The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, yesterday met with eight governors of the party over the impending governorship primaries for Edo and Ondo States, promising to prevail on the party’s national leadership to ensure a fair process.
The governors, who represented their colleagues on the party’s platform were the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Senator Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Alhaji Sani Bello (Niger), Muhammad Abubakar (Jigawa), Mr.
Solomon Lalong (Plateau), Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Mr. Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and their host, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Sources close to the meeting held at the Old Lagos Government House, Marina, Lagos said the governors discussed the primaries for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States and proposed to grant the incumbents, Obaseki and Akeredolu, the right of first refusal.
But Tinubu was said to have responded that ordinarily, he would not have been opposed to that. However, he reportedly pointed out to them that once other party members indicate interest, the democratic thing to do in the circumstances would be to allow the primaries to hold.
He reportedly told them it would be difficult to hold down the ambition of other party faithful, advising them to come to terms with the possibility of intra-party contests in the two states.
The sources close to the meeting said there were discussions around the mode of primaries with the governors favouring the indirect process. But the national leader was said to have told them to recognise the constitutional right of the National Working Committee (NWC) to organise the primaries, stating firmly that he personally had always preferred the direct mode of selecting the party’s candidates.
Citing the presidential primaries that produced President Muhammadu Buhari as well as Oyetola in Osun and Sanwo-Olu in Lagos, Tinubu reportedly said the direct primaries give the candidates and the party the opportunity to test their electoral machinery and popularity, saying once a candidate emerges through that process, the general election becomes much easier.
He, however, assured them that whichever one the national secretariat of the party approves, he would prevail on the leadership to ensure that the process is free and fair to all the aspirants.
The governors were said to have thanked the national leader for granting them an audience and for assuring them of the fairness of the process of the primaries to be held this month in Edo and next month in Ondo.
THISDAY gathered that the governors may meet with President Buhari today or later in the week at the Presidential Villa in Abuja to discuss the Edo and Ondo elections.
Both Obaseki and Akeredolu are having strong opposition in their respective states and preferred the indirect primaries mode because of the distinctive advantage, it has for the incumbent. But their opponents preferred the direct primaries, a preference that also has the approval of the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC, at least for the Edo contest.
Analysts Criticise State Executives for Breach of Travel Ban
Meanwhile governors that attended the meeting came under searing criticism of social critics yesterday, saying they did not lead by example.
President Muhammadu Buhari had imposed an inter-state travel ban in March as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, save for movement of essential services and goods.
However, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum had complained to the president during their teleconference with him last month that security agencies were sabotaging the inter-state travel ban, forcing the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to hand down a stern directive to the agencies to buckle up and enforce the presidential directive.
According to a critic, “It is unfortunate that these governors who were complaining about the citizens’ breach of the rule are the ones now attending meetings in Lagos.”
Another critic called on the president to query the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, for granting their plane the permit to fly, saying that it was a breach of presidential directive.
“There was nothing essential about that meeting,” he said, adding: “It is embarrassing that governors and other officials of the ruling All Progressives Congress are the ones behaving as if they are above the law.”
He pointed out that a few weeks ago the National Working Committee of the party also met in Abuja with its officials travelling from all regions of the country to attend.
“This lawlessness at the high levels of government is shameful and the president must call his party men to order,” he said.