In what appears to be a move to avert a massive defection of 22 senators elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, called for restraint and continued focus on building the party.
This was as he said the APC leadership would sustain the healing process it started to ensure fairness, justice and oneness before next year’s general elections.
Buhari said this when he met with some concerned lawmakers at his office in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While meeting some of the lawmakers on Tuesday, Buhari assured them that as the leader of the party, he had noted their concerns over the outcome of the just-concluded primaries and the threat to the majority held by the APC in the National Assembly.
The President said, “I have noted your grievances, particularly as it concerns the just-concluded primaries; the cost to the nation, the threat to the majority of positions held by our party in the legislative chambers and likely consequences to the electoral fortunes of the party as we approach the general elections. We must not allow this dire threat to come to pass.
“I must acknowledge that in every contest there must be a level playing field, just as there would be grievances at the end. That is the test of our democratic credentials, systems and practices. I have since the conclusion of the process been inundated with various reports and complaints.
“In keeping with our ethos therefore, I shall continue to address the challenges and grievances through the party machinery while paying keen attention to the outcomes. I urge you and all party members to exercise restraint and continue to demonstrate commitment to the ideals while we continue to build and develop the party and the country.”
Buhari reminded the lawmakers of the “primary primacy of justice” in their actions, saying if justice is denied, its outcome is usually unpleasant.
On the current efforts to address the challenges, he said, “I should add that as part of the policy of using the party machinery for effective resolutions of conflict, the chairman and some members of the National Working Committee visited the National Assembly recently to dialogue with our legislators.
“The leadership of the party is currently addressing the outcomes as part of the way forward. I am encouraging all party functionaries to adhere to the truth and to be fair to all parties in any dispute. This is important because our strength and victory in the election lies in the unity of the party in our ability to prevent or heal any injustice perceived or real.
“Finally, let me assure you that justice shall prevail; aggrieved members shall be assuaged in the interest of the party and the nation shall be protected.”
An aggrieved senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH that, “We told the President about how delegate lists were changed overnight by the governors in connivance with the APC committees that handled the primaries.
“The National Chairman of the party was not at the meeting but the Chief of Staff and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation were present. The President was displeased with the news of the fraud that took place at the primaries and expressed his sympathy about the situation.
“He then promised that he would hold a meeting with the leadership of the party to address our grievances. Specifically, the President assured us that he would ensure that we get justice before the INEC’s September deadline for the submission of candidates.
“We have respected the promise of the President and we believe in his ability to do the right thing.”
Also, the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor-Kalu, who led the delegation to meet with the President, said the meeting was successful and it was centred on preventing mass defection within the party.
He said, “Earlier this afternoon, I led the 22 aggrieved Senators and APC members to the President.
“Our meeting with Mr President was successful and the issue of decamping from our party has been laid to rest.”