By Bayo Oladeji
The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday screened its five presidential aspirants in Abuja in a bid to give them a level playing field. Only one candidate is expected to emerge as the party's flag bearer for the 2015 presidential poll.
The five aspirants are former head of state, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, his Imo State counterpart, Rochas Okorocha and founder, LEADERSHIP Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah.
Speaking before the commencement of the exercise, the chairman, presidential screening committee of the APC, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, stated that the party was optimistic that it would produce a presidential candidate who believes in the change Nigerians desire.
Onu, who spoke while addressing journalists shortly before the exercise began, also disclosed that the aspirants must satisfy all the requirements of the constitution of the party, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010.
"It is only those we deem qualified that will emerge successful at the end of the exercise. By tomorrow, we will present certificate to those who scaled through the exercise," Onu said.The panel later screened all the aspirants.
We're hopeful of becoming candidates - Buhari, Atiku
Meanwhile, Buhari and Atiku have expressed optimism that they would emerge victorious after the screening .
Addressing journalists shortly after he was screened yesterday, Buhari said: "We have been going round to ask for understanding and support for the exercise. I think we are reduced to five now of those who are contesting to get this ticket from our party to contest against the incumbent next year, my impression is good, my morale is high."
On the choice of venue for the primary which seems to have been generating issues, Buhari said, the committee responsible for the convention should consult with the National Working Committee (NWC) and tell the aspirants where to go.
Speaking on the screening process, Buhari said, "It went on well. They are all concerned about the situation of the country especially unemployment and insecurity problems, there is no Nigerian who is not aware of these two problems which is a topical issue on daily basis."
Meanwhile Atiku has said that the donation of money to some of the state chapter of the party he has visited, was allowed under the electoral Act.
Atiku said, "I am a party man, I can donate to the party, it is allowed under the electoral Act."
Speaking on the programmes and the manifesto of the party, he said the manifesto he unveiled recently, did not contradict that of his party, but was rather based on it.
On the choice of venue for the presidential primary, Atiku said it was the party which had the responsibility to decide that.
On his preparedness for the race, Atiku asked, "Is there anybody more prepared than I am if I may ask? I think I have been on the campaign train for nearly two months now and I have factually visited all the states of this country, I think I am set to go."
I want to change the country for the better - Nda-Isaiah
Speaking on why he is in the race, Nda-Isaiah said his mission if elected was to change the course of history of Nigeria.
Nda-Isaiah spoke at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja while speaking with journalists shortly after he completed the screening exercise for the presidential primaries holding in Benin on 10 December, 2014.
He said: "I want to be president to change the course of history of this country. I did not leave what I was doing which I was enjoying to come and get harassed simple because I want to feel good about it. I don't believe that a president should come and tell us that he paid salaries or build roads or build boreholes. If you look at the issues that have changed the course of history of nations in this world, you will realize that big ideas changed the course of their history. It is not just coming to sit down and follow the normal course of events."
The pharmacist/publisher turned politician lamented the disunity in the polity and vowed to address it if elected.
"I have always said that when we take over in this country, we intend to unite the country as quickly as possible. Not the kind of unity you hear slogan about on television, but doing deliberate things to unite this country.
"Nigeria is too divided to be called a nation and that is because we cannot develop with these quarrelsome people. If you see people like this, it is because that is how the leaders want them to be which means that if is the leaders that are causing it."
On how to effect the change if elected, the originator of "Big Ideas" said the coming of the APC government would not have any sacred cow if elected.
He said, "First, if you want to hint people, there must be justice and fairness. All crimes must be punished, no matter how long it takes, no matter who commits them. There are so many murder cases we are told have been closed. No. We have to start running this country properly.
"Even though the word unity sound small, it is big. The unity of this country is one that you don't even need a budget to achieve. All you need is sincerity and as President, you must really mean to do it."
Nda-Isaiah also said an APC government would create a soccer economy .
According to him, " There is no reason why we should not have the biggest power station in Africa because it is not impossible. This country built Abuja and Lagos when oil was selling for five dollar. What Babangida called oil boom was $25 per barrel. We have the capacity to do it if we want to.
"Under our government, we are going to be very harsh on corruption. The only way to punish corruption is by being harsh because we have enough laws to punish corruption. The chief fighter of corruption is not the EFCC or ICPC chairman, but the President himself. From your body language, people will decide whether to be corrupt or not?"