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Published On: Thu, Nov 30th, 2017

2019: APGA may adopt Buhari

By Obinna Ezugwu

President Muhammadu Buhari

The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is considering endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) for second term ahead of the 2019 general election Business Hallmark has learnt.

The party believes that the level playing field the president provided during the recently concluded governorship election in Anambra State proves he is a sincere and patriotic leader.

Reliable sources within the party who spoke to our reporters on the condition of anonymity because according to them, they have not been permitted to speak on the issue, said the Governor Willie Obiano led party which fortnight ago on November 18, retained power in the state, has been weighing its options for 2019, but has now largely decided in favour of endorsing Buhari.

The party’s decision in this regard, the sources said, was informed on it not having the national reach and the necessary resources to be able to field a presidential candidate of its own and Buhari being the most viable alternative in view of the issues of local politics in Anambra.

“As you know, APGA does not have the national reach to prosecute presidential election successfully,” a source said. “And yes, we are happy with the way Buhari handled Anambra election. So, endorsing him would not be a bad idea.”

Since its formation in 2003, the only time APGA fielded a presidential candidate was in that year’s presidential election when it had the late Biafra leader, Chief Emeka Ojukwu as its candidate. Ojukwu would eventually come third in the election with 3.3 percent of the total votes cast, behind the eventual winner and then president, Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Muhammadu Buhari of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) who came second.

From that period onwards, the party had consistently endorsed a candidate of the PDP for president, a decision many say had been strategic in ensuring that the party is allowed to retain Anambra.

In 2011, then APGA governor of Anambra, Mr. Peter Obi gave an unwavering support to Goodluck Jonathan in that year’s presidential election, which meant that in 2013 when the state held its governorship election, Jonathan and the PDP largely worked against the party’s candidate, Dr Tony Nwoye and instead supported the APGA candidate, now governor, Obiano.

Later in 2015, APGA largely endorsed the PDP presidential candidate, Jonathan who by the way, was very popular in Anambra and indeed the South East.

Jonathan eventually lost in 2015 as Buhari and the APC took power. To make matters worse, Obi who had fallen out with Governor Obiano had joined the PDP which meant that Obiano conversely largely switched allegiance to Buhari.

Upon the declaration of Buhari as winner of the presidential election in 2015, Obiano led a large delegation of state officials to congratulate him and promise to work with him.

“Obiano has a lot of respect for Buhari,” another party source said. “That is given. As for endorsement, I cannot say categorically for now, but it is likely.”

Many Nigerians were amused few months ago when Obiano visited the Presidential Villa and had to remove his cap in an excessive show of respect and loyalty to President Buhari. The governor did win himself more than a few critics for his actions, but it would matter little to him.

In the run up to the recently concluded governorship election in Anambra in which the governor won a second term, Obi had aggressively worked to ensure that the he was eased out of office, renewing what has been a long standing rift between the two.

Now a member of the PDP, the former governor fronted candidate Oseloka Obaze, promising to do whatever he could to ensure that the PDP won.

As it turned out, Obiano was able to retain power. And while Obi’s actions may have served to create further animosity, not just between him and Obiano, but between the PDP and APGA, the relationship between the latter and the Buhari led APC federal government appears to be improving.

Various chieftains of APGA have taken time to commend the president over his handling of the polls and he has equally reciprocated by congratulating Obiano and APGA for their success.

Last week, APGA’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Ifeatu Obi-Okoye in an interview with journalists in Awka, attributed the successful conduct of the election to the his (Buhari’s) quest to build enduring institutions.

He noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could not have recorded such improved performance if not for the free hand given to it by him.

“I must commend the Police, Army, NSCDC and other security agencies for the role they played in the conduct of the election,’’ he said.

“Even Obiano should not take glory for last Saturday’s election victory because the two major determinants of who wins or loses an electoral contest are INEC and the security agencies if they are allowed to do their jobs freely.”

Also speaking to TVC news in Awka, former chairman of the party and the Director General of the Obiano campaign organisation, Victor Umeh, thanked Buhari for APGA’s victory, noting that the free and fair electoral process could be attributed to the president who he said, allowed democracy to take its course without interfering in the process.

Similarly, Reverend Austin Ehiemere, the Abia State chairman of the party told Business Hallmark that the President deserved praise for providing level playing field for all candidates.

“Before this time, I had congratulated the federal government under the leadership of President Buhari for providing level playing field for all parties. He has shown that he really wants to correct the errors of the past,” he said.

“I also appreciate the security forces, they displayed professionalism and dispelled fears of them collaborating with INEC and electoral robbers to rig election.

“I equally appreciate INEC for remaining an unbiased umpire throughout the process. With the way they conducted the Anambra election, they have restored the hope of the masses in the electoral process.”

Asked however, whether he could confirm the plans by APGA to endorse Buhari, he denied awareness, insisting that he had not been given the permission to speak on the matter.

“I’m not aware of this, and I have not been authorised to make any comment in that regard,” he noted.

Toeing similar line, a chieftain of the party and former governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Bob Okechukwu Okoroji said it was untrue that APGA had plans to endorse Buhari.

He maintained that the party had decided in favour of fielding a presidential candidate in 2019 and would no longer play second fiddle to anyone.

“It is not possible because the leadership of the party has decided that it has to present a candidate for the next election in 2019. APGA is going to present a presidential candidate, we are not going to play second fiddle to anybody. I am saying this authoritatively,” said.

Okoroji described Obiano’s victory as a victory for Ndigbo and for democracy, while observing that APGA’s membership is fast growing.

“It’s a victory for democracy; it is a victory for Ndigbo, and for Anambra people. It is a victory for those who have in the past been marginalised and left without a voice; it is a victory for the South East because APGA is going to take over the South East in the next election, that I can tell you.

“Already, signals are coming from Imo, from Abia and Ebonyi; from even the South South. APGA is the only party without blemish and people are joining in droves; people are defecting from APC, PDP in Imo and Abia to join the party. In fact, some former members of the National Assembly have joined because they have come to the realisation that neither APC nor PDP has what it takes.

“APC is becoming steadily unpopular and PDP is hemorrhaging, in fact it is almost a dead party,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, President Buhari had commended the people of Anambra State, the governorship candidates, INEC, election observers as well as security agencies for the peaceful conduct of the November 18 election in the state.

He noted that the peaceful conduct of the election was indicative of the face that electoral reforms being embarked upon by his government is working.

“The processes leading to the election and its peaceful conduct and outcome, have shown that our electoral reform is bearing positive fruits. This is very encouraging and I am determined to give Nigeria free and fair elections, no matter which way the results swing,” he said.

Buhari further expressed happiness with the conduct of the candidates’ post-election results, describing it as “heart-warming and a renewal of confidence in the sanctity of the ballot which deepens our nation’s democracy.”

He however, urged INEC to improve on areas of logistics as the nation braces for coming governorship elections and the main general elections in 2019.

Congratulating Governor Obiano on his victory, the president urged him to rededicate himself to building on his achievements that endeared him to the people and made them vote massively for him.

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