The consultation between former President Goodluck Jonathan and some leaders of the All Progressives Congress for Jonathan to emerge as the presidential candidate has been rejected by support groups working for some presidential aspirants of the party.
Groups loyal to presidential aspirants of the party, including the APC National leader and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; in separate interviews with The PUNCH, dismissed the consensus plot for the ex-President.
It was also gathered that those who were behind the plot and some members of the National Working Committee of the party feared that it might not sail through.
It was learnt that although the plan had been announced, opposition to it was already swelling among members.
Besides Tinubu, Osinbajo, other members of the party in the presidential race include the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi.
The PUNCH had reported on Saturday that Jonathan had informed some APC leaders that he would only join the presidential race if he was directly endorsed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The information was revealed to The Media shortly after Jonathan’s posters flooded the national secretariat of the APC and some youth groups stormed Jonathan’s office in the Maitama area of Abuja, calling on him to join the Presidential race.
In his response, the former President had told protesters that he could not say for sure if he would declare or not but only advised his supporters to “watch out.”
The Media subsequently learnt from top sources in the APC that there was a plan by some leaders in the APC and some elements in the Presidency to accede to Jonathan’s request.
A member of the APC National Executive Committee, who confided in one of our correspondents, said all presidential aspirants were aware of the plan to bring Jonathan in as the consensus candidate.
According to him, members of the Presidency cabal who were working on the plan were confused as they did not know if it would succeed.
He stated that they started working on the plan more than a year ago but when they ran into some challenges, they tried to adopt the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
The NEC member added that when they realised that Emefiele’s option might not work, they went back to the Jonathan arrangement.
The party chieftain stated, “I can tell you they are facing a tough task as far as Jonathan is concerned. Although from his body language, one can see that Jonathan is interested. However, his backers in the APC are confused about how to launder the public image of Jonathan whom they painted incompetent and clueless in 2015.
“Another tough task the party may face is how it will convince other aspirants like Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Umahi and Bello to step down. Many members are not happy with the plot and are ready to shoot it down.”
When contacted for the party’s reaction, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, neither replied to a text message sent to his mobile phone nor responded to calls made by one of our correspondents.
The PUNCH learnt that the presidential aspirants were waiting for Jonathan’s backers to unveil their plan, which they vowed to resist.
Osinbajo group rejects Jonathan, optimistic VP will emerge consensus candidate
The Leader, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation, Ekiti State, Femi Adeleye, said on Sunday that the party could not give Jonathan a waiver to contest the presidential election as a consensus candidate when there were competent and capable aspirants already.
Adeleye who said the presidential aspirants were already preparing for an indirect primary, however, said the party would adopt Osinbajo in case it considered a consensus arrangement.
He stated, “Even at that, if all the contestants agree within themselves and decide to step down for one of them, I am very comfortable that our principal, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, will be the one they will step down for. I am very comfortable with that.
“If some people are rooting for Jonathan, the party must accept him first. And for him to contest, he must have spent a year in the party and our primary will hold in the one month’s time. It will be very difficult for the party to say they want to give him a waiver and pick him as consensus candidate when there are competent hands already on the ground.”
Aspirants looking for consensus are lazy, nobody will impose candidate – Tinubu
Also in a chat with The Media, the South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 known as SWAGA 2023, said that there was no possibility of a consensus presidential candidate in the upcoming primary election.
The Chairman of SWAGA 2023, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, explained this to The Media during a telephone interview on Sunday, adding that the presidential aspirants would await the results of the primaries.
He said, “The candidates for the presidential election await the primaries and the people will have to earn it. Don’t forget that under the new electoral law, you can only have consensus when all the candidates or aspirants have agreed in writing and I don’t see that happening. Those who are looking for consensus are the lazy ones who have not done any work.
“We are working and hoping to have free and fair primaries which I know that by the grace of the almighty God, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will easily win. So, the issue of consensus candidacy should be forgotten completely. Nobody will impose the president on Nigeria, the party members will choose their candidates by themselves at the convention and the Nigerian people will be given the opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice in February next year.”
Adeyeye said the Presidential primary would not be like the national convention of March 26 because the primary is more complicated as it would involve a wider electorate.
The leader of the Grassroot Network for Asiwaju Tinubu group, Mr Abiodun Mafe, also told The PUNCH that Jonathan was not known to be a member of the APC hence he could not be the presidential candidate of the party.
