• Minister unveils Buhari campaign office in Ibadan PDP faction submits to Secondus leadership

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Ademola Babalola in Ibadan

The All Progressives Congress said at the weekend in Abuja that all those aspiring to get the ticket of the party ahead of next year’s presidential election, including incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, would have an equal chance of success. The APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, disclosed this, saying it is in spite of recent endorsements of Buhari by key figures and blocs within the party.

APC National Vice Chairman for South-south, Chief Hilliard Etta, spoke in a similar vein. Etta said the party would not shut out any contender for the presidential ticket because of Buhari.

Also yesterday, Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group, an organisation promoting the re-election of Buhari, was unveiled in Ibadan. The organisation is being promoted by Minister of Communications, Alhaj Adebayo Shittu.

Buhari has not announced his intention to seek a second term, but he has in recent times received endorsement from APC governors and key leaders of the party, including its national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who had last May said the party would give Buhari the right of first refusal for the presidential ticket. Last week, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, chairman of Progressive Governors Forum, which comprises all state governors of the party, said the party’s governor had endorsed the president for re-election.

The governors’ forum and the leadership of the NWC are key in determining the rules, participation and outcome of any exercise to choose the party’s presidential nominee.

Abdullahi defended the rights of Odigie-Oyegun and Okorocha to state their presidential preferences. But the APC spokesman said the party would organise a transparent primary and convention to pick a presidential candidate in line with its constitution.

The publicity secretary told THISDAY, “The governors’ forum is a major stakeholder in the party, but it is not an organ of the APC. But if you look at the constitution of the party, the key organs are the convention, the National Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, the National Caucus, and the National Working Committee.”

Regarding fears that such early endorsement of the president may discourage other interested aspirants, Abdullahi stated, “No, I don’t think so. The governors’ forum is an association of governors and it is within their democratic right to call on Mr. President to re-contest or to express their support for his re-election. They don’t have a role to play constitutionally in deciding who becomes the candidate of the party.

“They are only entitled to their opinion and they only have power of their vote at the convention. We can also say that because they are party leaders in their states, they can influence other delegates from their states to vote for the president. If so, why not, it is within their right.

“I am saying that as a party, there is no contradiction in the national chairman, Chief Oyegun, saying that he supports President Buhari. But what I’m saying is that it is our duty to conduct a credible and transparent primary. If we conduct a transparent primary and President Buhari emerges due to the preponderance of support, we would have been seen to have fulfilled the provisions of our own constitution.

“We will be acting in violation if we say that there will be no convention or, like the PDP did during their own time by printing only one form and ensuring that only one aspirant emerged. We are saying that we are not going to do that.

“If other aspirants say they are interested in the contest, of course, we have to make the space available to them. It is a game of numbers. But what I can assure you is that at the end of the day, the NWC of the APC will be fair to every member of the party who is interested in contesting for that post.”

Similarly speaking on the NWC and governors’ position on Buhari’s candidature, Etta said, “Those two positions do not stop the manifestation of internal democracy that we hold dear. So anybody that has interest to contest against the president would be allowed by the party to do so, regardless of the positions so expressed by Oyegun or the governors.

“Nobody is going to be shut out from the primaries if the president decides to re-contest. Truly, everywhere in the world a sitting president is always given the prerogative to take the first shot at vying for the presidential ticket by the party, especially when we are all of the opinion that he has actualised the mandate that we gave to him. So it is not out of place or against the democratic principles known to all of us. It is just a convention that has been practised all over the world.”

At yesterday’s unveiling of the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group, APC governors in the South-west, the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and many other leaders of the party from the zone were absent.

THISDAY learnt that the above party leaders were all invited to the event, which had in attendance Minister of Communications, Shittu, and Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, as well as former Senate President Ken Nnamani and former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.

Those who attended the Ibadan launch of the Buhari campaign office also included Postmaster General of the Federation, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi; National Coordinator, Muhammadu Buhari/ Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group, Usman Ibrahim; South-west zonal coordinator of the organisation, Lateef Olawumi; and Senator Ayo Akinyelure.

Reports said while the launch of the campaign office went on, the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi, addressed another APC rally at the party’s office at Oke Ado, also in Ibadan, where he told members to prepare for the forthcoming local government election in the state.

The unveiling of the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group, which held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, peaked at the organisation’s ultra-modern campaign office at Mokola area of the city.

Speaking at the launch of the office, Kalu observed the division in Oyo State APC and the absence of the governor and the party executive at the event organised by Shittu, who is chairman, Board of Trustees, MBO. The former governor emphasised the need for unity, and urged Buhari and Odigie-Oyegun to urgently broker peace between Ajimobi and Shittu.

