Breaking: Crisis Looms Ruling Party; As APC Orders Aspirants To Sign ‘Withdrawal Letter

Ahead of next week’s deadline for sale of nomination forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there is growing apprehension in the ruling party over a controversial Form 18 ‘Letter of Withdrawal’ attached to the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms sold to aspirants to fill and submit along with other forms and their credentials.

The withdrawal letter addressed to the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, must also be signed before a Commissioner of Oath/Public Notary before submission.

Tagged Form 18, it states that: “I hereby voluntarily withdraw my candidacy from the contest. My withdrawal is in the best interest of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”

It was gathered, yesterday, that some of the aspirants are not comfortable with appending their signatures to the letter, which they consider a bobby trap to force consensus option on them.

Party sources told The Guardian that about three presidential aspirants from the South have approached their legal teams for interpretation and implication of signing the Withdrawal Form in the presence of a Commissioner of Oath, which makes it legal.

While two aspirants are still waiting for the positions of their legal teams, the other was said to have vowed not to sign such a form and will exclude the controversial Form 18 from other documents to be returned to the National Secretariat of the party for submission.

An aspirant, who has purchased the nomination form, told The Guardian that: “This is the first time we are seeing this kind of form for aspirants and we see it as an attempt to enforce consensus option through the back door. This is unconstitutional.

“Signing that letter means the party leaders can impose any candidate and you will not have any right to challenge them in court. Something is fishy and we must be very careful because there are surreptitious moves not to allow delegates to decide the fate of aspirants.”

Another source said it is only political appointees that could sign such a form, because their appointment is at the mercy of the President or governor, but not an aspirant.

A party source described the withdrawal letter as an indemnity to prevent members from taking legal action against the party.

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Patrick Gongou, advised aspirants to be careful in signing the letter, which he said has grave implications to their aspirations, and to enforce free and fair primary. “This is an attempt to box them into a corner. A political party cannot approbate and reprobate,” he said.

But Barrister Abubakar Sani said the intention of the withdrawal letter may not be as bad as politicians are thinking, adding that it must be tested to see if it either violates the APC Constitution or 2022 Electoral Act or the 1999 Constitution.

He said: “We should not be sentimental about it, a political party is a voluntary association, which you can join or leave at your own volition but it is good to test the withdrawal letter to know if it violates any constitution.”

When contacted last night, the National Secretary of the party, Senator Iyiola Omisore, said filling the controversial form is optional, as the party has not decided on which option to use in picking its candidates.

Explaining why the ruling party inserted a withdrawal sheet for aspirants that procured nomination and expression of interest forms, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Felix Morka, in a chat with The Guardian argued that the measure was in tandem with the party’s constitution and the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.

He explained that aspirants are obliged to fill the withdrawal sheet if they decide to withdraw from the race on their own volition.

“Yes, the sheet is part of the form. Our constitution and the Electoral Act recognised three modes for the election of our candidates – direct, indirect and consensus.

“Now, the aspirants are not required as they complete the form to fill that page. The page is there only for those who make the decision at some point to withdraw from the race.”

More presidential aspirants declared their interests, yesterday, swelling the rank of hopefuls who seek to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari next year.

The governor of Ekiti State and chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, yesterday declared his intention to run for the seat of the President at the Hilton Hotel, Abuja in the company of his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, the state’s APC governorship candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, members of Ekiti House of Assembly and traditional rulers.

Unveiling his agenda for the country, he said: “After careful consideration of where we are as a nation, I believe my entry into the race will offer Nigerians the opportunity to examine competing visions for national rebirth.”

He said: “Dear compatriots, it is in the spirit of this abiding faith in our country and the promise of its unfinished greatness that I stand before you today in total humility and in all sense of responsibility to solemnly declare to all within our party and Nigerians at large my decision to accept my name to be put forward for consideration by the APC leadership and membership as our party’s standard-bearer in the upcoming contest for a successor to our leader, President Buhari.”

The former Minister of Mines and Steel said the decision to run was not one he took lightly but had made several consultations before making his intentions known.

JIGAWA State governor, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, has joined other presidential aspirants to contest for the seat of the number one citizen under the platform of the ruling APC. He has also acquired the N100 million nomination form.

Badaru, during an APC stakeholders meeting held at Government House Dutse, on Tuesday evening, said: “I will join the presidential race since everyone knows I’m a highly qualified person to do the job.”

The Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on New Media, Comrade Auwalu Sankara, said his principal sought President Buhari’s blessings before buying the form.

Sankara, who dropped the hint in a statement issued to journalists in Dutse, yesterday, said: “The governor has agreed to pick the form after series of calls and consultation with critical party stakeholders and political associates.”

