The 2019 Presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is open to any interested aspirant, according to South West leaders of the party.
The leaders, who restated their desire to win next year’s governorship election in Ekiti State, commended serving Governors and Ministers of the party from the geo-political bloc on their performances in office so far.
They met in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, on Thursday for about four hours.
A national leader of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was absent but his spokesman Tunde Rahman told reporters that the former Governor of Lagos State endorsed the position of the South West stakeholders.
Rahman added that Tinubu had wanted to attend the meeting, but had to stay back in Lagos to addend to a nagging stomach ache which he, however, added was nothing to worry about.
At the meeting, held at the Executive Council Chambers of the Oyo State Governor’s office in Ibadan were the host, Governor Abiola Ajimobi and his counterparts from Osun, Ogun and Ondo, Rauf Aregbesola, Ibikunle Amosun, and Rotimi Akeredolu respectively.
Also in attendance were former acting National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande; former Governors; Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun), Olusegun Osoba (Ogun), Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), who is serving as Minister for Solid Minerals,.
The list also included the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu; Minister of State for Niger Delta, Claudius Daramola; Senator Adeyeye, Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, the Majority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila, the Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Sola Adeyeye; and National Vice Chairman (Southwest) of the APC, Chief Pius Akinyelure.
Akande disclosed that Tinubu was billed to attend but cancelled it at last minute due to stomach ache.
Rahman told reporters that Tinubu “considered it wise to stay back in Lagos to attend to the ache but he is part and parcel of decisions going on at the meeting.”
The Special Adviser to the National Leader on Media added: “I can assure you that he is well and there is nothing to worry about his health”.
Amosun and Akeredolu left midway into the meeting and were evasive when reporters approached them for comments. Their aides said they had another appointments elsewhere.
Speaking on behalf of the APC stakeholders at the end of the meeting, Chief Akande said they were in Ibadan as a follow up to an earlier one in January this year which was also held in Ibadan to appraise the state of affairs of the party and how the zone was faring in the scheme of things.
He said: “We are happy that our governors and ministers are performing satisfactorily. As a party, we are trying to review our position to see what we are going to do to have Ekiti back for APC in 2018.”
Asked of the position of the stakeholders on President Buhari’s rumoured second term ambition, Akande said: “He has not told us he is running for 2019. Anybody in our party is free to become the President of Nigeria as long as he indicates interest. We have a process through which a candidate will be selected. If he is lucky to have the ticket, then, we have no option than to present him as our candidate.”
On the clamour for restructuring, Akande said: “Restructuring is not our language. Go and ask those who are advocating restructuring to define it. What I told you just now is devolution of function from the centre to the state and to the local government. Restructuring is a language of other groups of people. Go and put your question to them what they mean about restructuring whether restructuring of economy or governance. That is not the APC manifesto,” he added.
He spoke further: “APC leaders in the Southwest, together with our representatives in government at the state and national levels, met to review what we decided upon in our meeting of January. We could see the efforts of our leaders in government and we are happy that we are on course.
“The summary of what we expected from them was discussed and we are happy that our governors and ministers have performed excellently well.
“We tried to review our position and we are pleased to see that as a party, we are doing all we can to have Ekiti back into the APC. We are concerned more though about the services of our government to the people more than electoral matters.”
He dismissed the alleged rift within the rank and file of the leadership of the party in the region, insisting that the last meeting ended on a happy note as against reports of rancour being peddled by a section of the media.
His words: “You can see that we are happy together. Some of the people who never wished us well reported that we fought and dispersed in our different ways without even saying the closing prayers when we met last. It is not true.
“We held a meeting, we had a minute of the meeting and I am happy to inform you that our various governors and ministers have been doing well in implementing what we decided upon at the last meeting.
“We are for the people of the Southwest. We are for the development of our people. We are for the good of the economy. We are meeting so that our governors and other representatives can be talking to us from time to time so that we can know how much we are benefiting from the existing government.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the host governor called on his colleagues, party leaders and other public office holders under the APC to sacrifice their self interest and work more towards surmounting developmental challenges confronting the region.
As the countdown to 2019 beckons, Ajimobi said it had become imperative for the leaders 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.
Ajimobi said, “Let me state here that as leaders, 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.”
In the last three years, he said that the party had recorded tremendous achievements worthy of celebration, noting, however that there was the need for the APC to focus attention on agriculture to boost the country’s economy.
According to him, the region had comparative advantage in agriculture, given its vast arable land, highest concentration of agric research institutes, clement weather and the location of Ikere Gorge Dam, which has the capacity to irrigate the entire region, in Oke Ogun area of Oyo State.
Ajimobi said, “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 multidimensional benefits to agriculture, water supply and electricity, is imperative.
“We must ensure speedy completion of the ongoing expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan Express way, the rail projects and other infrastructural development. 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.
“On the political front, the gubernatorial elections for Ekiti and Osun are fast approaching. All hands must be on deck to ensure victory for our party.”