In another development, the Uche Secondus leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the weekend recorded a major feat as members of the rebellious Fresh PDP ended their stand-off and dissolved into the Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC).

The group declared that the party had now become one and a united entity.

Members of the group, led by Chief Olukayode Akindele, also declared the cancellation of their earlier plan to inaugurate a parallel NWC on Monday, January 22.

The declaration was made after a truce was reached at the residence of former national chairman of PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo in Abuja.

Aside Nwodo, others members of the PDP present at the peace meeting were a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Stella Omu and the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbodiyan.

Those who represented the Fresh PDP were Akindele, Godwin Duru, who contested for the office of national organising secretary of the party at the convention and Franklyne Edede, who ran for office of national youth leader.

The Fresh PDP had last year opened its parallel secretariat in protest to the outcome of the December 9 national convention of the party. It had early this year declared plans to inaugurate its parallel NWC members on Monday, January 22 in Abuja.

Speaking after a lengthy closed door meeting at his residence, Nwodo disclosed that the reconciliatory process enjoyed the backing of the national leadership of the party as well as that of the BoT.

He further stated that no conditions were given in the lead up to dissolution of the fresh PDP, whom he said comprised enthusiastic youths needed by the party ahead of 2019.

Nwodo, who described the disbandment of fresh PDP as the best gift PDP could give to Nigerians, said “A lot of people thought our house was divided and was about to cascade down. But we want to assure you that by God’s mercy, an internal reconciliation capacity of the PDP, the cracks that you noticed has been completely sealed off.

“Today, the fresh PDP has collapsed and all its members have dissolved into the mainstream of the PDP and we have a United PDP, poised ready and promising Nigerians that we are going to take away this government that is insensitive to human life, which is the primary responsibility of government, which is protection of life and property and if the government fails to protect life and property, it has no business being in government.

“Today, by what has happened here, we are sending a powerful signal across the country that the PDP wants to assure all Nigerians that you know to expect of us we will not disappoint you. We will give you a strong and united party that will wipe away your tears, restore confidence in your country, make you proud as a Nigerian, wherever you are, because we will bring back a government that cares and is interested in the welfare of its citizens, in protection of our general good and prosperity of our nation.”

“So, let there be a hallelujah song across the country, let our people rejoice and celebrate as we address you today on the unity that we have forged in the party.

“The members of the fresh PDP that is now disbanded are young vibrant politicians. If a leader is leading, and nobody is following, he is taking a walk. PDP is leading and mentoring the young ones to take over the wish of a father that his offspring will be bigger than him. If a father does not bring an offspring that will surpass him, he is not a good father. It means he doesn’t want his future to be better than his past.”

On whether there were conditions before the truce was reached, he said “We have no conditions and that is why we are extremely happy. The young men and women in the fresh PDP have absolute confidence in the assurances that we have given them.

“The PDP NWC is aware of this reconciliation and supports it to the hilt. We are also in close touch with the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and the committee that BoT has set up to make sure that the cracks arising from the convention are properly sealed and we are united. And they are aware of what we are doing right now. The leadership of the party including the BoT is aware of what we are doing.”

The former national party chairman added that the defection of PDP members has come to an end as a result of the reconciliation, stressing, “We now have an authentic PDP. This is an envelope from the fresh PDP. That agenda is over.”

The PDP chairman stressed that a government cannot rule by propaganda but what it promises the people, adding that while PDP has leant its lessons the party will come “back stronger, more prepared and more resolute to change the fortunes of this country.”

Chairman of the Fresh PDP, Chief Olukayode Akindele, noted that while they have always maintained that there has only been one PDP, they were forced to take the actions they did because of acts of impunity in the party.

“But the issue of impunity and imposition has forced us into this situation, because in PDP, we don’t have any mechanism to address it. We have a mechanism for reconciliation. Reconciliation is when you have a dispute. But when there is a criminal political act, then, what you need is restitution.

“We had received assurances from our leaders here that this will be addressed and today while it marks the end of Fresh PDP, it brings a PDP that is caring and wants to address issues that may affect it in the primaries. We have been having these meetings for a long time.

“And executive meeting was had at 5am today (yesterday) in the interest of the nation and the party so that we won’t have a parallel NWC come Monday. This has been cancelled. We have surrendered the list to our leader here and we want to assure gentlemen of the press that this is the best thing that can happen to PDP.

On whether they feared if the PDP leadership could renege on the promises it made, he said “We are dealing with men of integrity and honour. You can have disputes with your father and brothers but at the end of the day the integrity of the family is what counts. PDP has integrity.”

PDP national spokesman, Ologbondiyan, said “We want to assure our party members all over Nigeria and in the diaspora that what is perceived to be a crisis is over and our party, the PDP has become one all over again.”