The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Monday commenced screening of aspirants seeking its presidential ticket to compete with candidates of other political parties next year.
Twelve of the 23 aspirants appeared before the screening at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja and the rest would have their turn today, the organisers said.
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The screening was earlier slated for May 23, 2022, but postponed by the National Working Committee (NWC) for some reasons.
Those who faced the screening panel Monday included the National Leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi and Jigawa State governor, Badaru Abubakar.
Our correspondent reports that a former minister of state for education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, was the first to be screened.
Others screened included Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Uju Ken-Ohanenye (the only female aspirant), Felix Nicholas, former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Pastor Tunde Bakare, former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Eyes on Tinubu
Daily Trust reports that Tinubu’s name is being featured prominently by political pundits since the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This, according to observers, is for many factors, including his much-touted role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
There were claims by some party leaders that there was a gentleman pact that at the end of President Buhari’s tenure in 2023, there would be a power shift to the South West with the hope that Tinubu would take the shot at the presidency.
Besides, and without prejudice to the credentials of other contenders, Tinubu is seen in many quarters as an aspirant with financial muscle and vast outreach to give other candidates a run for their money.
Tinubu, who was on the first batch of aspirants screened yesterday by the committee led by a former national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was accompanied by hundreds of supporters.
He was at the venue at about 5:45 pm and went upstairs where he was eventually screened. He came alongside the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and left the venue around 8:55 pm.
The mammoth crowd that accompanied him couldn’t allow the APC bigwig to grant an interview to newsmen who were patiently waiting to hear his take on the screening.
His security details and other top supporters whisked him away after his screening.
Tinubu had congratulated Atiku on his emergence as the presidential candidate of the PDP on Sunday, saying he hopes to slug it out with him at the polls.
Screening c’ttee petitioned to disqualify Tinubu
Daily Trust gathered that there were three petitions filed against the former Lagos governor ahead of his appearance at the screening bordering around the same issues, alleged irregularities in his credentials.
This could not however be confirmed by the screening committee of the APC leadership.
But some sources close to him said they were not perturbed by the alleged petitions while others said the Asiwaju had no pending issue anywhere.
In one of the petitions dated May 17, 2022, by one Sagir Mai Iyali, who claimed to be a member of the APC from Kano State, the party was asked to disqualify Tinubu over alleged false documents he allegedly tendered to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) previously.
Part of the letter reads; “We understand that Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has since procured his expression of interest and nomination forms and has submitted the same to the party has certain issues that amount to a similar disqualification scenario.
“From the information contained in prior submissions to the Independent National Electoral Commission (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 filed 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 29, 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 Bola Ahmed 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 Bola Ahmed Tinubu from taking part in the APC primary election for the presidential election.”
But one of the sources in Tinubu’s camp said last night that they were upbeat about the former Lagos governor’s clearance by the Oyegun committee.
The source, who accompanied Tinubu to the screening, said “he was screened like every other person,” adding that they were waiting for the committee to submit its report.
He said the committee would send its report for approval, adding that the Oyegun panel lacked powers to disqualify anyone.
Another source in the camp dismissed the reported petition against the aspirant explaining that the issues raised had been long addressed.
Daily Trust reports that in a response to an enquiry by a national daily in January 2022, the Chicago State University said Tinubu indeed attended the university.
Beverly Poindexter, who is in charge of official transcript requests, enrolment and degree verification at the Office of the Registrar, CSU, said Tinubu was one of their students.
In an earlier letter dated August 20, 1999, and signed by the Registrar, Lois Davis, the university stated that Tinubu was its student between 1977 and 1979.
Atiku not a threat to APC – Bakare
Running mate to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) in the 2011 election, Pastor Tunde Bakare has said Atiku is not a threat to the APC in 2023.
Bakare stated this in an interview with newsmen shortly after his screening yesterday in Abuja.
Asked whether his chances would not be threatened if he is fielded by the APC to slug it out with Atiku, Bakare said, “There is a difference in character and competence and we have competence, we have the character and we are the marketing officers for new Nigeria, a new nation.
“There is nothing the PDP can do; we will ensure they don’t come back anymore. They put us back and we have had challenges for the past seven years. We can only improve on what has been done by the current administration.”
I won’t step down – Felix
Nicholas Felix, the youngest presidential aspirant who was also screened yesterday told newsmen that he won’t step down for any other aspirant.
He said if a consensus arrangement was to be reached, he would be the man to emerge the APC candidate to succeed President Buhari in 2023.
If given the ticket the young aspirant expressed optimism he would defeat Atiku.
He said, “When I emerged as the candidate, even the chairman of PDP will vote for me because this is what Nigerians are looking for. I am the only youth aspirant today at the party, and I have a lot to bring to the table.”
I’ll step down if my party prevails on me – Uju
The only female aspirant in the race, Uju Ken-Ohanenye said she would abide by whatever decision reached by the party.
The female aspirant who said she was satisfied with the way the screening was organised, however, said she was in the race to win.
She said, “I will abide by whatever decision the party takes.”