The All Progressives Congress on Tuesday began moves to pick its consensus candidate with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), explaining qualities the party’s flag bearer in the 2023 presidential election must possess.
Buhari, who said this during his meeting with the 23 APC governors at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, advised the party to think of the right candidate that possessed the qualities he outlined.
The Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, in an interview on a Channels Television programme, Politics Today, said the President did not disclose his preferred aspirant but outlined qualities the APC presidential candidate must have.
The President had in an interview with Channels Television in January said he had a preferred presidential candidate but he would not reveal him.
Also, his media aide, Mr Femi Adesina, in an interview with Channels Television on May 12, stated, “In a previous interview when the President was asked whether he had a favourite candidate, he answered yes; but he would not mention him because mischief might happen to that person.”
Although the President had kept his preferred aspirant to himself, contestants including the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, informed him of their intention to contest the presidency.
Besides the three chieftains, others vying for the party’s presidential ticket include a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu; a former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha and former Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Others are Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade; his Ekiti State counterpart, Dr Kayode Fayemi, an ex-Minister of State, Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Jigawa State governor, Mohammed Badaru and former Zamfara State governor, Senator Ahmed Yerima.
Also on the list are Senator Ajayi Borroffice; the only female aspirant, B. Uju Kennedy Ohanenye, Pastor Nicholas Felix Nwagbo; former Speaker of Representative, Dimeji Bankole; President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawal; former Minister of Information, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu and Mr Tein Jack Ric.
After two postponements, the ruling party began the screening of its presidential aspirants on Monday when aspirants including Tinubu, Umahi, Nwajiuba, Ondo-North lawmaker, Boroffice, Bakare and Ohanenye, were screened by a committee headed by a former National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odige-Oyegun.
Govs allowed to pick successors, I solicit reciprocity – Buhari
Addressing the governors on Tuesday ahead of the party’s presidential primary taking place on Monday, Buhari stated, “The party has successfully established internal policies that promote continuity and smooth succession plans even at the state and local government levels.
“For example, first-term governors who have served credibly well have been encouraged to stand for re-election. Similarly, second-term governors have been accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions as well as the ideals of the party,” the President stated.
Buhari said he would be seeking reciprocity from the governors ahead of the presidential primary which comes up in the next six days.
“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” the President added.
He asked the governors to ensure that all interests ‘converge’ as regards the outcome of the presidential primary. The President added that the person who emerges as the presidential candidate must be one who could give Nigerians a sense of victory even before the polls.
Buhari stated, “As we approach the convention, I appeal to all of you to allow our interests to converge, our focus to remain on the changing dynamics of our environment, the expectations of our citizens and the global community.
“Our objective must be the victory of our party and our choice of a candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence even before the elections.”
A statement issued by the President’s Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, quoted the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, Atiku Bagudu, as promising to support the President to ensure that they came up with a candidate who would walk in the footsteps of patriotism and love for the country, which Buhari had shown.
Sule, while fielding questions from Channels Television said, “The President mentioned that our consensus candidate or our candidate to be selected must be somebody (who is) acceptable to Nigerians; somebody who understands what the APC is all about and what the APC is after. And he mentioned clearly that it is somebody that will go to every part of the country and be accepted. We must bring somebody that can win an election and be able to sustain all the good things that the APC has done. So, that is exactly the definition of the President. But if you are looking for a name, the President didn’t mention a name and neither did anybody mention a name.
“So, he gave us that in a plug and allowed us to think of the right person in these few days while he is in Spain. So, when he comes back, then everybody can say, ‘Okay, we have thought about it and we believe in who is going to be president.’”
Confirming that Buhari asked the governors to go and think about the right candidate for the party, Sule said, “He just told us his dream of who would be president That is it. ‘My dream of who would be president is this and I am also going to consult with other stakeholders, not just the governors; I am going to consult with other stakeholders and the aspirants themselves. At the end of the day, we must remain a united party.’ I think that is just the view of the President.”
The governor, however, said the governors would only discover who fitted Buhari’s description after they had thought and met on the choice of a candidate of the APC. Sule also said he agreed with the President on the approach.
