Ahead of the February 25 presidential election, the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council is planning an alliance with smaller parties in a bid to boost the chances of its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The PUNCH gathered that the PCC and the party had been making overtures to the parties to adopt Tinubu as their standard bearer.
Findings indicated the APC governors and Tinubu met on Monday night following fears expressed by some members on the need to address inadequacies in the party’s presidential campaign.
It was learnt that APC Presidential Campaign Council, comprising governors and the candidate, was of the view that the alliance with other parties would assist the party in getting the highest number of votes and the required national spread in the presidential poll.
A member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Senator Adesoji Akanbi confirmed to The PUNCH on Tuesday that the APC was looking beyond the Peoples Democratic Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party and the Labour Party, noting that deals could be reached with the smaller parties to adopt Tinubu.
Recall that Tinubu had been wooing the Peoples Democratic Party G-5 governors comprising Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Samuel Ortom (Benue); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu).
But despite holding several meetings with them, the PDP governors have failed to endorse the ex-Lagos State governor amid the threat of sanctions by their party.
Also, the apathy exhibited by many APC chieftains, former presidential aspirants and ministers to Tinubu’s ambition which was reflected in their refusal to participate in his campaigns, is also reportedly causing apprehension in the ruling party.
But in a move to rejig his campaigns and bolster his prospect, the presidential candidate held a meeting with some APC governors in Abuja on Tuesday.
Speaking about their plan to prevail on several parties to adopt the APC standard bearer, Akanbi, a member of the Election Planning and Monitoring Committee of the APC-PPC and its coordinator in the South-West, said the negotiations were already ongoing in Oyo State, urging APC leaders in other states to adopt the strategy.
The former lawmaker, who is also the Chairman, Strategy and Policy, Tinubu-Shettima Independent Campaign Council said, “We are reaching out to Accord (Party) members, Social Democratic Party and other political parties to vote for Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the presidential election.”
“Seeking defectors (to the APC) is too late now; that will not work, that is like time-wasting. That can happen voluntarily. What we are selling to them is the product – Bola Ahmed Tinubu – for president.
“They should come out and support him for this reason and that reason so that they can have a president that can deliver.’’
‘States adopting approach’
“We are encouraging all our members and stakeholders in other states to take that approach and I am sure they are doing it. It was my personal idea from Day One, immediately after the primaries and I have sold the idea to the party generally and most states are adopting it. Politics is local,’’ he concluded.
A spokesman for the PCC and Minister of Labour and Employment, Fetus Keyamo when contacted said, “it’s a welcome development. In politics, you need as many people as you can get. As many political parties and candidates that have seen the light and are ready to team up with Asiwaju, we welcome them on board. It is an extremely welcome development.”
The factional National Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Alpha Mohammed, disclosed that the party would welcome an alliance with the APC.
Mohammed said the SDP had done an assessment and discovered that the presidential candidate of the APC is the best.
He said, “Soon, our party is considering an alliance with Tinubu because we have found him to be the most successful candidate. Look at all the revelations he did in the Chatham House meeting; he built a modern state that is capable of standing as a country of its own. Nobody has contradicted that. We all know what he had done in Lagos.
“We need a man with an idea that can transform a nation, using economic resources – generating resources. Revenue generating strategy, nobody is better in terms of generating resources than Tinubu. We have made an assessment and we found out that the best is him.”
Explaining why his faction may not support the SDP presidential candidate, Mohammed added, “Where we find an SDP candidate who is promising, we will support him. But when we see that the candidate is just there for election purposes, please don’t waste your political capital on such a person.
“Of course, we are promoting Tinubu. You know SDP is factionalised. I told you, as a faction, it is incumbent on us to look around and see which of the candidates will move Nigeria further than the other.
“If the SDP presidential candidate from the other side is the best, of course, we will support him. In some states, we have supported other people who are SDP and they have won. For instance in Niger State, we won a local government and the person did not contest under my own party.”
However, the SDP National Publicity Secretary, Rufus Aiyenigba, denied any deal with the APC or any other political party.
Aiyenigba, who noted that the party’s presidential candidate, Adewole Adebayo, had gone too far to contemplate treading such a path, said the SDP remained the only party with a genuine plan to reposition the country.
“No, it is not true. I am not saying that other parties cannot do it but not the SDP. As we speak, our candidate is going for the election and we are mobilising across the nation. As we speak, he is in Kano. Tomorrow (today), our team will be in Bayelsa and we flag off in Ogun State on Saturday. We are not having any alliance with any party, individual or group.
