A move by some governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress to use the platform of the National Executive Council of the party to endorse President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term failed on Tuesday.
The APC NEC is the second highest decision-making body of the party after the national convention.
Signs of what was in the offing became apparent early in the day as some governors known to be close allies of the President extended a campaign they began at an event organised by the Buhari Support Organisation in Abuja on Saturday.
In separate interviews with reporters at the APC National Secretariat, the venue of Tuesday’s NEC meeting, the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Owelle Rochas Okorocha; his Plateau and Kebbi counterparts, Simon Lalong and Atiku Bagudu, respectively said only Buhari had what it would take to fly the party’s flag in 2019.
The governors spoke before the commencement of the NEC meeting. Lalong said all the governors had agreed to work towards the President’s re-election in 2019.
He said, “Concerning the issue of sole ticket for Mr. President, I want to say that if Mr. President is performing, well-respected and carrying everybody along, all of us have resolved that we will work for him.”
He then asked a rhetorical question, “Do we have any other person that will challenge the President again? Whatever you call it, as far as we are concerned, we have one President and that is the ticket we will fly.
“I want to assure you that you won’t see a wrangling party after the meeting. From now onwards, it will be focused governance from Mr. President and all the governors from the states. We have all resolved to support Mr. President.”
His Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu, who was also responding to a question on whether the governors had resolved to give the President an automatic ticket, said, “The performance of the President in the last two and half years suggests that if he wants to contest, l will certainly support him and l know that our party members feel the same about him.”
However, the governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura, expressed a slightly different opinion.
While responding to a similar question, he said, “For anybody to preempt the consensus opinion of the people is to say the least not fair to the vision of our party.
“I can tell you if there is anything that is clandestine, the President will not honour it. So, let’s wait and see as we embark on these meetings.
“I believe the consensus and the preponderance of opinion of all party members will be what is good for this country and we have already known the will of this country, the future of this country as we are now as a country is associated with one person, who is impeccable, who has the greatest amount of integrity that you can find in any human being around; so, your guess is as good as mine.”
Also speaking on the issue, Okorocha, who is also Imo State governor, said only a decision by President Buhari to contest the 2019 election could make him drop his personal presidential ambition.
He said, “If Mr. President wants to run for election, he will follow all the processes and if he is the person, we will all support him. In APC, there is no imposition of candidate.
“If Buhari is running, I will allow that man to continue but if he is not running, I won’t sacrifice my Presidential ambition. Mr. President is showing the right leadership and taking the very right steps and there is reconciliation going on even with nobody talking about it. There is the spirit of reconciliation and people understand their role.
“Our role is to make this party great and we are all trying to do that; but importantly, the governors have remained the pivot upon which this wheel of change has rotated so far. We have kept this party working and after this meeting, our congresses and convention will commence in the early part of next year and all party organs will be strengthened. We are in good mood and high spirits.”
During the meeting proper, one of the party members moved a motion asking that a vote of confidence be passed in the President and that he should be endorsed as the party’s candidate for the forthcoming presidential election.
This however failed to sail through. The party members felt that considering the fact that aggrieved members had yet to be pacified, doing so would escalate tension in the party and adversely affect its chances.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, confirmed this while speaking to newsmen after the NEC meeting.
He explained that the Tuesday’s NEC meeting was not about the 2019 elections but that there was a motion asking that first, a vote of confidence be passed in the President and then he should be endorsed as the party’s candidate for the 2019 election.
Dogara said, “Today’s meeting was not about 2019 elections. When we talk about 2019 in the context of the agenda you saw, we are talking about membership registration, the drive for membership and others. We are not talking about elections.
“Even though there was a motion on the floor that called for a vote of confidence in the President, some of us felt it was not necessary because there is nowhere that his confidence is shaking.
“But the motion was taken and passed. But there was a second leg to that motion which calls for the adoption of the candidature of the President, but it was deferred for now and no decision was taken because that is not the major reason why we are here.”
He further explained that the party had yet to agree on a date for its inaugural bi-annual national convention because details were still being worked out.
The Speaker noted that some of the grievances expressed by party members were normal in every family.
He stressed that there was no family without its internal squabbles; and noted the challenges were being handled and would soon be resolved.
Similarly, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, explained that a member of the party’s NEC made a move for a confidence vote in the President after a briefing by the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, about the activities of his ministry.
Abdullahi said, “One of the NEC members said we should move a motion passing a vote of confidence in Mr. President. There was no formal motion moved on the issue of second term for Mr. President.
“Somebody in the crowd shouted that we should move a motion and we don’t even know that member. But the motion that was formally moved was that NEC should pass a vote of confidence in Mr. President and that was after the brief given by the Minister of Agriculture, especially when he said that by 2018, Nigeria would have no need to import a single grain of rice. That is the context and I need you to understand that very well.”
He added, “The only discussion or conversation on 2019 was the activity of the party in 2018, especially the issue of convention. It was agreed that since we have all these activities lined up, including the mini-convention, congresses and elective convention, a small team be set up to put dates to these party activities up to 2018.
“There was no discussion about election of 2019 or who will be the party flag bearer. The committee will decide when all these activities will take place.”
Abdullahi also said a vote of confidence was passed in the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun National Working Committee of the party.
Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed speculations about an impending cabinet reshuffle and the reconstitution of the boards of federal agencies.
Buhari made his plans public in an address to party leaders during the NEC meeting.
While admitting that the reconstitution of boards had been long in coming, the President explained that the need to ensure the right balance was largely responsible for the delay.
This is coming two years after he took office in 2015. Those familiar with the President’s plan, indicate that the planned cabinet reshuffle is likely to lead to a split of the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Works, Power and Housing.
Observers are of the view that the President’s latest move is aimed at dousing growing tension within the party.
He said, “I am keenly aware that our supporters are very eager for these appointments to be announced. By the Grace of God, these appointments will be announced soon, especially now that the economy is improving; we will have the resources to cater for the appointees.
“By the same token, the compressed Federal Executive Council will be expanded to bring in more supporters at federal level, with fresh ideas to be injected into the government.
“Some of us in this meeting may know I had given instructions since October 2015 for this exercise to start. But there have been inordinate delays through several committees in an attempt to get the balance right and to make sure all parts of the country are equitably represented.”
Buhari claimed his administration had delivered on most of its campaign promises within the last two years.
He said, “We can be proud of our achievements in the last two years: Boko Haram, Niger Delta, regular fuel, improved power, TSA, agriculture and fertiliser; above all, the knowledge that corruption will not be tolerated in this government. We all know there is change.
“In my remarks to the caucus meeting yesterday, I enumerated the progress that our government has made in the implementation of the programmes of government and the party manifesto.
“Nigeria’s prestige has gone up, Nigeria is now creditworthy, a clear testimony of which was the over-subscription of the Euro-Bond by four times. Nevertheless, we are not resting on our achievements; I am quite aware of the challenges before us.”
Although almost all notable party leaders attended the event, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was absent.