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APC settles for Southern flag-bearer

By Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Leo Sobechi (Deputy Politics Editor), Adamu Abuh and Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Azeez Olorunlomeru and Opeyemi Babalola (Lagos)
05 June 2022   |   4:30 am
“In the interest of building a stronger, more united and more progressive country, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 elections should be one of our teeming members from the southern states of Nigeria.”

• Buhari, Northern Governors Back Power Shift
• Build Consensus, Come Up With Formidable Candidate, President Urges Aspirants
• Badaru Withdraws, Umahi Denies Stepping Down For Lawan
• Akeredolu Hails Decision

“In the interest of building a stronger, more united and more progressive country, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 elections should be one of our teeming members from the southern states of Nigeria.”

This is the kernel of the statement issued last night by the APC Northern Governors and political leaders as they backed power rotation to the South. The statement, which was issued in the wake of a dinner hosted by President Muhammadu Buhari with all presidential aspirants and some executives of the APC, also underscored the need for “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.”

Indeed, President Buhari’s message at the dinner was loud and clear, urging the aspirants to hold consultations, and come up with a formidable candidate before the party holds its primary election between June 6 and 8, 2022.

The President said the meeting was a continuation of on-going consultative process aimed at ensuring a smooth and strategic emergence of a standard bearer, who will lead the APC to a resounding victory in the upcoming presidential polls.

“Looking at this assemblage of personalities and considering your rich pedigree of accomplishments in life, I have come to the conclusion that our party, the APC, is rich in human resources and also that our nation is blessed with capable people that can successfully steer the ship of state into the future,” President Buhari said.

The President added: “Our party, the APC, has won two successive presidential elections, first in 2015 when we were in the opposition and in 2019 when I sought re-election. 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 decision-making.

“The 2023 general elections are fast approaching in a global, regional and national environment that is constantly changing and challenging. This demands that our party should become more aware of the changing environment, be responsive to the yearnings of our citizens, re-evaluate our strategy and strengthen our internal mechanism so that we would sustain the electoral successes.

“I am pleased to note that the party, recognising 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.”

Recalling previous consultations with stakeholders, which he said would help the electoral fortunes of the party, the President said he looked forward to meeting with party stakeholders again to ensure party unity and cohesion are sustained.

He stressed the need for the party’s flag bearer to be formidable, appeal to the electorate across the board, command the ability to unify the country and possess the capacity to address the nation’s critical challenges.

Responding on behalf of the aspirants, former Governor of old Abia state and immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, and Vice President, ‘Yemi Osinbajo, thanked the President for his leadership and guidance, pledging that they would hold the consultations as counseled “for the unity and strength of the party.”

The statement by APC Northern Governors was signed by the Governors of Katsina, Niger, Nasarawa, Borno, Katsina, Gombe, Zamfara, Plateau, Kano and Kebbi; and former Sokoto state Governor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko

It reads: “APC governors and political leaders from the northern states of Nigeria today met to review the political situation and to further support our Party in providing progressive leadership amidst our national challenges. During our discussions, we welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari’s invitation to governors and other stakeholders to contribute to the emergence of a strong presidential candidate for the APC.

“After careful deliberation, we wish to state our firm conviction that after eight years in 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 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 moment calls for the most sober and inclusive approach to selecting our party’s candidate, and we call on all APC leaders to fulfill their responsibility in this regard.”

Meanwhile, Chairman, Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), reacting to the resolution of the 11 APC Northern Governors and leaders, said his colleagues in the southern region were delighted.

He said: “We did not expect anything short of this heart-warming decision from our colleagues, great patriots and reliable partners in the collaborative efforts geared towards the attainment of nationhood for our dear country. This is indeed another landmark achievement in our quest for understanding, rapprochement and continual engagements for mutual beneficence.

“We acknowledge this courageous stance for equity and moral rectitude. We applaud the zeal and determination of our brothers to engage realistically and honestly. We salute this uncommon resolve to confront issues militating against the march towards nationhood and ultimate greatness. By this gesture, we are convinced of the seriousness of our colleagues to join other patriots in ensuring that the ascendant march towards stability, progress and prosperity is not truncated by indiscretion.”

Consequently, Akeredolu urged President Buhari to ensure that the search for his successor as the APC Presidential candidate is limited to aspirants 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,” he said.

In what appears like a response to Akeredolu’s charge, Jigawa state Governor, Abubakar Badaru withdrew from the presidential race after 10 APC Northern Governors backed powershift to the South in 2023.

However, contrary to news that made the rounds yesterday that the Ebonyi state Governor, David Umahi, had stepped down for Senate President Ahmad Lawan ahead of the party primary tomorrow, the governor has said there was no iota of truth in the reports.

In a statement by the special assistant to the governor on media and publicity, Francis Nwaze, titled, “Disregard The News That Governor Umahi Has Stepped Down For Senate President Ahmad Lawan,” the governor debunked what he described as fake news, and urged members of the public to disregard same.

“The news item is totally false in context and content. This raises a question mark about the credibility of the source of such fallacy. For the sake of discerning minds, what happened was that Senate President, Ahmed Lawan in a last-ditch effort to ramp up partnership ahead of the APC Presidential Primary, visited Governor Umahi in his Abuja residence yesterday, where they both promised to support whoever amongst the two and other aspirants that emerge the flag-bearer of the party. The Senate President even took out time to eulogise Engineer Umahi for making the party proud through his purposeful governance in Ebonyi state.

“There was no time during the visit that the issue of stepping down by either Umahi or the Senate President was discussed or even suggested. The teeming supporters of Umahi across Nigeria and beyond are encouraged to disregard the ill-fated news item, which is by all standards fake,” the statement concluded.

Reacting on the latest development in the party’s presidential race, one of the staunch supporters of Governor Yahaya Bello, immediate past Commissioner for Information and Communications in Kogi, Kingsley Fanwo, said his boss’ camp still believes in competence and capacity, and not zoning.

He said: “Though, I am not the spokesperson for Bello Presidential Campaign Organisation, I can, however, say that my boss still believes in capacity and competence, and not zoning.

“As we speak, we are still in the race and our leader, President Buhari, has only talked about building a consensus around any of the aspirants, he didn’t specifically mention zoning.

“Our determination is to ensure that Nigeria gets the best candidate that has the capacity and competence to retain power for our party and who can also transform the country.”

ALSO, yesterday, the Northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), and the Yoruba Welfare Group (YWG) rose from a parley, asking the APC to allow its presidential aspirants to go into a free and fair contest to determine the party’s Presidential Candidate for 2023.

THE ACF and YWG said that all caucuses, vested interests, and contending forces in the party must allow justice and fairness in the distribution of leadership positions, as only that will ensure peaceful coexistence among the various ethnic groups.

A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, jointly signed by ACF Secretary-General, Murtala Aliyu, and YWG’s National President, Abdulhakeem Adegoke Alawuje, pointed out that agreements reached by various political groups should be fulfilled to safeguard the country against perpetual mistrust and anarchy.

According to the communiqué: “Going by the agitations in many quarters and the phenomenon of mutual distrust, between the North and the South, being thrown into the polity over the management of the ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to contest the presidential ticket under APC towards 2023 election, the two major groups in the Nigeria Project – Yoruba Welfare Group and the Arewa Consultative Forum – view with great concern, the mistrust, distrust and the discordant tune reminiscent of the issues that led to the crisis of the First Republic.