When reminded that Buhari once said that he had a favourite among the presidential aspirants in the APC, Sule stated, “At our meeting, he didn’t say that. At our meeting, he didn’t say ‘I have somebody,’ he just said that, ‘We as a people, as the APC, should come up with a person who has this, this and this.”
The governor noted that while it did not look to him that Buhari had a preferred candidate, it appeared that the President wanted the governors to collectively choose the right person.
Sule also noted that there would be a series of meetings before the national convention of the APC scheduled for next week, where the ruling party is expected to elect its presidential candidate at the primary. “That period is a period of a lot of consultations and I don’t think it is a situation where the President would just say that ‘this is the person, take him or leave him.’ I don’t think it is going to be that,” he said, adding that if it was going to be like that, Buhari would not have called for consultations.
Akeredolu wants consensus, backs South-West
In an interview with The PUNCH, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said he believed consensus was the best option for the party.
“Speaking for myself, I know that in politics there is nothing wrong in seeing our party out of the conundrum we have found ourselves and if getting out is through a consensus, so be it,” said the governor.
Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, said should the party pick a southerner, it should be from the South-West.
Meanwhile, the six-member presidential committee screened Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello, and former Governor Godswill Akpabio.
Others screened were a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; oil magnate, Tein Jack Rich; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; and a former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu.
The APC governors met on Tuesday night as part of what sources said was the effort to search for a consensus candidate.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said that the next time he would be addressing Nigerians, it would be as the candidate of the APC.
Lawan spoke to the press after his screening at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja saying that he was screened as a candidate and not an aspirant.
He said, “ I had discussions with the panel, I was asked very important questions about the manifesto of our party, my activities and administration, about my vision for Nigeria as an APC candidate not as an aspirant.
“My vision for Nigeria as the President of Nigeria from 2023. It was a very pleasant experience for me, because I was looking forward to that engagement, to express myself very well to my party, through the screening committee on why I’m running to be the president of our great nation, from 2023.”
Lawan noted that the APC stood for a constitution amendment, to make governance better, to take government closer to the people and devolution of powers.
He added, “ The party has ensured that Nigerians get the best deal in terms of governance, and ensured that more resources are taken from the Federal Government, to the states and local governments make it commensurate with devolution of powers.”
In a chat with The PUNCH, however, federal lawmaker, Mr. James Faleke, who is the founder of the Tinubu Support Group, said consensus was unknown to the constitution of the APC.
Faleke, who collected the N100m APC Presidential form on behalf of Tinubu, also drew our correspondent’s attention to the provisions of the Electoral Act regarding the issue of consensus.
“You have asked me many times about consensus and I have told you that it is not part of our party’s constitution and the procedure for consensus is clearly spelt out in the Electoral Act. I won’t say more than that,” Faleke stated.
In previous interviews, Faleke and other Tinubu support groups like the South-West Agenda 2023 otherwise known as SWAGA, had demanded a free and open contest.
Specifically, Section 84(9) of the Electoral Act states, “A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate;
“(b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions.”
This implies that all aspirants must agree to a consensus before it can be adopted by the party.
Commenting on the APC’s preparations for the presidential primary, a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Department of Political Science and public affairs analyst, Dr Akinyemi Lafenwa, told The PUNCH there was a plan by the party to impose a consensus candidate on its members.
He stated, ‘‘They have the issue of consensus in mind and that is why the bill was rejected. It was until the consensus mode and indirect mode were inserted that was when the President signed the bill. It shows that there is an agenda to foster a consensus candidate on other people. I will suggest they go for indirect mode and the screening should prune down the number. Consensus is alien to democracy it is high time we reject consensus.”
Also, the Head of Department, Political Science, University of Lagos, Prof. Derin Ologbenla, in an interview with The PUNCH, advised the party to allow democracy to thrive.
He stated, “Let the delegates choose a presidential candidate, that way, they will have a lot of credibility. They should demonstrate openness. They must not do consensus.
“The smartest thing Buhari should do is to allow aspirants to contest. It is now left for the aspirants to step down, because consensus candidate is an imposition. It will not be acceptable.