Fayemi, Amosun, Nwajiuba entry swells APC presidential aspirants
• Group gives Jonathan seven-day ultimatum to join APC, declare
• Education Minister accepts to contest, says not bound by Electoral Act to resign
• I’m not aware of directive to resign, Ngige insists
• Fayemi seeks Olubadan’s prayers, counsel on presidential bid
• Confusion as thief carts away $75,000 at APC headquarters
There were more entrants into the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as a serving Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, joined Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to pick up the nomination and expression of interest forms at the party’s secretariat in Abuja yesterday.
The Senator representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Ibikunle Amosun, notified the Senate of his ambition to run for the presidency, while Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, continued his consultations with a visit to the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun.
Also yesterday, while supporters of former President Goodluck Jonathan, under the aegis of the Youths Network for Nigeria Union, gave the former President a seven-day ultimatum within which to join the APC and declare a bid for the presidency or be prepared to have his private office picketed by its over 20,000 members. Another group, the Society for Good Governance, frowning on the ‘smear’ campaign against the Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd), alleged that the development was part of a grand design to stall Buratai’s presidential ambition in the 2023 poll.
Jonathan’s supporters gave the ultimatum at a rally held in Suleja, Niger State. Led by Ibrahim Saiki, the group said the ultimatum would take effect a day after the Sallah holidays as members threatened to occupy Jonathan’s office should he fail to accede to their demand.
Senator Amosun had in a letter of notification and invitation to the formal declaration to contest for the presidency, urged his colleagues to grace his declaration on May 5, at Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
As the list of APC aspirants keeps widening ahead of its May 30th presidential primary, Governor Bello said he is not scared of Jonathan’s entry, describing the moves by the former president to join the race on the platform of the APC as a welcome development.
On Tuesday, Cross River State governor, Benedict Ayade, while declaring his intention to succeed President Buhari, had said he would withdraw his bid if Jonathan joins the race.
Earlier, Bauchi State governor and a presidential hopeful of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bala Mohammed, said he would only consider stepping down his ambition in 2023 if Jonathan indicates interest in contesting for the position.
Speaking yesterday, Bello said he is not threatened by the prospect of Jonathan’s aspiration. He said: “That is the beauty of democracy. In a democracy, anybody can support anyone but I am assuring you that our great party, the APC, is a party that has its own ethics, rules and regulations and I know surely that all of these are in my favour and I am not in anyway scared of the pedigree of anyone whatsoever.
The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, who was represented by Mr Chidi Wogu to pick the nomination and expression of interest forms, said he has the wherewithal to administer the country just as he canvassed for power shifting to the Southeast geopolitical zone.
He said: “The President promised that this time around, anyone who is going to run for presidency must be under 60 and these young people came together. When I saw their seriousness, I decided to coordinate with one group, we put together the money and we have come today to show the seriousness by being the first to purchase this form and they find Nwajiuba credible and hardworking.
“For 30 years, he’s been in politics, unblemished, very humble, an open door policy lawmaker and a detribalised Nigerian. This form is actually put together by persons from the 36 states and it’s also an opportunity to make a case for Southeast presidency.”
The Minister said he has accepted calls on him by different groups to contest for the presidency. He made this known when he was presented the nomination form, adding that he was not bound by the Electoral Act to resign as Minister.
“According to the Constitution, we are required to resign 30 days before the election. Anybody can have another opinion.”
Also, another presidential hopeful and Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, said he would not bow to a new directive issued by the National Working Committee of the APC mandating all political appointees who aspire to participate in the May primary elections at all levels to resign at least 30 days before the conduct of the primaries, as he was not aware of such directive.
Ngige, who maintained that he had no idea about the directive, said it was his constitutional right to run for the country’s highest office.
According to him, since the March 18 judgment of the Federal High Court in Umuahia struck out section 84(12) of the recently signed Electoral Act 2022, he was under no pressure to resign.
“I don’t know about that. I’m hearing it for the first time from you. But like I always say, I’ll be guided by the letters and spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he told newsmen.
Governor Fayemi has said the Yoruba are not ready for secession but want to contribute to the peace, progress and development of Nigeria. The governor, in his address at the palace of the Olubadan, said the visit was to pay obeisance to the monarch and to seek for Olubadan’s counsel, prayers and support for his desire for the nation’s topmost job.
The chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum who spoke in Yoruba, said: “We are not ready for secession in Yoruba land. What we want is peace, progress and development”, adding that “the reasons some youths are agitating are understandable. We don’t want to enslave others and we don’t want to be enslaved.”
He pointed out that the Yoruba had supported those who are non-Yoruba to get to the apogee of political leadership in the country, emphasising that it is appropriate the Yoruba support their son.
“Mine is not an ambition, but call to duty to build a better Nigeria. Though, our youths may want to give up on Nigeria due to a lot of justifiable reasons, but I believe Nigeria is still worth fighting for,” he enthused.
There was a bit of confusion at the APC National Secretariat yesterday as at least N43,000,000 reportedly went missing. The development forced party officials to suspend sales of forms as canopies erected within the premises were hurriedly dismantled in an apparent measure to avert a recurrence of such ugly incidence.
It was gathered that the sum of $75,000 had gone missing as the crowd took advantage of the pandemonium at the entrance gate of the secretariat.
Party sources, however, disclosed that the missing money was in no way connected to the monies from the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms as aspirants are expected to make deposits in the designated account numbers before picking up their forms at the Buhari House.
“It’s actually $75,000. You know there was a struggle at the gate when aspirants and supporters were trying to get in. When the parcel of money dropped, it went missing in a flash. By the time security operatives were alerted, the thief had vanished with the envelope,” the party source said.
It is unclear why the unidentified party chieftain brought such huge amount sealed in an envelope to the party secretariat usually filled with thugs, praise singers and hangers on.
An eyewitness told The Guardian: “I can’t explain what the money was meant for. I am sure it couldn’t have been used to buy forms because such monies are paid into the party account in the bank. Maybe the person brought the money purely for the purpose of sharing it to party officials.
“You never can tell. I was told the envelope containing the money fell while he was struggling to protect his phone. Before you say jack, those who stole it disappeared into thin air.”