by Christopher Odey (Leadership)
An anticipated bid by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to adopt the consensus arrangement in picking its presidential aspirant may turn out to be hard nut to crack for the governing party, as one its frontline presidential aspirants, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, insisted before the party’s presidential screening committee that he will never step down for any preferred candidate.
The APC national leader was among the twelve presidential aspirants screened yesterday by the party in camera.
The screening of the APC presidential aspirants which took place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, was shrouded in secrecy, away from curious journalists who were restricted to lobby at the reception of the five star hotel.
The twelve presidential aspirants screened yesterday include Tinubu; minister of Transportatation, Rotimi Amaechi; Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru; former Senate president, Ken Nnamani; former minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba, former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; fiery Lagos cleric and former vice presidential candidate to Muhammadu Buhari in 2011, Pastor Tunde Bakare.
Others are Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; former Zamfara State governor, Ahmed Sani Yerima; Senator Ajayi Boroffice; the only female aspirant, Barr (Mrs) Uju Kennedy Ohnenye, and Pastor Nicholas Felix Nwagbo.
Tinubu who arrived at the screening venue at about 5:50pm had a difficult on his way to the screening room at Transcorp Hotel as a crowd fell over themselves to welcome him with cheers and songs of praises.
LEADERSHIP gathered reliably that sitting right before the committee, Tinubu told members of the presidential screening panel that he won’t agree to a consensus under any circumstance.
His stance was said to have put the former Lagos State governor “at loggerheads with the whole panel.”
Other aspirants, apart from Tinubu and one of the presidential hopefuls, it was learnt, said they had no option than to bow to whims of the party in the spirit of party supremacy in the event where the party chooses to settle for a consensus presidential candidate.
“Only two others had reservations. But essentially everyone agreed that the interest of the party is sacrosanct. Tinubu outrightly disagreed. He said the only circumstance he would agree is if he emerges as the consensus candidate,” a source close to the screening panel told this paper last night.
There were also concerns yesterday in the camp of the APC national leader following the appointment of a former national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, his estranged erstwhile political ally, as chairman of APC presidential screening panel.
Tinubu and Oyegun fell apart during the leadership crisis that consumed latter, leading to the emergence of former Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, as his successor.
While the APC was unobtrusive in planning and conducting the screening exercise at an undisclosed room at the Transport Hilton hotel Abuja, journalists had a hard day locating the venue when news broke in the early hours of yesterday without any official statement from the party to the effect that the exercise would hold.
At the hotel, journalists were barred from the venue of the screening unlike in the past when the conventional practice had been for the party to inform the media with details of the screening, including the venue and time of event.
There were no details about membership of the screening committee and when it was constituted till later in the day when it became clear that the APC quickly set up a seven-member committee chaired by Odigie-Oyegun to conduct the screening exercise for the presidential aspirants.
National chairman of the party, Sen Abdullahi Adamu, and national secretary, Iyiola Omisore, were also said to be members the committee.
There had also been reports that the governing party was planning to prune the number of its presidential aspirants as part of plans for a consensus option which has popped up names like former President Goodluck Jonathan a possible preferred candidate.
The APC had postponed its presidential screening exercise for three consecutive times, leading to the postponement of its presidential convention earlier scheduled to be held on May 29-30.