By John Alechenu and Leke Baiyewu
Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress, who are pushing for a second term ticket for President Muhammadu Buhari, have mapped out strategies to woo the party’s first-term governors to swell their ranks, SUNDAY PUNCHhas learnt.
So far, at least six of the party’s serving 24 governors have openly declared support for the President to seek the party’s ticket for re-election in 2019.
These are Kano Sate Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, Solomon Lalong of Plateau State; Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State; Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State as well as Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
A top-ranking member of the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as “not to ruffle feathers”, told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that party members, who considered themselves “core Buharists”, did not foresee any threat to his candidacy at least from “anywhere in northern Nigeria.”
He explained that as members of a political party, no matter which aspirant a person or group of persons supported, it was incumbent on such people to respect others who had other preferences.
The source said, “It is for the same reason why no one could talk about sanctions for the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, when some mischiefmakers leaked a video of her endorsing former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the needless controversy which followed.
“With all these noise being made by some people and the misleading headlines you see these days, tell me one person, within or outside the APC in Nigeria today, who can defeat President Buhari if he decides to run in 2019? Name one!”
According to him, the APC is determined not to repeat the mistakes made by the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, by taking party members for granted.
He added, “When you hear some of our party members saying no automatic ticket, they are referring to history. How far did candidate Buhari go when he was given an automatic ticket by the defunct CPC?
“Remember that at the height of the PDP’s impunity in 2015, only one presidential form was printed and it was only for the then President Goodluck Jonathan. We have learnt from history.”
The source explained that as part of strategies to get more of the party’s powerful governors on board, the President had started consulting the states’ helmsmen on appointments into the headship of federal agencies.
He also made reference to the tone and language used by the President in his address to party men and women at the just concluded National Caucus and National Executive Council meeting of the party.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, had, in an interview with one of our correspondents, explained that the party remained focused on delivering on the mandate given to it by the Nigerian people and would not be distracted.
He also noted that despite insinuations from certain quarters that the party was in turmoil, the peaceful atmosphere under which the last caucus and NEC meetings were held was evidence that the party was on course.
“Nobody slapped anybody; in fact nobody raised his voice against another. We came out of these meetings laughing,” he said.
The APC’s first term governors, who will most likely seek re-election in 2019, are Jibrilla Bindow (Adamawa); Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Umar Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Aminu Masari (Katsina); Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos); Abubakar Bello (Niger); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto).
Meanwhile, in furtherance of their desire to ensure that the Buhari brand remains sellable, members of the Buhari Support Organisation, after unveiling an ultra-modern office in Abuja about a week ago, are planning to start a series of activities to showcase the President’s achievements in the last two years.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the group would, within the next few months, use social and traditional media to increase awareness about Buhari’s achievements within the period under review.
Already, members of the BSO have started putting its internal structures in place to maintain relevance ahead of 2018 when political campaigns for the 2019 elections will start officially.
A prominent member of the group, who is the current Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali (retd.), had, during the unveiling of the Abuja office, revealed the reason behind the event.
He explained that it was designed to rekindle “what we started in 2015 and what we used as a vehicle to fight in the trenches, out of the trenches, along routes and in so many different terrains to see to the success of vision and mission.”
However, when contacted, another prominent member of the BSO, who is now the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, explained that there was nothing sinister about the unveiling of the BSO secretariat.
He told SUNDAY PUNCH, “It is all about supporting the APC and the government it has formed with the support of the Nigerian people. You cannot separate President Muhammadu Buhari from the APC. There is no basis for imputing any other motive to last week’s event.”
Also, a member of the party’s National Working Committee, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the issue of getting some governors on board was inevitable.
He said, “You will agree with me that as they say, all politics is local. No aspirant can make impact in an election, especially at the federal level, all alone.
“Our governors control the logistics required to get things done in the states. The President, Senators and members of the House of Reps are not elected in Abuja, they must come from the states. We recognise this; so, we know we must have them all on board to ensure victory.”
He, however, refused to say how far the group has gone to work on the first-time governors and get their full participation in bringing Buhari back his second term.
Buhari’s second-term endorsement, a Greek gift –Shehu Sani
In another development, the lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, on Saturday, criticised the reported endorsement of Buhari for a second term when the President had yet to express his interest to re-contest.
Sani described the reported endorsement as “a Greek Gift” which the current ruling elite once condemned, commending Buhari for rejecting the “gift.”
On his Facebook on Saturday, the Senator wrote, “Endorsing a President for second term when he has not yet expressed interest to run amounts to political obsequiousness, ‘taradiddle by lick Spittles’. This is something the present political ruling elite once denounced as antics, machinations and relics that characterised the old order, now conveniently dusted for exigency.
“Thanks to PMB for turning down their Greek Gift.”
Several leaders and groups in the ruling APC had endorsed Buhari for a second term. While the Progressives Governors’ Forum had recently proposed an automatic ticket for the President, the National Executive Council of the party only passed a vote of confidence in him and rejected the proposal.
Sani, in another Facebook post on Saturday, faulted the exchange of presidential power between the South-West and the North-West geopolitical zones, saying figuratively that Nigerians were more interested in who becomes President than Nigeria itself.
Resign if Buhari’s govt has derailed, Marafa tells Customs CG
Also, the lawmaker representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Senator Kabiru Marafa, has berated Ali for describing the Buhari’s administration as derailing.
Marafa stated that Ali’s statement was “politically irresponsible.”
According to the lawmaker, what Ali said about the current administration in which he is serving is like passing a vote of no confidence in it.
Marafa, who fielded questions from journalists in Abuja on Saturday, urged the Customs boss to leave Buhari’s government if Ali believed in what he said.
The senator alleged that the Customs boss did not influence up to 100 votes for Buhari in the 2015 election, stressing that Ali was benefitting from an administration more than his contribution to it.
He said, “When he talked about derailing, to me, if actually he believed in what he said, he should resign. He should resign because what he did was like passing a vote of no confidence in a government in which he is serving. He is part of the derailment because the position the President gave him is not befitting him. What was his contribution?
“He said 50 per cent of the people who formed the government are from the PDP. If I was there, I would have asked him to expatiate. Is he talking of the PDP members who left the party and joined the APC to secure its victory or is he talking of the PDP as it is today? If he is talking of the people who left the PDP to join the APC, with all sense of responsibility, I think it is politically irresponsible to say that because these were the people who joined hands with the APC to bring about this government.
“In politics, anybody, who identifies with you and joins you before ballots are cast, is part and parcel of your struggle. Anybody at whatever stage they join before going to the polls is part of you and your victory. It is only those who join you after election that can be called any name.”
The lawmaker, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), said Ali and those behind the idea of the BSO were out to sabotage Buhari and his government.
He said, “On the opening of the office called BSO, it is politically inexpedient now. Buhari is already the President and he became President by popular votes; he was voted for by all Nigerians.
“So, how do you now take a whole national idea back to BSO? Buhari has gone beyond BSO. Even by his own assertion, he said the idea started in 2003 and moved to 2007 and that he joined it in 2011 and it came to 2015.”