Anxiety in the APC when a panel disqualifies ten hopefuls for the presidency in 2023. Indications emerged yesterday that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) might disqualify 10 out of its 23 presidential aspirants ahead of its national convention starting on Monday, June 6.
This came to the fore after the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led presidential screening panel submitted its report to the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
Odigie-Oyegun, who did not mention the identity of aspirants disqualified or cleared to participate in the presidential primaries, said his committee’s findings was arrived at after considering the antecedents of the aspirants.
He revealed that it was a “pleasant surprise” to the panel that “98 to 99 per cent” of the aspirants agreed that the party is supreme on the issue of consensus and that whatever the party finally decides with proper consultation, they would likely accept.
“We had only one exception who said yes, he will accept consensus so long as it is build on him. So, I think it is a point that needs to be made and emphasised. So, that gives you a lot of leeway in the days and hours ahead to trim down even more drastically. But, finally we think you should not be afraid for a contested primary if anybody insists on the contest,” he said.
The former Edo State governor, who expressed satisfaction with the interest displayed by youthful members of the party for the plum job, admitted that all the aspirants met the basic constitutional requirements for aspiring to administer the country.
His words: “We had 23 member aspirants that we interacted with. We had a lot of others, prominent Nigerians both within and outside the country that had applied, but for whatever reason, could not proceed with their applications.
“The point I want to make is the quality of the people that wants to govern this country.
“The second point I want to make is that we were surprised at the active participation of the youthful members of the party, some of whom really surprised us at to what they have accomplished in life, their understanding of the situation in this country and why they want to have the privilege of governing this country. What was important was that they so believed in the country and the party that they were able to pay the sum that some of us considered princely handsome to participate in the process. And I think the party ought to pat itself in the back for them.
“Our report is basically simple and short. I don’t want to beat about the bush. There were two aspects to it: The basic constitutional qualifications for you to aspire to be a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that was simple and straight-forward.
“And on that basis, every single aspirant that presented himself qualified, because it was basic and simple. But we are a governing party. And we are keen on continuing the process and replacing at the proper time, our president, with yet another member of the party.
“So, the ability to lead, background, experience and your understanding of the Nigerian situation, your ideas as to how issues, difficulties and problems can be addressed and how the country can be moved forward became a critical consideration. It is on that basis that we asked who are you, what have you achieved, your understanding of the nation and things you can contribute to move the nation forward. It was on the basis of that we made our final shortlist. I don’t list the names; I think I will leave that to you. We have a shortlist, which brought the number down to 13. We could have cut it a little shorter, but we wanted a pedigree with a longer element to surface. For them to be seen whether to be noticed, who knows? We hand them over to the party. And it is for the party to decide who their preferred candidate will be.
“I will conclude by saying that we only drew a word of caution; that there is this cleavage that is gradually becoming the centre stage in our national discourse, between the North and the South and the Presidency. We just want to advise strongly that the party should please think of it in making its decision, address it and let it influence their thoughts because it has its own implications.”
In his response, Adamu expressed gratitude to members of the panel, promised to consider the report accordingly before the kick-off of the national convention next week.
Apparently making a veiled reference to Tinubu’s recent outburst while addressing party faithful in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on his suitability to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, he declared that the ticket of the party was not the exclusive preserve of anybody.
He also hinted that that the eventual presidential aspirant of the party might be picked in tandem with the Not Too Young to Run Bill signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018.
Adamu said: “This is the day we have been waiting for. This eminent committee that has sat, interacted, considered and appraised the submission of all the members of the aspiring community.
“I listened with a very keen interest the comment that the chairman made in the course of his submission. One thing, which I found worthy of very special mention, is the fact that the Nigerian youth have responded.
“They have among them people who have the spirit of competition and have offered themselves to be considered for this very important job in the land.
“I still recall the Not Too Young To Run Bill we passed into law in the 8th Assembly. I feel encouraged that young people and young women have offered themselves to contest for this office.
“As it is in every competition, we received the report now. We will consider it at the very highest level of the party and see how we approach the forthcoming convention, which has the ultimate authority on the choice of who takes the flag of our party.
“The flag does not belong to me. It doesn’t belong to any one of us. It is the flag of the party, a corporate body called the APC. And it is my hope that that spirit would be obeyed. Court decision has affirmed this position.
“It is the party that you represent and not individuals. So, whoever emerges, as the flag bearer of the party is only a symbol of the party. It is my hope that the spirit with which we approach the convention will guide every one of the contestants; guide us as leaders of the party. We have the privilege to lead the party and we would do the best in the circumstances that we found ourselves.”
Governor John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi; former Minister of State Education, Dr. Emeka Nwajiuba, among others, fall within the category of young presidential aspirants in the party. A source, who confided in The Guardian, feared that screening panel might have disqualified Tinubu.
“You heard everything. They kept talking about age and youthfulness. You know for sure that Tinubu, our leader, doesn’t belong to that category. We just hope that the party throws out the recommendation of the committee eventually,” he said.
