Oyegun Clarifies Status Of Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Lawan,Others

By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja

The Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led Presidential Screening Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has clarified reports that it disqualified 10 of the 23 presidential aspirants of the party.

This happened on a day it emerged that Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State remained in strong contention for the APC presidential ticket based on the large following he enjoys among potential delegates to the National Convention, especially youths and women.

There were also indications that hawks within the party had narrowed the aspirant to emerge as the presidential candidate to two, one each from the South and North.

He said it was on that basis that his committee decided to recommend 13 persons to the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party for “further processing”.

The 10 aspirants, who received less than favourable reports, are equally qualified to contest, explaining that it was on that basis that his admonished the NWC not to be afraid of organizing a primary election for aspirants who may not want to withdraw from the race.

He said: “It was just an unpleasant task that had to be done. We want to keep the party united as much as possible and not to ‘disgrace’ somebody by saying he is disqualified or so. According to all the constitutional requirements, they are all qualified but we can only present one candidate for the election.

“So, the committee recommended 13 people for further processing. The implication is clear for the other 10 because they are prima facie qualified.

“You need to check my statement again when we submitted the report. I said if any of the aspirants insists, the party should not be afraid of a contested primary. My statement was so clear and I do not understand all these hullabaloo via the media.”

Besides Yahaya Bello, the aspirants include Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, VP Yemi Osinbajo, Govs Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa; Dave Umahi of Ebonyi and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti.

Others are Senator Godswill Akpabio, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Mr Tein Jack-Rich, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Chief Chukwuemeka Uwaezuoke Nwajiuba and Dr Christopher Ogbonnaya Onu.

Submitting the screening committee report on Friday, Odigie-Oyegun had said out of the 23 aspirants, his committee zeroed in on 13.

He had said; “First, we had 23 aspirants who we interacted with and my first comment is that we are indeed a very lucky party. Those were 23 who presented themselves. We had a lot of others, prominent Nigerians both within the country and outside who had applied, but for whatever reasons could not proceed with their applications. The point I want to make is, the quality of the people who want to govern this country.

“Our report is basically simple and short and we did not want to beat around the bush. There were two aspects to it: constitutional qualifications for you to aspire to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That was simple, that was straight forward and on that basis, every aspirant who presented himself qualified because it was basic, it was 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, your background, your experience, your understanding of the Nigerian situation, your ideas as to how issues, difficulties, problems and the rest can be addressed and how the country can be moved forward became a principal consideration.
“It is on that basis, who are you? What have you achieved? What is the understanding of your nation and what you think you can contribute to move the nation forward. It was on the basis of that that we made our final shortlist.

“I do not want to read the names, I think we will leave that to you. But we have a shortlist, we brought the number severely down to 13.

“We could have cut it a little shorter but we wanted, deliberately, the younger elements to surface, for them to be seen, for them to be noticed, who knows? We hand them to the party and it is for the party to decide the preferred candidate. It is also an opportunity to showcase the kind of people that exist within the party. Their youthfulness, their kind of experience, let the world know that we care for the young and this is a party that when we say the young can aspire, we really mean it. This has been showcased in the report that we have written.

“Finally, we think you should not be afraid of a contested primary if anybody insists on the contest”.

The implication, according to the sources, is that the North-East, having not produced the president since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democracy, is highly favoured while the South-West is in a strong reckoning.

“Meanwhile, nothing is last in stone”, one of the sources said.

Why the odds favour Yahaya Bello

Meanwhile, Yahaya Bello, according to analysts, remained a strong contender for the APC presidential ticket..

“Yahaya Bello’s campaign has taken the whole political and media space by surprise and his media outing has been adjudged the best in the current season. An independent manifesto review of key aspirants across parties by Channels TV also rated his manifesto the best amongst others. He tied with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo”, an analyst said, yesterday.

“So many youth groups have been clamouring for a youthful President and have teamed up behind the Kogi Governor who had been harnessing the key demographies for long.

“The huge simultaneous rallies by youths across more than 24 states on a single day showed a kind of capacity that had not been seen before in recent history.

“He has massive women support also, on the back of the many strategic positions he has given to women in his cabinet and in his campaign organisation. These two demographies are key to winning elections and decision makers in the APC can’t ignore this. As at now, no other aspirant from the North has such support or structure.

“Not many people knew how much work he had done in Kogi until his media team began to put the projects in the faces of Nigerians. It also came to light that the issue of non-payment of salaries was deliberately planted by political opponents. The NLC and TUC in Kogi State have been seen attesting to the fact that the Governor had been paying salaries promptly since 2018 after the staff audit exercise in TV infomercials”.

Another commentator said: “It was also a surprise to many to note that Kogi State actually led all other states in the federation on the World Bank’s rating of fiscal sustainability, transparency and accountability of Nigerian states for two consecutive years.

“The presidential race should not be about the highest bidder but about who can effectively build on the successes of President Muhammadu Buhari, tackle the challenges. One main challenge is security and Yahaya Bello has proven his capacity in this area, taking Kogi State from a state notorious for crime and criminalities to one of the safest in less than three years. This is why he heads security committee of major APC programs. “His loyalty to President Buhari is not in doubt”.

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