THE All Progressives Congress has named Lagos as the venue of its December 10 presidential primary.
Eight thousand delegates are expected to participate in the convention, scheduled to hold at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.
The APC four other presidential aspirants –former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, and Leadership Newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah – had jointly asked for a venue outside Lagos, said to be favoured by Buhari and a former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu.
Atiku and the three others wrote the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, on Nov 27, “advising” the party chairman to retain Abuja as the convention venue.
But the APC convention committee, led by ex-Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, ignored the subtle protest by the presidential aspirants and on Wednesday announced the choice of Lagos as replacement for Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Fayemi explained that his committee had been able to convince all the aspirants on the suitability of the new venue while noting their concerns about logistics.
The four aspirants had, in the protest letter, argued that Abuja was more centrally located and easily accessible to delegates from all over the nation.
In the letter, the aspirants observed that the proposed choice of Lagos as possible venue for the presidential primaries was not convenient.
The letter partly read, “We the under-listed presidential aspirants of the APC, having noted the clash of date of 10th December for APC and PDP National Convention/Presidential Primaries wish to advise as follows:
“That Abuja as centre remains the best, convenient and most accepted to all.
“That, our party has paid for the Eagle Square for the 7th and 8th December for presidential primaries, which now is dated for Federal House/Senate primaries.
“That, the presidential primaries be retained for the 7th and 8th as scheduled, while the National Assembly primaries since we have nothing to harvest from PDP president primaries as their candidate is already known.
“That, the proposed choice of Lagos as a possible venue for the presidential primaries is not convenient for all.
“We therefore advise that our party reverts to Abuja as the venue.”
It was learnt that as of Tuesday, it was agreed in principle that Benin, the Edo State capital, be chosen since the national leadership of the party had argued strongly in favour of retaining the December 10 date.
A source in the party, who pleaded anonymity because he was not permitted to comment on the issue, said, “The aspirants are afraid that Lagos, being the home of a strong supporter of Buhari will give the person he is supporting an edge over others because the issue of accommodation and other logistics will be easier for them (Buhari’s camp) to address.”
But another source said the fears being expressed by aspirants about the venue were not unfounded.
The source said, “There is news making the rounds that a certain leader of the party has booked most of the decent hotels in Lagos.
“The leader in question is working assiduously in favour of a particular aspirant, as such, having delegates within his reach at the last minute could alter earlier projections.”
According to the source, Benin was earlier considered because “the heartbeat of the nation” would serve the dual role of marketing the party as a truly national party and not a metamorphosis of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria as well as selling the party to the electorate in the South-South.
It was, however, gathered that the party leadership picked Lagos because Benin lacked the facilities and security capability to take care of the huge crowd expected at the convention.
Fayemi told journalists at a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday that there was nothing sinister about the choice of Lagos.
According to him, the party, especially his committee, is more concerned about the process than the product.
He said, “For us, it is not who emerges at the end of the day. They are all competent. They all have agenda and they all will implement the manifesto of our party. It is how we get there.
“We have not taken any decision without the input of all the presidential aspirants, l can assure you of that. We did not arrive at Lagos accidentally; we arrived at Lagos with the full input of all our presidential aspirants.
“Those concerns were raised about the distance, for example for somebody coming from Yobe as delegate or Maiduguru, those are practical issues and we would have been surprised if the aspirants didn’t raise such issues.”
In another interview in Abuja, Fayemi said that the initial plan of the committee and the party was to hold the event in Abuja but that the APC changed gear because the ruling PDP was also holding its convention almost at the same time. He said it would be difficult for the two dominant parties to be holding events of such magnitude at the same time.
Besides, he also said that the Eagle Square, which he said his party would have used, was also going to be used by the PDP.
The PDP convention has been fixed for December 10 and 11 in Abuja.
Fayemi said, “We originally wanted to hold our national convention in Abuja because naturally Abuja is the place to hold an event of this nature. This is where we have always held national party conventions.
“However we had identified a date to hold the party convention in Abuja and due to some exigencies we had to change that date. It also happened that the new date we chose now coincides with the date the PDP also chose for their national convention.
“Understandably the Eagle Square that we wanted to book had been booked for the day.”
“We then looked at other options. We looked at Port Harcourt, Benin and Lagos.We felt that all of the factors that are considered to be critical to success of our convention only Lagos has successfully met those criteria.
“These are comprehensive security measures, full coverage by the media, capacity to accommodate 10, 000 delegates.
“There is no other city in Nigeria that can do that outside Abuja and Lagos. Benin that was also a very high ranking choice also did not succeed on that point because the accommodation in Benin would not meet up with the need of our delegates, aspirants and other leaders that will be present.”
On the alleged fears of other presidential aspirants that Lagos could be used to crown unnamed aspirants, he said the allegation was not true.
The former governor said, “Everything we are doing is in the open and is transparent. In fact, all aspirants have representatives in the committee and they were part of all the discussions that transpired before we arrived at Lagos.
“So if anyone wants to suggest that this is going to be coronation to anyone, that is news to me. We won’t use Lagos to coronate anyone. I have the greatest respect for every aspirant but I am not the type that can be manipulated or intimidated into working to a pre-conceived answer, not even by the chairman of the party or any leader of the party.”
Meanwhile, the Atiku campaign office on Wednesday welcomed the decision to hold the APC convention in Lagos.
In a statement signed by his media office, the former Vice-President said he wholeheartedly welcomed the choice of Lagos as the venue for the presidential primaries of the APC.
It described Lagos as the former Vice- President’s home, considering the fact that he spent several years of his public service career there.
The statement described Atiku as “a Lagosian.”
It read, “I’m not any less Lagosian than anyone is. I have a house in Lagos and a part of my large family lives in Lagos. I visit Lagos regularly, so I’m not a stranger to the cosmopolitan city and what it represents as the melting pot of Nigeria.”
The former Vice-President also congratulated the Government and the people of Lagos State on this unique opportunity offered them by the APC to excel and showcase “the spirit of Lagos.”
Also, the Lagos APC welcomed the decision of the party’s National Convention Committee to hold the party’s presidential primary in the state.
The Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said Lagos was the best location for the exercise given the state’s strategic position.
He said, “It is a welcome development. Lagos has the funds, the logistics and all the necessary things to conduct the exercise. Delegates are also assured of adequate security as the violence which marred the conduct of the House of Assembly primary in Yaba can never recur.
“We also promise a level-playing field during the exercise as it will be transparent.”