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APC presidential convention: Confusion as party juggles zoning, consensus candidacy

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie (Abuja Bureau Chief), Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor), Leo Sobechi, Terhemba Daka, Adamu Abuh (Abuja) and Rauf Oyewole (Bauchi)
07 June 2022   |   4:27 am
After yesterday’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’, members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are set for today’s national convention with politicking reaching feverish pitch, as the party grapples with task of choosing its presidential candidate.

Governors Babagana Zulum of Borno State (left), Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Aminu Masari of Katsina, Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi, Solomon Lalong of Plateau, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Muhammad Abubakar of Jigawa, who is contesting the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on the APC National Convention, at the State House, Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• 13 Northern governors meet Buhari, insist on power shift to South
• Buhari: I have not anointed any candidate
• APC governors enter closed-door late night meeting at party HQ
• Adamu on his own, power must return to South, says Akeredolu
• Group accuses Adamu of altering delegates list to favour Northern candidate
• Court of Appeal stops National Assembly from imposing statutory delegates 
• Northern APC youths protest power shift to South

After yesterday’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’, members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are set for today’s national convention with politicking reaching feverish pitch, as the party grapples with task of choosing its presidential candidate.

There was pandemonium following the purported endorsement of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as the presidential flag bearer of the party. This jolted APC stakeholders, who stoutly resisted the position until calm was restored with President Muhammadu Buhari’s denial of joining party chairman, Abdullahi Adamu to endorse any candidate.

This was after 13 APC governors from the North stormed the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where they met with President Buhari and insisted on their decision to cede the ticket of the party to the South.

Although President Buhari has continued to express reference for a consensus arrangement, there has not been a meeting of minds on such among the 23 aspirants.

The meeting with APC governors from the North, yesterday, is the fourth in the series of concerted move by the President to ensure that the party presents a consensus candidate so as to reduce acrimony that may arise at the end of the convention.

The governors were Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum and governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu; chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simeon Lalong; Abubakar Baduru (Jigawa) and Babagana Zulum (Borno).

Others were Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Bello Matawale (Zamfara), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Yahaya Inuwa (Gombe), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni and Abdullrahman Abdulrazak (Kwara). Governor of Kogi, Yahaya Bello, was absent.

Addressing newsmen after, Lalong, who led the group to the parley in the State House, insisted that President Buhari has not anointed any of the contenders as the party’s flag bearer to prosecute the election, as presidential candidate.

He said President Buhari has tasked the governors to meet with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party later, yesterday, with a view to resolving the knotty option of consensus candidate through a democratic process that is agreeable to all stakeholders.

Lalong, who was flanked by 12 of his counterpart governors, said they told the President their decision to ensure that power returns to the South for the purpose of equity and unity of the country.

Explaining Bello’s absence, el-Rufai said the Kogi governor chose to stay away on his own volition because he differed with the group, adding that he (Bello) acted within his democratic right.

He said: “We met before coming to meet with Mr. President. As you can see, he’s not the only aspirant, the governor of Jigawa is also an aspirant and he’s here with us and we met. But the governor of Kogi chose to excuse himself from meeting with Mr. President because he believes 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. What our leader has communicated to you is a summary of the discussions with Mr. President.”

DISMISSING speculations of having anointed a particular candidate, President Buhari, in a statement signed by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said he has “no preferred candidate and has anointed no one and is determined to ensure that there shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party.”

Speaking at a meeting with the Governors at the State House, President 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.”

Reacting to the Lawan’s purported endorsement, a source in the Presidency said the process enunciated by the President on the emergence of consensus candidate is still in force. “It is that aspirants should decide on their own. The party chair compromised and the President was mad at him. Lawan is just Adamu’s doing and it has been knocked down already.”

Also, Ondo State governor and Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, (SAN), described it as an expensive joke. He said: “The speculation is rife that the APC Chairman took a flight of fancy and decided to make a pronouncement beyond his competence. He has, allegedly, made public his preferred choice as the candidate of the APC.

“This alleged pronouncement runs contrary to the position of majority of Northern governors in APC and their counterparts in the South. Our agreement is unanimous on this issue. The office of the President should be contested for by qualified persons from the Southern part of the country if the move to get a consensus candidate fails. There has been no shift from this settled issue.  

“We are grieving but have not forgotten that power must shift to the South. On this we stand. Let it be known that the Chairman or anyone who holds a contrary opinion does so at a personal level. He is at best embarking on a frolic, which reasonable people will consider dangerous.” 

MEMBERS of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) last night were currently locked up in a closed-door meeting with the party’s national leadership, at the national secretariat of the ruling party. In attendance were Babajide Sanwo-Olu (lagos), el-Rufai, Ganduje, Lalong, Sani Bello (Niger), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Zulum, Mohammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), among others. The governors arrived the party’s national secretariat around 8:00p.m. and headed to the NEC Hall of the party to meet with NWC members.

MEANWHILE, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has issued an order restraining the National Assembly from imposing statutory delegates at the ongoing convention of the APC. In a ruling given yesterday, Justice Haruna Tsammani also restrained the enforcement of the judgment of a Federal High Court sitting in Kano, which was delivered on June 3, granting the enforcement of amended Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The ex-parte application, which was filed by the APC National Chairman and moved by A.A. Popoola and Karma Fagbemi, had pleaded with the appellate court to stay the execution of the judgment of the high court delivered by Justice A.M. Liman, 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 (INEC) to enforce the amendment.

Justice Tsammani further 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 Thursday, June 9.

The APC chairman had contended that the Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act on statutory delegates participation in the primary, which amendment was still pending Mr President’s assent was not in conflict with Section 223 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and Article 20(iv) of the APC Constitution.

The APC chairman had further contended 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 party said its constitution recognises two categories of statutory delegates, being elected and non-elected delegates.

THE National Chairman has been accused of working clandestinely towards the emergence of a northern candidate, and as a result, altering delegates lists, an advocacy group has alleged.

The group, Compass for New Nigeria (CNN), in a statement made available to journalists said that report reaching its secretariat, claimed that the “chairman has been going behind the President and against his instruction, in cahoots with some people to alter the delegates list in the hope that power would remain in the North.”

Leader of the group, Toluwalade George, who raised the alarm, also expressed worry about the penchant of people entrusted with sensitive assignments by the President, disrespecting him by ignoring his orders and carrying out their own plans.

According to him, “even after the meeting the President had on Sunday night with the party’s National Advisory Council (NAC), presidential aspirants and other stakeholders, it is disturbing to hear the chairman say that the position of the Northern governors was at best their personal opinion and not binding on the forum.

“Besides, he has repeatedly held on to the view that the party had not taken a position on zoning, not factoring into account the state and mood of the nation. What other proof does anyone need to say that Adamu is working to sabotage the APC and evidently working for the opposition party, where he ordinarily belongs?”

THE coalition of youth groups in the APC have disagreed with the decision of Northern governors on power shifting to Southern part of the country. The groups, APC Progressives Youth Elements and Northeast Youth Forum of APC, while protesting in Bauchi yesterday, said that power must not be shifted to Southern part, saying that the governors were selfish in their positions.

During a peaceful demonstration, youths who were seeing holding placards with different inscriptions like; “It’s North or Nothing”, “we are not in support of power shift to south”, “ we will not accept the decision of 11 governors”, “it’s their selfish interest”, etc insisted that North is left behind in the scheme of things.

The President of APC Progressives Youth Elements, Alamin Bala Mai’auduga, said “we denounce the action of the 11 northern governors to support any Southern candidature, we the Northern youths do not think it is time for any Southerner to assume the mantle of power.”