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2015 Polls: ATIKU BATTLES BUHARI OVER APC PRESIDENTIAL TICKET

2015 Polls: ATIKU BATTLES BUHARI OVER APC PRESIDENTIAL TICKET

In the build-up to the 2015 general election, the battle for the control of the Nigeria’s second biggest political party the All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to be taking a fresh dimension as the former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar are out for a show-down over the  presidential ticket of the party.

As things stand in the party, the forces of former Lagos state governor, Senator Bola Tinubu and Buhari on one hand, are pitted against the forces of Atiku and the Progressive governors. As part of the moves to ensure peace in the party, the leadership is said to be working for the option of a consensus candidate.

It is also believed that the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Kwankwanso is seriously making effort to join the race as he is yet to declare publicly.

AMEN SuperNews learnt that the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun and national leader Tinubu had held separate meetings with Buhari and Atiku.  The two leaders were said to have made personal appeals urging the presidential aspirants to consider the greater good of the party.

But as things stands, none of the two aspirants has shown readiness to back out of the move to get the party’s presidential ticket.

Meanwhile, procedure for adopting the presidential candidate for the party had earlier generated serous controversy between the two presidential aspirants.  While Buhari and his supporters opted for a consensus arrangement, Atiku preferred a full direct primary.

In their separate reactions, Buhari’s supporters said that considering bitterness, rancor and bad blood indirect primary will most likely generate, it becomes safer to work towards a consensus arrangement.

“We must at all times bear in mind that we are being hunted and that those who boasted to rule Nigeria for 60 years uninterrupted, are still hell bent to scuttle the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians for genuine ideological regime change.

“We must take not that our challenger, the ruling party has just announced the nomination of the incumbent President as its candidate by consensus means and they had commenced presidential campaign with vigour and dexterity,” the group noted.

In his reaction, Atiku’s media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, said, “Our candidate is a   democrat.  What he is opposed to is any undemocratic process going by the name of consensus, imposition or anointment.   Back in the PDP, if you remember, he dragged the party to court and won these issues with a resounding victory.”

However, reacting to Buhari’s decision to run after several attempts made by the leaders of the party for a consensus failed, Atiku said the task of rescuing Nigeria is a duty leaders of APC are committed to and, “The more individuals ready to be part of the mission to rescue the country, the better.

“Nigeria has floundered for far too long.  Our people are yearning for a change and we must listen to them before they lose faith in ability of their leaders to revive the country,” he said.

“You will recall that during my declaration speech penultimate week, I did mention that my priority, if given the chance to run and serve as the president of Nigeria is addressing the issues of jobs, creation and providing decent employment for Nigerians, especially the youths.

“I believe that it is only when we can provide decent jobs for our young people, that we can have a hope for the decent future for our country.”

The former Vice President said it was not in doubt that of recent, successive administrations had failed woefully in building the infrastructure that could promote a healthy economy, adding “our education system is in Chambles, public health system is in virtual comatose, we have very poor network of roads totally at variance with the wealth of a country, that is the seventh oil producer in the world.”

Alhaji Abubakar said he believed that Nigeria had failed in these areas because of the excessive centralization of functions and resources to the government at centre.

According to him, the APC led federal administration would devolve power and resources to state governments in line with the party’s manifesto.

“I believe that the country has failed in these areas because of the excessive centralization of functions and resources to the government at the centre.  The government that the APC plans to lead in the next few months, by the grace of God, will be fully committed to devolution of powers and resources to the state governments in line with the manifesto of our great party.  I also plan to march this resolve with a full commitment to ensuring transparency in all sectors of our national life.

“I am equally disturbed about the way our people have been divided along ethnic and religious fault lines and how we are steadily and dangerously losing a sense of community where every Nigerian can live together without mutual suspicion..” he said.

However, the two leading aspirants had used recent party events to reach out to party loyalists and the would-be delegates.

The latest being that the APC recent mobilization efforts in Sokoto and Kogi States where the party received some defectors.

A chieftain of the party in the South-East, Chief Osita Okechkwu, confirmed that the party was aware that there would be challenges from the early stage, especially in the build-up to the primary, adding that the party had been holding meetings over the issue.

He said, “Many aspirants have expressed interest in the APC presidential ticket and all of them are qualified, so the party is considering whether to go for direct or indirect primary.  But some of us are of the opinion that consensus may be better.

“But the likely challenge is that the person with a fat pocket may win the primary, considering the fact that he can just sit somewhere and control the situation of thing.”

The APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, expressed anger on insinuation of a likely difficulty in resolving the issue of three candidates seeking the party’s presidential ticket.

He said, “The primary is yet to hold.  We should leave them till when the time comes.  As long as the process is transparent, the party will resolve the matter.”

AMEN SuperNews gathered that the proposal to set up a committee of eminent persons was taken so that they could work behind the scene to find a common ground on the 2015 Presidency.

It was also gathered that the elders were disturbed that northern leaders were sharply divided over the issue of presidential aspirants.

It was equally learnt that plans are underway by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) to set up a committee that will harmonize the positions of northern leaders ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

A source who preferred anonymity told AMEN SuperNews on phone that since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole candidate, prominent northern groups, especially the NEF, had moved in to ensure that a northerner wins the presidential poll.

