Leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the South-West, on Friday, cautioned presidential aspirants from the zone to guard against their utterances.
It was gathered that the meeting, which was held behind closed doors at the Lagos House, Marina, also resolved that name calling and other personal attacks should not be encouraged by the aspirants and their supporters.
It was learnt that the aspirants were asked to work with whomever among them emerges as the party’s candidate for the presidential election.
According to sources, the leaders also impressed the aspirants to ensure that the South-West does not lose the opportunity to produce the President in 2023.
A source at the meeting said, “The issue of betrayal was put to rest as the elders affirmed that everyone who desired to run for any political office whatsoever was not encumbered in any way at all.”
It was gathered that the meeting did not agree on the issue of consensus.
A source, who was at the meeting, said the issue was also not listed as part of its agenda, but that it was stylishly introduced by one of the leaders.
He said one of the speakers asked if the aspirants from the zone could still step down for one another if they realised that the zone would be defeated at the party’s presidential primary slated for the end of the month.
But he said none of the aspirants in attendance responded as they were not ready to step down for the other.
The source stated, “How do you ask someone who has paid N100m to step down? Step down for who? All the aspirants believe that they are popular and can win.
“Funnily enough, the issue of consensus was not listed in the agenda of the meeting. It was also not part of the text messages sent to us for the meeting. The meeting was majorly concerned about the utterances that are already portraying us as being divided and that the zone is behaving as if we have no leaders.
“Yet, there are concerns that the large number of aspirants could put the zone in danger if we go into the primary like that. But nobody was asked to step down for the other.”
The meeting was convened by the former interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, and a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba.
Present at the meeting were the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and the Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Also at the meeting were the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo; governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun and Oyetola of Osun states.
Others include the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the APC National Secretary, Otunba Iyiola Omisore; a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Moses Adeyemo; and a former National Vice Chairman of the APC, South-West Zone, Chief Pius Akinyelure.
However, two presidential aspirants from the South-West, Pastor Tunde Bakare, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; and the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, Ajayi Boroffice, who have all purchased forms, were absent at the meeting.
While commending Osinbajo, who is the highest ranking public officer from the region, for a job well done, sources said the APC elders stated that all the aspirants had the right to aspire to be the President, but enjoined them to exhibit the ‘Omoluabi’ ethos in their politicking by shunning divisive rhetoric.
While stating that consultation with them would be continuous, the meeting advised the aspirants to queue behind whoever among them eventually emerges as the party’s candidate, stating that the cohesion of the South-West must be sacrosanct.
Akande said the presidential aspirants were united that the presidency should come to the South-West region.
He stated, “We the APC are united and we will ensure that the presidency comes to our region, the South-West. We had a fruitful discussion at the meeting today (Friday).
“We had a fruitful discussion. We also resolved that everybody should maintain absolute decorum because we are united.”
Impeccable sources at the meeting told Saturday PUNCH that Aregbesola pointedly refused to shake Omisore’s hand or sit next to him and Oyetola.
“Aregbesola was expected to sit down next to Omisore and Oyetola, but he refused to associate with them, deciding instead to sit far off. Attempts by the elders to make Aregbesola change his mind proved abortive as he said he didn’t want to be associated with Omisore,” one of the sources said.
At the meeting, Akande called on all aspirants and governors to ensure that they carry on with their campaigns with decorum.
The APC chieftain was said to have called on them to put the interest of the South-West first and ensure that they would not lose the ticket at the primary, which comes up at the end of the month.
A source said, “Baba Akande said it is better for one of us to have the Presidency than for none of us to have it. He said we should carry on our campaigns with decorum. The ultimate goal is to have a small number of aspirants through consensus. However, this will be discussed in subsequent meetings.
“Everything was done to ensure that the impression was not given that Baba Akande was supporting anyone. They also will encourage consensus among all aspirants in order to strengthen the unity of the Yoruba,” he said.
When asked why Bakare, Bankole and Boroffice were not invited, he said, “A list was given to Niyi Adebayo to invite people. I think all these people you mentioned had not yet declared as of the time this meeting was put together.”
More southern presidential aspirants emerge
Meanwhile, the surge in the number of southerners declaring for the presidency on the platform of the APC continued on Friday as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, and three others picked the N100m expression of interest and nomination forms.
Others who also picked the forms on Friday were the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu; a former Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, who declared his interest in Abuja on Thursday; the senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District, Ajayi Boroffice; and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole.
A former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Yerima, who is from the North, also declared his interest to contest the seat on Friday.
This brought the number of aspirants, who have collected forms in the party to about 15, while those who have declared interest stood at about 30, comprising 25 southerners and five northerners.
A group reportedly picked the forms for Emefiele after months of speculation as to his interest in the plum job.
This comes barely three days to the deadline for obtaining forms and one week to the screening of the aspirants by the party. The APC fixed Tuesday as the last day for the submission of completed forms and accompanying documents, while the screening will hold on Saturday, May 14, 2022. The Independent National Electoral Commission had fixed June 3 as the deadline for parties to hold their primaries.
Amid calls for the South to produce the next President after the eight-year regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said last week that the party had yet to take a decision on where the presidential ticket would be zoned to.
However, the Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the Southern States Governors’ Forum, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), had in a statement on Tuesday asked the party to make a pronouncement on “this very important issue” without delay.
Checks by Saturday PUNCH indicated that there were eight aspirants from South-East, nine from the South-West, seven from the South-South and four from the North.
In the South-East, those who have shown interest in the race are Senator Rochas Okorocha; Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Onu; Pastor Nicholas Felix; Senator Orji Kalu and Ms Uju Ohanenye.
In the South-West, those who have shown interest are Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Amosun; Boroffice; Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim; Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Citadel Global Community Church and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole;
In the South-South, the list includes Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole; Yakubu Mohammed; businessman, Tien Jack-Rich; and Ibinabo Dokubo.
In the North, the aspirants are Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; his counterpart in Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru; Yerima; Adamu Garba and a businessman, Dr Ibrahim Bello Dauda.