The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to be in a dilemma over how to reward federal lawmakers who stood by the party during the gale of defections to opposition parties some months ago.
This was reflected in the statement by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State on Friday. He said the party has yet to resolve the issue of disqualification of aspirants to pave way for the “loyal” lawmakers.
He said the party has instead given assurances to the governors that no one will be given automatic ticket to run in the 2019 election,
Mr El-Rufai stated this Friday while speaking with State House correspondents shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some governors elected under the APC met with the president on Thursday in his office to discuss the problems they are facing in their states regarding the controversies.
Chairman of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), and Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, told the correspondents after the meeting that they went to see Mr Buhari to “review the various crises characterising our primaries especially the APC with a view to finding solution.”
Mr Okorocha led eight of his colleagues to meet with the president.
Following the meeting, the PGF even raised a memo to their colleagues telling them of the “resolution” reached with Mr Buhari.
The memo signed by the Director-General of PGF, Salihu Lukman, told APC governors that they had agreed with the president that “all those who file their nomination forms for various positions in the party should be allowed to participate in the primaries. This means there will be no automatic ticket.”
The Kaduna governor said “some elements” within the APC chose to tamper with the list of aspirants earlier screened and approved by the committees set up for the purpose.
“There are rumours that some people have been granted automatic tickets but by yesterday when the representatives of the Progressive Governors Forum met with Mr President and National chairman, we thought that this rumour of automatic ticket which has no place in our constitution and any enlightened democracy had been resolved .
“But up to the time I left Kaduna this morning and came to see the president, we did not receive the list of those that will contest the legislative elections,” he said.
The Kaduna governor said he also received a fresh list of those cleared to run in his state, but that “it seems to me there are still exclusions.”
Mr El-Rufai said the APC in Kaduna does not practice imposition of candidates and no one is forced to step down for others.
“We believe in elections and we like people to subject themselves to full democratic process. In some states, you have one list from the governor, we don’t have any list. We gave everyone a level playing ground as subject to meeting the requirements of the party, everyone is allowed to contest and may the best man win,” he said.
Mr El-Rufai also said Mr Buhari is in support of the position taken by the governors on the matter.
He said the president, being a democrat, will never encourage emergence of candidates without election.
“He has never supported imposition and he has never asked anyone to grant anybody automatic tickets.
“The position was restated yesterday to the Progressive Governors Forum and he told me this and said he will take necessary steps to communicate this very clearly to the party leadership,” Mr El-Rufai said.
Why I Oppose Shehu Sani
Mr El-Rufai also gave reasons why he does not support the re-election bid of current senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani.
He said it is up to the delegates in APC from the district to vote for Mr Sani or for other candidates, adding that what democracy requires is that every person should be given a chance to contest.
Expressing reasons for refusing to support Mr Sani, the governor said the senator has worked against the interest of the people of Kaduna State.
He said it is time for the senator “to explain why he did what he did and ask the delegates to vote for him. But to avoid facing the consequences of your actions by getting what is called automatic ticket is a recipe to losing the election to other parties”.
He said it is now left for the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of the party to “do the right thing” and allow the constitution of the APC to be complied with by conducting primaries.
The governor said Mr Sani was largely responsible for Kaduna State losing a N100 billion loan from the World Bank at one per cent interest payable over 50 years.
He said he planned to use the money to build schools and hospitals.
“Everyone in Kaduna knows this and many people are predictably angry. It’s an act of sabotage. It’s time for him to go and explain why he did what he did, if his actions are justified I am sure the delegates will vote for him,” he said.
He said Mr Sani has lost popularity because of his decision on the loan and challenged him to a popularity contest to prove his assertion.
“Shehu Sani cannot even campaign in the market square in Kaduna Central Market. I challenge him let’s go to Kaduna Central Market and let’s see who will come out unscathed.
“It is a well known fact that he had done this and many people are angry. Like I said, he has his reasons which he can justify to those voting in the election. All we ask for is a free and fair contest. We are not going to manipulate any process . Lets have all those that are qualified to contest for democratic competition,” he said.
Hours after the governor’s statement, however, the APC spokesperson, Yekini Nabena, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr Sani was still the only cleared candidate for the seat.