With the time ticking rapidly against the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for activities leading to the 2023 polls, compelling the All Progressives Congress (APC) to engage in a rapid fire approach towards its presidential primary, the presidency is yet to take a stand on who should clinch the presidential ticket of the party.
LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari is still studying the manner in which the presidential aspirants are engaging party stakeholders on the race for the presidential ticket as well as feedback from party faithful and the great mass of Nigerians in respect of who appears to be the popular choice.
So far those who have declared interest in the race are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and Senate majority whip, Orji Uzor Kalu.
Others expected to declare are minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige and his minister of State for Education counterpart, Emeka Nwajibua.
According to reports, the party would likely fix its presidential primary for May 30/31.
Those familiar with events within Aso Rock, the country’s seat of power, confided in LEADERSHIP that President Buhari is yet to openly give his nod to any of contenders scrambling to succeed him at the moment.
A top presidency official told our correspondent last night that “the president is yet to open up on who is his preferred aspirant at the moment.”
Another reliable presidency source however told this paper that the president seems inclined to the aspiration of his deputy, Osinbajo, who appears to be the popular choice, noting that this explains why the vice president was bold a enough to openly declare his interest in the presidential race.
“You are aware that it is unprecedented in the country’s political history to see a deputy to either a president or a governor coming to declare to contest his principal’s. Vice President Osinbajo wouldn’t have made his declaration without the blessings of his boss. Even though Buhari has not openly said anything, some of in Ado Rock are thinking that he might the preferred candidate President Buhari declined to disclose for security reasons, though it is still within the realm of speculation,” the source who did not want his name in print said.
LEADERSHIP recalls that President Buhari had in January this year declined to reveal the identity of the preferred candidate to succeed him on grounds of the safety of such a person.
While responding to a question about who his preferred candidate, he simply said, “It is (a) secret.
“No, I wouldn’t say because he may be eliminated if I mention. I better keep it,” the president added, grinning jocularly.
There are high expectations that the leaning of President Buhari would sway the outcome of the forthcoming presidential primary of the governing, if the outcome of the last party’s national convention is anything to go by.
Meanwhile, there is high powered politicking, horse trading and scheming within the party for the consensus option to be adopted as was the case in 2019 where only Buhari emerged the consensus candidate as an incumbent.
But those opposed to the consensus idea are of the view that since the incumbent won’t be on the ballot, the party should hold a presidential primary just like it did in 2015.
Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP learnt that aspirants are running from pillar to post to ramp up consultations for the country’s top seat, with last minute meetings with strategic stakeholders in the party.
The APC had announced on Friday that it would hold its first post-national convention meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
The emergency NEC meeting which is expected to hold at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja at 10am is expected to finalise arrangement for the party’s presidential primary subject to NEC’s approval.
Amaechi Visits Adamu In Nasarawa
Meanwhile, ahead of the party’s presidential primary, minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has intensified consultations in his bid to clinch the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket for the 2023 polls.
The former governor of Rivers State yesterday met behind closed doors with national chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, at his residence in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
Former chairman of the APC caretaker committee and Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, was also in Keffi yesterday in a separate visit to the APC chairman.
Although details of Amaechi’s meeting with Adamu were still sketchy at the time of filing this report, LEADERSHIP gathered however that discussions at the meeting bordered on Amaechi’s presidential bid.
“You are aware that the honourable minister is a presidential aspirant of the APC. It is only normal that in pursuing such an ambition, Amaechi would definitely consult with party big wigs and the APC national chairman cannot be an exception,” an aide to the APC chairman who did not want his name in print told our correspondent.
Amaechi had penultimate Saturday announced his intention to contest the presidential election in 2023.
Addressing a crowd of supporters and leaders of the APC at Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, the minister said, “Fellow Nigerians, I stand before you today to declare my intention and submit my application to serve as your next president. I did not come to this decision lightly, I have served our nation for the last seven years as minister of transportation.”
I’m Not Stepping Down For Anyone, Says Umahi
Meanwhile, Ebony State governor, Chief David Umahi, said yesterday that his presidential ambition remains unwavered and he will not step down for anyone.
Speaking through his commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Barr Uchenna Orji, the governor that noted that anyone saying that he will step down is simply being mischievous.
Orji said the governor has an intimidating record of achievements that has put him forward as a frontline presidential material that can win the hearts of Nigerians in the 2023 general election.
