The All Progressives Congress has come out with its strongest position yet on the controversy generated by the clamour by some party members for an automatic ticket for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
In separate media interviews in Abuja, on Thursday, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, and the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, said neither the President nor any member of the party would be given an automatic ticket.
Abdullahi, who was responding to a question on whether President Muhammadu Buhari would be given an automatic ticket to contest the next elections, said the party’s constitution did not have provisions for such.
He noted that as a law-abiding party, the APC would abide by its own rules as enshrined in its constitution when dealing with the issue of nominations.
The party spokesman further argued that Buhari had not indicated interest in seeking re-election, stressing that the talks about his second tenure was, at best, “presumptuous.”
“What I can assure you is that the APC will abide by the APC Constitution on such matters and our constitution does not provide for automatic ticket, our constitution does not provide for the right for first refusal. So, our party will abide by the constitution.
“We have looked at what our President has done and as a party we are happy with his achievements; if he comes up today to say he wants to contest, we will support him but to begin to throw things like automatic ticket, right of first refusal, they don’t exist in our constitution.”
Speaking in a similar vein, Okorocha on Thursday said there would be no automatic ticket for President Muhammadu Buhari to seek re-election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
Okorocha, who is also the governor of Imo State, said all candidates on the party’s platform must emerge through transparent democratic process.
The governor made his position known in an interview with State House correspondents after a meeting he had with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said although the President was qualified and healthy enough to seek re-election, due process must be followed.
He said the ruling party would not encourage imposition of candidates.
“The gentleman (the President) is looking much more handsome than even before he went to hospital; he is looking stronger and so, he has every right and qualification to re-contest, there is nothing wrong at all.
“But, we don’t allow imposition of candidate. It must be democratically done.
“If President Buhari will lead the ship in 2019, it must be democratically done, and I said, democratically done, transparently (done) to the amazement of the whole world, the way we do our things in APC and people will be happy.”
The party stalwarts made the statements three days after some governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress had tried to use the platform of the National Executive Council of the party to seek the endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term. The move, however, failed.
The PUNCH reported on Tuesday that the governors began the campaign for the endorsement of Buhari before the commencement of the NEC meeting. The Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, set the ball rolling by saying that all the governors had agreed to work towards the President’s re-election in 2019.
He was quoted as saying, “Concerning the issue of sole ticket for Mr. President, I want to say that if Mr. President is performing, well respected and carrying everybody along, all of us have resolved that we will work for him.
“Do we have any other person that will challenge the President again? Whatever you call it, as far as we are concerned, we have one President and that is the ticket we will fly.”
Similarly, his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu, had said, “The performance of the President in the last two and half years suggests that if he wants to contest, l will certainly support him and l know that our party members feel the same about him.”
As the meeting commenced, one of the party members had moved a motion asking that a vote of confidence be passed in the President and that he should be endorsed as the party’s candidate for the forthcoming elections.
Meanwhile, in order to increase the fortunes of the APC in the South-East, Okorocha said on Thursday that Buhari would soon visit states in the region to shore up the population of party members.
He disclosed that the President’s trip would soon start from Ebonyi State.
“The South-East before now was not measuring up to standard in the APC but we have worked out strategies and modalities on how to improve relationship between the people of the South-East and the APC government.
“That was top on the agenda and the need for Mr. President to come to the South-East as quickly as possible to begin to show his presence. Luckily, the President will be coming to Ebonyi State very soon and he will pass through Imo State to Anambra State.
“So, covering three states within this short time will be the right step in the right direction because we have come to realise in the South-East that we are better off in APC than any other party in the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the governor said.