Activities intensified on Thursday among key players within the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the party continues its search for a strong and acceptable presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections.
The party had fixed next week Monday to commence a special convention for its presidential primary shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) extended the deadline for political parties to conduct their primaries.
Ahead of the primary, some of the presidential hopefuls have stepped up activities aimed at boosting their chances of emerging as the party’s flagbearer in the forthcoming poll.
Shun Monetary Incentives
In what could be described as a last-minute effort, one of the aspirants and incumbent Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, was said to have met with the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, and five governors of the ruling party.
Although his spokesperson, Laolu Akande, has yet to confirm this, the meeting was reportedly held on Thursday evening at the official residence of the Vice President in Abuja.
Elsewhere, another presidential hopeful and Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, wants the party’s delegates to consider the future of Nigeria and a candidate who will deliver in the nation’s best interest while voting in the primary next week.
He urged the delegates to set aside monetary incentives and seriously consider what was for the greater good of the country.
Lawan, while wooing the delegates, asked them to consider him critically, saying he would offer himself, his heart, integrity, and dedication to ensure that the dream of justice for all and a dream of uniting to fight the nation’s foes, were achieved.
He urged them to scrutinise the past practices of all aspirants to elicit what behaviours, avarice, and rapacity his co-contenders have exhibited in the past.
It Is My Turn
Similarly, an APC chieftain, Bola Tinubu, visited Ogun State in continuation of his consultation ahead of the primary where he hopes to get the party’s presidential ticket.
While addressing party delegates at the Presidential Lodge in Abeokuta, he recalled his role in the process that led to President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory over then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
Tinubu believes if not for him, President Buhari would not have won the election, having lost three previous attempts to occupy the highest office of the land.
“If not for me that stood behind Buhari, he wouldn’t have become the President,” he said. “He tried the first time, he failed; the second time, he failed; the third, he failed. Since he became the President, I have never gotten ministerial slots; I didn’t collect any contract, and I have never begged for anything from him. It is the turn of Yoruba; it is my turn.”
Apart from the President, the APC chieftain stated that he played major roles in the careers of several political leaders, including the emergence of Professor Osinbajo as the Vice President.
“He (Buhari) knew all the calculations then favoured us, that is why he wanted me as his vice, but I told him to let us build the party first … I told them that I have a candidate that is a Christian that I can nominate so that the party will not break.
“That was how I nominated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, I surrendered my right to him. I was asked to submit three names – Yemi Cardozo, Wale Edun, and Yemi Osinbajo.”
23 Aspirants For Ticket
As part of activities lined up for its presidential primary, Osinbajo, Lawan, Tinubu, and 20 others had appeared before the John Oyegun-led APC Presidential Screening Committee.
In no particular order, they include Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; and oil magnate, Tein Jack Rich.
Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa; former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha; popular Pastor Tunde Bakare, former governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yerima; and former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, also appeared before the panel.
Also screened were former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former presidential candidate, Nicholas Felix; a female aspirant, Uju Ken-Ohanenye; Ondo North Senator, Ajayi Boroffice; and a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
Others include Governor David Umahi Ebonyi; former Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi, and former Minister of Information under the late General Sani Abacha regime, Ikeobasi Mokelu.
On the second day of the screening, President Buhari met with governors elected on the APC platform on how a candidate should emerge.
He charged the governors to ensure that the party’s convention picks a presidential candidate that reflects all the values and virtues of the party.
The President had assured the governors that the consultation process would continue, to ensure that all aspirants and stakeholders would be brought on board right through to the convention.
He explained that the process was to also ensure that any anxiety occasioned by different factors was effectively brought under control and that the APC emerges stronger.
Despite the development within the party, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has insisted that the APC must zone its ticket to the South to retain the presidency in 2023.
Although he said he has no preferred presidential candidate, Akeredolu who doubles as Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum explained that it was important for the South to produce the next President in the spirit of equity and fairness.
“Succinctly, Governor Akeredolu as a leader and stakeholder in the southern presidency agitation is committed to the interest of the southern Nigeria geopolitical zone,” his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde, said in a statement on Thursday.