It was also learnt that the NEF was reaching out to other groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum, to sort the differences among northern leaders on the issue.

Meanwhile, the division in the party according to sources started during the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party held on May 23 and since then the centre has refused to hold.

It was confirmed that the camp of Senator Tinubu and that of Buhari were shocked by the outcome of the NEC, which sidelined their preferred chairman for the National Convention Committee, Alhaji Kawu Baraje.

Buhari and Tinubu were said to have given indication that Baraje is the choice for the chairman of the convention, but a  plot by the governors saw to the emergence of Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State.

A source said that loyalists of Buhari and Tinubu have described the decision of the governors as a plot against the founding fathers and a scheme to hijack the party through the back door.

“The Buhari and Tinubu camps are angry that the governors are trying to play the type of game they played in the PDP by moving against the interests of the founding fathers,” the source said.

It was gathered that the duo of Buhari and Tinubu actually wanted to protest the outcome of the last NEC but decided to give the young turks another chance.

Observers are of the view that anything that will threaten the interest of Buhari and that of Tinubu is actually aimed at destroying APC.

While Atiku’s supporters say he is the best candidate of the party, Buhari’s camp argues that Atiku cannot give President Jonathan a good fight in 2015.

A former National publicity Secretary of the congress for progressive change and associate of the former head of state, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said the party’s presidential primary should not be a matter of money.  He stated that Buhari had done a lot to stabilize the APC, noting that the support Buhari enjoyed in the North was non-transferable.

According to him, supporters are of the view that Buhari stands heads above shoulders over other contenders.

He said, “The APC will be the ultimate loser should its mandate become the subject of horse trading or a matter of naira and kobo.

“The party would have scored an own goal.  He remains the only living Nigerian right now who can give Jonathan and the PDP a run for their money.  Any other candidate the party puts forwards can easily be overrun by Jonathan.”

However, the Director of the Atiku media office, Shehu, was quoted  as saying that his principal’s quest for the APC ticket and ultimately Nigeria’s presidency was hinged on his desire to serve.

According to him, Atiku’s reach and connection within and outside the country makes him the best for the job.

He said that all the former vice President was seeking to do was to give back to the Nigerian society which gave him enormous opportunities.

Shehu noted that the Atiku campaign group had taken a conscious decision not to attack any aspirant bidding for the ticket and would run only issue based campaign.

He said, “You are not going to see us attacking my aspirant because if we attack any aspirant, we will weaken the party, his conduct will be one of civility, and respect for each contestant.  We are hoping that this will be about ideas.  We need more aspirants within the APC to put themselves forward for election and Nigerians will choose who they want.”

Shehu stated that assumption about other aspirants who had yet to declare was not a problem because the Nigerian constitution does not say the first person to aspire automatically gets the ticket.

Shehu said, “Today, Abubakar ranks higher than most state governments in terms of job creation as the businesses he is involved in has served more Nigerians both directly and indirectly in terms of employment than even the government.”

Party sources, said the party hierarchy was already grappling with the daunting task of picking a flag bearer.

However, Buhari, according to analysts is a good candidate and is also respected in the North but he would not have the support of major political elite in the entire North.  “As a Muslim fundamentalist and following to the security challenges in the country, he may not as well get the desired support in the South East, South West and South South. You will remember that Buhari did not come to South East to campaign in 2011 election,” a source said.

He does not have the financial muscle to finance his campaign across the country.

Buhari has contested the presidency for three times and lost in all. But in the case of Atiku, analysts are of the view that he is better prepared for the race than Buhari.  “He is also more acceptable in the country than Buhari.  Atiku is a known democrat, unifier and a bridge builder which is the kind of leader Nigeria needs now to drive the nation forward.

The Turaki of Adamawa has friends all over the country and if APC is to dislodge  PDP in 2015,  then Atiku is the right candidate to fly the flag of the party,”a source said.

Consequently even as Tinubu knew he may not run with Buhari again bcause of Muslim Muslum ticket, he has continued to lobby delegates to vote for Buhari at the nomination convention slated for November.

Another development that is bound to raise concern in the Buhari camp is that party bureaucrats are pushing to cut down on the 20,000 delegates earlier proposed to attend the Abuja presidential nomination convention in November.

The move, according to a senior member  of NEC  is to manage the delegates in the Eagles square which has a  limited sitting capacity of not more than 8,000 persons.

AMEN SuperNews learnt that in all effort to beat the number of delegates, the ward chairmen, earlier slated to attend as statutory delegates, would be eliminated in a bid to cut down the number of delegates coming to Abuja by at least 7,000.

“We have at least 10 wards in each of the 774 local government councils, you can then imagine how much can be saved in terms of number delegates coming for the convention,” the NEC official said on the condition of anonymity.

This development was hailed in the Atiku camp.  But another NEC member from Buhari’s camp, however, played down the matter of the adoption of the modified Direct Primary system as he claimed that the adoption of the system had not been formally agreed.

As the battle between Buhari and Atiku raged on, only time will tell who flies the APC flag.

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