Two days after some governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) reportedly expressed their readiness to give an automatic ticket to President Muhammadu Buhari to contest the 2019 election, there was a loud dissenting voice from one of them on Thursday.
Differing with his colleagues, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha said that there would be no automatic ticket for Buhari in 2019 if he decided to re-contest.
Okorocha’s position on the candidacy of Buhari for the 2019 presidential election has reinforced fears that the entire APC structure is not united behind the re-election bid of the president. Okorocha spoke about two months after Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan had made similar remarks regarding Buhari and the 2019 presidential election.
The APC governors who rooted for an automatic ticket for the president in 2019 said he had performed well. The governors spoke on the sidelines of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.
Reports had named Okorocha, Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Simon Lalong of Plateau State as those who endorsed the president for an automatic ticket.
The NEC of the party had deterred an informal motion to endorse the proposal.
But Okorocha told State House correspondents on Thursday that though the president was democratically qualified to re-contest, he (Okorocha) and others would resist an imposition of his candidature on the APC.
Okorocha, who said he was at the villa to see the president on issues bordering on the politics in the southeast zone, pointedly said there was nothing wrong with the calls for the president to seek re-election.
The Imo governor who is also the Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, however, said there would be resistance to any attempt to impose Buhari as the party’s candidate for the 2019 presidential election.
“The gentleman (Buhari) 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 candidates, it must be democratically done. If President Buhari will lead the ship in 2019, it must be democratically done and I say democratically done, transparently to the amazement of the whole world, the way it will take place and the way we do our thing in APC.
“President Buhari is qualified constitutionally to run and the good thing is that he is in good health, stronger than he has ever been. I think the hospital he went to was a mere exercise to strengthen his nerves and bones,” he said.
On his visit, Okorocha said: “I have come to see the president and to discuss politics as it affects the southeast and APC and the way forward, and the politics of APC as it also concerns governance.
“It was a very fruitful meeting. More efforts should be made in the southeast to really let the people understand the APC role in Nigeria and in the southeast.
“The president was quite receptive and was quite happy with the deliberation that we just had upward of 45 minutes.”
On the way forward after the meeting, Okorocha said: “The southeast before now was not majorly in APC but we have worked out strategies and modalities on how to improve relationship between the people of the southeast and APC government.
“That was top on the agenda, and the need for the president to come to the southeast as quickly as possible to begin to show his presence and luckily the president will come to Ebonyi very soon.
“He would pass through Imo State to Anambra State. So, covering three states within this short time is a right step in the right direction because we have come to realise in the southeast that we are better off in APC than any other party.”
On APC’s agenda in the southeast and how to make it stronger in the region, he said “the agenda we have set is making sure that we bring in more people.
“We have more people in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) coming to APC than the number of APC people leaving for PDP. Hardly is there any story of APC people leaving for PDP but we have more PDP coming to APC.
“For instance, Ken Nnamani, Orji Uzor Kalu and a host of them have joined APC. These are some of the strategies in making sure that APC becomes bigger in the states.”
According to the Imo governor, most senators and House of Representatives members have jumped into APC. “Today, we have 24 governors and we are also looking forward to see what happens in Anambra State.
“In fact, our party is much stronger than it has ever been, even before the last election we had in 2015. The relationship now among members and Federal Government is more cordial. So we are happy that we are in the right direction and that there is no qualm for 2019.”
© The Guardian