Two hitherto unexpected aspirants – a governor and a minister –have joined the race for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket.
While Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade announced at Aso Villa, Abuja that President Muhammadu Buhari had asked him to bid for the ticket, Minister of State (Education) Emeka Nwajiuba said his friends had raised N100m for him to purchase nomination and expression of interest forms.
Nwajiuba’s disclosure came a few weeks after THE CONCLAVE had reported that he was one of those that the Presidency had shortlisted as likely successor to Buhari. He is from the Southeast zone.
The ruling party began the sale of forms for political offices on Tuesday.
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello was the first to obtain the presidential form.
● Group raises N100m for Nwajuiba
To consummate Nwajiuba’s place in thd unfilding presidential succession race, a group known as Project Nigeria, has raised over N100 million to purchase the APC expression of interest and presidential nomination forms for him.
It was learnt that the minister of state may obtain the forms today (Wednesday, April 27, 2022)
Nwajiuba told reporters that the group informed him that about 1,000 individuals raised the fund.
He was excited that the group could to raise the amount, adding that he would decide on his next move after consulting with stakeholders across the country.
Nwajiuba said: “I have the unique opportunity of being promoted by a wide range of Nigerians, young people and others from all parts of Nigeria, who are contributing their funds as well as their time to drive this project.
“They have taken the challenge of thinking of where to get the money and relieve the burden from me.
“One of them told me that they have actually exceeded the figure by some fractions at the moment. They have over 1,000 contributors from different places.
“I was only informed that they were ready. I have been trying to get them to meet with me, but they only want to meet me when they have the forms.”
On whether he would run for the presidency and when he intended to declare his ambition, he added: “I do not want to answer that question until they (members of the Project Nigeria group) come.
“It is not just my decision to make. This is a collective decision of all Nigerians.
“I am actually impressed by them telling me that over 1,000 persons have contributed. I thought it was a joke until I saw that such a huge number of people contributed.”
● Ayade excited over his presidential project
Meanwhile, speaking with reporters in the Presidential Villa after his meeting with Buhari, Ayade said he did not originally contemplate running and only came to convey his support to the President on his successor’s selection.
Ayade added he would be flexible with his quest for the party’s presidential ticket.
He promised to support any person the party’s delegates settle for.
The governor said: “I didn’t come to the President to tell him I’m running.
“I went to the President to tell him I’m here to join him, to support him in the process of producing his successor and that peradventure power is to go to the South, I’m the only sitting governor from the Southsouth.
“The President didn’t allow me to finish and says: ‘I know you’ and recounted our relationship.
“I asked him: ‘Can I? Because I’m not here for that, unless you say so.’
“So, if you ask me the question, am I running? My answer is that I am running because the President has said: ‘You go while I watch’.
“I want you to report me intellectually. I want you to understand that truly, outside all the cheap talks, the truth is that my approach to be President is different. I will support the President’s candidate.
“Even though I’m on standby, I will support the President’s candidate and the President said: ‘You are not outside of my view. Go, I give you blessing, go and consult; ensure that you engage with key people while I watch.’
“I think it’s a clear indication that I have the right to go and try, to go and declare. So I will.”
Ayade said he would drop his interest whenever the President makes clear who he was backing.
“I’m willing to stop at any point where it becomes necessary, that I find that my interest does not align with the directions of the President.”
On rumours that the APC might present former President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole candidate, Ayade said: “I have great respect for President Jonathan and so, I have no challenges whatsoever.
“I believe that the party leadership will decide the appropriate candidate that will take our party to victory and so, if you heard me well, I am just part of the family, absolutely loyal to the President, seeking to run for President and I’m running.
“At any point in time the leadership of my party, the APC, feels that President Jonathan is the appropriate candidate that will take us to victory, I will turn my support for him.
“I am never ever going to fight the establishment, the institution, the aristocracy, the spiritual vortex of which God has placed a leader on the country, I will never question the powers of the leader of the country.
“I have never played the politics of antagonism or fights. If you know how I became governor, I became governor by offering to support whoever the governor wanted.
“By a stroke of luck, I became the candidate. The same token… I’m only here to support the President’s candidate and by a stroke of luck he said: ‘You, go there and join the race.’”
Ayade said he would consolidate on President Buhari’s efforts on the economy, security and the power sector if he becomes the President.