Presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were last night thrown into disarray, as the party announced the indefinite postponement of their screening scheduled to commence today.
National publicity secretary of the party, Barr Felix Morka, noted in a statement he issued on Sunday evening that a new date for the screening exercise would be announced by the party.
“The Screening Exercise for Presidential Aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) earlier scheduled to be held on Monday, May 23rd, 2022, is hereby postponed. A new date for the exercise will be announced shortly. Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted,” he stated.
LEADERSHIP gathered that most of the presidential aspirants who were already in Abuja for the screening were taken aback by the decision to postpone the exercise.
A source close to one of the aspirants told our correspondent last night that most of the aspirants were not aware of the shift in the date of the screening, saying “as I speak with you now, some of the aspirants are already in Abuja and are shocked at the turn of event.
“To make matters worst there is no new date for the screening. This means we would have to wait for communication from the party on a new date”, he added.
Meanwhile, like a phoenix, the rumoured presidential ambition of former Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, under the platform of the APC has gotten a fresh life of its own, as indications emerged yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari and the party’s leadership may have finally settled for him to clinch the party’s presidential ticket.
Barring any last minute change of plans, LEADERSHIP gathered that President Buhari and the Sen Abdullahi Adamu-led national working committee (NWC) of the party have concluded plans for Jonathan to emerge as the party’s presidential flagbearer under consensus arrangement.
A dependable source within the leadership of the governing party confided in this paper that Buhari, Adamu, APC governors and other key leaders of the party would meet with the presidential aspirants at the presidential villa on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 to seal the decision of Jonathan as the consensus presidential candidate.
The president, according to the source, will at the meeting present Jonathan to the presidential aspirants as his anointed successor and the endorsed consensus presidential candidate of the party.
“Although some of the governors are opposed to the choice of Jonathan as consensus presidential candidate, they will be also be at the meeting in Wednesday. It is going to be a hard nut to crack.
“I don’t know how the president and the party leadership intend to convince the presidential aspirants and the governors opposed to it, but it appears they have made made up their minds,” the source who did not want his name in print because he is not authorised to speak on the matter told our reporter yesterday.
It was also learnt that Jonathan had secretly submitted his presidential expression of interest and nomination forms bought for him by a Fulani and Almajiri group at the International Conference Center (ICC).
It was also gathered that after consultations with the party leadership, Jonathan who had earlier insisted that it was either consensus for his presidential bid or nothing had his forms clandestinely submitted to the party for him.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the APC NEC had transferred its power to the Adamu-led NWC until July 2022.
The party’s secretary, Dr Iyiola Omisore, who disclosed this to delegates at the 11th NEC meeting of the APC held at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, said Senate President Ahmed Lawan moved the motion which was seconded by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai.
With the transfer of power, the NWC had been at liberty to make decisions that would have required the approval of the NEC.
It would also be recalled that Jonathan had earlier rejected the expression of interest and nomination forms bought for him by the Fulani and Almajiri groups to contest the primary.
His media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, had issued a statement the night the forms were bough for him to say the former president did not authorise the purchase of the forms but thanked thelose who purchased them for their benevolence.
“It has come to the notice of His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, that a group has purportedly purchased Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest forms, of the All Progressives Congress (the APC), in his name. We wish to categorically state that Dr. Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorize it,” Eze stated.
But the confusion over his ambition continued when that same night Jonathan visited the national chairman of the party, Sen Adamu, in his residence where they met behind closed doors.
At the meeting which was said to have lasted between 9pm and 10pm, the former Nigerian leader reportedly sorted out some grey issues regarding his bid to get the presidential ticket of the party.
Party Stakeholders Kick, Say Jonathan’s Emergence Will Depict APC As Same With PDP
Meanwhile, some stakeholders of the APC are strongly opposed to the plan by President Buhari and the party leadership to endorse former President Jonathan as consensus presidential candidate.
LEADERSHIP learnt that that some party bigwigs, including governors have vowed to resist any attempt by the party leadership to impose Jonathan as consensus candidate.
Some of the party stakeholders under the aegis of The APC Watchdog raised yesterday raised the alarm over the possible emergence of Jonathan as the flagbearer of the party.
