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2023: APC, PDP in mind game over primaries

By Adamu Abuh and Terhemba Daka (Abuja)
19 May 2022   |   3:57 am
The countdown to presidential primaries of the two major parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – is coming with all the thrills and trappings...

In fresh twist, APC adjusts timetable to hold primary hours after PDP’s
• Says no truth in zoning presidency to Northeast
• APC has no reason to zone presidency to North, Tinubu group kicks
• Uncertainty in Buhari’s cabinet as Malami, Tallen attend FEC after farewell session
• Buhari to decide who stays, who goes, says Lai Mohammed

The countdown to presidential primaries of the two major parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – is coming with all the thrills and trappings of the now rested Game of Thrones series.

Like in a high-stake football match of two top teams, where each side keeps an eye on the opposition’s tactics, the ruling APC, continuing in its deft political manoeuvring, yesterday, tinkered with schedule of activities and fixed a new date for its presidential and all other primary elections.

With the new adjustment, APC will be kicking off its primary few hours after PDP concludes its national convention, while the governorship primaries billed to hold tomorrow (Friday) has been postponed till next week Thursday.

This was contained in a statement signed by APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka. He said the new dates were approved by the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) at its meeting, yesterday.

The statement reads: “The NWC has approved an adjusted timetable/schedule of activities for the governorship, state House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and Presidential primaries and appeals as follows:

“Governorship and House of Representatives – Thursday, May 26; Senate and House of Assembly, Friday, May 27; and special convention for presidential primary holds Sunday, May 29 to Monday, May 30.

“For election appeals: Governorship and House of Representatives holds May 27, while Senate and House of Assembly holds May 28.”

This is coming a day after PDP moved its governorship and other primaries, leaving its presidential primary for May 28 and 29.

A source had earlier informed The Guardian that the major opposition party shifted its primaries to prevent the ruling party from wooing its members who might lose out during the exercise.

There had also been some intrigues over the venue of the primaries, with PDP losing the use of Eagle Square to the APC, while it opted for the Velodrome of the MKO Abiola Stadium.

Also, last week, the PDP decided to jettison zoning by throwing open its presidential ticket. This, the APC, on the other flank, is also considering by dithering on making a definite pronouncement on zoning, inspite of the prodding from stakeholders, including Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, a champion of power shift to the South.

HOWEVER, in a reaction yesterday, the ruling party said there was no iota of truth in media reports that it had zoned the presidency to the Northeast. APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Morka, who briefed reporters at the national secretariat of the party, expressed surprise over the report.

He said: “There is no such decision made by the NWC of the party. If and when the party takes the decision on zoning, we will make that announcement.”

The Tinubu Media Team (TMT) has said the ruling party has no reason to zone its presidency to the north in 2023 after eight years of President Buhari in office. The group claimed the constitution makes it impossible for the North to win an election without the support from the South and vice versa.

The group’s Coordinator, Mohammed Doka, said this on Wednesday during a press conference in Abuja while reacting to a media report that the leadership of the APC is working towards zoning its presidential ticket to the Northeast, with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, likely to emerge as its presidential candidate in the 2023 elections.

On fears that the ruling party may produce a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the group said, in Nigeria, you cannot divorce religion and politics. It, however, maintained that it was more concerned about the capacity of individual candidates.

The group said: “You know, as a political party, it is not one man’s decision, it has to be a collective decision. I believe at the end of the day, with the leadership of Senator Adamu Abdullahi at the helm of affairs, who is a seasoned politician, who has a track record of assimilating different views and somebody who knows the job, we believe that at the end of the day, there will be no cause for alarm.”

The group kicked against any consensus arrangement in choosing the standard-bearer of the party, saying it favoured indirect primary. It also stressed that the North must get rid of the ‘Born to Rule’ tag by ceding the presidency to the South in 2023 for equity, justice and fairness.

BUT African Democratic congress (ADC) presidential aspirant, Shamsudeen Lamido, has faulted the clamour for power shift to the South. Speaking after procuring his expression of interest and nomination forms at the party headquarters in Abuja, he argued that the country stood the risk of losing the services of competent Nigerians if those behind such clamour succeed.

Lamido identified religion and sectionalism as part of the reason why the country has not achieved growth and development since it gained independence in 1960.

