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Jonathan, Lawan, Sylva add more twists, suspense to APC race

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Deputy Abuja Bureau Chief), Adamu Abuh, John Akubo and Kingsley Jeremiah (Abuja) 
10 May 2022   |   4:15 am
The twists and turns that marked the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have reached pulsating climax after former President Goodluck Jonathan...

Minister of State Petroleum Resources Chief Timipre Sylva,after procurement of APC presidential nomination form in Abuja… yesterday.

• Nomads, almajiri groups root for Jonathan’s return • Lawan: Why I want Buhari’s seat
• Bakare promises to reconcile aggrieved Nigerians • Fayemi explains huge interest in presidency on APC platform
• Orji Kalu pulls out of race for Lawan, picks Senate form • Insecurity: Robert Clarke wants tenure extension for Buhari

The twists and turns that marked the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have reached pulsating climax after former President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva joined the ranks of those angling to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.

As sales of nomination form ends today, more persons are expected to join the list of nearly 30 aspirants jostling to be president.
While the nation was still adjusting to the jolt from the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele and president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the entrance of the nation’s number three man, Lawan in a race the number two man, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has already declared interest in raised the stake ahead of the APC presidential primary later in the month.

More intriguing was former President Jonathan’s addition to the race, ending weeks of speculation, especially after he had told youths who staged a protest to his home, urging him to declare to ‘watch out’. Jonathan would be seeking a return to the office he left in 2015 by switching party to the APC that ousted him.

At about 7:00p.m. last night, a group of his supporters, led by Mr Ibrahim Abdullahi, procured the N100 million expression of interest and nomination forms at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

Abdullahi, accompanied by a band of pastoralists, who recalled when Jonathan was at the helms, said he is best suited to administer the country again.

Abdullahi explained that their support for Jonathan was aimed at appeasing the oil-rich Niger Delta region and other minority and vulnerable groups like nomads and almajiris in the country.

The support group disclosed that Jonathan would not face any hurdle ahead of the primary since he is already a card-carrying member of the APC. He said: “I represent two of the most vulnerable communities in our country. The nomadic pastoralist and the almajiri communities who have decided to purchase this form for our former president, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to come back and to rule this country and continue with the good work he has started. 

“During Jonathan’s era, he was the first president since Nigeria’s independence who has found it expedient and magnanimous enough to remember the almajiri community. He brought a comprehensive policy of reformation and integration of the almajiri into the mainstream educational system in the country.

“It was the dream and the vision of Jonathan that if that programme had continued, it would one day produce from the Almajiri system of education, doctors and engineers. Unfortunately, that programme was kept aside as soon as he left, same fate befell other parts of the vulnerable community like the Fulani community and nomadic pastoralists. 

“Looking at this situation and of course the problems Nigeria today is facing, we believe that only a leader with that kind of patriotism, a leader with that kind of fairness, who is ready to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging can be able to rule this country and that leader is Jonathan,” he said.

Jonathan lost his bid for a second term to incumbent President Buhari on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but had since had a sound working relationship with President Buhari after conceding defeat to him despite the bitter run-up to the 2015 elections.

SIMILARLY, Sylva’s friends from the Northern part of the country, led by Sulaiman Abdullahi, procured the expression of interest and nomination forms for him yesterday. The Minister, who accepted the nomination forms, expressed gratitude to the group, adding that he will live up to their expectations.

A group, who called themselves ‘The Good People of Nigeria’ led by Muhammad Abu Abaji, had presented the Minister and former governor of Bayelsa State the form, insisting that Sylva remained the best candidate to rule the country.

Speaking while accepting the form, Sylva said it was necessary for him to consultation widely, especially his people in the oil region of Niger Delta. According to the Minister, he won’t take a decision without speaking to Ijaw people, especially Chief Edwin Clark and other political allies.

AT the Senate President’s guest house in Maitama, Abuja, Lawan said his main objective of seeking to be president is to improve on President Buhari’s achievements. He expressed optimism that he would win the presidential primary election of his party and move ahead to win the general election next year.

He said: “Over the last seven years, we have been participants in the administration of our country at the national level. I have listened to various calls from all parts of our dear nation, Nigeria for me to show interest to run for the office of the president of Nigeria.

“I took my time to pray to Almighty God to guide me. I took my time to consult very widely Nigerians from all parts of the country to ensure that I get the understanding of the citizens of this country on whose behalf we will by the grace of God win the election and run the administration.”

He said though he is joining the race late as the field is already full of other aspirants, “I want to at this point assure Nigerians that the APC is a very beautiful bride and that is why we have many aspirants. 

“I will play the game by the rules. I am not going to circumvent any rule, I am going to respect my party and listen to the leaders of this party because that is our platform in the first place.”

