After a long drawn campaign, former Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), finally won the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential primary election, where the party’s presidential candidate was chosen by over 7,000 accredited delegates at the Teslim Balogun stadium, Surulere Lagos venue of the convention.
The APC convention which commenced on Wednesday attracted about 7,000 delegates across the country and was monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials, including the National Commissioner, Col. M.A. Amanga, Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, Hussein Pai, Sam Olugbadebo, and Bala Shittu, the Director of Elections and Party Monitoring.
Among the APC national leaders, who came from the six geo-political zones include the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Sokoto State governorship candidate, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Chief Bisi Akande, Prince Tony Momoh, Senator Abba Bukar Ibrahim, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator Adamu Aliero, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Senator Atiku Baguda.
Welcoming the delegates, Kayode Fayemi, chairman of the convention, said the maiden presidential primaries was organised to showcase the difference between the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He described the APC as the product of the first successful merger of opposition parties in the country, adding that it is the first time opposition politicians will fight for federal power at the centre under a united platform.
Fayemi noted that the five aspirants are fit to rule Nigeria, adding that, apart from their competence, they have demonstrated a high degree of loyalty and commitment free and fair primaries.
Noting that the shadow election was a major step towards next year’s elections, he said: “We will move forward from this event to fulfil all other formalities and commence an issue-based campaign of progressive and agenda-setting critiques aimed at rebuilding our land and its people.”
“We will address the moral deficit that has led us to the breakdown of our value system, causing hydra-headed symptoms such as corruption, crass incompetence and ethno-religious bigotry. These maladies have kept our nation under-developed, in spite of our vast resources. We shall reach out to the critical mass of people who believe change is possible. We will move on from here to win the presidential election in 2015.”
The host governor, Fashola, at the opening of the event charged the delegates to vote for the best man for the job, warning against the consequence of missing the opportunity to make the right choice. He said the Jonathan Administration has broken its promises to Nigeria, advising the people to replace the dysfunctional government with a functional administration in 2015.
Oyegun, who described the contest as a historic event, shed light on the party’s manifestos, which encompasses security, good governance, human capital development, social security for the aged, commitment to credible elections and a robust foreign policy. The former Edo State governor said any of the aspirants, who may emerge as the flag bearer, is ready to implement them, if the party wins next year’s elections.
Oyegun added: “Nigeria has suffered a ruinous mismanagement under the PDP. Nigerians are fed up with the PDP and look up to the APC for a new Nigeria of our dream. Change is imminent. I and you can see it and feel it. The five aspirants are competent, but, all of them have resolved to provide the leadership needed by the country.”
The national chairman congratulated the aspirants, urging them to go into the contest, where only one will be elected, but all of them would be winners. He added: “They are winners because they have resolved to support the winner morally and financially. To revive Nigeria, every one of us must be on board. They are winners because they like Nigeria and the party more than their individual aspirations.”
Urging delegates to vote with a sense of responsibility, he added: “Vote in accordance with your conscience, knowing that the votes you cast will change the future of Nigeria, your future and the future of the unborn generation. The PDP has no agenda for Nigeria beyond prolonging its bad rule”.
Elder statesman, Onu, who spoke after Oyegun, said: “History is being made in our great country. For 16 years, only one party has been ruling us. The problem they inherited, they have not resolved them. Nigeria has been suffering. The time for change has come. The APC is the vehicle for that change. With the APC in government, we will secure our country. The six largest producer of oil is importing petroleum resources.
“The difference between the APC and the PDP is the difference between life and death. Nigeria has to make a choice. The time to make a choice has come. The APC controls 14 states, including the two populous states of Kano and Lagos. The PDP is presenting just a candidate. But, in the APC, we believe in the constitution of Nigeria that whosoever believes in contesting for the Presidency should be given the opportunity. As the Chairman of the Presidential Election Committee, I can assure you that the five aspirants are competent people.”
Tambuwal, whose entry into the venue was hailed by delegates, said: “We are set to make history. I thanked the legacy parties for their sacrifices. We are presenting to Nigerians the most credible alternative to what we have in Abuja. The APC is the party for today, the party for tomorrow and the party for the future. I call on Nigerians to vote out the incompetent and malfunctioning administration that we have in Abuja. Today, it is desirable to have a Nigeria we can call our own.