“Governor Umahi’s presidential ambition is unwavering and is alive in the hearts of Nigerians and will never step down for any other candidate”.
“We urge those spreading the falsehood that Governor Umahi will step down to desist from such rumour as the governor through his infrastructural development has endeared himself to the hearts of Nigerians,” Orji said.
He further stated that come 2023, Nigerians will vote for performance, integrity, probity and track records, adding that the infrastructural development in the state has spoken volume of what Governor Umahi will do when elected as the President of the country come 2023.
Orji urged the general public to discountenance the insinuation that the governor will step down adding that when elected, he would build Nigeria of our pride.
Show Nigerians Your Legacies, Kukah Tells Aspirants
Meanwhile, as the 2023 elections beckons, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, has challenged presidential aspirants to show evidence from their legacies and antecedents that they know the country well enough and its severe wounds.
Bishop Kukah, in his Easter message, posited that whoever wants to govern us must illustrate that he or she understands what has turned our nation into a national hospital and show us plans for our discharge from this horror.
He said it was no longer necessary to ask how the country got to where it is, as Nigerians can no longer recognise their country which has been battered and buffeted by men and women from the dark womb of time.
He said rather, the real challenge is how to find the slippery rungs on the ladder of ascent so we can climb out.
Countering being labelled an avowed critic of the present administration, Kukah insisted that his messages in the last few years had been borne out of a sense of moral revulsion over how life has been destroyed in the country.
He said no country anywhere in the world is undergoing these self-inflicted wounds and citizens randomly murdering innocent citizens and getting away with it.
The fiery cleric said, “The government has slid into hibernation mode. It is hard to know whether the problem is that those in power do not hear, see, feel, know, or just don’t care. Either way, from this crossroad, we must make a choice, to go forward, turn left or right or return home. None of these choices are easy, yet, we can reclaim our country from its impending slide to anarchy.
“Our challenge now is how to begin a process of reconstructing our nation hoping that we can hang on and survive the 2023 elections. The real challenge before us now is to look beyond politics and face the challenge of forming character and faith in our country.
“Here, leaders of religion, Christianity and Islam, need to truthfully face the role of religion in the survival of our country. The Nigerian Constitution has very clearly delineated the fine boundaries between religion and politics. Yet many politicians continue to behave as if they are presiding over both the political and the spiritual realms in their states rather than governing in a Democracy.
“The greatest challenge for Nigeria is not even the 2023 elections. It is the prospect for the reconciliation of our people. Here, the Buhari administration sadly has divided our people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and region, in a way that we have never witnessed in our history.
“Today, the values of Interfaith dialogue have come under severe strain and pressure with extremists from both sides of our faiths denigrating the idea of dialogue with their counterparts of other faiths. With so many ill equipped fraudsters posing as religious leaders, there is an obsession with defaming others and widening our differences.”
Bishop Kukah reiterated the need to start thinking of a Nigeria beyond banditry and kidnapping and the endless circles of violence that have engulfed our communities and nation adding that, we cannot continue to pretend that there are no religious undertones to the increased violence.
He continued: “Only last week, as if in delayed solidarity, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, in a statement stated that: ‘It appears that the continuous callous acts of mayhem, killings and arson happening almost on daily or weekly bases around us; either within communities or on the roads we ply, has automatically reset our human psyche that we now have accepted such dastardly acts as part of our lives, to the extent that we no longer feel it.
“Any government that is incapable of protecting the lives of its citizens has lost the moral justification of being there in the first place….our humanity is being eroded and that erosion is become a new normal.”
APC Urges Nigerians To Pray For Peace, Security At Easter
Meanwhile, the APC yesterday felicitated with Christian faithful as they celebrate this year’s Easter, imploring Nigerians to pray for sustained peace, unity and security in the country.
“As we celebrate, we implore Nigerians to pray for, and work towards, sustained peace, unity and security in our land. And May the Risen Christ bless and protect our troops as they fight in valiant defense of our cherished fundamental freedoms”, a statement issued by the party’s spokesman, Barr Felix Morka noted.
Noting that Easter is a celebration which reminds humanity of the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ during his crucifixion, death and resurrection for the redemption of mankind, APC urged “all patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians, irrespective of religious affiliations, to use the occasion of Easter to rededicate themselves to making our society a better place for us all.”