ALSO, amid applause, Dr Tunde Bakare, yesterday, formerly declared his interest to re-launch his bid for the presidency on the platform of the ruling APC, promising to reposition the country to achieve greatness.

At the event held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre Abuja, the cleric pledged to create a new Nigeria where every Nigerian could actualise his or her aspiration irrespective of his/her social status, ethnic and religious affiliations.

Reminiscing his 12 years of engagement with the authorities, which included his role in the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), he assured that if voted into power he would deliver on four mandates namely peace, progress, prosperity and possibilities to the citizenry.

He promised to establish the presidential commission for national reconciliation, reintegration and rebirth whose board of trustees would consist of three eminent Nigerians from each of the six geopolitical zones.

He identified security, respect for rule of law, human development revolving around poverty alleviation, education, healthcare, family and social development as sectors that he would be preoccupied with if voted into power.

EKITI State governor, Kayode Fayemi, has offered an insight into why there is so much interest by aspirants vying for the exalted seat of the presidency on the APC platform.

Fayemi, who is among the 27 aspirants that have so far picked the N100 million expression of interest and nomination forms, explained that the development is because the APC is well placed to sweep the poll in the 2023 poll. He spoke while receiving members of the National Prosperity Movement from Northeast and Northwest in Abuja, yesterday. 

He said: “We are once again in the throes of another national electoral cycle at which Nigerians across the length and breadth of the nation will be called upon to designate their preferred choice for the leadership of our beloved country. 

“As can be expected, our great party, the APC will be a key factor and actor in the elections. And that is as it should be given that we are the ruling party at the federal centre, and are responsible for governing 22 states in the federation. Easily, we are the most national of parties. We also remain the most sought-after political association in the land. 

IN a related development, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, has formally announced his withdrawal from the race to succeed President Buhari in 2023. The lawmaker said he would no longer vie for the APC presidential ticket.

Rather, he revealed that he has purchased the nomination and expression of interest forms of the APC to represent the people of Abia North Senatorial district again in the 10th National Assembly.

Senator Kalu announced his withdrawal from the presidential race on Monday in a statement to congratulate the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who is one of the presidential aspirants to obtain the party’s nomination and expression of interest forms recently.

He declared his absolute support for Senator Lawan and asked leaders and members of the APC to do the same in the spirit of equity and fairness.

The lawmaker explained that it was necessary to support the Senate President who is from the Northeast, since the party did not zone its presidential ticket to the Southeast, stressing that only the two regions should be allowed to produce the next president.

According to a source close to the Senate President, “the decision to have the Senate President join the race was on the anticipation that PDP was going to select a northern presidential flag-bearer. You know PDP would hold its presidential primary before APC, so Lawan’s entry is to prepare our party for any eventuality,” the source explained.

IN another twist, elder statesman, Chief Robert Clarke, has called for a tenure extension for President Buhari to enable him to tackle the nation’s problems before elections can be held. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) argued on Monday that the few months remaining before the 2023 elections are not sufficient to put an end to the insecurity in the country to make the conduct of the election possible.

Answering questions on Arise Television programme, he maintained that the Constitution provides that the President can extend his tenure for six months in the first instance if he feels that conditions are not good to carry out elections.

He averred that it was wrong to believe that the President cannot stay in office for more than eight years of two tenures. According to him, the President can continue to give himself a fresh six months extension until such a time election could be held in the country.

Clarke warned that the nation may not survive if nothing was done before the elections. He said: “The Constitution provides that the President can stay longer than eight years. I’ve always said it. It is in the Constitution. If the situation in which we’re in now continues, and it is impossible to vote in the 2023 election, the Constitution says if a situation persists, the President will inform the INEC in view of all insurgencies, in view of kidnappings, in view of Boko Haram, I don’t think in these different areas of Nigeria, we can have a good election.

“The Constitution says I am going to stay for six months and in the first instance. So, the fact that the Constitution says the president cannot stay for more than eight years is wrong. Because the same constitution says he can be giving himself six months if those conditions persist.

“Now, I don’t see any green light. I don’t see how what is happening today can be stopped within a period of six months from today or before February next year when the elections will be held.

“The alternative then is for Mr President to continue as president, allow the security watches to carry up the mopping up and Nigeria will become stable.

“Because I swear to God Almighty, without stability in Nigeria, without security, Nigeria is going nowhere. No foreigner will bring his money and put in any business in Nigeria when he knows that any of his expatriates who are sent to Nigeria can be kidnapped at any time. So, until all these things are sorted out, I don’t see any green light.”

“If nothing happens before the elections, God forbids, this country will be in flames,” Clarke warned. The legal luminary regretted that the country has not been well run since the advent of the latest democratic dispensation in 1999, citing attempts to subvert the Constitution by exploiting its loopholes.