Ahead of the June 17 deadline set by the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC), there is suspense in the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the choice of running mate to the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Investigation by Blueprint revealed Thursday that the governing party was still in a fix over the choice of who to pick as running mate to the former Lagos state governor.
Although there hasn’t been any words from the party, it is however believed that the Muslim-Muslim ticket remains the party’s best bet if the APC is to retain power in 2023.
Mixed reactions have continued to greet the option with a former Abia state governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu backing the move, which is also opposed by some Christian groups, including the umbrella body of Christian faithful in Nigeria-Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN).
There are unconfirmed reports that Kano state Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, his Kaduna counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai and that of Kebbi, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu are being considered.
However, a dependable source said “going with any of these governors won’t help the cause of the party. The fact is the party has tentatively agreed to a Muslim-Muslim ticket for some political expediency, if it must win in 2023. I don’t have the authority to say it officially. However, former Borno state Governor Shettima looks set. Don’t forget he is a core Tinubu loyalist and coming from the North-east also stands him at a major advantage.”
One of the moves at arriving at a choice as running mate might be Thursday’s visit by the party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to Tinubu’s Abuja residence.
Neither Adamu nor Tinubu spoke to journalists after the meeting and no statement came from their ends.
It was also gathered that the APC standard bearer was to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari over the running mate issue. It could not be confirmed however if the meeting held.
Besides, efforts by the National Working Committee (NWC) members to also have its meeting Wednesday could not materialise as a quorum was not formed.
Further to this, another top party source said: “In order to avoid being trapped by INEC deadline, the party may submit to INEC a placeholder that can be changed after the candidate and the candidate must have agreed on a running mate. But, it is our hope that the issue will be resolved hopefully before the INEC deadline.”
Commotion at party secretariat
Meanwhile, some APC stakeholders Thursday stormed the party’s national secretariat to protest alleged substitution of candidates.
The candidates, alongside their supporters from Kogi, Enugu, Abia, Imo and Ondo states, were seen blowing hot at the party premises.
At about 5pm Thursday, some youth said to be from Kogi state stormed the party office while a meeting of the NWC was in progress.
The youth were seen expressing anger and chanting slogans against the party’s national chairman.
Specifically, one of the youths from Kogi state who was seen shouting on top of his voice, alleged that the ticket of his principal who won a House of Representatives race was given to another person.
While the youths were threatening that Adamu would not get out of the secretariat, the security operatives rushed and locked the entrance gate.
Blueprint gathered that the angry candidates got hints that the party leadership had substituted their names with another; hence they stormed the national secretariat.
The development, however, forced the security operatives at the Buhari House to tighten the checks on incoming visitors while others at the premises were ordered to leave.
Speaking with newsmen on behalf of four other House of Representatives aspirants, who won primaries in Enugu state, Hon. Ejike Okoli, alleged they were denied opportunity to fill the INEC forms.
Okoli said: “We were invited through an SMS to come to Abuja to collect and fill INEC forms only to be given the withdrawal forms which we rejected. And they have since refused to give us the INEC forms.”
He alleged the party leadership had perfected the plan to substitute their names with their favoured aspirants for inexplicable reasons.
All efforts to speak with the APC national publicity secretary, Barr. Felix Morka, were unsuccessful as calls put through went unanswered.
Adeyemi berates Kogi primaries
In a related development, the lawmaker representing Kogi West on the APC platform, Senator Smart Adeyemi has criticised the conduct and outcome of the party’s senatorial primaries in Kogi state.
Visibly displeased, the lawmaker Thursday lamented his loss in the election conducted May 22, 2022.
“The exercise was neither free nor fair and was a complete rape of democracy, a day light robbery and an extremely manipulated exercise,” he said.
He distanced himself from a WhatsApp video disparaging Governor Yahaya Bello, saying “I am too refined as a person to do that to the governor who despite the outcome of the primaries, still enjoys my support and loyalty.”
Adeyemi in a prepared text said: “Let me state unequivocally and without ambiguity, that the elections which took place on the 22 of May, 2022 in Kogi state were neither free nor fair.
“It is on record that the list of delegates was changed 20 hours to the elections proper.
“Militants, armed men and unidentified thugs in their numbers were used to manipulate the process. Even persons who were not from Kogi state were brought in to vote under extremely hostile environment.”
He lamented that APC leadership foisted a serving commissioner as the returning officer for the exercise, who in turn compelled people to vote against their will.
He alleged his electoral misfortune was linked to his unbending position on national issues.
“The accusation that I have stepped on toes by my position on contemporary national issues constitutes a major part of my many offences, and I have absolutely no regrets on the matter,” Adeyemi said.