Five notable contestants are vying for the presidential ticket of the All Progressive party on December 10 but who will get it
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec. 15, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
ON Wednesday December 10, presidential aspirants under the All Progressives Congress, APC, would test their popularities among the members of the party delegates in Lagos. The party’s screening panel had on Wednesday, December 3, cleared all the aspirants vying the number one position in the country. The aspirants cleared by the panel include Muhammadu Buhari, former head of state, Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Kano State governor, Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership Newspaper, and Rochas Okorocha, Imo State governor. As the major opposition party in the country, the target of whoever wins the party ticket is to defeat President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2015 presidential contest.
After the screening of the aspirants, the party mandated the five aspirants to sign a binding agreement with its leadership not to decamp to another political party on account of failing to secure the party’s ticket during the primary. The extracts of the commitment signed by the aspirants read: “I hereby undertake to abide by the rules and regulations of the convention of the All Progressives Congress’ nomination guidelines, APC constitution, the Electoral Act and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I, on behalf of myself and my primary campaign organisation undertake to accept the outcome of the primaries and actively support whoever emerges as the winner and shall not decamp to any other political party or in any way obstruct the smooth execution of the presidential campaign. I further affirm that during the campaigns and later in government, I shall be guided strictly by the party manifesto in the event of my nomination, my campaign team will immediately be collapsed into the party campaign structure for a properly united and focused presidential campaign.”
Ogbonnaya Onu, chairman of the screening panel, said all the aspirants had signed the undertaking to remain in the party whether they win the ticket or not and to also collapse their campaign structures in support of the person who emerges as the presidential candidate of the party. “They are running to offer service and improve on the well-being of our people and bring happiness to Nigerians, foster unity and bring peace and security to our country, because we cannot be the pride of Africa and be losing our territories to insurgents. If the aim is really service it means that they understand that only one of them will fly our flag. They have all agreed that whoever flies our flag, the other four will support him. They have also agreed to collapse their structures into the party so that the party will move into this election united, as this will offer the party the best chance to win the election,” he said.
The preparations for the primary are in top gear. The national convention committee of the party has said that about 8,000 delegates would attend the national convention of the party slated for the Teslim Balogum Stadium, Lagos. Kayode Fayemi, chairman of the committee and former governor of Ekiti State, told journalists that although some of the aspirants expressed concern about travelling such a long distance for the convention, the committee was able to convince them on why they chose Lagos for the event.
Fayemi said he would have been surprised if the aspirants had not raise such concern, pointing out that what the party was going for an election and not an endorsement of candidate. Realnews learnt that some of the aspirants had written to the national chairman of the party, kicking against the choice of Lagos for the convention, raising issues of distance and other logistics. They suggested that the event should be moved to Abuja. Abubakar, Kwankwaso, Okorocha and Nda-Isaiah had jointly asked for a venue outside Lagos, which they alleged would favour Buhari and Bola Tinubu, leader of the party. Atiku and the three others wrote John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the party, on November 27, advising for the chairman to retain Abuja as the convention venue.
The four aspirants had, in the protest letter, argued that Abuja was more centrally located and easily accessible to delegates from all over the nation. In the letter, the aspirants observed that the proposed choice of Lagos as possible venue for the presidential primaries was not convenient. The letter partly read, “We the under-listed presidential aspirants of the APC, having noted the clash of date of 10th December for APC and PDP National Convention/Presidential Primaries wish to advise as follows:
“That Abuja as centre remains the best, convenient and most accepted to all. That, our party has paid for the Eagle Square for the 7th and 8th December for presidential primaries, which now is dated for Federal House/Senate primaries. That, the presidential primaries be retained for the 7th and 8th as scheduled, with the National Assembly primaries since we have nothing to harvest from PDP presidential primaries as their candidate is already known. That, the proposed choice of Lagos as the venue for the presidential primary is not convenient for all. We therefore advise that our party reverts to Abuja as the venue.”
But Fayemi said the party is a very democratic party that is honest and believe in a process because the process is even more important than the product. “For us it is not who emerges at the end of the day. They are all competent, they all have agenda and they all will implement the manifesto of our party. It is how we get there. We have not taken any decision without the input of all the presidential aspirants. I can assure you of that. We did not arrive at Lagos accidentally. We arrived at Lagos with the full input of all our presidential aspirants. Yes, concerns were raised about the distance, for example for somebody coming from Yobe or Maiduguri as delegate.
“Those are practical issues and we would have been surprised if the aspirants didn’t raise such issues. We held a meeting with all the aspirants and we explained to them why we had to settle for Lagos. By the time, we explained to them the processes that we have put in place, they were happy and they have given us a full cooperation that Lagos is acceptable to them. It is my pleasure and delights to be here and address you and update you on the work we have been doing since our inauguration as the National Convention Committee. We have been very busy and if you noticed, we have also been meeting with the aspirants. This is a very unique committee that has representations not just the people chosen by the leadership of the party, but also representations from the five aspirants that are running for the presidential ticket of our party. This is something that is been done transparently with their advice and their concerns looked into,” he said.
According to Fayemi, the initial plan of the committee and the party was to hold the event in Abuja, but the APC changed gear because the ruling PDP was also holding its convention almost at the same time. He said it would be difficult for the two dominant parties to be holding events of such magnitude at the same time. Besides, he said the Eagle Square, which he said his party would have used, was also going to be used by the PDP. The PDP convention has been fixed for December 10 and 11 in Abuja.
But the greatest challenge facing the party is not venue for the primaries rather getting the most suitable and eligible candidate that would be accepted by all Nigerians irrespective of their religion and background. The general belief among political watchers in the country is that the way and manner the party handles the presidential primaries will determine its fate come 2015.