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Buhari, Atiku, others battle for APC presidential ticket

Atiku and Buhari

The race for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress climaxed early Thursday morning with none of the five aspirants   heeding entreaties by the national leadership of the party to have a consensus candidate.
Findings showed that several meetings by the leadership of the party failed to yield a consensus candidate as each aspirant expressed   readiness to go the whole hog.
It was reliably gathered that an attempt by the party’s leaders to get the Imo State Governor,   Rochas Okorocha, to step down was turned down.
The arrival of the aspirants- Maj. Gen. Mahuammadu Buhari, Rochas Okorocha,   Rabiu Kwankwaso,     Atiku Abubakar, and Sam Ndah Isaiah – elicited cheers from their delegates.
A former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu; ex-Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande,     governors Rotimi Amaech (Rivers), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Abiola Ajimobi(Oyo), Babatunde Fashola(Lagos), Ibikunle Amosun(Ogun), Ahmed Abdulfatah (Kwara), Rauf Aregbesola(Osun), Kashim Shettima(Borno), Umar Al-Makura, Aliu Wamako, Ibrahim Geidam were all seated at the VIP section of the stadium when the aspirants started arriving,
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; a former Governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki; ex-Governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige; former Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Masari, and ex-               Zamfara State, Sani Yerima, were part of the dignitaries in attendance.
Voting however started at about 3am on Thursday(today), hours after 7,214 delegates from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory had been accredited at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.
As of 4.39am, only Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi and Borno states had voted.
The PUNCH had gathered that about 12 APC governors   threw their weight behind Buhari, a former head of state.
One of our correspondents   learnt from the media aides of three of the governors that they resolved to support the former head of state on Tuesday night.
A top source, who was present at the meeting where the agreement by the 12 governors to support Buhari took place, said he was willing to bet his N10m car that Buhari would win.
He said, “All the governors have decided that Buhari is the man for the job. And we have agreed that this project is too big for us to destroy now.
“Even the PDP are afraid of Buhari. I can bet on my car that Buhari will win.”
Earlier on Wednesday, an online news portal, Saharareporters said in its report that   Okorocha, Kwankwaso and Nda-Isaiah   withdrew from the race and backed Buhari.
Before voting started, the National Convention Committee Chairman, Kayode Fayemi, described the special convention of the Peoples Democratic Party   as   a coronation and not a convention.
He said among all the political parties in the country, only the APC was holding an open and transparent presidential primary.
Fayemi, a former governor of Ekiti State, said, “You can see that our primary is very transparent and is offering every aspirant a level playing field unlike the PDP which is holding a coronation.
“Theirs is just an event to put a crown on Jonathan and that is not a convention.”
Fayemi said the country was on the verge of history with the APC ensuring that its presidential ticket was free to all its members interested in participating in the race.
He thanked the party for the confidence reposed in the committee and added that any of the aspirants had the ability to lead the country.
“All the aspirants have agreed to unite and cooperate with anyone who emerges as the presidential candidate of the party. This is commendable,” Fayemi said.
He added that the party’s manifesto would be unveiled after the emergence of the presidential candidate.
The Deputy Chairman of the committee, Kawu Baraje, who spoke with delegates of each of the aspirants, assured them of a level playing field.
He said each of the aspirants would have 12 delegates to monitor the primary.
The   National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed,   expressed the hope that the primary would be a success.
“This is the moment Nigerians have been waiting for. We have 8,000 delegates participating,” he said.
When asked how many delegates were   from each state, Mohammed said he did not have the number.
Meanwhile, an investigation showed that delegates from the South-West will vote for Buhari.
It was gathered that the leadership of the party is favourably disposed to a Buhari presidential ticket as a result of the influence Tinubu wields in the region.
Although Tinubu, a staunch supporter of Buhari, has kept silent on his choice, sources within his political family said the former Lagos State governor has worked tirelessly for Buhari to emerge as APC presidential candidate.
A source revealed that there was intense horse-trading at the venue for the vice-presidential ticket of the party.
Fayemi, Fashola, and a former Governor of Ekiti, Adebayo Adeniyi, were said to be in the race for the vice-presidential ticket.
Tinubu, who is the APC national leader and Fashola were said to have been   ruled out of the vice-presidential race by their religion.
It is widely believed that the battle for the presidential ticket is among Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso, who are all Muslims.
A Muslim-Muslim ticket is seen as not generally saleable to Nigerians.
*Governors in solidarity walk
In what appears to be a demonstration of oneness, Governors Amaechi, Ajimobi, Oshiomhole, Fashola, Ahmed and Aregbesola took a walk on the tartan tracks of   the stadium.
The walk elicited shouts among the crowd, who waved brooms painted in APC green, white and blue colours.
A delegate said, “You can see that the governors are in one accord. They have control of their delegates.
“The delegates from each state are all going to vote for the choice of their governors and the choice of the governors are obvious.”
Tinubu, and an ex- National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande,   sat side by side at the VIP section of the stadium.
Fashola   Kazeem Shettima (Borno); and   Tanko Al-Makura(Nasarawa)   arrived at the venue almost the same time and made straight for the VIP section of the stadium.
A delegate from one of the South-West states, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the contest was between   Buhari and   Abubakar, a former vice-president.
“Buhari is the preferred candidate but Atiku is pulling financial muscle,” the source said.
Before the accreditation started, the delegates were thrilled by Abolore Akande (aka 9ice), who   a few hours sent a petition to the national leadership of the APC over the conduct of the House of Representatives primary in Ogbomoso North-South Constituency, which he lost on Sunday.
He performed his biggest hits like   Gongo Aso, Street credibility, No be Mistake, Gbamu gbamu. He was joined on the stage by   Tony Tetuila, SeyI Law   and Desmond Elliot, who doubled as co- Masters of Ceremonies.
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