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Jonathan absent as APC screens presidential aspirants

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh (Abuja), Godwin Ijediogor and Monday Osayande (Asaba)
31 May 2022   |   3:54 am
After two weeks of delays and postponement, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, began screening its presidential aspirants...

Screening panel asked to disqualify Tinubu over ‘Chicago affair’
• Supporters in rousing welcome for Tinubu at the venue
• Bakare, Ohanenye pledge to abide by the party position
• Fallout of Atiku’s emergence: APC chieftains weigh Osinbajo, others’ chances
• Atiku intensifies reconciliation with Wike, other stakeholders
• Obi picks Labour Party’s presidential ticket

After two weeks of delays and postponement, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, began screening its presidential aspirants.

At the close of the sale of forms on May 10, 28 expressions of interest and nomination forms were bought for those seeking to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. Of the number, 23 aspirants were cleared to face the screening committee at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, headed by the former national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

APC Presidential Screening Committee headed by former chairman John Odigie-Oyegun attends to Jigawa State Governor and presidential aspirant, Muhammad Badaru in Abuja… yesterday.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan was not on the list though he has been linked with the ticket. Jonathan had rejected the form procured for him by a Fulani group.

However, last week’s verdict of the Federal High Court in Yenagoa, which cleared him to contest another term, added to speculations that he is active in the race. Coincidentally, the national convention was postponed on the same Friday that the judgment was given.

The former president is currently in Milan, Italy, attending a high-level advisory board meeting of the European Corporate Council on Africa and the Middle East (ECAM Council).

This may have put to rest speculations he would run for president in 2023 on the platform of the ruling party, especially after a source at the presidency had distanced President Buhari from the purported plot to draft Jonathan into the race.

It was tough luck, though, for one of the presidential aspirants, former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha. On the day the screening was earlier scheduled last week, he had endured a long-drawn siege to his Abuja home before he was eventually picked up by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). And on the rescheduled day for screening, yesterday, he was in court to argue for his bail application, which was deferred.
HOWEVER, scores of supporters welcomed leading presidential hopeful, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to the venue of the screening. Decked in white fitted attire and his traditional cap to match, Tinubu was the cynosure of all eyes as he walked through the hotel lobby at about 6:00 p.m. to meet with the Odigie-Oyegun-led seven-member screening committee.

Security personnel attached to Tinubu had a hectic time controlling the surging supporters bent on catching a glimpse of the Lagos politician.

Former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, also an aspirant, who arrived at almost the same time as Tinubu, was sighted at a distance heading towards the room where the screening was being conducted.

As at 10:00p.m. Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, alongside 11 other aspirants had been screened. Two of the screened aspirants, Mrs Uju Ohanenye and Pastor Tunde Bakare, who fielded questions from reporters, acknowledged the supremacy of the party, adding that they will abide by the outcome of the exercise.

Ohanenye, who expressed satisfaction with the exercise, said she would step down if it is in the best interest of the party. Bakare, who spoke in the same light, expressed optimism that he would participate in the presidential primary next week Monday.

He noted: “The party supremacy is the utmost essence. You cannot force your way through a party’s structure. The party has the final say. And when we get to that bridge, we will know how to cross it.”

While the screened aspirants await the outcome after all the presidential hopefuls would have been attended to in the two-day exercise, it was gathered yesterday that the committee was asked to disqualify Tinubu over “questionable educational qualifications.”

In a letter dated May 17, 2022, one Sagir Mai Iyali, who identified himself as an APC member from Kano State, asked the party to disqualify Tinubu over alleged false documents the latter tendered to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 1998.

Iyali said though Tinubu is within the required age to contest the office of president, his age is not known, adding that obscurity surrounding the presidential hopeful could jeopardise the party’s chances at the polls.

“From the information contained in prior submissions to INEC, particularly in 1999, Mr. Tinubu presented a false claim, on oath, of his attendance at the University of Chicago from 1972-1976. It is clear now that these claims are false. Not only was this filled in the INEC form with a declaration on oath on December 20, 1999, but it was also contained in an affidavit of loss sworn to before the High Court of Lagos, Ikeja Registry, December 29th 1998.

