Of the 23 presidential aspirants screened by the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led screening committee, only one was emphatic that he would not accept a consensus candidate, except he was the chosen one.
This revelation was made by Odigie-Oyegun while presenting the report of his committee to the National Working Committee of the party on Friday afternoon.
He did not name the aspirant, neither did he name the 10 disqualified by his committee.
His words: “One point I think I need to emphasise. We engaged every aspirant on the issue of consensus and it is a pleasant surprise that 98, 99% agreed that the party is supreme. That whatever the party finally decides, with proper consultations, they were likely to accept.
“We had only with one exception who said, yes, I will accept consensus so long it is based on me.
“So, I think it is a point that needs to be made and emphasised. So that gives you a lot of leeway in the days, in the hours ahead to trim down even more drastically.”
The former APC Chairman and his committee members, however, cautioned the party not to be afraid of a contested primary if any of the aspirants insisted on it.
Below are other comments made by Chief Odigie-Oyegun at the hand-over ceremony:
“…We had the privilege of being inaugurated by you in May 30 and we immediately started work on that very day after a brief meeting.
“First, we had 23 aspirants that we interacted with and the first is that indeed we are a very lucky party.
“Those were 23 that presented themselves. We had a lot of others, prominent Nigerians both within and outside the country that had applied but for whatever reason could not proceed with their applications. The point I want to make is the quality of the people that want to govern this country.
“The second point I want to make is that we were surprised at the active participation of youthful members of the party, some of who really surprised us as to what they have accomplished in life, their understanding of the situation in this country, and why they want to have the privilege of governing this country.
“What was important is that they do believe in the country and the party that they were able to pay the sums that some considered princely ransom to participate in the process. So I think the party ought to pat itself in the back.
“Our report is basically simple and to the point and short. We didn’t want to beat about the bush.
“There were two aspects to it. The basic constitutional qualifications for you to aspire to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That was simple, that was straightforward and on that basis, I think every single aspirant that presented himself qualified because it was basic, it was simple.
But we are a governing party and we are keen on continuing the process and replacing at the proper time President with yet another member of the party.
“So, the ability to lead, your background, your experience, your understanding of the Nigerian situation, your ideas as to how issues, difficult problems can be addressed became a critical consideration.
“It is on that basis: who are you? What have you achieved, your understanding of your nation and what you think you can contribute to move the nation forward.
“It was on the basis of this that we made our final shortlist. I don’t want to read the names. I think I will leave that to you but we have a short list which brought the number severely down to 13.
“We could have cut it a little shorter but we wanted deliberately the younger elements to surface for them to be seen, for them to be noticed. And who knows we will hand them over to the party for the party to decide who the preffered candidate will be. It is also an opportunity to showcase the kind of persons in the party, their youthfulness, their kind of experience, and let the world know that this is a party that cares for the young. That this is a party that when we say the young can aspire we really mean it and this has been showcased in the report that we have written.
“I think I will just conclude by saying that we only drew a word of caution that there is this cleavage that is gradually becoming centre stage in national discourse between the North and the South and the Presidency, and we just want to advise strongly that the party should please think of it, in making its decisions, address it and let it influence their thoughts because it has its own implications.
“And outside that, because of the wonderful colleagues you gave me to work with, I want to say thank you.
“It was a sensitive, challenging assignment. But it was a very, very interesting assignment from which I am sure all of have profited immensely, and from which we think the party will also profit immensely.”