There may be no going back on transparent and democratic primaries for the choice of governorship candidates by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo and Ondo states, it was learnt yesterday.
At a meeting with nine APC governors, National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu said democratic primary as a core element of internal democracy should not be jettisoned.
A source at the meeting held at the State House, Marina, Lagos, said Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, emphasised the importance of primary to democracy, admonishing party leaders to safeguard it in the preparation for the choice of standard bearers.
The Progressives Governors’s Forum, led by Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, unfolded plans last week to mount pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to support their push for right of first refusal to two of their colleagues, Ondo State Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, for the governorship.
The polls will hold in Edo in September and Ondo in October. No fewer than 10 chieftains are competing for the ticket in Ondo APC with Akeredolu, who is seeking a second term.
In Edo, other contenders have stepped down for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is challenging Obaseki at the shadow poll. The Edo governor is also seeking re-election.
Last week, National Working Committee (NWC) announced that direct primary will be adopted for the Edo APC shadow poll.
At yesterday’s two-hour parley, the following nine governors were in attendance.
Bagudu, Obaseki, Akeredolu, Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Mai Buni(Yobe), Adegboyega Oyetola(Osun), Abubakar Bello(Niger) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), who was the host.
According to the source, Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma could not make it due to undisclosed reasons.
The governors, who appeared to be in one accord, wanted the party to be fair to their two colleagues, who they said, should not be muscled out.Specifically, the governors wanted Tinubu to prevail on the party leadership to give Obaseki the right of first refusal, the source said.
However, Tinubu went to the meeting with the position that it is better, more democratic, constitutionally right and politically defensible that all aspirants should go for primaries to test their popularity, adding that, through that free and fair selection process, the ruling party will successfully build a strong democratic culture.
A highlight of the meeting was the peer review by the Progressive Governors with Sanwo-Olu on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governors, who said they were impressed by the steps taken by Lagos State, showered praises on Incident Commander, Sanwo-Olu.
They also said what they learnt from the Lagos experience would influence their strategies to combat the dreaded pestilence in their respective states.
Tinubu, the source said, urged the governors to support the guidelines released by the NWC, maintaining that they are in the interest of the party.
Although some of the governors revisited the acrimony and controversy generated by the contrasting perspectives on the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole leadership, which they acknowledged as a battle within battles, Tinubu pointed out that it was normal in political life.
Besides, according to the source, the party stalwart counselled that since the conflict had been resolved, stakeholders should put the past behind them and forge ahead in harmony.
The source said Asiwaju Tinubu reiterated his belief in fairness to the incumbent governors and other interested governorship aspirants in the two states.
The source added: “Asiwaju also said he believed in the direct primary. His argument was that the direct primary will boost the confidence of the flag bearer as he prepares for the main governorship election.”
“Asiwaju Tinubu may have intervened in this sensitive nomination matter with a benefit of hindsight because as he rightly pointed out, direct primary produced Oyetola as Osun APC candidate and Babajide Sanwo-Olu as flag bearer in Lagos State.
“Besides, I think Asiwaju Tinubu is of the opinion that where there are more than one contender, primary should be adopted to foster equity, fairness and justice.”
After the meeting, Sanwo-Olu took the governors to see the photo exhibition of his activities in the last one year.