There were fears on Thursday over the fate of a planned meeting convened by some leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South West for the State House, Marina, Lagos today with aspirants seeking the ticket of the party for the 2023 presidential election.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that some of the aspirants had expressed reservations on the intervention of the leaders at this stage of the process that would lead to the primary of the party.
They are curious about what a few of the close associates and allies of the aspirants perceived as the real motive of the meeting because of what they consider as the “skewed role” of the leaders over the years over political issues.
The list of APC aspirants from South-West include the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, a former governor of Ogun State, and serving senator, Ibikunle Amosun; a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, and a former presidential running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare.
One of the sources said a couple of the aspirants might not attend the meeting because of the assumption that the outcome was predictable based on the relationship of the leaders with individual aspirants, especially on APC matters in the South-West.
A source close to one of the prominent contestants said those who would attend might do so for the purpose of formality and respect for the conveners of the meeting, but do not foresee any paradigm shift from the status quo ante.
The parley comes on the heels of a stern warning by the pan-Igbo organisation and South-East leaders to all aspirants of Igbo extraction not to compromise on the demand that the next president must come from the zone.
While the Ohanaeze Ndigbo said the aspirants should not settle for the position of running mate, a group of Igbo elders, led by a former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said any attempt to deny the Igbo the presidency in 2023 is tantamount to declaring that the people are no longer part of Nigeria.
But weeks after stakeholders from the zone met with the aspirants and asked them to harmonize their position on the Igbo-for-president project, neither the organisation nor the contestants have been able to come up with a compromise candidate for the zone.
Rather, a former president of the Senate and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; ex-Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi; industry guru, Chief Sam Ohuabunwa, among others, are yet to meet again on the planned effort to forge a united front.
Nonetheless, eminent persons and groups from the South-West, South-South and the North-Central made a strong case that the Igbo produce the next president of the country.
In the meantime, the meeting appears to have suffered a setback with the convener of the Progressive Lawyers for Osinbajo, Dr Kayode Ajulo, saying it lacks credibility on four major grounds.
In a statement entitled: 2023: APC Presidential South-West Aspirants’ Meeting: Wrong Motive, Wrong Move,’ Ajulo said members of the group commended the initiative, which they believed was born out of their earlier call on the Yoruba leaders to hold a strategic conference to provide direction towards the fate of the zone in the presidential election. It, however, faulted the composition of the conveners, the choice of venue and unclear agenda, saying “it is on this premise that we look forward to a meeting convoked by South-West leaders of note like Chief Afe Babalola, Chief Femi Okunnu, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba and frontline traditional rulers in South-West, as well as the governors from the region.”
The group added: “While it is our utmost desire that such an important meeting be conveyed with a view to establishing a consensus harmony between the aspirants of the APC in SouthWest, we want to state clearly that it should be designed appropriately to promote fairness and genuineness of a clear intention.
“This above scheduled meeting should have been a welcome development, but for the following configurations which were not rightfully designed as it ought to be: i. Composition of personality invited,
“ii. The choice of venue: Lagos Flag House in Marina, Lagos, iii. Unclear agenda of the meeting: We can state for a fact that the motive of this meeting is inexplicit and undefined to many of the invited aspirants as most of them were never engaged. The manner at which the meeting is conveyed like a secret proceeding shows that the conveners have no defined agenda productive enough to be for the benefits of all.
“iv. An already drafted communiqué: Information at our disposal has it that a communique has already been prepared, and in favour of a particular aspirant. This document is currently in circulation among some of the invitees.
“The above stated positions have lent credence to the incredibility of the proposed meeting as well as unreliability of same as a compass for the Southwest in the 2023 presidential election.”
Meanwhile, the Peter Obi Support Network (POSN) has described as nonsense media reports that Obi is being considered as vice presidential candidate to another aspirant. The group also said the presidential ambition of the 2019 running mate to Atiku is not negotiable. POSN, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Sani Saeed Altukry, warned the leadership of PDP that any attempt by it to foist a northern candidate on PDP members would adversely affect its future and fortunes.
“We consider the report — which we understand is planted in a national newspaper — as ‘arrant nonsense.
“Peter Obi’s presidential ambition is not negotiable because he has repeatedly assured us and other Nigerians that have consulted with him on the matter that he is in the presidential race to win.
“The report that Atiku is considering Obi as a running mate is ‘fake news’ obviously planted to test waters and deceive millions of Nigerians who see Peter Obi’s presidency as the last hope to rescue Nigeria.
“However, we are not surprised because Nigerians are aware that Atiku appreciates Obi’s sterling presidential qualities, which was why he chose him as running mate in 2019.”