, except national chairman of the party, Adamu, who was conspicuously absent.
It was gathered that the agenda of the meeting which ended in deadlock was the controversy over Adamu’s announcement of Senate President Lawan as consensus presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
The governors who came out of the meeting that lasted about an hour refused to address journalists who were waiting patiently.
It was learnt that the governors and some members of the NWC moved straight from the party’s secretariat to the Abuja residence of the national chairman where they entered into another meeting.
Governors who attended the meeting with the NWC members are governors of Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai; Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Kano, Umar Ganduje; Plateau, Simon Lalong; Niger, Sani Bello; Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule; Borno, Babagana Zulum; Gombe, Mohammad Inuwa Yahaya, among others.