More drama unfolded on Friday as the All Progressives Congress (APC) ramps up preparations for a special convention for its presidential primary.
The ruling party will elect its presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections at the primary scheduled to hold between Monday and Wednesday next week.
With about three days to the exercise, the atmosphere seems tense for some party faithful over the chances of their preferred aspirants to emerge as the APC presidential candidate.
Amid the increasing possibility for a consensus candidate to emerge, the ruling party says it has dropped 10 of the 23 aspirants who appeared before its Presidential Screening Committee led by former APC National Chairman and erstwhile governor of Edo State, John Oyegun.
Mr Oyegun presented the report of the committee to the national chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on Friday in Abuja where he confirmed the disqualification of the aspirants, although he did not disclose their identities.
He also hinted that 99 percent of the presidential aspirants agreed to support a consensus candidate.
“We engaged every aspirant on the issue of consensus; it is a pleasant surprise that 99 per cent agreed that the party is supreme and that whatever the party decides – with proper consultation – they will likely accept. Only one exception, who said ‘I will accept consensus only if it is for me’.
“I think it is a point that needs to be made and emphasised. So, that gives you a lot of leeway in the hours ahead to trim down even more drastically but, finally, we think we should not be afraid of a contested primary if anybody insists on a contest,” Oyegun told Adamu as he handed over the committee’s report.
He also explained that contrary to rumours making the rounds, the committee did not screen former President Goodluck Jonathan as claimed.
A total of 28 aspirants picked the APC presidential nomination and expression of interest forms sold at N100 million. Some of them paid for the forms themselves in some cases while various interest groups purchased the nomination tickets for their preferred aspirants.
Former President Jonathan and the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, were among those whose forms were bought for them, but the duo have since condemned the move and rejected these forms.
Besides both men, the APC also dropped the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, from aspirants to be screened by its panel.
Thereafter, 23 aspirants appeared before the APC Presidential Screening Committee which cleared 13 for the exercise, with 10 others dropped
Presidential hopefuls who appeared before the committee, in no particular order, include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, APC chieftain Bola Tinubu, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole; and oil magnate, Tein Jack Rich.
Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa; former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha; popular Pastor Tunde Bakare, former governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yerima; and former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, also appeared before the panel.
Also screened were former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former presidential candidate, Nicholas Felix; a female aspirant, Uju Ken-Ohanenye; Ondo North Senator, Ajayi Boroffice; and a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
Others include Governor David Umahi Ebonyi; former Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ogbonnaya Onu; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi, and former Minister of Information under the late General Sani Abacha regime, Ikeobasi Mokelu.
At the end of the primary, the party is expected to produce its candidate who will contest for the office of the President alongside the flagbearers of other political parties in the 2023 general elections.