“No party in the country is passionate about the need to birth a new Nigeria like the SDP. How can a party with the most robust blueprint think of an alliance in which it is not the principal partner? No deal, I repeat,” he said.
Parties, candidates kick
The presidential candidate of the African Action Alliance, Omoyele Sowore and National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Oye also ruled out any possibility of working with the APC candidate.
Sowore stated, “No, and I think we’ve made it clear we had the first political alliance in this election cycle with the PRP-Vanguard. We have no ideological similarities with the rogue party you mentioned.”
Also speaking, the National Chairman of the Accord Party, Muhammad Nalado, said there was no negotiation with the APC or any political party at the moment.
He stated, “We cannot doubt them because we are not in APC. But at the moment, we have not discussed or sat with any political party to talk about mergers or alliances or whatever.
‘’Up till now, our presidential candidate is in the pursuit of his goal to be the president of Nigeria and we have already formed our campaign council, and we are going on with our campaign. So, there is no negotiation yet.
‘’I cannot rule out negotiation but at the moment, as l am talking to you, we have never discussed it, in our sitting or with any other political party.”
Meanwhile, the APC standard bearer has met with governors elected on the platform of the party in Abuja.
Our correspondent gathered that the meeting, which began on Monday night and ended in the early hours of Tuesday, was held at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
The meeting had in attendance the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong; Governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi) and Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa states.
Others were the Deputy DG (Operations) of the campaign council, Adams Oshiomhole, Deputy DG (Administration), Hadiza Bala-Usman and the PCC Secretary, James Faleke, among others.
The PUNCH gathered that the meeting which was called to review the activities of the presidential campaign council identified adequate funding as an important factor that should be addressed in the few weeks leading to the election.
A credible party source told one of our correspondents in confidence that changes in the funding pattern of the campaigns were discussed.
According to him, “We are entering the final stage of the campaign which calls for more robust funding. This is the time for mobilisation of all registered and genuine support groups going round the country to mobilise Nigerians for our candidate and his running mate.
‘’They need to travel more than before because the candidate intends to cover all states of the federation and he is to be joined by the party faithful including some of these support groups.
“More supporters are joining the Tinubu/Shettima campaign train daily. The financial implication of all this is left to the imagination,” he said.
The PUNCH also gathered that the absence of some key chieftains from the campaign rallies was also a concern during the meeting.
Notable among those who have refused to campaign for Tinubu is the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who recently caused a stir in the party.
Speaking on January 3 in his hometown Alor, in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, the minister said, “I don’t think I will go around campaigning for candidate A or B or C. I won’t do that. It is not my stock in trade. I don’t jump from party to party. But besides, I have some conscience and I am going to protect my conscience and make sure that I don’t hurt it.”
Apart from Ngige, The PUNCH’s investigation revealed that the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, former Minister of State (Education), Emeka Nwajiuba, ex-Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and other chieftains have been staying away from the campaign activities of the party.
A source said, “This is not really a problem, but it was agreed that as party leaders, it sends the right message if we are all present to always lend support to the party.
‘’Yes, this may not be possible all the time due to unforeseen circumstances. Generally, all party leaders and stakeholders were enjoined to stand by the party and identify with its programmes.”
Asked whether the party would adopt fresh strategies in the last stages of the campaigns, the senior party official said, “The APC runs the best campaign. Wherever we go, the reception is always out of this world. But we agree with ourselves that it can always get better.
‘’What is important is the commitment of the candidate to deliver on his promises. Unlike other candidates who have nothing to offer, Nigerians know the Jagaban. His history of success as a twice-elected governor of Lagos state is not debatable. His commitment to the well-being of Nigerians is evident in what God has used him to do for many years now. So, we shall go to the remaining states with renewed energy as we have always done.”
When contacted for details of Tinubu’s meeting with the governors, the Director of Media of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga said it was not for public consumption.
“Yes, our candidate met with the APC governors. It was a meeting to review campaign activities but that is all. I can’t say more than that because it is not for public consumption,” he said.
In a related development, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday in Yobe state canvassed for votes for the APC candidate so that he (Tinubu) can continue his legacy.
Buhari spoke at the Damaturu Township stadium during the APC campaign rally where he told the people of Yobe to vote for the former Governor of Lagos State to continue the work of rebuilding Nigeria he started over seven years ago.
In a statement signed by Tinubu’s media aide, Tunde Rahman, Buhari was quoted to have said, “I accompany Asiwaju here to tell you to vote for him so that he can continue with my legacy of rebuilding Nigeria.”