The ruling All Progressives Congress will today face its first challenge towards retaining or losing the Presidential Villa it has occupied in the last seven years. It is the screening of its presidential aspirants numbering, initially, 28 but has reduced in the last 10 days. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration comes to an end on May 29, 2023, just about one year from today.
The party had a bountiful harvest in terms of Naira and Kobo from the sales of expression of interest and nomination forms. The presidential form sold for a whopping N100 million each.
National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, clarified on Thursday that presidential nomination forms sold by the ruling party were 28, while 133 forms were purchased by governorship aspirants.
Morka said as of Thursday, 25 of the 28 presidential forms sold had been returned, but he could not ascertain how many out of the 133 gubernatorial forms were returned.
Morka, who spoke on a live television programme, explained, “For presidential elections, we had 28 aspirants purchase forms for the office of president, of which 25 were returned and submitted and three were not. Now, for governorship, we have 133 forms purchased, however, I don’t have the exact figures of those who have returned.”
The party is now faced with the challenge of delivering not only free, fair, transparent and credible primaries but it must be such that would be seen to be so by not only its card-carrying members but also the Nigerian populace.
The journey towards that credible primary, particularly the Presidential which has been scheduled for 29 and 30 of May by the National Working Committee, begins today with the screening of the remaining 22 aspirants.
Some aspirants have resigned while others who had bought the forms reversed their decisions, abandoned the N100 million and withdrew from the race in order to retain their ministerial positions.
Without a doubt, the APC has its hands full as those who are still in the race are not jokers. Their ambition is to pick the ticket to be the party’s standard bearer in the forthcoming general elections.
Feelers from the Buhari House National Secretariat of the party indicate that though the ruling party may have jettisoned its original plans on zoning the ticket to the south, there are underground plans to settle for a consensus candidate.
Already, clandestine moves have been on. Some aspirants have been under pressure to relinquish their ambition of becoming the number one citizen of Nigeria.
The body language of some shows they have succumbed while others have damned the pressure and its attendant consequences to continue with the pursuit to realise their desire.
“Already, clandestine moves have been on. Some aspirants have been under pressure to relinquish their ambition of becoming the number one citizen of Nigeria. The body language of some shows they have succumbed while others have damned the pressure and its attendant consequences”
Socio-political commentator, Kennedy Danjuma described the challenges the party has to contend with as a time bomb waiting to explode.
He said though the APC decision to give everyone who wants to aspire to be President an opportunity to do so, the Party will definitely experience implosion if it forces any forms of consensus arrangement on them.
“I can tell you that from the look of things, APC leadership is working towards creating a dichotomy in the party. This decision of joining PDP to throw their Presidential ticket open after it had zoned its National Chairman to the North is a time bomb, and when it explodes the party will lose membership. It may not survive it.
“Already, some of the big wigs have started leaving. Mallam Ibrahim Shekerau and his followers have left in Kano. Do you know the impact it will have on the party’s performance in 2023 and many more will still leave. Don’t let us be deceived, after the presidential primary, the party will be shaken to the foundation, especially if they continue to force people to step down and support a consensus candidate.
“There are aspirants, who by their push since they showed their interest, you and I know are not jokers. They were not asked by anybody to come out. Talk of people like Governor Yahaya Bello, Senator Bola Tinubu and Governor Dave Umahi. These three declared their interest long ago. The only way APC can convince them to remain with the party is by conducting both screening and the primary in a very transparent manner. If they lose, they will know they lost and not by forcing a consensus candidate on them. Even if APC chooses one of these three as the consensus candidate, the others will be badly injured. So, the party has issues to contend with,” he argued.
Another political analyst Donald Ekemmuo believes the outcome of today’s screening will go a long way to determine how the primaries of the party will go.
He said, “APC as a party knows what is good for it. It cannot be dancing to every music played by the public in order to be seen as a people friendly party.
Whatever decision the party takes in choosing its flag bearers at whatever levels must have been discussed at the very top level, I mean the leadership level before taking it. So, I am of the opinion that the party is on the right track. There is no way every aspirant will be satisfied even before they jostled for the ticket, they knew that it is one out of all that showed interest that will get it.
“I hear some people, even top politicians in the party condemning everything the party does. It is all about fighting for those they are supporting. In 2015, Tinubu single handedly imposed Buhari on the party, in 2019 though Buhari was an incumbent, he was a consensus candidate. So, if the leadership of the party decides to continue with consensus, what is wrong about that? When Tinubu spearheaded it, it was good and now it’s not good maybe because his followers think the President will prefer the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. There is nothing that the party will do now that has not been done before. APC will remain great and strong after the primaries,” he noted.
