By NBF News

By Luka Binniyat
AMAZINGLY in his first attempt, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State routed perennial veteran presidential aspirants to pick the presidential ticket of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) early on Sunday morning at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

Security was tight at the Eagle Square premises where the convention was held just hours after the annual Remembrance Day celebrations at the same venue.

Pointedly, a day before the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had its own convention at the same venue where it nominated the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan to be the party's flag bearer in the coming presidential elections.

*Shekarau: Acknowledging cheers from delegates at the convention

The four main contestants for the party ticket were Shekarau, Alh. Bashir Tofa, the 1993 presidential flag bearer of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC; billionaire entrepreneur Chief Harry Akande and Alh. Birma Dauda. On hand to decide the presidential flag bearer of the once formidable opposition party were over 5000 delegates from across the country. In between the political homilies, the delegates sang, they danced and when tired, they watched the calisthenics display.

From the onset, if victory had a smell, it had a Kano fragrance and specifically, a Shekarau scent.

While Tofa and Birma stealthily found their way to the bullet proof VIP section of the Square even before the beginning of he convention, Shekarau on his part made a rapturous arrival that received wild applause from delegates when he drove into the square 7:55 pm.

Akande, who had tried repeatedly for the same ticket in the past drove in uneventfully in a black limousine.

Apart from  the Master of ceremony mentioning his arrival, the delegates seemed not have noticed him.

Shekarau's giant banners hung everywhere inside and outside the square, but not one of his co-contestants had any banner to showcase their aspirations. Thousands of delegates wore T-shirts and face caps with his name embossed on them.

As the Hausa music played from the  giant speakers in the Square in honour of the Sarduana Kano, suggestions of a fresh kind of consensus candidate had emerged even before the vote.

But, it was far from any sort of Consensus as the acrimonious speeches by some of the candidates later revealed.

Declaring the convention open, the National Chairman of the Party, Chief Ogbonoya Onu, said that ANPP was set to produce the next President of the country, and advised delegates to vote the best among the four who presented themselves for election.

'This convention is a re-affirmation of our faith in Democracy. In this pursuit, we shall work with all true democrats in our beloved country who believe in what we believe', he said.

The contestants then took turns to make last minute attempts at convincing delegates to vote for them.

Some of the speeches were veiled diatribes, and muffled anger over insinuations that some of the delegates were bribed.

Harry Akande - we are on our way to Aso villa
Akande, who was the first to speak, lamented  the sharp decline in the fortunes of the party in the past 12 years.

Akande, dressed in beep blue agbada and red cap to match, said 'We founded this party 12 years ago, and I have always submitted myself for service to the Nigerian people, but have not realised the dream.'

He recalled that  Sen Olusola Saraki, Alh. Mohammad Shinkafi, Alh. Hassan Kusamatu and others were all founders, but regretted that they had left the party for various reasons.

'We have come from 9 Governors in 1999 to three today', he told the crowd of delegates who sat as if unmoved by his worries. But we have now found a new party, under a new leadership. And I have a feeling that we are on our way to Aso Villa', he said.

He promised that if voted, he would win the general election for the party for a better Nigeria.

Bashir Tofa - I wont bribe you for votes
Bashir Tofa, an industrialist, who was the Presidential flag bearer of  the defunct NRC in 1993, informed the delegates that they had a chance to  make history. 'You can produce a candidate that can win the general election. This evening is the last chance to decide the future of democracy in Nigeria,' he said in an unconvincing elapse into hyperbole. If you make a mistake and produce the wrong candidate, this will be the commencement of the end of the party and anarchy in our country', he said.

'I want you to make a honest and conscience decision. I do not have money to bribe anyone to vote for me. It is an insult. Fighting corruption is going to be one of my goals, so I cannot bribe any of you for votes. You must sacrifice  not to  make a few Naira and vote for perpetual prosperity or get the opposite when you take bribes and vote the wrong candidate. If you do not vote me, no regret. My aim is to serve Nigeria', he said.

That speech did not sound very complimentary to the delegates. Some observers believe that he must have lost more votes by such 'arrogance'

Dauda Birma - I've been in Public Administration all my life

Dauda Birma, a former Minister of Education from Adamawa State, was less graceful and displayed immodesty to an entertaining level when he addressed the delegates.

'I had stepped down eight years ago for Gen. Buhari under the saying, that he who fights and runs away lives to fight again. I am not running away, I am fighting now. Nigeria has learnt to be content with the PDP for 12 years. That era should be over. Nigerians should try the ANPP for new promises,' he said.

'If the delegates make a wrong choice they are not only making it for the party, but for the country as a whole. For all those watching this convention live on TV, if you know any delegate, phone the delegates and tell them that what ever money they may have received from any contestant, they must only vote for me, because I am the one that can best represent this country at the United Nations when I win to become president under this party', he said, to a bout of laughter from the crowd.

'I am a graduate of Public Administration  from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria  and I have been in Public Administration all my life. I am trained for the job, unlike others. I am the right person to get your votes. Don't betray the trust of those who elected you to come over here', he warned.

Ibrahim Shekarau - a day of great history
The Governor of Kano State, was dressed in cream colour flowing robe with stripes of white and brown  and a cap to match. He was the only one who received a loud welcome from the delegates, when he came up to speak.

'This is a day of great history. A  moment of change for the ANPP', he told the delegates.

'I congratulate our delegates for their perseverance and commitment in the past 12 years that led us to this point. It is time to vote the ANPP for a change in Nigeria. I am making myself available to be given the chance to stir our nation into a new dawn. With your support and the entire Nigerian people we would realise that change. God would grant you that wisdom to choose the right delegates who would carry the flag of the ANPP to victory', he said.

It was an innocuous, speech that was respectful of the delegates. He did not attack anyone, and didn't boast about being the best.

Shekarau scored 4178 votes, while his closest contender, Chief Harry Akande secured  708  votes. Alh. Bashir Tofa was next with 139 votes, and Alh. Birma came at the rear with 139 votes.

Out of the 5315 delegates that voted, 142 had their votes invalidated.

Amid dancing and ululation, Shakarau was presented with Certificate of Return by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the national chairman.

In response, the 56 year old retired Mathematics lecturer said he was humbled by his victory and hailed other contestants for the fair play.

He said that the ANPP would do all it could to come to power in the April polls.

He said, if elected president, he would concentrate on fighting corruption, improving on infrastructure and enhancement of security and employment generation.

Roll call
Notable personalities at the event included Governor Ali Moudu Sherif of Borno State; Governor Ibrahim Giedam of Yobe State and former Governor of Zamfara State and Minority Whip of the Senate, Sen Ahmed Yerima.

There were also Former Governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu; Sen. Kaka Mala Yale Sen. Kabiru Gaya, Sen. Daniel Saror who is the gubernatorial candidate of the party in Benue State; Senator Nafiz Gamawa, Sen. Bukar Ibrahim, former Governor of Yobe State, Sen Maina Ma'aji Lawan; Alh Modu Fannami Gubio, Borno State guber candidate of the ANPP for 2011.