Some presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have rejected the “frontline candidates” recommended by governors to contest the party’s primary.
DIPLOMATIC DIARY had reported that Simon Lalong, governor of Plateau, in an interview on Sunrise Daily, a Channels TV programme, said APC governors recommended five presidential hopefuls to participate in the primary.
The shortlisted aspirants, according to Lalong, are Rotimi Amaechi, former minister of transportation; Bola Tinubu, former Lagos governor; Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti governor; David Umahi, governor of Ebonyi, and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
DIPLOMATIC DIARY further reported that the list was pruned to just three frontline aspirants, which include Vice-president Osibanjo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi.
In the interview on Tuesday, Lalong said all other presidential hopefuls have been advised to step down, adding that the “frontline candidates” recommended by the governors are backed by the national working committee (NWC) members, and have been endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
But in a statement issued after a meeting on Tuesday, some aspirants excluded from the hivernor’s list— Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River; Emeka Nwajiuba, former minister of state for education; Ogbonnaya Onu, ex-minister for science and technology; Rochas Okorocha; former governor of Imo, and Tein Jack-Rich — described the decision as a “joke”.
“In the past few hours, we have been bombarded with calls and messages from my supporters and concerned Nigerians on a list of five presidential aspirants submitted to President Buhari to choose from.
“As long as we are concerned, no list has been submitted to Mr. President. The move by the governors is considered a joke taken to the extreme with the aim of playing with the intellect of Nigerians, particularly us from the South-East.
“Mr President’s directive is very simple; that all presidential aspirants, including those from the North, should meet and harmonise in order to produce a single candidate. As it stands, we have not been consulted or attended a meeting where it was agreed that such names be sent to Mr President.
“In the so-called list, out of the five names, only one was selected from the South-East, and we are talking about fairness and justice to the South. What the Governors have done is a mere picnic in the park. These are the same governors talking about equity, justice and fairness, yet in a clandestine manner, purportedly sidelined the South East.
“In the absence of any harmonised agreement, no list has been submitted to Mr. President. What they have done is just nothing but a charade which is bound to fail.
“We also have it on good authority that the majority of these Governors have been promised and also given various forms of gratifications to thwart the process in favour of one aspirant and such grand plot will fail woefully.
“More so, the party led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu remains the official organ of the party through which decisions taken by stakeholders in the party will be communicated and acted upon. In the absence of that, any other move remains null and void.
“We urge all well-meaning Nigerians to disregard such information, as we remain in the race, hence no consensus agreement has been reached amongst all contestants”, the statement issued by Onu, on behalf of his colleagues, read.
On his part, the governor of Kogi, Yahaya Bello, ssid any attempt to exclude him from participating in the presidential primary, is “recipe for bigger trouble”.
Bello spoke after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday at the Presidential Villa.
Speaking with state House Correspondents, Bello said he will resist any attempt to exclude him from contesting.
“I am a free citizen and a qualified member of the party. I am contesting. I bought the form, was cleared to participate in the primary, and there is no reason for me to be excluded from the ballot. If they do so, then that is a recipe for a bigger trouble for the party.
“However, I don’t think it is a decision of the party. It is a decision of a few elites who may decide to use their position to oppress the so-called minority. But I want to prove that in this country, I am not in the minority. I belong to the younger generation and Nigerians that are oppressed and are saying that their voices must be heard.
“I believe strongly that getting into that arena today, I will win overwhelmingly if the process and normal regulations are followed; I will emerge victorious”, he said.
According to Bello, his meeting with Buhari was to explain why he excluded himself from the meeting involving northern APC governors and the president.
The northern APC governors, after the meeting with Buhari, had insisted on power shift to the south.
“I am a unifier. I have demonstrated that severally in my state and in carrying out various tasks that I was given by the party. So, nobody consulted me over the decision that power be shifted to the south and I would say they were enrolled by a certain interest that wants to be the vice-president at all costs.
“And I continue to oppose the issue of turn-by-turn presidency because the insecurity that is facing us today does not respect that. Every part of this country is faced with insecurity and wants prosperity and we want unity in this country, which is what I stand for.
“Who should be able to solve that problem is what should occupy our minds now, not rotational presidency”, Bello insisted.