By Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Oke, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Monsur Olowoopejo
LAGOS—WITH 3,430 votes, former Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), yesterday, trounced his four opponents to emerge the 2015 presidential candidate of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
His main challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, got 954 votes to come third behind Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, who scored 974 votes. The other contenders, Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah got 624 votes and 10 votes respectively.
In line with the pre-convention agreement reached by the five aspirants, Atiku has conceded defeat and congratulated Buhari on his victory, saying, “my word is my bond, I am committed to the success of the APC in 2015 polls.”
Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, also congratulated Buhari and hailed Atiku and the other presidential aspirants for their sportsmanly conduct.
With the development, there will be a repeat contest between General Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan, who is flying the flag of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 2015 election.
In the 2011 presidential polls, Jonathan polled 22.5 million votes to beat Buhari who garnered 12.2 million votes.
Okorie, Eke pick UPP, CPP tickets
Apart from PDP and APC, the United Progressives Party (UPP), yesterday, picked its founder, Chief Chekwas Okorie, as its presidential candidate with Bello Umar as his running mate.
This was announced at the National Convention of the party held at Binez Hotel, Aba, Abia State, which was monitored by a team of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by the Abia State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Jacobs Jatau.
The UPP also presented governorship tickets to Dr. Osmond Ukanacho (Imo State), Dr. Chris Akomas (Abia State) and Hajiya Binta Gwarzo Rufai (Kano).
Earlier in the week, the Citizens Popular Party (CPP) also picked its National Chairman, Chief Sam Eke as its presidential candidate.
On a day that Buhari’s victory sparked off infectious jubilation among his supporters at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, venue of the primaries, Atiku, in a concession statement by his media office, when it became clear that he had lost out, said that General Buhari ran a spirited campaign, and that since the delegates had spoken, he fully deserved the victory.
The statement reads in part: “I am very confident that you will provide the needed leadership to turn this country around. I have no doubt that you will work with dedicated and qualified Nigerians to protect our citizens, improve our economy, create jobs, improve education, reform governance and fight corruption. You will indeed bring the change Nigerians have been yearning for. Once more, congratulations.”
The loss by Atiku was being taken, yesterday, as a big blow by some of the major operatives of the former vice-president, who traced their woe directly to the governors.
“For us, it is a very bad one, having lost woefully. The reason we lost so badly was because the governors were convinced that they could not bend Atiku. They believe that his wealth has made him too independent,” a source in Atiku campaign team said yesterday.
Oshiomhole congratulates Buhari, hails Atiku
Congratulating Buhari on his emergence as APC presidential candidate, Governor Oshiomhole, in a statement, also gave kudos to the other presidential aspirants for a gallant fight and urged them to join hands with the party’s candidate to scale the next hurdle.
His words: “First, let me congratulate the flag-bearer of our party, a highly disciplined, tested and trusted leader, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari for emerging through this refined, transparent and credible process of delegate election.
“Also, I wish to congratulate the delegates for their tolerance, patience, maturity and commitment towards ensuring a successful convention which has produced such a strong candidate for our party. This goes to show that we all are committed to being agents of change in this democratic process. With the emergence of Buhari, Nigeria will no doubt get a true and selfless leadership needed to drive the much-desired change at the centre and the race to effect that real change has just begun.”
We must wipe away tears of Nigerians — Tinubu
In his goodwill remarks at the convention, APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu said “a special history is in the air and I can say this is the voice of the young, the old, the North, South, East and West, Christians and Muslims all over the country. With our convention holding tonight, the history is to be written tonight and this convention represents the beginning of a new Nigeria, new dream and hope.”
He continued: “We are doing things differently given the challenges facing our country, we are bringing about change to avert a national failure. We cannot afford to squander this opportunity and that is why we are showing a sense of national purpose, transparency, openness according to the spirit of fair play in our presidential primaries.
“This will show Nigerians we are a democratic party and we are pure because our behaviour will speak for us. Our new manifesto has shown hope of our party and it is going to be a turning point in our lives.”
Buhari declared winner
While officially declaring Buhari the winner of the exercise, Chief Returning Officer, Dr Kayode Fayemi said: “It is my esteemed pleasure to reach this historic conclusion of this keenly contested race. Having won the majority of votes cast, it is my pleasure and honour to declare Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the APC presidential primaries in preparation for the 2015 presidential election. All our aspirants have proved to be champions in this race.”
We’ve made history – Oyegun
APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun commended the convention planning committee for a job well done. He also commended the aspirants for display of good sportsmanship saying “to all of you who are here and those who have gone home, you have made history.”
Join me to bring about change –Buhari
In his acceptance speech, winner of the presidential primaries, Buhari commended the convention planning committee for the success of the convention.
He said: “The outcome of the presidential primaries is a demonstration of democracy at work. What has happened is not about winning or losing but about freedom of association. I wish to thank my fellow contenders for putting up a good fight. I extend my gratitude for accepting my nomination and I will meet you in due course to fashion out how we will win the elections. It is with deep sense of humility that I accept to be the candidate and flag-bearer of the APC. I stand before you and ask that you join me to bring about the needed change for this country. It is either we advance as one or we fail together.”
I’ll work with Buhari —Kwankwaso
On his part, Kwankwaso promised to work for the success of the party and Buhari at the polls.
“I want to start by thanking God for making me to be part of history. On behalf of myself especially the delegates that voted for me, I want to congratulate the winner of this primary, General Buhari. We earlier agreed that whoever wins this election, we will work for him. Let me assure you that we will work together for the success of the APC at all levels,” he said.
Internal democracy has begun –Okorocha
Also speaking, Okorocha said: “The responsibility falls on the shoulder of General Buhari. I believe it is God and it came to him because he is the oldest of the family and I believe the next one will go to the youngest of the family. We have now taught the world that internal democracy can begin in a party.”
Explaining why he participated in the race, he said: “I participated in the race because I wanted to give our brothers from the South-East a sense of belonging.”
APC is the only alternative— Tambuwal
Also, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal said history is being made with the coming together of opposition parties in Nigeria. “What we are seeing today has never happened in the history of Nigeria and we have shown we are the only alternative to what we have in Abuja.”
Tambuwal appealed to Nigerians to vote out the PDP-led government at the centre, saying: “I must say with every sense of belonging that APC remains the party for today, tomorrow and the future. So I call on Nigerians to come together by voting out incompetence and malfunction government we have in Abuja.”
PDP welcomes Buhari
National Leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has welcomed the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as the Presidential candidate of the APC.
In a statement by PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the PDP urged the APC presidential candidate to be issue- based in his campaigns, adding, “We hope that this time round, General Buhari will conduct a campaign that is issue based and devoid of ethno-religious sentiments.”
Metuh said, “This will be the fourth time General Buhari will be contesting in the presidential elections. On each of the three previous occasions, he failed to articulate a vision of the future that was acceptable to Nigerians. On each occasion his brand of politics was rejected across Nigeria. Apart from changing to a dinner suit, General Buhari, has not changed the tired ideas and provocative utterances that Nigerians rejected in previous elections.”