President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday had harsh words for those who defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). They are selfish and weakest members who could not align with the vision of his administration, he said.
Buhari spoke at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday while accepting the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms to contest the 2019 presidential election on APC’s platform.
The APC had earlier pegged its presidential nomination fee at N55 million but later reduced it to N45 million.
The form was bought and presented to the President by a political group – the Nigerian Consolidation Ambassadors Network (NCAN).
In July, the ruling party suffered a gale of defections involving three governors and dozens of federal lawmakers, including Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The governors are: Samuel Ortom (Benue), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara).
President Buhari, who was referring to the defections that engulfed the party in recent times, said those who left the party could not place national interest above their selfish interests in – line with the objectives of his administration.
The President, who highlighted the achievements of his administration in the past three years, said corruption had been fighting back from both within and outside the administration.
He said: “These achievements over the past three years had not been easy. Corruption has been fighting back from both within and outside but we held our ground.
“Today, I’m pleased to say the weakest amongst us, those whose selfish expectations did not align with our patriotic zeal, have exited our party.
“We are now a party of strong and patriotic individuals who are ready, willing and able to continue on this journey of building, secured, self- sufficient and corruption-free Nigeria.
“I am honoured today to receive this nomination form which your members from all over the country contributed to buy.
“It is a gesture from an association of patriotic Nigerians, which I was made to believe comprises over three million members which believed in our principle of bringing positive things to Nigeria,’’ he said.
Buhari, who expressed gratitude for being honoured by the NCAN, said that his vision to rescue the nation began in 2002.
Reliving his political history, he said his decision to contest for the presidential seat in 2007, was informed by the nation’s hopeless state in 2006.
He said the selfish interest of elected leaders superseded national interest.
President Buhari, however, condemned the way and manner the 2007 general election was handled, saying the result was a disgrace to the nation.
He thanked the leadership and members of NCAN, who contributed their resources to buy the Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms.
He listed his achievements to include completed rail project and new ones under construction, government support for farmers, including the rehabilitation of fertiliser plants, introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which he said has reduced stealing in public service as well as provision of jobs and cash for the most vulnerable Nigerians.
In his opening remarks, NCAN’s Deputy Chairman Chuckwuemeka Nwajiuba said the group that bought the Expression of Interest Form for the President was made up of three million Nigerians, some of who contributed as little as N68 to purchase the form after “a triple A assessment of the performance of President Buhari.”
He stated that the group was convinced to buy the form because of the President’s commitments to the fight against corruption, the fight against terrorism and the rejuvenation of the economy.
The Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mr Rotimi Ameachi confirmed that hundreds of thousands of Nigerians pool resources for Buhari’s nomination form.
Amaechi, who is also Transportation minister, spoke to State House correspondents shortly after the forms were presented to Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
The minister said the gesture showed that the APC was ready for the 2019 election.
He said: “This is a group of persons; some people paid less than N1 million; some paid N50, 000; it is a group of hundreds of thousands of people that came together to buy form for the president.
“I do not see any law we have broken by that. Not one person bought the form for Mr President; not one person brought the money; not two persons; not three; what we saw from their database is hundreds of thousands of persons that raised the money.
“You can see the huge delegation that came; it is an indication that we are prepared for the election. The President has put the first step forward to show that he wants to run for the second time for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’’
APC’s National Secretary Mai Mala Buni said even in advanced democracies, once the National Executive Committee (NEC) of a party passed a vote of confidence on the president, nobody would contest with him.
According to Buni, NEC is the highest organ of the party to take decisions where every interest is represented.
“Buni said: “So, NEC of APC has passed vote of confidence on Mr President; that means every APC member endorsed Mr President.
“It is a democracy, we are not saying nobody should come out and contest but the President has right of first refusal.’’
NCAN’s Board of Trustees Chairman Farouk Aliyu told reporters in an interview that the forms were purchased with contributions from across the country.
He said the group was excited that Buhari accepted the forms, adding that members would go back to their localities and work towards Buhari’s re-election.
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