The governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have said that they would abide by the party’s constitution in choosing a candidate for the 2019 presidential election, adding that no discussion has been held on an automatic ticket for President Muhammadu Buhari.
This was the outcome of the meeting of the governors of the party and its national executive held at the APC national secretariat in Abuja Wednesday.
Although the party’s constitution is silent on the issue of an automatic ticket for the incumbent president, the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and his predecessor, Chief Bisi Akande, have held divergent views on the matter.
While Akande had said last week in Ibadan at the end of a South-west caucus meeting of the party that the presidential ticket of the APC was open to all interested members desirous of throwing their hats into the ring, Oyegun disagreed, saying that Buhari has the right of first refusal.
To qualify to contest for the presidential ticket of the ruling party, the APC constitution stipulates that any financially up-to-date member of the party is free to contest for elective office.
When asked whether the meeting deliberated on the decision of the South-west caucus to throw the contest open to party members from any part of the country, the governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, who spoke to newsmen after Wednesday’s meeting, said the party would stick to its constitution.
The Bauchi governor said: “This meeting has not deliberated on the issue of an automatic ticket, but the APC has a constitution and that is one of the items that was discussed, on the amendment of the constitution of the APC to ensure that the constitution of the APC is in line with democratic principles, and we will abide by the provisions of our constitution.”
Also, defending Buhari’s directive to the World Bank to concentrate on development projects in Northern Nigeria, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said that the president was given an overwhelming endorsement on the issue.
“You will recall that a few days ago, there was an issue in the media that President Buhari had asked the World Bank to focus attention on the Northern part of Nigeria.
“The issue came up for discussion and the entire meeting threw its weight behind Mr. President’s position and we will like to clarify in addition to everything that has been said that the import of Mr. President’s statement to the World Bank was in recognition of the particular devastation that Boko Haram has caused in the North-east of Nigeria.
“Therefore, when Mr. President was asking the World Bank to focus attention on the development of the North-east, he had in mind the necessary reconstruction that needs to happen in that part of the country, especially in the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa axis that has suffered specifically because of Boko Haram activities.
“It was not a statement meant to bifurcate the country or give special preference to any section of the country against the other. So the APC throws its weight completely behind Mr. President’s decision and we believe that as long as the North-east of Nigeria continues to suffer the devastation that it has suffered, and continues to represent a very dark spot in human development indices for Nigeria, there is a need to direct special attention to that part of the country,” he said.
On why most governors from the South-west were absent from the meeting, the Bauchi governor said: “There was no communication gap. Two deputy governors (from the South-west) sent word that their flights were cancelled because of weather problems.
“The same thing applied to the governor of Sokoto State who sent word that his flight was cancelled due to difficulty with the weather.
“So there’s no communication gap whatsoever. In the past, the governors have been attending. Governors are very busy people and it is always very difficult for us to have time to be on the field in addition to running our states.”
The Bauchi governor also said the meeting received the report of the Committee on True Federalism from the chairman of the committee, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, stating that only the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party could decide how to disseminate the outcome of the public hearing held by the committee.