All eyes are on President Muhammadu Buhari as the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, tries to scale the hurdles the selection of a presidential candidate is raising for the party.
Currently, there is confusion over the panel that will screen presidential aspirants and when the exercise will be done.
President Buhari’s non-asset to the amendment of Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act transmitted to him by the National Assembly on May 13, has effectively ensured that elected officials of the party at all levels will not be part of the presidential primaries has also caused a stir in the party.
With only 2,340 delegates expected at the presidential primaries, the 23 aspirants remaining in the race have been forced to retool their strategies to get the upper hand at the May 29-30 contest in Abuja.
At a time the push for consensus is not yielding the desired dividends and is the top party hierarchy bent on producing the standard-bearer via consensus, a cloud of confusion is hovering around the Buhari House national Secretariat of the party, following discordant tunes regarding the conduct of the presidential screening.
The exercise has been postponed twice so far and there is no specific date scheduled for it as of now.
The National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, held a meeting with President Buhari, yesterday. The party leader left without addressing the press. However, sources said it had to do with preparations for the presidential primaries, and approval of the list of members of the screening committee among others.
The president, who will jet out to Equatorial Guinea for the African Union, AU, meeting today, is expected to meet other party stakeholders including the National Assembly Caucus, to hammer out a template that will lead to rancour-free and credible presidential primaries. Sources said the consensus option is very high on the cards.
Uncertainty over APC’s screening of presidential aspirants
The party had on Sunday night postponed indefinitely, it’s screening of presidential aspirants earlier slated for Monday (yesterday).
Its Special Convention for Presidential Primaries is to hold from Sunday, May 29 – to Monday, May 30.
The development came as Vanguard gathered that efforts to get some of the presidential aspirants to agree to a consensus were largely unsuccessful.
The confusion over the screening of aspirants followed comments by the National Organizing Secretary of the party, Sulaiman Argungu that the party will be screening the aspirants between Tuesday and Wednesday.
However, on Tuesday morning, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka, restated the earlier position of the party on the indefinite suspension of the exercise.
Asked to confirm the new dates, Morka simply re-sent a Sunday night statement regarding the indefinite postponement.
The screening of presidential aspirants was earlier slated for Monday, May 23.
“A new date for the exercise will be announced shortly. Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted,” the party stated.
Vanguard however gathered that ongoing stakeholders’ consultations were responsible for the frequent alterations of the party’s election timetable.
While governors of the party secretly met Monday night, President Buhari was on Tuesday scheduled to meet with different cross-sections of party leadership including state governors, National Assembly leaders as well as the presidential aspirants.
However, despite hours of meeting of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee, NWC, of the party on Monday, there was no clear-cut position on the composition of the presidential screening committee.
Though there were muted conversations indicating that the screening would hold between Tuesday and Wednesday, party sources said the presidential aspirants have been placed on stand-by as the exercise will hold within the week.
He said the party is still exploring ways of getting the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to extend by one month its June 3 deadline for the conduct of political party primaries.
The party official also said stakeholders are still working around getting some of the aspirants to agree to a consensus arrangement, adding that high-level negotiations are ongoing.
“Some stakeholders are still looking at the consensus option and this explains why there had been certain adjustments to the timetable.
“However, it is not true that the party has not constituted a presidential screening committee. The party hierarchy has done that but they need the input and approval of Mr President. So, the party will be presenting the list to the president between Monday night and Tuesday. It is after then that the membership can be unveiled,” he stated.
Senator Adamu, indeed, met President Buhari on the issues, yesterday.
He is expected to chair the screening committee with the six geo-political zones, contributing a member etc. The panel’s recommendations will be ratified by the NWC, which now has the power of the National Executive Committee, NEC.
The NEC recently ceded its power to the NWC for 90 days.
24 hours after, APC again adjusts the time-table
Amid the confusion, the APC has again adjusted its Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Governorship, States Houses of Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives Primary Elections barely 24 hours after another adjustment.
Felix Morka, National Publicity Secretary of the party said in a late Monday statement that the National Working Committee NWC of the APC had approved the review on Tuesday.
The statement equally ruled out participation by statutory or super delegates, following the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act 2022 Amendment Bill which would have provided roles for such a category of delegates.
In Tuesday’s revised timetable, the governorship primary elections will hold on Thursday 26th May with only state delegates voting. The primary elections for the state Houses of Assembly will hold on the same day but with local government, delegates voting.
However, the party has swapped the dates for Senatorial and House of Representatives primary elections.
On Friday, local government delegates will vote in the House of Representatives primary elections and do the same for the Senatorial primary elections on May 28.
APC added, “that the Special Convention for the Presidential Primary will be held as scheduled on Sunday, 29th – Monday, 30th of May, 2022.”
Scramble for delegates
Meanwhile, the party’s presidential aspirants have intensified their scramble for delegates amid concerns that some money-bags have developed a robust plan to “hijack” the delegates, especially those from non-APC controlled states.
