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There were strong indications on Wednesday that the All Progressives Congress national officials were divided over a plan by the President, Major General Muhammadu (retd.), to pick his preferred presidential candidate for the party, The PUNCH reports.

Earlier on Wednesday, the APC National Vice Chairman (North-West), Mallam Salihu Lukman, in an open letter to Buhari, warned that picking a successor would be costly and risky for the President and the party.

But two members of the party’s National Working Committee – the Deputy National Secretary, Festus Fuanter, and the National Legal Adviser, Ahmed El-Marzuq, in separate interviews with The PUNCH disagreed with Lukman.

Also, feelers from a meeting of the APC governors’ meeting on Tuesday night indicated that the governors could not agree on a consensus and the fact that the President should pick the party’s presidential candidate.

It was also learnt that the committee, which screened the party’s presidential aspirants, would submit its report to the National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, on Thursday (today).

Buhari, in an interview with Channels Television in January, said he had a favourite candidate, whom he said he would keep to himself.

On Tuesday, the President, who explained the qualities his successor must possess, sought the backing of the APC governors in picking the party’s presidential candidate.

“I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023,” the President urged the governors.

But Lukman, in his letter to Buhari, warned that it would be highly risky to adopt the same succession framework of poor relations between predecessors and successor governors, which was largely a product of poorly imposed political succession arrangement in the country.

He stated;

The temptation for leaders to choose their successors is democratically risky and very costly. If in 2013/2014, Your Excellency could submit yourself to the internal democratic process, it is important that your successor also follows the same process.

“Notwithstanding, however, there is the overriding requirement to appeal to you to kindly resist the temptation. I would have wished we had enough time for open debate within our party. Unfortunately, as things are, we have less than one week to settle this matter.

“Like in the case of December 10, 2014, the APC National Convention, everything will be done at this year’s APC National Convention to guarantee a level-playing field for all aspiring presidential candidates of our party. Any recommendation to the contrary will be inimical and injurious to the electoral fortunes of our great party, APC.”

According to him, a major disadvantage of the succession arrangement with governors choosing their successors is that it negatively affects the relationship between the successor and the predecessor.

Lukman recalled the unfortunate third-term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and how it eventually eroded all his achievements as a leader, warning that it was necessary to caution against any transition initiative that risked being unpopular.

He stated that any initiative that potentially took away the rights of party members to elect candidates would potentially mobilise Nigerians against the party and rubbish Mr President.

But the APC Deputy National Secretary, Festus Fuanter, in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos, said the National Vice Chairman of the party in the North-West spoke for himself when he said that the President should not choose his successor.

Further said:

And I don’t think that an opinion expressed by a member of the NWC should translate to a position of the National Working Committee members . For me , that should not be taken as the position of the APC National Working Committee members because it is not.”

On his part, the party’s National Legal Adviser, Ahmed El-Marzuq, insisted on Wednesday that the President never said he would choose his successor.

His terse SMS on the inquiry on the issue read, “He never decided to pick a successor. Please read his speech very well.”

But part of Buhari’s speech at his meeting with the governors indicated that he wanted to pick his successor as he stated, “I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor.”

The National Chairman, South-West, Isaac Kekemeke, when contacted told one of our correspondents that he did not want to be drawn into a controversy over the plan by Buhari to pick his successor.

“I don’t want to comment on the statement authored by Adamu,” he stated.

It was, however, learnt the APC National Chairman, at the party’s NWC meeting on Wednesday, apologised over the allegation of not carrying others along in his decision-making.

The PUNCH reported on May 28 how a fresh leadership crisis was brewing in the party following the accusation by Lukman and Kekemeke that Adamu had failed repeatedly to carry members along in decision-making.

When our correspondent reached out to some of the NWC members, Kekemeke confirmed the report, saying they had resolved their differences.

The PUNCH gathered that the governors’ meeting on Tuesday night was inconclusive as they could not agree on whether he should pick his successor.

Efforts to speak to the Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, through his mobile line and seek his personal view on the issue proved futile, as calls to the line did not go through.

Also, he had yet to respond to a text message sent to him on the issue as of the time of sending this report.

But speaking to one of our correspondents, Special Adviser to the governor on Political Affairs, Sunday Akere, said those who obtained the form should be allowed to participate in the primary.

Akere, who declared that going for consensus might not work, also said those that had been screened should be allowed to express their democratic rights.

Those who have collected forms and had been screened should be allowed to participate in the primary,” he added.

An aide to Abdullahi Ganduje, the Kano State Governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity told The PUNCH in a telephone interview that the governor was ready to support Buhari to pick the APC presidential candidate because all the qualities that were outlined by the President were in favour of Tinubu.

He said if Buhari failed to get the support of other APC governors, Ganduje would advise the President to allow all the aspirants to test their popularity at the primary.

An APC presidential aspirant, Emeka Nwajiuba, told The PUNCH that Buhari would not impose any candidate.

He stated;

“The President said, ‘Support me to choose my successor,’ not that he said he was going to impose a candidate.”

The Patron, Tinubu Support Organisation in Ekiti State, Dr Adebayo Orire, said it would be catastrophic for the APC to pick the wrong candidate, especially against the backdrop of the strong candidate fielded by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

Orire said:

“The President has the privilege, not the right to appoint a successor. The delegates have the right to choose the person they feel is right as a candidate. But if the party fields a wrong candidate, it will be very catastrophic for the party and the nation”.

The TSO leader said former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, remained the best candidate that could emerge in the APC “because he is the most popular, most politically grounded, a founding member of the party and he has been helping the party and government till today.

A group rooting for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s presidential bid, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation, said that the President, having consulted with the governors and planned meetings with stakeholders on the choice of the APC presidential candidate, was not out to impose anybody on the party.

OGO State Leader in Ekiti State, Femi Adeleye, who said that a consensus option was supported by the Electoral Act, said that the Osinbajo group and indeed the South-West subscribed to consensus, saying, “For consensus, if those who are contesting can agree, the law backs it up. Whatever the President does, we abide by it. Whatever the party does, we abide by it.

“In our group, and even in the South-West, we want consensus. Our aspirant has said that we are not averse to choosing somebody. We will support the party. Our aspirant has said it before that in the South-West, we should be able to have a consensus.”

Meanwhile, a former Minister of Science and Technology and aspirant of the APC, Ogbonnaya Onu, on Wednesday said Nigeria must strive to be self-reliant to overcome economic woes, promising to create jobs and end poverty.

Onu who stated this through the Edo State Coordinator of the Onu Campaign Organisation, Salisu Momoh, in Benin while wooing the APC delegates ahead of the party’s presidential primary, said he was ready to put the country on the path of prosperity if given his party’s ticket at the shadow election.

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