“The latter claim that seeks to transpose history is untenable. Mr. Tinubu has to show proof he attended the University of Chicago or he must stand disqualified as the opposition is in possession of these same documents. Over the years, the identity of Asiwaju Tinubu has been shrouded in secrecy.

“We, therefore, urge the screening committee to invoke the powers vested on it by the constitution and guidelines of the party to disqualify Asiwaju Tinubu from taking part in the APC primary election for the presidential election.”

Abdullahi Adamu, APC national chairman, and Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, were copied in the letter, while Iyali attached copies of what appeared to be Tinubu’s nomination form and affidavit in respect of lost certificates as “evidence” to back up his claims.

The former Lagos governor had previously admitted there were errors in his INEC filings in 1999.

FOLLOWING the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer, sources say APC chieftains are zeroing in on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the party’s best bet. Informed sources disclosed yesterday that a meeting of key stakeholders of the party argued that Osinbajo will be the only option to defeat Atiku since he represents a different generation, while Atiku and Tinubu are very much alike in the eyes of the public.

They argued that Atiku and Asiwaju share similar characteristics and would not appeal to the youth who make up the bulk of the population. Amid this permutation, a chieftain of the party mentioned that “the North will vote for a Northerner in the absence of a distilling difference between Atiku and Tinubu.”

Besides, the meeting looked at the figures of the 2019 presidential elections and concluded that even in the North, Atiku won only four of the 19 Northern states. His hold in that election in the Southeast and South-South may have even been diminished with the fervour in the South generally that power should not remain in the North for another eight years, especially with PDP losing the appeal of a Peter Obi, Atiku’s running mate in 2019.

Reacting to the emergence of Atiku, a highly ranked APC chieftain said: “An average APC delegate will be guided by well-known human interests before casting his or her vote for a presidential aspirant. The most important to him (or her) will be: first if the candidate shares the vision of the party. Second, if the candidate has what it takes to win the main election.

“An average delegate will be worried if a potential candidate does not have the capacity or competence to deliver on the party’s manifesto that can guarantee its continuation.”

MEANWHILE, Atiku has intensified efforts to reconcile with his co-contestants at the just concluded PDP presidential primary. He visited Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, at his Abuja residence yesterday. Atiku’s visit was in fulfilment of his promise last Saturday to carry all other aspirants along.

FORMER governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, yesterday, emerged as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, in the 2023 general elections. Obi’s emergence took place during the party’s presidential primary held yesterday in Asaba, Delta State capital.

Few minutes before the election, all his co-contestants, Prof. Pat Utomi, Ulubusola Emmanuel-Tella, Charles Uchenna and Oluwadare Joseph stepped down and endorsed him as the sole candidate of the party.

Chairman of the panel, Mr. Abdullahi Usman Alihu, declared Obi the winner having polled 96 votes of the total number of delegates that participated in the election. He said his emergence as Labour Party presidential candidate will definitely change the narrative of the 2023 election.

Obi vowed to secure the lives of all Nigerians and make sure students are in school without unnecessary strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) if elected the president.

Obi, until last week, was a presidential aspirant of the PDP and the party’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2019 elections.

Meanwhile, the Third Force Movement, under the umbrella of the National Consultative Front (NCFront), has called on leaders of conscience in the country to quickly join the Labour Party, following its adoption as the alternative ‘Big Tent’ for the 2023 elections.

The Third Force Movement was initiated to create a strong platform to challenge the APC and PDP. A statement signed by Ms Bilikis Bello, the Communications Executive (National) of the NCFront and the Head of Public Affairs of NCFront, Dr Tanko Yunusa, lambasted APC and PDP for running the country aground.

Tanko Yunusa, while addressing supporters and delegates of the Labour Party, said the ‘cash and carry’ party primaries of the APC and PDP, are ruinous in all ramifications.

He, therefore, called on the EFCC to immediately go after the candidates and delegates of the two major parties for “destroying Nigeria’s electoral system and moral fabric”, stressing that APC and PDP primaries across the country have been marred by allegations of vote-buying, with some aspirants who lost elections openly demanding the money and gifts earlier given to delegates.