Ahead of the 2023 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday said he would not support candidates of other political parties against those of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The statement of the president came on the heels of increasing insinuations that some stalwarts of the ruling party would clandestinely support the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his APC counterpart.
Aside from Atiku and Tinubu, other frontline presidential candidates include Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
Chieftains of the PDP loyal to Atiku had told this paper that a section of the Presidency is romancing the former vice president with the intent of supporting his candidature during the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
One of them, a Kaduna-based stalwart of the party, said those in the Presidency who are supporting Atiku were among those who promoted the candidature of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan during the presidential primaries of the APC.
Recall that Lawan was promoted as the candidate for the Presidency, a development that made a group of northern governors write President Buhari for the party’s presidential ticket to be zoned to the South. At the primaries, the former Lagos State governor defeated Lawan and others to pick the party’s ticket.
Buhari, according to a statement by Garba Shehu, one of his spokespersons, said he will support only candidates fielded by the APC in the forthcoming elections. Titled, “For 2023, No Villa Candidates, only APC Candidates,” Buhari in the statement, reassured APC members that he remains a “disciplined soldier” of the APC.
Shehu said the president assured that he would continue to support the party at all levels to enforce discipline, synchronisation and coordination.
He added that President Buhari also directed officials in and around the Presidential Villa and all those engaging in loose talks to resist making controversial statements that would eventually hurt the party and the government, thereby providing a weapon for the opposition to use against the administration, the party or its candidates in the coming elections.
The presidential spokesman said this was a warning to decamped party members and some others who were still in court against official candidates of the APC that they are on their own and nobody outside the party’s tent should link what they are doing to President Buhari.
He said the president wished to be quoted as saying that he remained the “Occupant of the high office of the president by the Grace of God who used the instrumentality of the APC to bring him to power with a historic verdict in 2015.
“In 2019, he was returned with a bigger majority. For the first time, a non-PDP government came to power with a huge majority after 16 years of the Fourth Republic. His constant refrain is: ‘I will not betray or undermine my party by candidates other than those of the APC’.
“This statement is not against any particular candidate. However, our stand is clear that only those candidates fielded by the All Progressives Candidates, APC will enjoy the support of the president and they are the ones he will campaign for. However, we welcome support for our candidates at all levels by other parties,” the statement added.
Contacted, the spokesperson of the Atiku campaign, Senator Dino Melaye, said the support of the president will not translate to victory, saying if Buhari contests for election today he would fail woefully.
“I’m not in APC and whoever the president is supporting; I have no business with it. The support of the president cannot translate to victory because even if he comes out to contest today, he would fail woefully.
“Nigerians are already tired of APC and this government has de-marketed the APC candidates with its massive failure. I repeat nobody can campaign for APC without looking stupid because nothing on the ground to show for the party’s reign in government,” he said.
Voters, not your support will determine winner – LP
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, said that Nigerian voters would determine the winner of the presidential and other elections and not Buhari’s support.
In a phone interview, he said; “We are not shocked and we are not surprised. Former President Jonathan gave support to his party’s candidates from the house of assembly down to Presidency but what happened? Nigerians decided to vote out Jonathan.
“Now we have a government that is the worst in the history of Nigeria. He should keep on supporting the APC candidates. We in Labour Party are dependent on ordinary Nigerians who are yearning for change and we don’t need the support of an administration that has failed and we are not bothered, rather we are only concerned about Nigerians yearning for change. We have over 30 million Nigerians as of today who are rooting for Peter Obi,” he said.
Atiku meets Wike in London today
Meanwhile, Atiku is set to meet the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike today in London.
Sources close to both Atiku and Wike said the meeting was at the instance of the former vice president.
Wike, who has been at loggerheads with Atiku over the selection of the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as Atiku’s running mate met with Tinubu and some governors on Monday
The meeting, Daily Trust gathered, rattled the camp of Atiku, thus today’s meeting in London.
One of the sources said the former vice president said the London meeting will determine whether the two leaders of the party will work together or not for the coming elections
Atiku’s media aide, Mr Paul Ibe, told Daily Trust that his principal is in Europe on a “business meeting”.
“His Excellency travelled to Europe on Monday after participating in the opening ceremony and plenary of the NBA Annual General Conference for a business meeting,” he said.
Ibe, however, noted that he cannot confirm that the presidential candidate will be having any political meeting with anyone during his visit to Europe.