Uncertainty trailing conduct of the special convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to nominate its presidential candidate for the 2023 general election is giving party members anxious moments as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deadline draws nearer.
There are strong indications that the party may further alter the convention date, which is originally scheduled for May 29 to 30, reports The Guardian.
This came to the fore as the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) is yet to constitute convention planning committees as at 5p.m. yesterday, as it was the case, in both 2014 and 2018 where Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State headed both conventions that produced President Buhari as the party’s candidate.
Also, about 72 hours to the exercise, the ruling party is yet to screen its presidential aspirants, who have purchased and returned their expression of interest and nomination forms.
The development may not be unconnected with the party’s inability to settle for either the direct, indirect or consensus modes of selecting its standard bearer.
As at Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari, members of the Governor Atiku Bagudu-led Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and the NWC have yet to come up with a definite position on how to resolve the issue relating to the selection of a presidential candidate.
Besides, the decision by the party to reschedule the conduct of its governorship, House of Assemblies, Senate and House of Representatives primaries between Thursday and Saturday after several postponements may have been responsible for the delay.
President Buhari had, earlier in the week, met behind closed door with APC governors, National Assembly leadership and the party’s NWC to arrive at a decision concerning the primary. While details of the meeting remained sketchy, it was hinted that the meeting dwelt on exploring the possibility for a consensus presidential candidate for the party before the date for screening would be fixed.
But since then, the screening has remained a subject of speculation with pundits insinuating plans to have aspirants withdraw from the race for the yet-to-be known consensus candidate.
Another possible reason for not reaching a decision on the screening, according to observers, is to have the exercise close to the day of primary to constrain aggrieved aspirants from seeking redress.
The emergence of Adamu as APC Chairman from the North-Central had given the indication that the presidency would go to the south. However, recent permutations in the party showed that if the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nominates a presidential candidate from the North, APC would follow suit not to compromise the huge voting population from the region.
An official of the party, who preferred anonymity, admitted that as things stand, the conduct of the convention is not feasible for Sunday, unlike before, when the facility (Eagle Square) would have been made ready a week to the event.
“It is obvious that the convention can’t hold on Sunday as planned. Who knows it might be on Monday or Tuesday. The most important thing is to meet the June 3 INEC deadline,” he said.
The absence of relevant stands, banners and structures at the Eagle Square venue of the convention as at Thursday further reinforces the fear that the event may suffer some rescheduling.
When our correspondent visited the venue, there were no activities, save for the presence of a few policemen on patrol duty, just as the party’s national secretariat has been deserted by officials who had been deployed to the 36 states of the federation to oversee the conduct of the primaries for other offices.
Stakeholders have decried the lethargic attitude of the NWC to the conduct of the convention. Convener of APC Rebirth Group, Aliyu Audu, said there was nothing on ground to suggest that the party would live up to its promise to hold the convention on Sunday.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu Support Group (AATSG), Sampson Atasia Oburo, expressed surprise that with less than 48 hours to the convention, the outcome of the screening of presidential aspirants has not been known.
“It is extremely important to restore confidence of the electorate in the party because Nigerians are fast losing hope in our ability to lead the country with the way we are bungling these primaries.”
Effort to reach the National Publicity Secretary, Mr Felix Morka, on the state of the party’s preparedness for the convention failed as he did not answer phone calls put to him yesterday.
However, Mr Liberty Badmus, an official of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, expressed optimism that both the screening of presidential aspirants and the convention would hold as scheduled.
He said: “Screening can still happen 24 hours to the primary. No worries whatsoever. You will see activities at the Eagle Square from Saturday.”
Also, an official of the Governor Yahaya Bello campaign organisation, Mr Yemi Kolapo, explained that the delay in preparations for the convention was strategic.
This is coming as President Buhari, yesterday, held a meeting with Osinbajo shortly before he departed for the African Union (AU) meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
While there isn’t yet official information on what was discussed during the meeting, it was gathered that it focused on the forthcoming presidential primary. According to sources, the President is expected back in the country on Saturday.