President Muhammadu Buhari's announcement to run for re-election yesterday may end up making him the sole candidate of the ruling APC, top party sources hinted yesterday.
President Buhari revealed his intention to run again at the closed-door meeting of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC).
He said he wanted to seek re-election in response to the clamour by Nigerians for him to do so.
He also told the party's NEC that he wanted to give them the honour to notify them first, of his second term ambition.
The president had previously declined to say whether or not he would run for re-election. His response or that of his aides had always been that to do so would disrupt the polity.
Presidential spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, last month told State House correspondents that it was too early for Buhari to declare his intention for the 2019 presidential poll.
Adesina had, at that time, said that any declaration by the president one year to the elections, would give the opposition one year to sabotage Nigeria politically, socially and economically.
Buhari announced his second term bid in the presence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, APC Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun and the National Working Committee of the party as well as governors and state chairmen of the party.
There would be primaries- Sources
But credible sources within the APC said the declaration by Buhari would not foreclose the chances of those with presidential ambition within the family to test their popularity.
One of the sources said this would however "seal the lips of sceptics and naysayers who would cash on Buhari's absence in the coming days as he embarked on a trip to London to cause confusion in the APC and the polity."
According to him, "We know there are jokers within our fold; we know there are some that would be supported to cause confusion by contesting but we are not bothered. Buhari would definitely defeat any other fellow to pick the APC presidential ticket," he said.
Another source said, "Definitely there would be presidential primary but we expect that those that mean well for Nigeria, the serious contenders would not overstretch their energy. Anyone with future presidential ambition will not contest against Buhari because the poor would mark him down.
"The serious contenders would not contest against the president; so we expect that the primary in line with the party's constitution would be an easy task for us to return Buhari as president; just like what transpired in 2014," he said.
Speaking on whether yesterday's NEC meeting had laid to rest agitations and threats by some people to leave the party, the source said, "We really came out stronger. It is a win-win situation because the president had succeeded in achieving two things. Number one, he has allowed everyone in the last three weeks, especially those who felt used and dumped to ventilate their anger and secondly, he allowed everyone to display his political sagacity but ultimately it was the party that won.
"Now that he said we should go for election, it means everyone would test his popularity and the most popular ones would have the day as party leaders; nobody would accuse Buhari of taking sides. Of course we know there are some that would leave the party; they are on their own because right from the onset, they never allowed their soul to be in the party and we are not bothered about them. APC is very strong and it will cruise to victory at all levels. Ultimately Buhari has won the conscience of all well -meaning democrats," he added.
He has put off tension in APC, others - Nat. Sec
The National Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Maimala Buni said the declaration by President Buhari to run for a second term was an answer to the numerous calls by Nigerians cutting across all political parties agitating for his reelection.
"This is a clear indication of President Buhari's commitment to selfless service to Nigeria and zeal to serve Nigerians. We in the APC are very happy that the president has heeded to this patriotic call by Nigerians to seek another term of office.
"The president's second term will consolidate the gains achieved and would lead to new projects and programmes that will improve the lives of Nigerians.
"With Buhari's second tenure, there is great hope in execution of the Mambilla electric project, expanded food production for self-sufficiency, export and employment opportunities, road construction, enhanced security, economic growth and national development," he said.
Its internal affairs of APC - PDP
The PDP has described the declaration as internal affair of the APC.
The party in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said the declaration had placed Buhari among the ranks of aspirants seeking to be the president of Nigeria in the 2019 general polls.
"Until he becomes the candidate of the APC, we will not spend precious time on his mere show of interest," the PDP said.
How Oyegun, others got waivers
The Chief John-Odigie Oyegun led NWC have received a waiver to seek re-election.
Speaking at the APC NEC meeting, President Buhari thanked members of the Technical Committee for a job well done within a limited time frame, which laid to rest the protracted tussle surrounding tenure elongation for party leaders.
He said: "It shows the essence of commitment and the ideals of our party with a view to consolidating the party to continue to provide good governance in the overall interest of Nigerians.
"Considering that politics is a game of numbers, we must not be a house divided against itself and must try to appreciate and accommodate our differences as far as the law permits.
"Having seen the report, my position is to ensure that the party tows the part of unity, legality, cohesion and not that of division.
"I also believe that the current executives should be free to run for elective position in the party if they so wish and permitted by our party constitution.
"However, considering the provision of Article 30 Section 1 and Subsection 3 of our party constitution which requires any serving officer desirous of seeking re-election to resign from office 30 days before the election, I'm not sure of the practicality of the present serving officers' ability to meet this condition.
"Accordingly, the party may consider granting waivers to party executives at all levels so that they are not disenfranchised in participating in the elections provided this does not violate our rights or our rules," Buhari said.
Everybody's interest respected
Speaking to newsmen after the meeting, Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau, whose 10-member committee advised the APC on how to overcome its troubles said their recommendations had been accepted by all party leaders, including Buhari. ´´Everybody´s interest was considered in the report and it was a unanimous vote and adoption of the recommendations that were made.
´´The president felt so happy and excited because of this unity in the party; he has now considered and also accepted the appeal by several members of the society, party and everybody that he will re-contest the 2019 election."
Lalong had among others things recommended that the party immediately announce 21- Day notice ahead of congresses and convention; that those who took the party to court over tenure elongation should withdraw the cases; that the current template of allocation of party offices to zones be maintained; and that in the event other unforeseen issues cropped up, the Feb. 27 decision of NEC should be considered.
Yesterday's NEC meeting was the third since Feb. 27, when the tenure extension of the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) was approved. But, at another NEC meeting on March 27, Buhari opposed the one-year extension decision, saying it was illegal and unconstitutional.
Buhari's declaration throws challenge to APC supporters - Shettima
Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said Buhari's declaration has challenged supporters of APC to continue to sensitize their families, friends, neighbours and colleagues through personal interactions, to educate them about the challenges inherited by the President and what he is achieving in his ongoing efforts to rescue the country.
Shettima threw the challenge on his facebook page and twitter account on Monday shortly after granting interview to journalists at the State house in Abuja.
"As I told my friends, State House journalists, it is a traditional practice all over the world, that a popular sitting president gets his political party's right of first refusal in seeking re-election. As Nigerians can testify, silence on the part of the President creates uncertainty in the polity with all sorts of assumptions. I believe that Mr President's notice of intention will not only calm the polity but will indeed, give the APC a better sense of direction.
"Insha'Allah, as Governors, we will give the President and our party, all that is in us to once again, win the election in 2019. We have strong faith, that citizens of our States who overwhelmingly support the President and the APC will continue to, in their personal interactions, sensitise their family members, friends, colleagues in work places and neighbours far and near to remind them of the unimaginable challenges President Buhari and the APC inherited in 2015- to make them appreciate the bold efforts that are still works in progress. God willing, Nigeria will regain peace and it will be a better place for all," Governor Shettima said.