- Says he did his best to ensure free primaries
- Cautions politicians on divisive statements
Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday continued his fire-fighting in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), appealing, once again, to aggrieved members, who lost out during the recently concluded primary elections not to leave the party.
At least four governors of the party, Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun State), Chief Rochas Okorocha (Imo State), Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara State) and Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo State), and scores of senior members have been up in arms against the National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, calling for his removal over the primaries.
The presidential appeal came three weeks after he asked those who failed in their bid to secure the party’s ticket to emulate the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, who lost his re-election bid but did not leave the ruling party.
Buhari pleaded with the aggrieved during a dinner with them at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday night, telling them he did his best to ensure that the primaries process was free and fair.
Those in attendance included gubernatorial, national and state assembly aspirants who failed to secure the party’s tickets in the forthcoming general election.
Buhari urged them to be patient, remain with the party and work for its success during the 2019 elections.
While briefing State House correspondents after the dinner, Alhaji Aliyu Wadada, a gubernatorial aspirant from Nasarawa State, said the president assured the aspirants that justice would be done as their cases would be looked into.
“Beyond just eating at the dinner as a family, we had discussions over the various experiences that aspirants had during the APC primaries and the president pleaded and pacified the aggrieved aspirants to remain resolute and continue to be loyal and committed to Nigeria’s unity which is the most important thing beyond party politics,” he said.
He added, “The president told us his experiences from the military to civilian eras, adding that naturally it is never easy when your mandate is forcefully taken but whatever it is, we should remain as a family and the needful shall be done where necessary to ensure that those that genuinely won their primary elections are given their stolen mandate but cases that cannot be really proven will have to bear with the outcome; after all, you don’t just divorce yourself from your family because you don’t get what you want.”
A senatorial aspirant from Kebbi State, Sule Sami, said those at the meeting resolved to work hard for Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
“One important thing coming out of the meeting with our president is our resolve to ensure that the president wins next year; we will stay back and fight to ensure that he is returned next year because we are not going to be campaigning for any person other than our president,” he said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, also said the meeting went well, adding that the aspirants pledged to work for the success of the party.
Enang said the meeting was one of the greatest steps taken by Buhari and the APC to bring every aggrieved person together, thus paving way for the party’s success at the polls next year.
The president had told his guests that he regularly met and called the Oshiomhole during the primaries to ensure that internal democracy was respected.
Buhari, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told the aspirants that the primary motivation for election contest should be the desire to improve situations in the country, and not for pecuniary reasons.
It also said the president urged the aspirants who lost out in the primaries to remain faithful to the country and uphold the tenets of integrity, pleading that there would yet be more opportunities for them to serve along the way.
Adesina also said Buhari, who told the aspirants that “those who mismanaged the resources of the country are still very much around, with incredible wealth,” warned them to be vigilant and circumspect in making choices, adding that the future would only be salvaged by those who love the country.
“I spoke with the APC party chairman almost every other day, at least for an hour during the primaries. And sometimes, we met for two and half hours on ensuring internal democracy during the primaries,’’ the president was quoted.
Tinubu Backs Oshiomhole
Meanwhile, the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, yesterday in Abuja threw his weight behind Oshiomhole, expressing opposition to the moves to remove him from office.
Saying every member had the responsibility to respect the supremacy of the party, Tinubu, who highlighted various stages the party went through before the primaries as well as the agreements reached, said those who lost out in the primaries should accept their fate instead of resorting to undermining the party supremacy.
He said, “We all have to respect the party supremacy. You were all here when we had the congress. We elected the new executives. The convention, we had it. The NEC was formed and we surrendered to avoid conflict, to avoid domination, to avoid abuses of power.
“We surrendered our rights, all rights to the National Working Committee headed by Adams Oshiomhole that the National Working Committee should set up electoral bodies to supervise various state congresses and elections.
“We signed off for it. So, if it is not in our individual favour, so be it. We gave three options – consensus, where there is no consensus because if you are more than two or three and you cannot agree to one candidate, you go to the next level.
“The next level is the stakeholders’ delegate and you have to be supervised by the National Working Committee of the party, national election committee of the party. That shows party supremacy or the freest option. The less cumbersome is to open direct primary, line up and count the number, 1,2,3.
