Leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the South-West, on Friday, cautioned presidential aspirants from the zone to guard against their utterances.
It was gathered that the meeting, which was held behind closed doors at the Lagos House, Marina, also resolved that name-calling and other personal attacks should not be encouraged by the aspirants and their supporters.
It was learnt that the aspirants were asked to work with whomever among them emerges as the party’s candidate for the presidential election.
According to sources, the leaders also impressed the aspirants to ensure that the South-West does not lose the opportunity to produce the President in 2023.
A source at the meeting said, “The issue of betrayal was put to rest as the elders affirmed that everyone who desired to run for any political office whatsoever was not encumbered in any way at all.”
It was gathered that the meeting did not agree on the issue of consensus.
A source, who was at the meeting, said the issue was also not listed as part of its agenda, but that it was stylishly introduced by one of the leaders.
He said one of the speakers asked if the aspirants from the zone could still step down for one another if they realised that the zone would be defeated at the party’s presidential primary slated for the end of the month.
But he said none of the aspirants in attendance responded as they were not ready to step down for the other.
The source stated, “How do you ask someone who has paid N100m to step down? Step down for who? All the aspirants believe that they are popular and can win.
“Funnily enough, the issue of consensus was not listed in the agenda of the meeting. It was also not part of the text messages sent to us for the meeting. The meeting was majorly concerned about the utterances that are already portraying us as being divided and that the zone is behaving as if we have no leaders.
“Yet, there are concerns that the large number of aspirants could put the zone in danger if we go into the primary like that. But nobody was asked to step down for the other.”
The meeting was convened by the former interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, and a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba.
Present at the meeting were the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and the Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Also at the meeting were the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo; governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun and Oyetola of Osun states.
Others include the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the APC National Secretary, Otunba Iyiola Omisore; a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Moses Adeyemo; and a former National Vice Chairman of the APC, South-West Zone, Chief Pius Akinyelure.
However, two presidential aspirants from the South-West, Pastor Tunde Bakare, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; and the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Ajayi Boroffice, who have all purchased forms, were absent at the meeting.
While commending Osinbajo, who is the highest ranking public officer from the region, for a job well done, sources said the APC elders stated that all the aspirants had the right to aspire to be the President, but enjoined them to exhibit the ‘Omoluabi’ ethos in their politicking by shunning divisive rhetoric.
While stating that consultation with them would be continuous, the meeting advised the aspirants to queue behind whoever among them eventually emerges as the party’s candidate, stating that the cohesion of the South-West must be sacrosanct.
Akande said the presidential aspirants were united that the presidency should come to the South-West region.
He stated, “We the APC are united and we will ensure that the presidency comes to our region, the South-West. We had a fruitful discussion at the meeting today (Friday).
“We had a fruitful discussion. We also resolved that everybody should maintain absolute decorum because we are united.”
Impeccable sources at the meeting told Saturday PUNCH that Aregbesola pointedly refused to shake Omisore’s hand or sit next to him and Oyetola.
“Aregbesola was expected to sit down next to Omisore and Oyetola, but he refused to associate with them, deciding instead to sit far off. Attempts by the elders to make Aregbesola change his mind proved abortive as he said he didn’t want to be associated with Omisore,” one of the sources said.
At the meeting, Akande called on all aspirants and governors to ensure that they carry on with their campaigns with decorum.
The APC chieftain was said to have called on them to put the interest of the South-West first and ensure that they would not lose the ticket at the primary, which comes up at the end of the month.
A source said, “Baba Akande said it is better for one of us to have the Presidency than for none of us to have it. He said we should carry on our campaigns with decorum. The ultimate goal is to have a small number of aspirants through consensus. However, this will be discussed in subsequent meetings.
“Everything was done to ensure that the impression was not given that Baba Akande was supporting anyone. They also will encourage consensus among all aspirants in order to strengthen the unity of the Yoruba,” he said.
When asked why Bakare, Bankole and Boroffice were not invited, he said, “A list was given to Niyi Adebayo to invite people. I think all these people you mentioned had not yet declared as of the time this meeting was put together.”
More southern presidential aspirants emerge
Meanwhile, the surge in the number of southerners declaring for the presidency on the platform of the APC continued on Friday as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, and three others picked the N100m expression of interest and nomination forms.
Others who also picked the forms on Friday were the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu; a former Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, who declared his interest in Abuja on Thursday; the senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District, Ajayi Boroffice; and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole.
A former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Yerima, who is from the North, also declared his interest to contest the seat on Friday.
This brought the number of aspirants, who have collected forms in the party to about 15, while those who have declared interest stood at about 30, comprising 25 southerners and five northerners.
A group reportedly picked the forms for Emefiele after months of speculation as to his interest in the plum job.
This comes barely three days to the deadline for obtaining forms and one week to the screening of the aspirants by the party. The APC fixed Tuesday as the last day for the submission of completed forms and accompanying documents, while the screening will hold on Saturday, May 14, 2022. The Independent National Electoral Commission had fixed June 3 as the deadline for parties to hold their primaries.
Amid calls for the South to produce the next President after the eight-year regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said last week that the party had yet to take a decision on where the presidential ticket would be zoned to.
However, the Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the Southern States Governors’ Forum, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), had in a statement on Tuesday asked the party to make a pronouncement on “this very important issue” without delay.
Checks by Saturday PUNCH indicated that there were eight aspirants from South-East, nine from the South-West, seven from the South-South and four from the North.
In the South-East, those who have shown interest in the race are Senator Rochas Okorocha; Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Onu; Pastor Nicholas Felix; Senator Orji Kalu and Ms Uju Ohanenye.
