* Says no regret over N100m presidential forms ‘aimed at hindering unserious aspirants, moles’
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday declared that it had not taken a decision on where to zone its presidential ticket in the 2023 elections.
On the same day, the number of presidential aspirants on the platform of the party jumped to 13, with the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, sending out a notice that he would formally declare for president next Wednesday in Abuja.
The PDP likewise screened all its 17 presidential aspirants yesterday and disqualified two aspirants – Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze and Cosmas Ndukwe.
The National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, who spoke on the controversial zoning issue after presenting the party’s candidate in the forthcoming Ekiti State governorship election, Biodun Oyebanji, to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, said such decision would be the job of the entire party, which he said was bigger than himself as Chairman.
Adamu, who was accompanied by Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi; Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Atiku Bagudu; and the National Secretary of the APC, Senator Iyiola Omisore, said he could not preempt what the party’s decision would be on the issue.
He said: “I am today privileged to be the Chairman of the party. The party is greater than me. The party has not made a decision and I cannot preempt what the party’s decision will be.”
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State had, just before the party’s National Convention, said even though the APC had not decided on zoning the presidential ticket, the swapping of national offices was an indication of where its presidential candidate would come from.
The APC swapped its national offices between North and South, leading to the emergence of Adamu from the North-central as the National Chairman in March.
Responding to the issue of when political appointees who intend to contest in the election are expected to resign, especially in the light of the party’s recently issued guidelines for people in that category, Adamu declined comment, saying “the matter is currently in court.”
He said: “Our luck on this end is that I happen to be a lawyer and the issue you are raising is in court right now. So, it will be subjudice for me to discuss it at all.”
On the issue of the cost of the party’s nomination and expression of interest forms, which many considered rather high, the Chairman said the party had no regret setting the prices at the current rate, citing the need to protect the party from unserious aspirants, moles, as well as the need to generate money to run the election processes.
He said: “Yeah, I’ve been listening, with rapt attention, to the hues and cries from our lovers and from our adversaries. We have no regrets whatsoever. We did some homework, we know what it takes to go through primaries, go through presidential campaigns, go through election for the President. We know what it takes.
“We also do know that there are citizens who are qualified to contest, but who are not serious contenders, who will just want to take anything cheap by the roadside, and assert what they call their rights and create problems for our party.
“We’re also aware that some parties that have no chance whatsoever to win the presidential election in Nigeria, they will sponsor people into parties that have prospects for winning the election, to create problems for us, to divert our attention.
“Over and above that, yes, we are the ruling party. Yes, we need to set examples in what we do, but I ask you, I don’t know which part of the country you come from. If, God forbid, your traditional ruler dies today, contestants to that office will go for more than N100 million, it’s no news.
“When I contested for the Senate, all I paid was just a token; N5 million, N10 million, including the expression (of interest). When my colleague wanted to be chairman of the party, in the days of Adams Oshimhole, it cost him N500,000. Today, for me, just as an example, to contest the national chairman of our party, I had to pay N20 million.
“Alright, and even the enormity of work that has to be done, and this work will be done with money. We don’t want to continue begging.
“So, I want to say that we’re able to mobilise sufficient funds to support our efforts to win the election. Some protests may be well founded, I have no quarrel with that, but the propensity of this, that people just assume ‘it’s the ruling party’, is quick… in our democracy.
“I will not quarrel with that, everyone of us has the right to express himself, and I’m in full support of these obligations, but we wear the shoes for our party and we know where it pinches us the most.”
On reports that the process of settling for a presidential candidate could tear the party apart, if not carefully handled, Adamu said: “God will not allow that to happen to us. We will come out, by the grace of God, at the appropriate time, our great party will choose the candidate at the convention.
“I do not want to speculate, but my duty as chairman is to listen to party men, party leaders, stakeholders, to see what is going to be best when the time comes and I’ve always found it easier and more noble to get a bridge before I jump to cross it. We are not there yet.”
