Screening of the All Progressives Congress presidential aspirants began on Monday with questions on fundamental 10 key issues including their dual citizenship status.
Some of the aspirants, who were screened by the Presidential Screening Committee, headed by a former National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, supposedly asked them if they would be ready to step down for the consensus candidate of the party.
The ruling party, which initially scheduled the screening of the presidential aspirants for May 16, shifted it to May 23, but failed to hold exercise on that day.
The APC in the guidelines on page 17 of the N100m nomination form obtained by the aspirants, barred the contestants from engaging in thuggery and taking it to court, among other seven conditions.
Although there have been reports that the party may adopt consensus, the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi, who emerged through the method in March, in an interview with Voice of America Hausa Service on May 26, said it would not be feasible for electing the party’s presidential candidate.
Despite the Chairman’s statement, the issues of consensus and foreign citizenship came up when presidential aspirants including the party’s National leader, Bola Tinubu; Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, his Jigawa State counterpart, Badaru Abubakar; the immediate past Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; Ondo-North lawmaker, Senator Ajayi Boroffice; Pastor Tunde Bakare and Mrs Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, were screened in Abuja on Monday.
The questions the aspirants were asked included, “Do you have dual citizenship? Are you the subject of investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission? Have you been arraigned by the Code of Conduct Bureau? And have you ever been convicted for a crime?”
Other questions asked include, “Have you ever been declared bankrupt? Will you be willing to step down for a consensus candidate? What is your manifesto? Will you abide by the party’s objectives and manifesto? What is your APC membership status?”
The aspirants were also asked to present original copies of their credentials including school certificates.
An aspirant, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “They asked us pretty much the same questions. They asked about our record with anti-graft agencies, citizenship status, finances and our manifesto. Of course, there were a few follow up questions depending on the responses given.
“They asked if I had any EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) or ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission) case. They asked about my manifesto and also asked me if I would be willing to step down in the event of a consensus. I told them I am a party man and will abide by the wishes of the APC.”
The issue of dual citizenship has been a controversial issue in Nigerian politics with an Ondo State Election Petitions Tribunal ruling in 2019 that people who had sworn allegiance to a foreign country and acquired foreign citizenship ought not to hold public office. This judgment was, however, upturned by the Court of Appeal.
In some countries like the United States, foreigners who obtain citizenship through naturalisation are usually made to swear an allegiance to that country.
It reads in part, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform non-combatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Such allegiance to a foreign power is usually seen as an albatross on the necks of those seeking sensitive public offices in Nigeria. Wealthy Nigerians and their families are known to acquire foreign citizenships for easy travel and other benefits.
Last week human rights activist, Kayode Ajulo, who is a campaigner for Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, wrote a letter to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, on the danger of picking a candidate with dual citizenship or past criminal record.
Ajulo said there was a plot by the opposition to ensure that the APC is disqualified on the basis of this just as was done in the Bayelsa governorship race in February 2020.
Reacting to the screening exercise, Governor Badaru in a statement by his Media Aide, Auwal Sankara, said that the exercise went well and it was evidence that he had not stepped down for anyone.
According to the governor’s media aide, Badaru, issues determined by the panel were verification of his membership and financial statuses as well as his academic credentials, and other requirements for a presidential candidate as stipulated in the Nigerian Constitution.
He said his principal was among the “28 APC Presidential Aspirants and we are hopeful he will clinch the party ticket due to the massive support he is garnering from party faithful, supporters and relevant stakeholders in the country.”
Fiery cleric, Pastor Tunde Bakare, while addressing journalists, said he was satisfied with the screening process.
Bakare added that he was confident of defeating former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, if he was given the ticket.
The Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, described the presidential candidate of the PDP, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, as a worthy candidate.
Asked about the exercise, he said, “The screening exercise went very well. Appropriate questions were asked about how we are going to fix the challenges facing our nation and appropriate answers were given to them.
“By God’s grace, we are pleased that we had something to offer this nation. In this critical moment in our history, nobody can say I have all the solutions. But we did say to them that we will assemble the best, brightest and fittest from within the country, north and south, and from outside of the country, those in the diaspora.
“The time has come for us to raise the foundation of many generations, to restore our path and ensure that our nation becomes great again.”
Meanwhile, like the opposition PDP, the APC snubbed the request of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency to administer drug tests on aspirants.
According to the aspirants, there was no mention of a drug test by the party.
It was learnt that the Oyegun-led committee would submit its report to the national chairman who would in turn forward it to President Buhari for action.
Meanwhile, a member of the APC in Kano State, Sagir Mai Iyali, has written a petition against Tinubu seeking his disqualification by the Oyegun-led committee.
Iyali in a letter dated May 17, 2022, demanded the disqualification over the former governor’s “questionable educational qualifications”.
He also claimed that Tinubu allegedly submitted false documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission in 1998.
Iyali said although Tinubu is above the required age to contest the office of president, his age is not known, adding that obscurity surrounding the presidential hopeful could jeopardise the party’s chances at the polls.
It reads in part, “We understand that Bola Tinubu who has since procured his expression of interest and nomination forms and has submitted the same to the party has certain issues that clearly amount to a similar disqualification scenario.
“From the information contained in prior submissions to INEC particularly in 1999, Mr. Tinubu presented a false claim, on oath, of his attendance at University of Chicago from 1972-1976.
“It is clear now that these claims are false. Not only was this filed in the INEC form with a declaration on oath on December 20 1999, it was also contained in an affidavit of loss sworn to before the High Court of Lagos, Ikeja Registry, December 29, 1998.”
The petition Tinubu has to show proof he attended University of Chicago or he must stand disqualified as the opposition is in possession of his questionable credentials.
“Over the years, the identity of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has been shrouded in secrecy. In fact, no one can claim to know the identity of the man. Repeated efforts and demands by the general populace and the media to unravel the identity of Asiwaju Tinubu have all proved abortive and unsuccessful,” he wrote.
In his response, Tinubu’s Media Aide, Tunde Ramon, at 9.30pm on Monday said a statement would be issued soon. But as of 10.50pm, he had yet to send the statement.