It’s now official. Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.) is the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate for the February 2015 election.
He defeated four other APC aspirants –Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Rochas Okorocha and Sam Nda-Isaiah – to clinch the party’s ticket at a national convention/primary that started on Wednesday in Lagos and ended about 7pm on Thursday.
His victory sets him yet again as the number one challenger to President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Wednesday was formally handed the Peoples Democratic Party flag for the 2015 election.
Buhari, who was born on December 17, 1942, was Jonathan’s main opponent in the 2011 presidential poll. He first had a shot at the Presidency in 2003 against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2007, he ran against Umaru Yar’Adua(now late).
His emergence for the fourth time as a presidential candidate was welcomed by the APC national leadership, delegates and aspirants. One of the defeated aspirants, Okorocha, described him after the official announcement of the results, as “the man capable of chasing away Jonathan in 2015.”
Buhari was handed a return certificate by the Chairman, Third National Convention and Presidential Primary of the APC, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, having scored 3, 430 votes to beat Kwankwaso,who is the Kano State governor, to a distant second with 974votes.
Surprisingly, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, came third. He scored 954 votes.
Okorocha polled 624 votes to come fourth while the Publisher, Leadership newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, came fifth with 10 votes.
There were 16 voided votes in all.
Buhari, in his acceptance speech, said the opposition was poised to sack Jonathan from Aso Rock next year.
He said Nigerians were tired of 16 years of broken promises, hardship, corruption, ineptitude, impunity and lack of vision by the PDP and its leaders.
Buhari said history beckoned on Nigerians to make the necessary change by voting out the PDP. He commended his rivals for fighting a gallant fight.
Explaining that he was not the best among the contestants, Buhari said providence had thrusted on the leadership of the APC, the task of giving Nigeria a new lease of life.
He said, “My common cause is the love I have for our nation. I want Christians, Muslims, the old and the young, the rich and the poor to come together and let us advance together the cause of this country.
“Preserving the nation’s future is a great obligation to all of us. This is what the government in power should saddle itself with, otherwise, they have no reason being in government.
“The PDP government is leading us to destruction. Nigeria should be the leader of Africa. Our people sleep in and pay for darkness. Over 200 of our girls were abducted and government has been unable to do anything about it.
“Several of our youths were trampled to death because they went in search of employment. Are we happy to continue to live like this? My answer is “No! No! No!”
The Daura, Katsina State- born ex-soldier said if elected in 2015, he would evolve a five–point agenda that would engender constitutional governance, improved security, poverty eradication through job creation and end ethnic , tribal and religious bigotry.
An indication that Buhari was likely to emerge the winner of the long-drawn contest showed at the venue of the rally when most of the governors of the party subtly rallied support for him before the start of the primary.
All the governors of South-West directed the delegates from their states to vote for Buhari.
Delegates from each state comprised serving and past senators, serving and past House of Representatives members, past and serving governors, past and serving deputy governors, state cabinet members and ministers.
Buhari, who turns 72 years this month, was warmly received at the stands of the South-West states .
The shouts of ‘Sai Baba!’ rent the air as he embarked on a walk to the stands.
When he made his speech, a thunderous ovation from the VIP stand greeted his welcome address and manifesto.
The party’s leaders who were at the VIP stand included the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; a former acting National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande; a former National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bernabas Gemade; another former National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Audu Ogbeh; a former National Chairman of the defunct, All Peoples Party, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu; among others.
Odigie-Oyegun described the convention and primary as historic and unprecedented in the annals of the country.
While conceding defeat, Okorocha said Buhari’s emergence was an act of God, adding that all the aspirants were winners.
He said, “For every sunrise, there must be a sunset, this responsibility has fallen on a new shoulder. I say that it is God that has made this day possible and I believe this is for a purpose.
“While I congratulate Gen. Buhari, permit me to appreciate Alhaji Abubakar, a dogged fighter and a detribalised Nigerian and one that knows when to fight and when to stop fighting.Let me also comment the passion of my brother Governor Kwankwaso for his zeal in making this competition a reality.”
Abubakar also congratulated Buhari on his victory. He said he would honour the agreement by the aspirants to support the winner of the primary.
The former Vice-President promised to work with Buhari to ensure the victory of the APC in the general elections next year.
He said, “Last night when I stood here, I said history is going to be made at this venue. I said this convention would be political evolution; that this party would renew democracy in this country and since last night you have witnessed what I describe as the most credible election to be ever conducted by any political party in this country.
“On behalf of my humble self and my supporters that voted for me, I congratulate the winner of this very historic election .I therefore congratulate Muhammadu Buhari. We have pledged that whosoever wins this election, all of us will work as a family.
“Let us use this opportunity to thank the leadership of our party. Bola Tinubu has been my contemporary in the fight to restore democracy and sustain it and depeen democracy in this country. I want to pay tribute to his contribution.
“Buhari has been an embodiment of nation-building for decades and he has continued to offer himself to this country. He will march this party to victory in less than two months.”
Oshiomhole congratulated Buhari and commended the four other presidential aspirants for “a gallant fight.” He urged them to support the winner in order to emerge victorious in the presidential election.
The governor said, “First, let me congratulate the candidate of our party, a highly disciplined, tested and trusted leader, Maj. Gen. Buhari, for emerging through this refined, transparent and credible process of delegate election.
“I also 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.”
The governor noted in a statement that the outcome of the primary showed that APC members were committed to being agents of change in Nigeria’s democratic process.
Oshiomhole said that with the emergence of Buhari, Nigeria would get true and selfless leadership needed to drive the much-desired change at the centre.
PDP welcomes Buhari to presidential race
The PDP welcomed the emergence of Buhari as the APC candidate.
The party, in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh , said that on each of three previous occasions, Buhari failed to articulate a vision of the future that was acceptable to Nigerians.
It said, “On each occasion his brand of politics was rejected across Nigeria. Apart from changing to a dinner suit, Buhari, has not changed the tired ideas and provocative utterances that Nigerians rejected in previous elections.
“We hope that this time round, Buhari will conduct a campaign that is issue based and devoid of ethno-religious sentiments.”
The party added that it believed that Buhari was convinced that the PDP remained the only truly national political party in Nigeria .
He said that despite distractions, Jonathan had a genuine record of accomplishments on which to run and and defeat Buhari.