APC’s Presidential Aspirants Lengthen to 13
The number of presidential aspirants on the platform of the APC jumped to 13 yesterday as the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, sent out a notice that he would formally declare for president next Wednesday in Abuja.
Fayemi joins a long list that includes Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu; ex-governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former president of the Senate, Ken Nnamani; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Five of the presidential aspirants have so far paid N100 million and picked up their forms. Those who did were Tinubu, Umahi, Bello, Nwajiuba and Okorocha.
Nnamani, while declaring his intention to run for president yesterday, promised to improve on the legacy of President Buhari, while also demanding for the reduction of the cost of interest and nomination forms for aspirants seeking elective posts under the APC.
He said compared with other aspirants, he was the most suited for the job of the President.
Nnamani said his pedigree as the President of the Senate and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Reform make him the right candidate.
Okorocha picked his presidential expression of interest and nomination forms yesterday, insisting that Nigeria’s biggest challenge remains the inability to create wealth.
Okorocha, who was presented the documents by “The New Nigeria Team”, in his Unity House office in Abuja, maintained that he remained the right candidate to take over from Buhari, promising that his government would be pro-people.
Tinubu Support Groups (TSG) yesterday picked the N100 million Expression of Interest and nomination forms on behalf of Tinubu.
The TSG team was led by a member representing Ikeja Federal constituency in the House of Representatives and the Chairman House Committee on Finance, Hon. James Faleke.
Faleke said Tinubu paid for his form personally but asked them to pick it up on his behalf because he was out of the country.
The lawmaker stressed that Tinubu was the candidate to beat, no matter the mode of primaries adopted by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Asiwaju at the appropriate time will deliver his address to us, but I know that this country under Tinubu will be better off. Economy will be better off because he is an economist, he is not a lawyer, he is an economist. He will deal with the economic situation of this country. He did it in Lagos, the security challenges in Lagos were solved by him. He will solve the same security challenges. He is a man who rewards loyalty, who ensures that people who work are also taken care of.”
On his part, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal said Tinubu is a branded product, adding that every Nigerian knows that he is the man to beat.
On his chances, he noted, “If we were not sure we have chances to win this election we would not waste our N100 million. Everybody’s free to buy the forms if he has N100 million. The choice is his own. He has the money. But as far as we are concerned, we are only fulfilling the constitutional requirement of campaigning and going for election. We don’t foresee any opposition in the contest.”
PDP Screens Presidential Aspirants
The PDP yesterday screened all its presidential aspirants ahead of its National Convention slated for May 30.
Former senate president, David Mark headed the presidential screening committee.
All the presidential aspirants like the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, former secretary to the government of federation Anyim Pius Anyim, Chief Dele Momodu, Peter Obi, Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, Governor Emmanuel Udom, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Mohammed Hayatu-deen and Ayo Fayose, were at the screening.
The committee at the end of the sitting disqualified two aspirants.
Mark confirmed this after the conclusion of the exercise at Legacy House, Abuja, at 7pm yesterday.
He, however, refused to disclose the identities of the disqualified aspirants or the reasons for their disqualification.
Mark simply noted that the aspirants did not meet the requirements.
But sources told THISDAY that the likely disqualified aspirants were Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze and Cosmas Ndukwe. Ndukwe took the party to court over zoning.
Mark also affirmed that the report of the screening will be transmitted to the PDP National Working Committee for consideration Friday night.
Anyim, who spoke to reporters after screening, described the process as simple, explaining that they were asked about their financial capabilities for campaigns, when they became members of the party and their tax papers.
Also speaking after screening, former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose warned the party against jettisoning zoning “as it will hurt the PDP in the future.”
But Governor Emmanuel disagreed saying, “any decision taken by the PDP on zoning is supreme and must be obeyed.”
Also Peter Obi who described the screening exercise as perfect said that he would respect the position of the party on zoning.