The 25 presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress are awaiting the return of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), from Equatorial Guinea today (Saturday) for direction on the party’s primary.
It was also learnt that there was anxiety among the aspirants over alleged plans to impose former President Goodluck Jonathan as the candidate of the party.
A Federal High Court in Bayelsa State had on Friday ruled that Jonathan was eligible to contest the 2023 presidential election.
Justice Isa Dashen delivered the judgment in a suit marked FHC/YNG/CS/86/2022.
He also held that Jonathan’s right to vie for the office of president again could not be stopped by any retroactive law.
The suit was filed by Andy Solomon and Idibiye Abraham, and listed Jonathan, the APC and INEC as first, second, and third defendants, respectively.
Delivering judgment on the matter, Justice Dashen dismissed the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs and held that the swearing in of Jonathan as acting President on May 6, 2010, after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, was a constitutional provision.
According to him, the 2007 general elections produced Yar’Adua as president and not Jonathan. The judge stressed that Section 137 of the Constitution could not have a retroactive effect to stop him from contesting the forthcoming presidential poll.
Dashen ruled that there was no presidential election conducted in the country in 2010 and Jonathan could not be deemed to have been sworn into the office of the President that year.
The judgment, it was learnt, had begun to unsettle the other 25 aspirants of the APC.
The worry was compounded by the fact that the President’s influential nephew, Mamman Daura; and the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had both visited Jonathan at home. The PUNCH had also reported the Presidency cabal led by Daura had endorsed Jonathan.
Some of the major presidential aspirants in the APC are Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; immediate past Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio; ex-Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu; Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Governor Yahaha Bello of Kogi State; Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; and the immediate past Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba.
Others are former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Senator Ajayi Boroffice; oil mogul, Tein Jack-Rich; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State; and influential Pastor Tunde Bakare.
It was learnt that the aspirants had not been contacted by the party’s presidential screening committee and had all been left in the dark on the primary.
“Only the APC chairman and Buhari know what is happening. They have been holding private meetings at the President’s residence. Even the National Working Committee members have no clue on what is happening,” said a chieftain of the party.
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH, Osinbajo’s campaigner, Mr Kayode Ajulo, said those promoting Jonathan should note that the court case was not over until it had been decided by the Supreme Court.
“Vice-President Osinbajo is confident of victory. In any case, those pushing Jonathan should know that a legal matter is never settled until it has been decided by the Supreme Court,” Ajulo stated.
The Director of Media of Tinubu’s campaign train, Bayo Onanuga, dismissed as “rumour”, the scheme to impose Jonathan.
“I believe it is a rumour. The primary is just a few days away,” Onanuga said.
But the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 said any attempt to impose Jonathan could hurt the APC.
The National Secretary of SWAGA, Mr Bosun Oladele, stated that a consensus candidate would not be easy to force, adding that Tinubu would win as long as the primary was free and fair.
“Don’t forget that when we talk of consensus, the law is very clear. For there to be consensus, all the candidates must agree. What the governors are doing in the states cannot happen at the presidential primary,” he said.
Senator Boroffice said there was no way Jonathan would be imposed on the party.
He said the APC had many shining stars and it would be absurd to impose an outsider on the party.
An associate of Fayemi also said there was no basis for bringing the former President to the APC.
Reacting on Amaechi’s behalf, the Rivers APC spokesman, Chris Finebone, said the party was free to grant waivers to anyone.