In the South-West, those who have shown interest are Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Amosun; Boroffice; Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim; Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Citadel Global Community Church and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole;
In the South-South, the list includes Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole; Yakubu Mohammed; businessman, Tien Jack-Rich; and Ibinabo Dokubo.
In the North, the aspirants are Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; his counterpart in Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru; Yerima; Adamu Garba and a businessman, Dr Ibrahim Bello Dauda.
It’s unjust for S’South, S’West to contest against S’East – Umahi
Meanwhile, Umahi said on Friday that it would be against the spirit of justice, fair play and equity for persons from the South-West and South-South to contest against aspirants from the South-East. He said the current situation would make a mess of the clamour by southerners for power rotation to the South when fellow southerners could not be fair to the only region that had yet to produce the President.
Speaking on Channels Television, Umahi said, “When we as southern people are asking our brothers and sisters in the North for fairness, equity and justice for this thing (power) to rotate, it is expected that on the basis of that equity and justice, when it comes to the South, the three regions should leave it for the region (South-East) that has not produced the President. Otherwise, what is the basis for insisting that power should rotate to the South?”
I have knowledge, experience to lead Nigeria – Onu
Onu, on Friday, formally declared his intention to contest the presidential primary of the APC, saying with the positions he had held and his accomplishments, he had the knowledge, experience and vision to lead the country.
At an event attended by his political associates, wife and tribesmen, Onu said, “The Almighty God gave our dear nation everything she needs to be a leader in the world. Working together, we will make use of the knowledge economy driven by STI to make Nigeria truly great. We must produce many of the things we need and use as a people.
“We have all it takes to achieve this. It is by doing this that we can create wealth and enough jobs for our people; fight and defeat poverty, create wealth and prosperity for our nation. We can no longer continue to depend on other nations to solve our problems.”
The minister’s declaration came less than 24 hours after a political support group, The Patriots for Ogbonnaya Onu, led by former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), University of Port Harcourt, Prof Hakeem Fawehinmi, advised Osinbajo, Tinubu and others to drop their presidential ambition for Onu.
Emefiele, Amosun, Onu, Boroffice others obtain APC forms
More aspirants obtained APC presidential forms on Friday. At the International Conference Centre to pick the forms were various groups representing Onu, Amosun, Boroffice and Yerima.
For example, Emefiele, whose campaign posters were spotted during the March 26 national convention, had denied any intention to run for the office. In a series of tweets with the hashtag #NoDistractionsPlease# in March, he wrote, “My focus at this time is a robust monetary policy and fighting inflation which is now a global problem; building a strong financial system in an increasingly uncertain global economy.”
Three groups, the Rice Farmers Association, Emefiele Support Group and Friends of Godwin, were said to have raised N100m each for the CBN governor to purchase the forms. A source in the CBN said although Emefiele was aware that some groups were purchasing the forms for him, he had yet to accept anyone.
Group buys forms for Bankole
A close ally of Bankole, Abdullahi Bayero, told Saturday PUNCH in Kaduna on Friday, “We have picked the forms for the former Speaker.” He said Bankole was a man the North and Nigeria could trust.
He said a former Zamfara State governor, Aliyu Shinkafi, led the delegation that bought the forms, adding, “Many see him as someone who ticked all the boxes as far as having a young, smart, competent and patriotic President is concerned.”
I won’t impose Sharia as President – Yerima
Yerima, who said he got the President’s approval to contest the ticket, promised to put an end to the 12-year battle with the Boko Haram sect and fight insecurity and poverty.
The former governor, who instituted Sharia in Zamfara State, said if voted into office, he would respect the Nigerian constitution and not impose Sharia law on the country.
He told State House correspondents after the meeting with Buhari, “As a loyal party member, I informed Mr President that I’m ready at all times to accept the wishes and decisions of my party, the APC. I have three points; to fight insecurity, poverty and ignorance.”
Speaking on the Sharia law, he added, “As a governor, I followed the constitutional provision, prepared a law, sent it to the state House of Assembly and they passed it into law and I implemented what the constitution of Nigeria has given me the powers to do. Even in Zamfara State, I have never required or asked or forced any Christian to follow the Islamic faith because I would have done an unconstitutional act.
“So, if I’m elected, by the grace of God, I’m going to be elected under the constitution and I’m going to take an oath to protect and defend the constitution of Nigeria. I will never do anything unconstitutional.”
On zoning, Yerima, who represented Zamfara West in the Senate for 12 years, said every Nigerian was at liberty to run for office in line with the constitution.
It’s madness to have many southern aspirants – Clark
Elder statesman and leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, expressed concerns over the growing number of presidential aspirants from southern Nigeria, describing it as unrealistic. He said most of the aspirants were playing double games, especially people from the same state.
Clark, at an interactive session with journalists in Abuja said, “It is madness. If I’m to be realistic, they are not serious; particularly those from the South-West and the South-South.”
Clark, who will be 95 on May 25, wondered where the APC aspirants got N100m to pay for the forms considering the level of hunger in the country.
He said, “If these governors and ministers used their salaries, I don’t think they would have it because they must eat in their houses, but they are telling Nigerians that their friends contributed money for them.”
He encouraged people from the South-East to declare and contest in the parties’ primaries, adding, “We strongly warn our politicians, former governors, ministers, senators and so on not to accept a running mate position from any northern candidate, because they cannot do without us and we cannot do without them.
“That will show how serious we are and anybody who offers himself as a running mate will be regarded as the most unpatriotic and a man who has sold his own side of the country and is not worthy of being respected and honoured.”