“If you win, you win and if you fail, go home. Then, appeal committee was set up to listen to all appeals – internal mechanism for conflict resolution. It was there. You cannot turn round against that. You cannot turn against all of that. No.
“Party is supreme. Party must be respected. Abuses will not do it and anger will not do it. It is party politics. Somebody will win and somebody will lose, too bad.”
He dismissed the current stay of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in Dubai for the perfection of his campaign strategy, saying Nigeria won’t return to “the pit” the PDP led the country into for 16 years.
Tinubu who made these scathing remarks while answering questions from journalists after a meeting with Buhari in the State House, described PDP’s 16-year reign in the country as an illusion which he said Nigerians would never return to.
“We don’t fear, whether he’s in the jungle, or he’s in Dubai or in Abu Dhabi, people are free to meet and strategise in anyway they feel but we are not going back to the illusion of the PDP.
“It is not possible. Nigerians will not do that. They say slow and steady win the race. We inherited that from our forefathers and knowledgeable people. We can’t go back to the pit that we inherited for 16 years. They can strategise from anywhere but a leopard cannot change its skin,” he said.
Buhari Cautions Politicians on Divisive Utterances
Meanwhile, Buhari Wednesday in Abuja cautioned political actors to shun acts of incitement that could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
Speaking when he launched the 2019 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration Emblem with N10 million for the welfare of Nigerian veterans and fallen heroes, the President reminded politicians that there would be no country to lead if Nigeria disintegrates.
At the launch which took place before the commencement of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, Buhari’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said the president also appealed to political actors to be decorous in their conduct and utterances with a view to averting the plague of disunity.
‘‘We would have no country to lead if our acts of deliberate incitement lead to the disintegration of our dear nation,’’ he quoted him as saying, adding: “Let us put Nigeria first and realise that in every contest there must be one winner.” According to him, Buhari reminded the nation that the celebration was a painful reminder of the perils of war and the need for the nation to avoid a recurrence.
‘‘The celebration forcefully reminds us of the resolve of our citizens to remain in one united country, Nigeria.
‘‘It also points out the fact that we had been through a bitter and unfortunate war that led to the loss of millions of our compatriots and the need to do all within our powers to avoid a reoccurrence of war,’’ he was further quoted to have said.
The statement added that Buhari used the occasion to appreciate the gallantry and sacrifices of the Nigerian Armed Forces in the campaign against insurgency and other internal security operations.
It also said the president noted how the efforts of the armed forces had led to the return of normalcy in some flash points of the nation, adding that he regretted the recent murder of two young and promising aid workers – Saifura Khorsa and Hauwa Liman – by Boko Haram terrorists.
‘‘It is painful that this happened despite all the efforts of government to effect release of the two victims.
‘‘We condemn the callous and cowardly act in its entirety and call on all citizens and friends to forge a united front against this common enemy of our destiny.
‘‘Once more, I extend the heartfelt condolences of the Government and people of Nigeria to the families and friends of these martyrs,’’ the president added.
Adesina also said Buhari pledged to ensure the continuity of the resettlement and rehabilitation of citizens affected by the war on terror and commended Dangote Foundation for its partnership with government in the rebuilding process in Borno State.
Adesina added that the president was accompanied to the event by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, members of the FEC, Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, senior officers and veterans.
…APC Considers Tinubu to Chair Campaign Council
Ahead of the launch of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign proposed for the third week of this month, the party’s leadership is considering its national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, as the chairman of its campaign council.
The council is to serve as the coordinating organ of the campaign of the party’s presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to a reliable THISDAY source, Tinubu has been briefed on this proposal, and was one of the issues that was discussed during his meeting with Buhari yesterday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said the source, is, however, proposed to continue in his position as the director-general of the campaign.
By the time- table of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the ban on electioneering for presidential candidates would be lifted on November 18.
Tinubu, according to the source, is being proposed for that role because of his vast experience in electioneering, a talent he reportedly displayed during the 2015 campaign that brought Buhari to power.
“The president has so much confidence in Tinubu, and feels that he would be best suited to lead the campaign,” the source told THISDAY.