APC rules out imposition, groups pick Jonathan, Lawan’s forms

Tope Omogbolagun, Solomon Odeniyi and Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis

10 May 2022

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A group under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups on Monday purchased the All Progressives Congress’ expression of interest and presidential nomination forms for former President Goodluck Jonathan.

This was as the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, also paid for the APC presidential forms, swelling the number of aspirants in the ruling party to about 28.

This came to the fore on Monday as the party said it would not force any aspirant to sign withdrawal paper attached to their nomination forms.

Flaunting the forms at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, the coalition led by Ibrahim Abdullahi described Jonathan as the most qualified candidate to succeed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The payment acknowledgement slip  obtained by one of our correspondents bore Jonathan’s name as the recipient of the nomination form.

Jonathan, who was first elected under the umbrella of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2011 after completing the tenure of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, had told his supporters in April to “watch out” for his possible return.

Findings by The PUNCH indicate that the ex-President joined the ruling party in September 2021.

Sources confirmed that Jonathan has been a card-carrying member of the APC for the past nine months.

Before the latest development, Jonathan was said to have been in talks with some senior Presidency officials who reportedly assured him of the APC presidential ticket if he joined the race.

The ex-President was said to have sought assurances that he would be given certain waivers, including being adopted as the consensus presidential candidate by the ruling party for the 2023 election.

Under the deal, Jonathan would rule for one single term of four years and hand over power to his vice president who would be a Northerner.

Jonathan had yet to deny or admit the alleged deal.

The ex-President’s entrance into the presidential race is expected to change the dynamics of the contest in the APC.

Announcing his declaration in Abuja while receiving the N100 million APC forms presented to him by a political group, National Stability Project, led by Chief Sam Nkire, Lawan said he had consulted widely and promised to play the game by the rules.

The Senate President, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi, stated, “Today is a special day and this moment is a very memorable and historic moment. Over the last seven years, we have been participants in the administration of our country at the national level.

“The APC-led administration, our President. President Muhammadu Buhari will be completing his tenure on May 29, 2023. I want to pay special tribute to what Mr President and the APC administration have done so far for developing our country.

“I have listened to various calls from all parts of our dear country, our dear nation Nigeria, for me to show interest to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Lawan added that he took his time to pray and consult widely every part of the country before he decided to pick the forms.

Meanwhile, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, has formally withdrawn from the presidential race.

Kalu, in a statement personally signed by him and made available to journalists in Abuja, on Monday, however, declared his support for Lawan for the presidential seat.

Kalu in his statement said, “I congratulate my friend, former roommate and boss, Senator Ahmad Lawan as he picks form to run for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria  under our great party, APC . I am most glad because he is from the North-East, the only zone alongside South- East that is yet to produce President of Nigeria.”

 Consensus candidacy made possible by Electoral Act – APC spokesman

Meanwhile, the APC has said the idea of consensus candidates in primaries was the making of the Electoral Act and not the creation of the party, as being rumoured.

 The party spokesman,  Felix Morka, in an interview with The PUNCH, also denied any sinister motive regarding the withdrawal form and nine conditions  imposed on the presidential, governorship and parliamentary aspirants ahead of the APC primaries for the 2023 elections.

In the controversial guidelines, aspirants contesting various offices were barred from seeking redress in court without first exhausting party avenues for resolution of their grievances.

They are also mandated to sign an undertaking to accept the outcomes of the polls; take oaths not to engage in thuggery, anti-party activities and factionalisation, and support whoever emerges as a candidate for the general elections.

Some aspirants had complained about the voluntary letter of withdrawal contained on page 17 of the nomination form, which aspirants were expected to sign before a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public.

We are not compelling aspirants to withdraw – APC

But while describing the controversial withdrawal form as “just a pro-forma document,” Morka said the party is not giving conditions or compelling any aspirant to withdraw.

“The nine conditions or guidelines are all self-explanatory. It is to guide every aspirant ahead of the primary,” he said.

On the ‘voluntary letter of withdrawal’ attached to the nomination form, the APC publicity secretary emphasised that the document is there to make provision for when an aspirant makes a personal decision to withdraw.

“That’s when they are required to execute it. The party didn’t create the withdrawal form, the Electoral Act did. It is evident that no aspirant was forced to do that. That answers any question regarding the imposition of candidates,” he noted.

Morka, who declined to speak on whether the APC would opt for consensus candidacy, said “It is the figment of the imagination of those peddling the speculation.”

He added, “This has been addressed by the electoral law, which is there for everybody to see. It is a public document that everybody should read. The Electoral Act stipulates three modes for the election of people into public offices. These are direct primaries, indirect and consensus. It is not the creation of APC. That is the law.

“The same Electoral Act mandates that any aspirant who withdraws from a contest must execute the form that you people are talking about. What is complicated about that?”

While noting that the APC cannot ignore or bend the law for any aspirant, the spokesman stressed  that the party is all about ensuring full compliance with the law.

“Contrary to what the media is reporting, nobody is asking the candidates to execute the form now. The only time any aspirant can do that is if they make up their mind to withdraw and in compliance to the Electoral Act required to execute the form,” he said.

In a related development, the serving overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Tunde Bakare, said if elected president he would triple Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product to $1.5 trillion from the current $432.293 billion by 2030.

According to him, this would be achieved by industrialising the country.

 Bakare spoke while declaring his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election under the APC.

He said, “Guided by the N-GDP, we will rebuild Nigeria’s economy around six competitive geoeconomic zones, triple Nigeria’s GDP to $1.5trn by 2030, and industrialise Nigeria around the hub-and-spoke model of industrialisation. This will see the emergence of industrial cities in each geo-economic zone made of several industrial clusters. The industrial clusters will in turn be linked to feeder hubs and enterprise zones in the respective regions.”

Bakare also promised to attract $2trn direct and foreign investment through an aggressive focus on marketing the country’s economy.

He said, “Through an aggressive focus on marketing the Nigerian economy that is based not on commodity prices but our enormous potential, on the viability of the Nigerian Geo-economic Development Plan, andon the integrity and ability of my administration, we will attract $2trn worth of foreign and domestic direct investment to the Nigerian economy in current naira value in less than a decade.“

CNG denies buying form for Jonathan

But another organisation, the Coalition of Northern Groups, in a statement by its Spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, described mischievous, reports that it bought forms for  Jonathan.

He stated, “The attention of the Coalition of Northern Groups has been drawn to a piece of deliberately confusing report that has been trending since early evening of Monday, May 9.

 “We are therefore compelled to make the following clarifications for the benefit of the media and the general public: We have since advanced from being addressed as an obscure Coalition and assumed the status of a proper name having made a mark as the strongest voice in Northern Nigeria.”

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