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2023 Presidency: APC to screen, prune number of aspirants

By Leo Sobechi, Adamu Abuh (Abuja) and Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
24 May 2022   |   4:30 am
Barring last minute changes, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will today screen its presidential aspirants for the 2023 general elections after earlier postponements.

(Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

• Fayemi: Only five aspirants are serious
• Nwajiuba backs party on controversial letter of withdrawal
• Ohanaeze Ndigbo upbeat about Igbo producing next president

Barring last minute changes, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will today screen its presidential aspirants for the 2023 general elections after earlier postponements.

This was announced, yesterday, by the National Organising Secretary of the party, Suleiman Argungu, in Abuja. He said the party will screen 28 presidential aspirants, though 25 submitted the nomination forms, today and tomorrow at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja, four days to its convention where the party’s flag bearer would emerge.

Earlier on Sunday, the party had postponed the exercise for the second time after it failed to hold last weekend. But no reason was given for the change in plan. The party had previously fixed May 14 and 15 for the screening but it postponed the exercise and gave a new date of May 23 after aspirants for Senatorial and House of Representatives seats were screened.

Key aspirants that have submitted their forms include Vice President Yemi Osibanjo; APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu; ex-Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; former Minister of Niger Delta Development, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

Others are: Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade; his Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi; Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; ex-Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani; Senator Ajayi Borofice and Pastor Tunde Bakare.

Similarly, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello; his Jigawa State counterpart, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar; ex-Zamfara State governor, Sen. Ahmed Yerima; former Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu; former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha; former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole are also not left out.

As at 6:30p.m. yesterday, members of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) were still locked in a closed-door meeting in an apparent bid to ensure a smooth conduct of the exercise.

A source, who confided in The Guardian, hinted that members of the NWC already conferred with the powers of the National Executive Committee (NEC), explored the possibility of screening out some aspirants even before the start of the exercise.

“Be sure that we are not going to have more than 15 aspirants that would be screened. Some of them would be disqualified based on the timing they turned in their resignation letters to President Muhammadu Buhari,” the source noted.

Another source within the Presidency confided in The Guardian that geopolitical zones of the party had been asked to meet and work towards consensus in a bid to reduce the number of aspirants to the barest minimum.

“It is not a question of indecision; a lot of considerations are being taken into the choice of date, as well as the shape of the screening. A number of criteria have already been worked out. Security of the country is at stake. Of course, you cannot rule out the issue of corruption and other baggage.

“The screening would be carried out in such a manner that those that would be disqualified would have no cause to complain. I won’t tell you the crucial criteria that would lead to the disqualification, but some of those aspirants would be disqualified unless they voluntarily withdraw from the race,” he stated.

It would be recalled that in the build up to the APC national convention that produced Senator Adamu, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Public Affairs, Femi Adesina, disclosed that Buhari would not support any aspirant tainted with corruption.

In an interview with The Guardian, the Deputy Majority Leader, Prof. Ajayi Borofice, remarked that he is for consensus, noting that although many persons afforded the N100 million cost of nomination forms, the choice of Nigeria’s next president is beyond money and moneybags.

While ruling out a possible implosion after the presidential primary, the three-term Senator noted that since the party was able to hold a rancour-free national convention, the primary will also come and go since only one person is expected to emerge.

FAYEMI, yesterday, said there are more pretenders in the race for the APC presidential ticket than contenders. He said out of the 23 persons currently in the race, only about five of them are serious in the quest to clinch the ticket of the ruling party. He did not, however, name the five aspirants.

Fayemi said this while soliciting the support of delegates from Niger State during a visit to the state. In a statement by spokesperson of the Fayemi Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Ige, the Ekiti governor said the level of seriousness is determined by the ability of the aspirants to move across the country.

“This is a season of visits and states keep receiving us. The list of presidential aspirants says there are 23 but only five of us are going around the country. With this, you can separate the pretenders from the contenders,” he said.

Some of the aspirants who have visited states include Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Lawan and Fayemi. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva and President of the Africa Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, have opted out of the race.

FORMER Minister of State for Education, Nwajiuba, yesterday, said he supports the decision by the party to attach the controversial letter of withdrawal to the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms sold to aspirants.

The withdrawal letter addressed to the National Chairman of the party, Adamu, must be signed before a Commissioner of Oath/Public Notary before submission.

Nwajiuba, in an interactive session with reporters in Abuja, enjoined delegates at the national convention of the party to set aside pecuniary interest and elect a flag bearer with the wherewithal to address the multifaceted challenges besetting the country.

Nwajiuba said the letter would come in handy if the party decides to adopt a consensus arrangement to select the flag bearer. He promised to accede to the party’s demand for a consensus arrangement if the need arises.

According to him: “It’s not possible to win an election without the consent of everybody. So why would you be saying I can only win if I am the most powerful. You can only win by consensus arrangement. So, whatever consensus my party agrees to, I will agree. If they choose me, it’s good for them and for Nigeria. If they don’t choose me, whoever they choose is what they plan to offer Nigerians and we will stand by the party.”

MEANWHILE, despite hurdles that have been placed in their quest for presidency come 2023, especially by the ‘open contest’ declared by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has insisted that Ndigbo would not lose out of the contest.

The Guardian gathered yesterday that the Ohanaeze leadership had since May 7, embarked on countrywide consultations with different ethnic groups on the need to support Igbo presidential aspiration.

Speaking yesterday on their visits, spokesman of the organisation, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, said the delegation held “fruitful discussions”, adding that there is no doubt that Nigerians have fully bought into the demand by the Southeast and would do the needful at the appropriate time.

Ogbonnia restated that Ohanaeze Ndigbo was not worried about ongoing scheming in the two leading political parties, stressing that “we have enough competent Igbo politicians in them to match whoever that may come up.”