He said: “We are not talking about North or South. We are talking about competence. Whether you are from the East or West or South or North, wherever you come from as long as you are from Nigeria, you should aspire for the presidency of Nigeria.

“We are talking about somebody that would recognise the value of participation, somebody that would eliminate tribalism that has eaten into the fabric of the society. We don’t want those that would take advantage of religion to achieve their selfish goals. We are going to regulate religious affairs.”

ADC’s National Chairman, Chief Ralph Nwosu, said the decision by Lamido to aspire on the ADC ticket, speaks volume of the level of acceptability of the party by Nigerians. He disclosed that 11 presidential aspirants have so far picked the expression of interest and nomination forms of the party.

MEANWHILE, the youth wing of the APC has invited the party’s presidential aspirants for a town hall meeting to discuss their plans for youths if elected. APC National Youth Leader, Dayo Israel, gave the invitation in a statement titled: “What do you have for us’’, yesterday, in Abuja.

Israel said the event, which would hold in Abuja between May 27 and 28, would provide a platform for the party’s presidential aspirants to share their agenda with young members of the party.

He said the time had come for the youth wing to mainstream and prioritise the interest of progressive youths and Nigerian youths in general. According to him, while some aspirants had toured the country to address would-be delegates, there have not been many engagements with the party’s youth wing.

Presidential aspirants that submitted their nomination forms include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National Leader, Bola Tinubu; former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; former Minister of Niger Delta Development, Godswill Akpabio; and former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu.

Others are former governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo and Ibikunle Amosu of Ogun; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi; Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi; Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Jigawa and former Zamfara Governor, Ahmed Yerima.

Also on the list of presidential aspirants that completed and returned their forms are Nicholas Nwagbo, former Speaker of House Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan. The only female aspirant, Uju Kennedy-Ohnenye, also made the list.

THERE are indications that President Muhammadu Buhari is not fully decided on re-absorption of some of his cabinet ministers, who recently withdrew from the presidential race to finish their term as ministers.

Recall that owing to the Electoral Act amendment, Buhari had directed all ministers interested in contesting the elections to resign on or before May 16.

While about 10 of them had indicated interest to run for the presidency and gubernatorial positions, some rescinded their ambition to return to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to complete their tenure.

Ministers of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Silva; Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, fall into the category of ministers that rescinded their political ambitions.

Yesterday, at the FEC meeting presided by President Buhari, some of the ministers were in attendance, but it appeared the President has not fully accepted them back going by explanations offered by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

In Mohammed’s words, “on the question about ministers returning or not going, I think you need to give me more time so that I can tell you exactly what the situation is. Right now, I need to cross-check. I need to confirm again from Mr President what the situation is. I think, you see the final decision on who is going, who’s coming back? Who’s not going lies with the President.”

While Malami was part of those physically present at the meeting yesterday, the Women Affairs Minister, Tallen, who earlier indicated interest for the Senatorial seat in Plateau State, joined virtually.

Mohammed had earlier told State House correspondents that the President was on the verge of replacing the ministers who had left on account of their political ambition as quickly as possible.

President Buhari had last Friday held a valedictory session and bade farewell to 10 outgoing members of FEC at a brief ceremony at the council chambers.

But Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, while faulting Malami and other ministers who renounced their 2023 aspirations to keep their jobs, said: “Having resigned from the Buhari administration, withdrawal of resignation is illegal as it constitutes a gross contravention of Section 306 (2) of the Constitution, which stipulates that ‘The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.’

“Since the resignation of the former ministers has taken effect they cannot return to the cabinet either on their own volition or on the directive of the President. The resignation of the ministers is not a cabinet reshuffle. It is akin to the removal of the former ministers by the President. Therefore, if the former ministers are going to be reappointed, the President is required by Section 147 of the Constitution to submit names to the Senate for fresh screening and confirmation.”

He added that the implication of inviting the outgoing ministers to the valedictory ceremony was that President Buhari had made up his mind to dispense with their services with effect from May 16, 2022. And the participation of the ministers in the valedictory ceremony without any protest whatsoever meant that they had accepted their exit from the cabinet.

“But two ministers have announced their plans to sit tight in office and thereby expose the country to undeserved ridicule. While wishing them well in their dream world it is hoped that the Federal Government will call them to order without any further delay.”