“Jonathan has never been a member of the APC, so how will it be possible for anyone to say that he will be made a consensus candidate? Until he now proves to the whole world that he is a card-carrying member of the APC, it can’t be. Even at that, there is a process. Constitutionally, anybody who is a member of the APC has the right to contest but as far as I am concerned Jonathan is not a part,” Mafe stated.
On his part, the Coordinator, Progressive Lawyers For Osinbajo, Dr Kayode Ajulo, in an interview with The Media, said to entertain the idea of Jonathan contesting was trying to violate the provision of the constitution.
He stated, “The advice I would give is that everything that should be done in accordance with the law. And as it is today, the extant Electoral Act, which is the electoral law in Nigeria, recognises the direct election, indirect election and the consensus. And if that one is sanctioned and allowed by the law, then that would be the way to go, but anything done beyond it is unconstitutional.
“I will advise the APC to continue to toe the line of law because when you do that you cannot go wrong. But in a situation where you want to do what is convenient and you want to toe the law of men, not the law as given and signed – the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, then things will go wrong.
Yahaya Bello will defeat Jonathan if he joins the presidential race – Campaign Council
But the spokesman for the Yahaya Bello Presidential Campaign Council, Yemi Kolapo, in an interview with The Media, said the Kogi State Governor would defeat Jonathan if he joined the APC presidential race.
She said, “What I will say is that whether Jonathan declares or not, whether he joins APC or not is not a threat. Yahaya Bello will get the ticket. Everybody has the right to vie for any position.
“So, whether he (Jonathan) wants to do that in APC or his PDP, it is his choice. That will not deter anybody. No matter what they do, no matter the number of people who come into the race at this time, Yahaya Bello will be on the ballot.”
Attempts to get a response from Jonathan’s Spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, proved abortive as he did not respond to a text message on Sunday.
Nigeria needs President who can work – Obi
Meanwhile, one of the presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party and
former governor of Anambra State, Dr Peter Obi, has said Nigerians should not allow the APC government to continue.
He also said the consensus arrangement being promulgated by some aspirants was not what Nigeria needed, saying the country needed someone that would work to rescue the country to get out of its challenges, as the next president.
Obi stated this at meeting with the chieftains of the PDP in Ondo State, at the party secretariat in Akure, the Ondo State capital on Sunday, ahead of the forthcoming primary of the party .
He said, “The children can no longer eat, we are at high level of misery, we cannot allow them to continue.
“If nothing is done on Nigeria’s problem, it would consume all of us. It will consume our children too.
“We must not talk about the consensus now, we must talk about who will work. Nigerians want consensus that will solve the Nigerian problem.
“We want someone that will take Nigeria from consumption to production level. we must elect somebody that can do the work. We are not talking about who will become the next president of Nigeria but who will start working for this country called Nigeria.”
N100m: Falana slams APC as party begins sale of forms tomorrow
In a related development, Human rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, on Sunday slammed the APC for pegging the fees of its presidential nomination and expression of interest forms at N100m.
He argued that by asking the youth to pay N60m (being 40 per cent discount of the said N100m) the APC has made a mockery of the Not Too Young to Run Act enacted by the Federal Government under its control.
Citing several judicial precedents, Falana noted that the political parties had flouted Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act which empowers every citizen to participate freely in the government of his or her country.
He, therefore, proposed that the APC and PDP should withdraw the “outrageous fees” and charge administrative fees of not more than N10,000 per aspirant.
In a statement he signed on Sunday titled, ‘Illegality of outrageous nomination fees,’ the activist noted that the apparent endorsement of the controversial nomination fees by Buhari reeks of hypocrisy because, in 2014, he had told Nigerians that he had to borrow N27.5m to purchase his nomination form.
Falana stated, “The APC ought to have realised that by restricting politics to the affairs of fat cats, it has violated Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act which states that ‘every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.’
“The apparent endorsement of the controversial nomination fees by President Buhari smacks of hypocrisy because, in 2014, he had told Nigerians that he had to borrow N27.5m to buy his nomination form.”
The senior advocate noted Section 87 of the Electoral Act which provides for the nomination of candidates by political parties had not prescribed that aspirants shall pay any fee.
“In this circumstance, political parties may only be permitted by law to charge administrative fees,” he said.
In a related development, The PUNCH learnt on Sunday that the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms of the APC scheduled for Saturday, April 23, 2022, will now kick off on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. The exercise was earlier called off due to some logistical bottlenecks.
Consequently, nomination forms for aspirants vying for the House of Assembly would be sold at the various state secretariats of the party nationwide while forms for other positions such as the House of Representatives, Senate, governorship and Presidency would be sold at the national secretariat, Abuja.