However, in a telephone interaction with The Guardian, a chieftain of the party from Adamawa State, who pleaded anonymity, said there was no big deal about the disqualification announced by the panel, stressing that the party anticipated such development and set up an appeal committee.
He recalled how some aspirants for the National Assembly seats were disqualified, adding that laws and regulations are enacted to instill order in political parties.
On his part, a former governor of Zamfara State, and one of the presidential contenders, Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, said APC has experienced painful developments in the past that warrant stringent scrutiny of documents presented by aspirants, saying nothing could be so devastating as winning an election and losing same in court.
The former governor said most times when petitions are presented to a committee, it is incumbent on the members to examine the merits of the claims and come to a decision, which they make available to the establishing authority.
While insisting that disqualification remains a party affair, the Presidential hopeful said the screening committee comprises high calibre members of the party, assuring that they were there to ensure that APC does not make avoidable mistakes.
Meanwhile, party stalwarts under the aegis of Northern Progressive Agenda (NPA), yesterday, insisted that former Lagos State Governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, remains the best among the presidential aspirants jostling for the ticket of the party.
Former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima also made a similar submission, declaring that only Tinubu can defeat the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former vice president Atiku Abubakar in the 2023 presidential election.
This was even as Nigerians in Ghana under the aegis of Tinubu Support Organisation (TSO) expressed their unflagging support for the presidential aspiration of the former Lagos State governor, saying Nigeria needs a bridge builder to bring about the desired peace and tranquility in the country.
Spokesperson of the NPA, which is rooting for Tinubu’s emergence as the candidate of the party, Malam Alancha Dominic, while addressing a press conference in Abuja, kicked against an alleged subterranean plot by the top echelon of the party to retain the presidency in the North after the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure .
The group called on the leadership of the party to put into consideration the need for fairness, justice and equity especially considering the fact that President Buhari would have been in the saddle for eight years by May 29, 2023.
They called on President Buhari to reciprocate the gesture of the South, which he immensely benefitted from, by refusing to listen to the call for the North to retain power when he leaves office.
Similarly, the Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF), yesterday, warned the APC against picking its presidential candidate from the North, saying the party would shoot itself on the leg if it toes that path.
National President of the NYLF, Elliot Afiyo, said it would be morally wrong for a northerner to succeed another northerner on the platform of the APC.
Afiyo, who spoke while addressing journalists in Yola, said: “The case in opposition PDP is different, because the last president on the platform of the party was from the South. That is why in 2019, no Southerner contested for president in PDP. It assumed that the party has to get a northerner to balance the political arrangement.
“However, in APC, the serving president is a northerner so picking another northerner to succeed him is morally wrong and it will affect the political fortunes of the party.”
However, speaking during a live programme on Television Continental (TVC), yesterday, former Borno State governor, Shettima stated that President Buhari is a man of conscience and would the needful, noting that supporters of the former Lagos State governor have done their home work and by God’s grace, he would emerge as the candidate of the party during the national convention. He said Tinubu has toured the entire country and was welcomed by all Nigerians.
“It has been a tumultuous welcome and he is accepted across the country. You can see that in Ibadan, Oyo and Ogun states,” Shetima added.
Shettima noted that the emergence of Atiku as PDP candidate has changed the political landscape, adding that for APC to win, Tinubu must be its flag bearer.
According to him, Tinubu is the only candidate with the pedigree and brand name to stand shoulder to shoulder with Atiku, adding: “Any attempt to test any option might be catastrophic for APC. We have done our home work and by God’s grace, our candidate (Tinubu) will emerge in the next 72 hours.”
Shetima said Tinubu’s statement during his visit to Abeokuta was being distorted and misquoted, saying: “We are progressives and we want to have genuine conversation on how to move the nation forward.”
“Whether Asiwaju’s opponents like it or not, he played a pivotal role, not only in bringing President Buhari to limelight, but was also instrumental to the success of APC in the 2015 elections.
“I don’t know why Asiwaju has become a subject of hatred. There is nothing he said that hasn’t been said before.” Reinforcing Shettima’s submission on Tinubu as best option for APC, the TSO in Ghana, which spoke through its Diaspora Assistant and National Secretary, Olayinka Olufisayo Amao, said: “The present state of the country is in urgent need of someone who would be able to build bridges of unity. An experienced leader who would also be committed to the project of revamping our dwindling economy. And that person is Tinubu.”
Amao said the group, which comprises technocrats, business moguls and politicians who believe in Tinubu’s political ideology, would hold a carnival at the Mikado Conference Centre, Accra, on Tuesday, June 7, to further express its support.
Nonetheless, amid the growing anxiety in the party ahead of its national convention, President Muhammadu returned to Abuja from Madrid, the Spanish capital yesterday, after his two-day official state visit.
The FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, and the Director-General of the State Security Service, Yusuf Bichi, among others, received him at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, The extent to which Buhari would again guide the party towards a successful convention remains to be seen.