Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has said that the party would not issue an automatic ticket for President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
He said the party would follow the rules and regulations guiding its constitution in choosing the candidate ahead of the general elections.
Mr. Tinubu spoke on Wednesday during a private visit to Pa Reuben Fasoranti in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Mr. Fasoranti, the foremost national leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, had parted ways with Mr. Tinubu in 2013.
Our correspondent reported that Mr. Tinubu was accompanied during the visit by Bisi Akande, the erstwhile Interim National Chairman of the APC.
The APC national leader was received by Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, at the tarmac of the Akure local airport.
Speaking, Mr. Tinubu said the opinion of one particular individual would not hold water in choosing the party's flag-bearer ahead of the 2019 general elections, stressing that the ruling party has yet to issue an automatic ticket to anyone, including President Buhari.
The APC national leader was reacting to words credited to the governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who reportedly said, “there is no other alternative to President Buhari.”
Mr. Okorocha had spoken while addressing leaders of the Democratic Youths Congress for Buhari 2019, who paid him a courtesy visit on Tuesday.
According to Mr. Tinubu, only the National Executive Council (NEC) of the APC can unanimously decide to have a consensus candidate.
“No governor can appropriate the power of endorsement to themselves because President Muhammadu Buhari himself believes in due process and rule of law,” Mr. Tinubu said. “The President Buhari that I know will want a normal process, and who says that he will lose at any of the party's conventions?
“But, if the national body (NEC) and all of us as members endorsed him as our single candidate, we will not be violating any rules and regulations of the INEC.”
The APC national leader explained that if President Buhari's ambition is to seek a second term in office, it would not affect any other aspirants seeking to fly the party's flag in the 2019 presidential race.
“We will follow all the constitutional provisions and an individual opinion does not matter at this stage.The president has not excluded nor affected the ambition of anybody.
“Don't forget that we wanted him [Buhari] before the last convention and primaries of the party. Rotimi Akeredolu is here standing with me, he was not the governor then.
“He [Akeredolu] was one of the leading delegates that voted properly and Muhammadu Buhari was a clear winner," he said.
Mr. Tinubu later described Pa Fasoranti as one of the great leaders who has contributed greatly to the Yoruba people.
He noted that he decided to pay a visit as a mark of respect and to seek some advice and prayers from the Afenifere leader.
“His [Fasoranti] intellect is still very intact, and I am here to seek his advice and understanding with prayers," he said.
Reacting, Pa Fasoranti said Mr. Tinubu’s visit has shown that the leaders of the Yoruba people can now work together.
He explained that in the past, Yoruba leaders were working in different directions, adding that it is high time the Yoruba people have a clear policy.
"This is the right direction. I think we can now move forward and work together by charting a new course and have a clear-cut policy in our groups.
"Ahead of 2019, we have not formed any political party yet to fight a common cause, but I am optimistic that before then there shall be clear understanding," the Yoruba leader said.
Amongst those in attendance during the private visit were other prominent Afenifere leaders, including Chief Olu Falae, Sehinde Arogbofa, and Chief Femi Aluko.