“Some parts of the country are being taken over by the Boko Haram. The APC will arrest the situation immediately we come to office. The greatest challenge before us after the primaries is to win the presidential election. I urge Nigerians to support the APC candidate. We must salvage our democracy and our nation”.
Tinubu said: “A special energy is in the air. We have attended party conventions before, but this is different. We are in a period of compound crises. We are here to pick a candidate that will rescue Nigeria. The voice of change is unique and inspiring. This voice will lead us to victory. It is the voice of the people in the cities, towns and on the farms. It is the voice of the young and the old in the North, South; the voice of Christians and Muslims. It is about the future.
“In this convention, the history of our nation is to be re-written. Giving the challenges facing our county and that our party represents the last chance to avert national failure, we cannot afford to bungle the opportunity. We must rise over personal and parochial interest. The convention will demonstrate that only the APC has shown the capacity to govern the country in the spirit of democracy because it is the party of the time. The APC is the cure. Help is on the way. No more despair. The APC has better manifestos. If we choose well, we will hear the trumpet of victory. Nigeria will change for better. Enough of broken promises.”
Ogbeh, who welcomed Gemade, his political foe in Benue State, to the event, said the delegates are the taproots of democracy in a party that promotes robust debate and dissent. He queried: “Who among us is so blind that cannot see disaster coming? Who is dumb and cannot hear the sounds of bombings. Who is sick in mind that cannot see the crisis of the youth unemployment, the lack of hope and the lack of accommodation?”
He added: “We have become a sad, miserable country. Economic policies have closed the door to growth. We have become a sad, miserable country of importers of tomatoes, pencils and erasers, and toothpicks. Oil is now at 65 per barrel. It is because of the desire to halt these that you are here. Don’t be influenced by anything, except your conscience. Pray before voting and vote wisely. Be prepared for change o come”.
Shortly before the aspirants took turns to address the delegates, their citations were read to the audience by the master of ceremony.
Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the first to address them, urged delegates to vote for him, assuring that he will lead the battle for change and progress.
He described himself as a democrat, a fighter for justice, anti-military crusader and a businessman who has created jobs.
Highlighting the challenges confronting the country, he said: “Nigerians want change because they are fed up with the PDP government; a regime of insecurity; they are tired of unemployment. We are paying for electricity and getting darkness and killing industries. They are tired of the PDP mathematic where 16 are greater than 18 and seven is greater than 18. They are tired of the abuse of power; tired of the siege on the parliament and the tear gassing the Speaker. They are tired of the humiliation of the police and the army that has won laurels in the past and now a huge joke in the beer parlour. They are tired of bad roads, collapsed school system and failure in examinations. I pray that you will give me the opportunity to lead our party to lead the change.”
Delegates cheered Buhari as he proceeded to the podium for his speech, which evoked passion. He presented a humble mien, castigating the tendency to monetise the exercise. The former military Head of State said that he had no dollar to share to delegates. The crowd applauded his frankness and sincerity as they clapped for him.
Urging delegates to vote for a man of integrity, he said: “Change and the hope of Nigerians are with you. We seek a new Nigeria. I place myself before you to elect me as your standard bearer. Personal ambition does not drive me. I have much to offer in this time of multiple crises. I am ready to lead Nigeria.
“I do not have any dollar to give to you to get your votes. The position is not for sale. If I have the dollar, I will not offer it to you.
“Instead of ending problems, the PDP is multiplying the problems. I have led our nation before. To solve our problem, we need a leader who has integrity, strength and abiding commitment to change. I have always tried to place myself to the service of Nigeria. I rely on my army pensions. I have no company that benefits from the government. I am a simple man who wants to serve Nigeria.
“I want to fight corruption. This is not a time for continuity. Failure and incompetence do not deserve continuity, but change. I will honestly govern Nigeria in accordance with the constitution and the rule of law. I will promote tolerance among the ethnic and religious divides. I will have a good foreign policy. I will select the best Nigerians to serve in my government.”
Kwankwaso was hailed by members of his group, the kwankwasiyya as he mounted the rostrum. He described himself as an experienced politician, recalling that he was a civil servant in Kano State for 17 years, member of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker, delegate to the 1994 Constitution Conference, Minister of Defence, Special Envoy to Dafur and performer in office.
The governor, who promised to replicate his achievements in education, health care, and rural development, said he will restore security and fight corruption, if elected as the President.