By Emmanuel Oladesu, Deputy Editor; Jide Orintunsin, Bolaji Ogundele, Tony Akowe, Nicholas Kalu, Gbade Ogunwale, Abuja and Emmanuel Badejo (The Nation)
Ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday erupted in confusion over a purported ‘choice consensus candidate’ of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Twenty-four hours to the convention, National Chairman Abdullahi Adamu sparked a row when he announced Senate President Ahmad Lawan as the President’s anointed.
He told the National Working Committee (NWC) of Lawan’s choice during a meeting, but the members rejected the proposal.
Disowning Adamu, they aligned with APC northern governors’ position that power should return to the South.
President Muhammadu Buhari met with the governors, who restated their power shift resolution.
He told the governors that his push for a consensus candidate did not mean he had an anointed contender.
He said no one would be allowed to impose a candidate on the party and that delegates would decide the fate of the aspirants.
The governors were led to the meeting by the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong.
President Buhari, according to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, told the states’ helmsmen that he had “no preferred candidate” and had “anointed no one”.
He said he was determined to ensure that “there shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party”.
President Buhari said the party members must be respected and made to feel they are important.
He said he had a clear mind about what he was doing and asked the APC governors to feel the same way because “you were elected as I was”.
He added: “Have a clear mind as I have. God gave us the chance; we have no reason to complain. We must be ready to take pain as we take joy.
“Allow the delegates to decide. The party must participate, nobody will appoint anybody.”
Lalong and Progressive Governors Forum Chairman and Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Bagudu said they had come to reaffirm the Northern governors’ position on power shift.
Lalong told reporters: “This meeting is also in line with part of the consultations that Mr. President had.
“Of course, Mr. President had a meeting with us governors, but at the APC Northern Governors’ Forum, we sat down.
“We reviewed a lot of things and we discussed at length the unity of this country, the need for progress and the need for inclusiveness, and also the need for accommodation.
“We sat down in the last few days and 13 out of 14 governors agreed. We decided to go and advise Mr. President.
“I think part of the discussions that we had leaked to the press.
“We still went ahead and we told Mr. President. Being a democrat, he said he must listen to us; he would listen to us. And so, Mr. President granted the opportunity.
“Our mission is to reaffirm our position in that statement. We also apologised to him that that statement was made by all of us and we reaffirmed the position, but we apologised that the statement leaked before even our consultations with him.
“I am sure this may be the last of consultations. So, we are directed that after this, the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum has also summoned a meeting (yesterday), after which we’ll make further suggestions to Mr. President.
“In the interest of unity and peace, we recommended that the next President should come from the South.”
On why Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, was absent, his Kaduna counterpart, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, explained that the presidential aspirant did not agree with his colleagues.
“The governor of Kogi State chose to excuse himself from meeting with Mr. President because he believes that he does not agree with our position.
“There are 14 APC governors out of the 19 Northern states.
“Thirteen of us are on one page on this subject and we all came to see the President, but the governor of Kogi State excused himself and it is within his democratic rights to excuse himself.
“But 12 out of 14 is a supermajority. Thirteen out of 14 is an even bigger supermajority and the 13 of us met with the President.
“What our leader has communicated to you is a summary of the discussions with Mr. President,” El-Rufai said.
Also at the meeting were Governors Abubakar Baduru (Jigawa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Bello Matawale (Zamfara), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Yahaya Inuwa (Gombe), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Abdulrahman Abdulrazak (Kwarra) and Mai Mala Buni (Yobe).
The NWC was divided over the choice of Lawan as the choice candidate.
National Organising Secretary, Suleiman Mohammed Argungu, told reporters after the NWC meeting that members stood with the Northern governors on the power shift.
Accompanied by 11 NWC members, including four National Vice Chairmen, he said Adamu was only expressing his opinion.
Argungu said: “We were briefed by our National Chairman, who informed us that the Senate President is the consensus candidate for the APC National Convention.
“That is just the information he gave us and not an issue that was discussed on the floor of the NWC.
“As you are aware, a few days ago, the Northern governors met and decided that the leadership of this country should shift to the South. The southern governors also affirmed that.
“We the members of the NWC are also with the governors on what they have said.
“Just a few minutes ago, the governors of the party from the North went to the presidency to inform the President that they stood on what they said regarding the presidency of this country.
“What the National Chairman told us was just information and all of us are entitled to our opinions because we are all democrats and we can exercise our opinion.
“This was never deliberated by the NWC. It is information given to us at the NWC and so, we don’t have a divided house.”
A source at the meeting said: “The National Chairman informed the NWC this morning (yesterday) that the Senate President was chosen as the consensus candidate.
“We listened to him and the issue was rested. We did not discuss the information talk less of ratifying it. Take it to the bank; NWC did not discuss it or take any decision on a consensus candidate.
“The truth is that majority of NWC members are for elective primary and not consensus.”
Another member added: “The consensus candidate announced by the chairman was a personal expression and not the decision of the NWC.”
Akeredolu: Adamu on his own
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu chided Adamu over his unilateral announcement of Senator Lawan as the consensus candidate.
He said in a statement that the pronouncement was contrary to the position of Northern governors on zoning to the South.
The statement reads: “My attention has just been drawn to the expensive joke purportedly enacted by the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
“The speculation is rife that the Chairman took a flight of fancy and decided to make a pronouncement beyond his competence.
“He has, allegedly, made public his preferred choice as the candidate of the APC for the Office of the President in the next general elections.
“This alleged pronouncement runs contrary to the position of the majority of Northern Governors in APC and their counterparts in the South. Our agreement is unanimous on this issue.
“The office of the President should be contested for by qualified persons from the Southern part of the country if the move to get a consensus candidate fails. There has been no shift from this settled issue.
“Let it be known that the Chairman or anyone who holds a contrary opinion does so at a personal level. He is at best embarking on a frolic that reasonable people will consider dangerous.
“We are grieving but have not forgotten that power must shift to the south. On this, we stand.”
AbdulRazaq backs power shift
Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq affirmed that he was part of the Northern leaders’ resolution for the North-South power shift.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Political Communications, Bashir Adigun, the governor said: “We have been inundated with enquiries on whether our Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq supports the resolution of Northern leaders on power shift to Southern Nigeria.
“We like to state emphatically that the governor was ab initio fully part of the meeting and resolution of the Northern leaders that the next President should come from the Southern part of the country.”
‘Adamu must resign’
An APC chieftain in Delta State, Sunny Mene, urged Adamu to resign.
He said the National Chairman displayed bias by unilaterally suggesting Lawan.
“Members of APC all over Nigeria are shocked by the conduct of the National Chairman, who wrongly claimed that President Buhari had chosen an APC presidential candidate.
“By his pronouncement, he exhibited bias and compromised his position as National Chairman.
“He should therefore resign immediately. We are indeed happy that the President has a refuted his claim.”
Some delegates also demanded Adamu’s resignation.
A delegate from Niger State said: “I no longer have confidence in Adamu to continue as APC National Chairman.”