Sankara explained that the governor succumbed to pressures mounted on him to come and serve the nation at a higher capacity.

“Governor Badaru has all the capacity and ideas to lead Nigeria to the Promise Land and I am optimistic that if given the mandate he will prove Nigerians right.

“Under his administration, Jigawa is one of the most peaceful states in the country and the most inclusive government as every community out of over 12,000 communities in the state has enjoyed a minimum of one project.”

Similarly, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has declared his intention to run for president on the platform of the APC, promising not to allow Nigeria sink.

He gave this assurance while declaring his intention at Ikot Ekpene Township stadium, Akwa Ibom State, yesterday, adding that if given the opportunity, he would bring restoration, dignity, respect and succour to Nigerians.

According to him, as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, 88 road projects, which would have been abandoned if not for the fear of forensic audit, were completed by contractors, adding that his wealth of experience as governor, senator and minister qualifies him to be president.

“You have heard a lot of declaration but this one is uncommon. It is not only a message of hope, but of positive continuity as the Egyptians you see today, you will see no more. I seek your nomination to become your President come 2023,” he said.

However, a banner captioned ‘Peoples Democratic Party, Akwa Ibom State chapter in support of Akpabio for President’, erected at the venue, attracted a lot of attention and confusion considering that the governor of the state, Udom Emmanuel is also in the presidential race of the opposition PDP.

Reacting swiftly, state Publicity Secretary of PDP, Borono Bassey, described the development as the handiwork of mischief-makers.

“We are moved by sympathy to wonder why Akpabio’s handlers chose a day like this to embarrass their principal by reminding him that any of his political aspirations will amount to nothing if such aspiration does not come on the platform of the only party in Akwa Ibom State, the PDP.

“As a party, we are glad by this overwhelming decision by Chief Akpabio and his handlers to again admit the obvious truth, that without the PDP platform, electoral victories in the state are impossible.”

Former Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, also yesterday joined the stream of Nigerians angling for the exalted seat of the president. Oshiomhole, in a declaratory speech in Abuja, promised to reposition Nigeria on the path of sustainable growth and development.

Promising to create the enabling environment for an egalitarian society, he listed job creation, improved healthcare facilities, security and qualitative education for the citizenry as his agenda if voted into power.

“I think the challenges we face today are very clear to me, having being president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for eight years through a democratic process and I had the opportunity to speak truth to power and to engage power.”

The former labour activist promised to review the tax system, which would compel the rich to pay higher monies required to address the basic needs of the downtrodden in the country.

The Edo-born politician promised to enforce use of textiles and fabrics, tyres and automobiles assembled and manufactured in Nigeria as part of measures aimed at creating employment opportunities for Nigerians.

Reminiscing his stewardship while on the saddle in Edo, he noted: “Let us forget our religious and tribal difference. My presidency would focus on policy issues that would deliver jobs, prosperity for Nigerians. We will deal with the issues of insecurity. I will assemble a cream of left of the centre economists to fix the economy. Together we will create a prosperous and secure Nigeria.”

The quartet of Fayemi, Badaru, Akpabio and Oshiomhole join other APC members already in the race. They include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; and governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.

Others are governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, a former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole; former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; former Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Yakubu Mohammed; Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Ihechukwu Dallas Chima, Usman Iwu, Mr Tein Jack-Rich and Adamu Garba II.

So far, six aspirants, Tinubu, Bello, Umahi, Badaru, Nwajiuba and a female aspirant, Uju Kennedy, have picked the party forms after paying N100 million each.

REACTING, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Tinubu, has described the increasing number of people seeking the party’s presidential ticket as good for democracy. Tinubu spoke on Tuesday night after he met with President Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The APC national leader, it was gathered, met with President Buhari at his official residence in the Villa, to pay him the traditional Sallah homage.

Fielding questions on his opinion about the increasing number of aspirants, especially on the APC platform, Tinubu said the development is in the best interest of the country, adding that it shows that leaders are not abandoning the country.

“The more the merrier. The more they come, the more challenging it becomes for you to think deeply, focus on issues and be ready to serve Nigeria. It’s all about service, it’s nothing else. Think wisely, get committed to your thinking to serve the nation and bring progress and prosperity to the lives of Nigerians.

“It’s good for the country for so many of us to aspire to want to lead, we’re not abandoning our nation. But there’s only one chair and one possibility,” he said.

On fears in some quarters about the unity of the APC, Tinubu noted with confidence that the party would remain intact and united after its presidential primary, pointing out that President Buhari had shown that he is in support of a transparent democratic process.

“We are sure that we will remain united. You know our symbol is the broom, you don’t break it as you go. Nigeria requires commitment, a uniform system and a stable country and that is the only way we can be very proud of Nigeria.”

 

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