Part of the mouth-watering plan is to house the delegates in comfortable hotels within the city and also reward them by other means.
Some of the aspirants are said to be working on states like Kano, Oyo and a few others with a high number of local governments as the party’s 2,340 ad hoc delegates are drawn three apiece from the nation’s 774 local government areas and six Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
New arrangements favour the emergence of Northern candidate
The new delegates’ arrangement may favour the emergence of a northern candidate unless the APC zones the ticket to the South and takes special measures to produce a southern candidate.
A breakdown of the 2,340 delegates for the presidential primaries shows that the North has 1,257 delegates while the South has 1,068 delegates.
Also, the North-West zone with seven states and 121 local councils has 558 delegates. It is followed by the South-West, which has six states, 137 local councils and 411 delegates. Both zones account for 979 of the 2,340 delegates.
Going further, the South-South with six states and 123 local councils will have 369 delegates. The fourth zone in terms of delegate strength is North-Central (363 delegates). It has 121 local councils drawn from six states and FCT, Abuja. It is followed by the North-East (336 delegates) with six states and 112 local councils.
The least zone is South-East with five states, 96 local councils and 288 delegates.
Among the 23 presidential aspirants still left in the race for the APC ticket, 19 are from the South and four are from the North.
Among the Southern aspirants, eight are from the South-East which has the least number of delegates; seven are from the South-West, and the South-South has four.
In the North, North-West has two while North-East and North-Central have one each.
The aspirants from South-West are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Ajayi Borrofice, Mr Dimeji Bankole, Dr Tunde Bakare, Dr Kayode Fayemi and Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Those from the South-East are Chief Emeka newajiuba, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Engr Dave Umahi, Senator Ken Nnamani, and Mr Nicholas nwagbo, Mr Ikeobasi Mokelu and Mrs Uju Ohanenye.
The contenders from the South-South are Mr Rotimi Amaechi, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Ben Ayade, and Mr Tein Jack-Rich.
The aspirants from the North are Alhaji Yahaya Bello (North-Central), Senate President Ahmad Lawan (North-East), Mohammed Badaru (North-West) and Ahmed Yerima (North-West).
With President Muhammadu Buhari hailing from the North-West, some stakeholders are fingering Yahaya Bello and Lawan as potential northern consensus candidates for the APC ticket.
If that happens, with the huge delegates from the North, and likely division of the southern delegates among the crowd of southern aspirants either Bello or Lawan may pick the prized ticket.
Voting moneybags has disastrous consequences, pro-Osinbajo group cautions delegates
Meanwhile, ahead of the presidential convention, supporters of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have advised the 2,340 adhoc delegates against selling their consciences for a mess of pottage, saying the future holds greater promise with an Osinbajo presidency.
At a news conference, Tuesday, in Abuja, the Creative Youth Builders Assembly, one of the foremost support groups of the vice president, said the future of the country is in the hands of party delegates.
“The journey to good governance starts from the pre-election period before the actual general election. Nigerians will be boxed into a corner in making credible choices if political parties fail to pick the best among their aspirants.
“We urge all delegates of APC to vote wisely, to vote for their future because the mistake of today will lead to massive complaints in the next eight years. We call on delegates to vote for the most credible candidate and not to sell their consciences to the highest bidder or for money. We, therefore, call for transparency and fairness on the part of the APC”, said Hon Patricia Ogah, Convener of the Creative Youth Builders Assembly.
One of the facilitators and Senior Pastor, Praise Palace, Kubwa, Pastor Shadrach Ogu, said the adoption of Prof. Osinbajo was based on his credible personality.
Life Patron of the group and Chairman, The Progressive Group TPP – an umbrella organization of all pro-Osinbajo support groups, Senator Kabiru Gaya, who was represented, said the vice president will not engage in political mudslinging even in the heat of unnecessary provocation. He urged Nigerians to critically evaluate the credentials of all the presidential aspirants to settle for Osinbajo who he described as the best.
Zonal breakdown of APC delegates
Akwa Ibom -93
Bayelsa – 24
Cross River – 54
Delta – 75
Edo – 54
Rivers – 69
Total – 369
Abia – 54
Anambra – 63
Enugu – 51
Ebonyi – 39
Imo – 81
Total – 288
Lagos – 60
Ekiti – 48
Ogun – 60
Osun – 90
Oyo – 99
Ondo – 54
Total – 411
Adamawa – 63
Bauchi – 60
Gombe – 33
Borno – 81
Yobe – 51
Total – 336
Kogi – 63
Kwara – 48
Benue – 69
Plateau – 51
Nasarawa – 39
Niger – 75
FCT, Abuja – 18
Total – 363
Kaduna – 69
Kano – 132
Katsina – 102
Kebbi – 63
Jigawa – 81
Sokoto – 69
Zamfara – 42
Total – 558