Tunde Bakare, Bola Tinubu and David Umahi
The Presidential Screening Committee of Nigeria's ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which began sitting on Monday, questioned the party’s presidential aspirants on 10 key issues including their dual citizenship status.
Some of the aspirants, who were screened by the Committee headed by a former National Chairman of the party, the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, confided in The PUNCH that the panel 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 manifestoes. 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 Pactactics 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.
The PUNCH learnt that 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.