By Ola Ajayi
IBADAN—FORMER Interim National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Bisi Akande, has declared that the party’s ticket for the 2019 presidential election remains open to contenders as President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to indicate interest in a second term.
This came as leaders and governors of the party in the South-West zone began strategising on how the party would retain power in the zone.
Chief Akande said this, yesterday, in Ibadan, after the South West leadership rose from a zonal meeting which had governors, ministers and members of the National Assembly in attendance.
Unlike the previous meetings which had a low turnout, the meeting was well attended by party chieftains in the zone.
APC leaders present included Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr Kayode Fayemi and Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu.
Also in attendance were former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba; former Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; former governor of Oyo State, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Lasun Yussuf ; Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila; Senator Sola Adeyeye, APC Deputy National Chairman, Chief Pius Akinyelure, and Prof. Claudius Daramola.
National leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was, however, absent at the meeting due to ill health.
Buhari’s seat vacant—Akande
On the 2019 presidential elections, he said the seat remains vacant to any member of the party.
He said: “President Buhari has not told us that. Anybody in our party is free to become the President of Nigeria. If anyone indicates interest and is ready to subject himself to the process through which a candidate is elected, and he is lucky to have the ticket, then, we will have no other thing to do than to present him as our candidate.”
The former governor of Osun State also said the party did not support restructuring but devolution of power which the federal government has to consider.
According to him, “Restructuring is not our language. Go and ask the advocates of restructuring and they will be able to define it. Ours is devolution of function from the centre to the peripheral governments like the States and the local governments. Restructuring is the language of other body, other group of people. So, go and ask those advocating restructuring to define it whether restructuring in education, economy or whatever. That is not in the APC manifesto or constitution.”
Akande explains Tinubu’s absence
Chief Akande took his time to explain why former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Tinubu was absent at the meeting saying he had fully prepared to be at the meeting but he “suddenly took ill.”
He said: “Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had prepared for this meeting. This morning (yesterday), he had prepared the helicopter line he wanted to use. But, he suddenly took ill.”
Also corroborating Akande’s position, Tinubu’s media aide, Mr Tunde Raheem said the “illness was not a serious one so it shouldn’t be given much concern.”
Let’s reflect on journey so far—Ajimobi
In his opening remarks, Governor Ajimobi said the meeting presented a veritable ground for them to reconnect with their political root and “keep re-engaging ourselves as people whom nature has entrusted with the political leadership of the region at this material time.”
Ajimobi said: “The APC took over power at the federal level, riding on the mantra of change, and we are gradually moving towards the third anniversary of that historical feat. It is only natural for us, particularly in the South-West region, to take time off to reflect on the journey so far and compare what we promised to deliver to our people in the country in general and the South-West Region in particular, with what we have indeed been able to deliver.
“It is imperative for us, as we approach the third year of our tenure at the federal and state levels, to engage in some introspection to identify what could have been done differently, and if necessary, go back to the drawing board to proffer agreeable methods on the way forward, with our people as the ultimate beneficiaries.”
“It is incumbent on us to brainstorm and forge a unity of purpose which will be beneficial to the people who have put us into these leadership positions. Our past leaders, wherever they found themselves, used to exhibit such attributes as vision, determination, selflessness, courage, steadfastness and passion for the emancipation of their people. We must, therefore, renew our resolve to re-enact these qualities in order to bring back the lost glory of our region and reposition it for our people in order that they may enjoy the full benefits of entrusting our party with their destinies.
“Although this is supposed to be a family meeting, it must nevertheless be frank and blunt. Otherwise, if we depart here only laughing and patting ourselves on the back, we may have ended up deceiving ourselves and to that extent, we may simply have gathered here in vain and further dim the hope our people.
“If the truth must be told, we in the South-West need to rediscover ourselves and the common bond that ties us together as a people, and let it work for the development of our people in the region. We must be ready and prepared to sacrifice our self interests and ambitions for the common goals and speak with one voice at all times as we confront the developmental challenges facing the South-West region and our people. It will definitely not be in our overall best interest to work at cross purposes.
“We must reaffirm that the greatness of our region in the past was not just because of our education or infrastructure alone, but primarily because we were known as selfless, forthright, accommodating and, above all, equitable and fair people.”
“If, in the past years, politics had been allowed to take that away from us, we must commit ourselves to bringing back those values and resolve that never again are we going to allow mundane things to rob us of the progressive character and vibrancy for which we were renowned. It should never be about “me” but always about “us” a people.
Concentrate on economy
Ajimobi urged them to concentrate on economy saying “We must take advantage of our vast arable land, logistical position, housing the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria with gateway to the North and the highest concentration of agricultural research institutes in Nigeria. Consequently, we must become the food basket of Nigeria through integrated farming and value addition. In this regard, the completion of Ikere Gorge Dam which has the multi-dimensional benefits to agriculture, water supply and electricity is imperative.
“Our representatives at the National Assembly must be ready to support the region if and when it decides to show interest in who runs the planned concession of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.