On his part, Morka said the APC was yet to zone its presidential ticket.
He stated, “Every member of the party has rights; rights to aspire, and rights to support those who aspire. That’s a freedom we cherish and it is constitutional liberty that they have the freedom to associate with any aspirant or support anyone they choose.
“But the issue of zoning, and quite frankly, I’m a member of the National Working Committee of our party and I have not been privy to any discussions that have resulted in any kind of decisions about zoning. We have not made any decision at this time about zoning.
“So, all of those reports are purely speculative, they do not represent any decisions made by our party, because we have yet to make any decision on that. The party will make that call and when they do, I think that everyone will be advised as to that position and then to act accordingly.”
There are rumours making the rounds that the a high ranking chieftain of the party and one of the front-runners for the ticket, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu may dump the APC and join the Social Democratic party if he fails to pick the ticket.
A chieftain of the party who preferred anonymity told The Point in a chat that the former governor of Lagos State does not believe in consensus and has little or no confidence in the processes that will midwife the standard bearer of the party.
Our source claimed that since the Vice President declared, Tinubu has never believed in the sincerity of the President because he saw him as the influence the Vice President had to challenge him.
“Those condemning everything the APC does are only selfish. They want to make decisions for the party, they want whatever they decide to be implemented in the name of the party but when the party refuses to do as they want, you’ll see them use their media power to rubbish the party. This is not how to be a faithful party member.
“Check very well, you cannot pin down any criticism of the party on Governor Yahaya Bello. He was the first aspirant to indicate his interest in contesting for President. When the party zoned the national chairman to the North and micro-zoned it to the North Central, which some of us in the party saw as a move to truncate his ambition, he never went to the press to attack the party. We never read any comments credited to his supporters attacking or condemning the party. He remained resilient and focused. But some of them, I don’t want to mention names, are using their supporters while some by themselves attack the party.
“These ones see themselves as bigger than APC but they must understand that as long as they have accepted to be card carrying members of the party, they are under the control of the party’s constitution and as such whatever decision the party takes is binding on them as well as us all. Flaunting what they have done for the party in the past is a sort of subtle blackmail to force the party to give them preferential treatment. But I must tell you that is neither here nor there. If they were not in APC, they would not have had the clouts and their acclaimed political weight. Like I said, I don’t want to mention names but Nigerians know those who want to pull down the APC because they want to be President at all cost. It is the life ambition of others. Some of them are on their way to joining other parties if they don’t win, we know that but it is their choice.”
Ezra Enwere, a lawyer and political analyst was of the opinion that APC’s Presidential aspirant’s screening of today will definitely determine who the party’s standard bearer in the 2023 general elections will be. He, however, expressed fears that the outcome of it may cause distractions to the party.
“Monday, 23rd of May is like the ‘Ides of March’ in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to APC. What do I mean? APC must beware of what they do with the screening of their presidential aspirants. They must not do anything funny by disqualifying anyone unjustly because the long arm of the law is waiting. Let me remind them that if in 2014 some henchmen of the PDP did not defect and joined them in the name of nPDP, they may not have wrestled power from the PDP government.
If they don’t know that Nigerians are not happy with their government then they are not serious. So, anything that can lead to implosion in the party will deny them return to the Aso Rock Villa.
“I’m advising them through this medium to give every aspirant a fair screening even if they have settled for an aspirant; they should let all go to the polls at the primaries. Unjust disqualification will definitely turn to self-inflicted injury. Remember the Amended Electoral Act demands that for consensus to take place, all the aspirants must write and sign to surrender their aspiration to support the one chosen as a consensus candidate, without this, whatever consensus any party is agreeing on will face the test of the law in court. In all, I believe, APC have their fate and destiny in their hands and whatever they do with it will determine whether they will remain the ruling party or go to the wilderness as the opposition party.
“Another salient point is the feelings or minds of the aspirants. We meet with some of the members of the support groups of these aspirants and when we discuss with them, we deduce what is in the minds of their candidates. Some of them already believe the leadership of the party is playing some games that have been scripted by behind the scene rulers who want to impose a candidate on the party. APC has to prove them wrong by allowing all qualified aspirants to test his or her popularity at the primaries,” he said.