In a statement issued by its national coordinator, Alhaji Wahab Adewale in Abuja, the group stated that the emergence of Jonathan will not serve any useful purpose for members, particularly, its founding members, even as it would depict the governing party as the same party with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Adewale, in the statement, noted that the group is aware of moves in the corridors of power to return the Bayelsa born ex president to power via the APC.
“Bringing him back by APC after the same opposition that fought him for 5 years (2010-2015) and sent him packing on the gross rejection by Nigeria would mean a validation that PDP and APC are one and the same and are truly two sides of the same coin,” he stated.
The APC Watchdog also added that Jonathan’s roots is in the PDP and that handing the ticket over to him would be a great disservice to founding fathers of the APC.
The group accused PDP of harbouring a sinister motive to takeover the APC citing the emergence of the National Chairman, National Secretary, Woman Leader amongst others.
The stakeholders also queried the eligibility of Jonathan to serve in office beyond the 8 year constitutionally guaranteed tenure.
They also accused the former president of self-centeredness as he would only serve for just 4 years before power oscillates back to the North.
“The point that we are making is that he cannot be President for longer than 8 years because he has taken oath of office thrice already; as acting president, as president to complete the tenure of late President Yaradua and then as substantive president till 2015,” the group said.
South East Aspirants Forge Alliance
Meanwhile, the APC presidential aspirants of Igbo extraction met yesterday and resolved to support anyone among them that clinches the party’s ticket.
The aspirants include Senator Rochas Okorocha, Senator Ken Nnamani; former minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu and Mrs. Uju Ken-Ohanenye.
They met behind closed door at the Maitama home of the former Imo governor.
Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi joined the meeting virtually, after he had to cut short his visit to Abuja to get relevant documents for his screening in Abakaliki.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting chaired by Onu and read by Nnamani, the aspirants, agreed to align with the decision of the party, which they said will do the right thing and heed the clamour for power shift to the Southeast.
In the communique jointly signed by the aspirants, Nnamani, Onu, Okorocha, Umahi, Nwajiuba and Moluku, the aspirants commended the APC leadership and the people of the Southeast “for commitment to the unity of Nigeria and the inclusion of all parts of Nigeria In the governance architecture of the country”.
It reads, “A communique issued at the meeting of the Southeast Presidential aspirants of the APC. At its review meeting held today the 22” of May, 2022 at the residence of Senator Rochas Okorocha, under the Chairmanship of His Excellency Ogbonniya Onu, the Aspirants agree to make the following statements;
“That the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the All Progressives Congress and Its National Working Committee as well the teaming members of the party are commended by the entire people of the southeast on their avowed commitment to the unity of Nigeria and the inclusion of all parts of Nigeria In the governance architecture of the country.
“That we commend all Nigerians who are committed to the Nigerian project by the whole hearted support of the aspiration of the south east to produce the next Nigerian president in 2023.
“That in furtherance of these commitment all aspirants here commit to align with any of the Southeast aspirants that is accepted by and chosen by other Nigerians to fly the APC flag”.
Any breach during party primaries will invalidate entire process, INEC warns
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged all political parties in the country to adhere to the provisions of the Constitution and the new Electoral Act 2022 during party primaries and congresses.
It warned that any breach in the stipulated guidelines invalidates the entire process.
The nation’s electoral umpire insisted that based on the powers conferred on the Commission by the constitution, it is also bound by the law to monitor all party primaries and congresses in the nation.
The national commissioner and chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye who stated this while speaking during an interview on “Rules of Engagement” for political parties ahead of the 2023 general elections on ‘Politics Today’ a Channels TV programme particularly warned parties against ‘political ambush’ in any form.
He also warned parties against change in venue for its primaries and congresses.
Okoye said political parties are mandated to use the same location stipulated in the notice to the Commission.
“If there is a change of location or date. The parties are mandated to give the Commission a seven days notice,” he added.
In compliance with the new Electoral Act 2022, Okoye said all 18 political parties have been served the requirements of the 2023 general election.
Speaking further, he said all delegates must be elected democratically.
“Any delegates who are falsely elected, invalidate the process. If parties breached the law in an election they will not have a valid candidate to submit to the Commission,” he added.
INEC’s guidelines and requirements are clear in the Constitution, the new Electoral Act 2022, and the rules and regulations of the Commission.
It will be recalled that on 26th February 2022, the Commission released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 general election.