Senator Rochas Okorocha, one of the presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday night, appeared before the party’s seven-man 2023 Presidential Screening Committee after he beat a deadline set by the party.
He did as President Muhammadu Buhari played his hand on his desire to push through a successor at a meeting with APC governors.
Addressing the governors on Tuesday the President said, “The party has successfully established internal policies that promote continuity and smooth succession plans even at the state and local government levels.
“For example, first-term governors who have served credibly well have been encouraged to stand for re-election. Similarly, second-term governors have been accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions as well as the ideals of the party.”
To drive home his request to pick his successor, he added,
“In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023….
“As we approach the convention, I appeal to all of you to allow our interests to converge, our focus to remain on the changing dynamics of our environment, the expectations of our citizens and the global community.
“Our objective must be the victory of our party and our choice of a candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence even before the elections.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okorocha, the penultimate Governor of Imo represents Imo West in the Senate.
He had been under the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC) over an alleged N2.9 billion fraud case.
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He was, however, granted bail by a Federal High Court in Abuja early Tuesday and was to pay N500 million for his bail with one surety in like sum.
The possibility of Okorocha appearing before the APC Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led presidential screening committee for screening, had been a topic of political discourse following his ordeal in the hands of the EFCC.
Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the former Imo governor bail after dismissing a counter-affidavit the EFCC filed against him.
The EFCC had through its lawyer, Mr Gbolahan latona, urged the court to allow Okorocha remain in custody, alleging that he posed a flight risk.
The prosecution alleged that Okorocha not only breached the administrative bail it earlier granted him, but equally made himself inaccessible, a situation that led to his forceful arrest on May 24.
He told the court that the former Imo governor, who was facing a 17-count money laundering charge, had the capacity to interfere with some of its proposed witnesses.
However, counsel to the defendant, Mr Solomon Umoh, SAN, assured the court that his client would be available to face his trial.
The defence lawyer stressed that his client, being a responsible citizen and a presidential aspirant, would not conduct himself in any manner that would undermine the sanctity of the court.
NAN reports that Okorocha beat the deadline and was the last aspirant to appear before the APC 2023 presidential primary screening panel on Tuesday night.
Other aspirants screened by the committee were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, and Ahmad Lawan, President of the Senate.
Also screened were former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and oil magnate, Tein Jack among others.
The committee had on Monday screened 12 presidential aspirants, including Pastor Tunde Bakare and Sen. Bola Tinubu, one of the party’s leaders and a two-term former governor of Lagos State.
Gov. Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, former Governor of Ogun, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun, former Governor of Zamfara, Sani Yerima and Rotimi Amaechi, former Minister of Transportation were also screened on Monday.
Others are former Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; Pastor Felix Nicholas, the only female presidential aspirant, Mrs Uju Ken-Ohanenye and Sen. Ajayi Boroffice.
Former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani and Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi were also screened on Monday.
The APC Special Convention for its presidential primary had been fixed for June 6 and 8 at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
▪︎ Additional reports by NAN