By Tunde Joshua
Barely 30 days to the commencement of presidential primary elections across parties, uncertainty has pervaded the polity’s turf regarding which part of the country should present candidates that will fly the political groupings’ flags in the 2023 presidential election.
There is tension as a result of comments by political and non- political actors over zoning of Nigeria’s presidency particularly by the two leading parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In the past two months, the PDP has been worst hit by criticism on its failure to make a categorical statement on where it is zoning its presidential ticket.
The party succumbed to pressure by inaugurating a zoning committee led by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom to guide it on how to handle the delicate and sensitive issue.
At the completion of its assignment, Ortom announced that the committee members unanimously agreed a decision which will be tabled before the NWC for implementation subject to ratification by the National Executive Committee (NEC).
The open ended statement , however gave room for speculation that the PDP has thrown it’s presidential ticket open.
Though Ortom frantically defended the committee’s position of not being categorical about an open ticket, the party was left vulnerable by attacks for allegedly being insensitive to the yearnings of the South that power must shift to the area.
The issue of zoning has remained volatile as it has created a sharp division among PDP members aspiring to pick the party’s presidential ticket. One after the other, Northern aspirants either denied knowledge of zoning arrangement in the party or gave reasons why it should not be the yardstick for selecting the PDP candidate.
Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki made frantic efforts at different fora in the course of their consultations to convince stakeholders that the party should consider competence above zoning because of the peculiarity of the 2023 polls.
Tambuwal pleaded that PDP should adopt any other consideration outside zoning to ensure it wins the Presidency and then come to a round table to zone political offices. Bauchi governor, Bala Mohammed specifically cautioned the party leadership that should the PDP miss the chance of clinching the 2023 presidency, all stakeholders will remain in opposition while some may be forced to jump ship to the APC.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who in the past has been an advocate of zoning turned round to query itsfeasibility as a yardstick. Atiku said “Where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria neither will it be the solution.
There is no such thing as the president from Southern Nigeria or president from Northern Nigeria.
There is only one president for Nigeria, and by Nigeria.” Dr. Hayatudeen Mohammed even said he was not aware of any referendum for the Nigerian people to vote on zoning.
He said “zoning is a matter of convenience for certain leaders and for parties to discuss and agree among themselves, it is not an imposition that everyone is bound to abide by.”
Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, accused northern presidential aspirants of violating the party’s principle of zoning and rotation of power by contesting. Wike blamed them for not honouring the gentleman’s agreement subsisting in the PDP.
“The provision of our constitution is clear under Section 7, Sub-section 3C,l. It says there should be rotation of party offices and elective offices. The founding fathers of the party know the complexity, they know the diversity of this country and they made sure that for equity, fairness and justice, this should be done,” Wike said.
However, in line with previous resolutions of the PDP Governors Forum that power must go to the south in 2023, aspirants from the area demanded from the party a southern presidential ticket. Peter Obi, Pius Anyim, Sam Ohuambuwa, Nwachukwu Anakwenze all agreed that one of the Igbo aspirants must clinch the party’s ticket.
With the understanding that the ticket has been thrown open, 17 presidential aspirants paid N40 million each to obtain presidential nomination form, a majority of them from the South.
As confusion rages, the party leadership has maintained silence while the recommendation of the Ortom’s Committee were kept top secret. It is expected that this burning issue of zoning will top the agenda at the PDP NEC meeting this week.
On the other hand, the outcome of the March 26 national convention of the APC portends that the presidential ticket will go to the south since, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, a northerner emerged as national chairman.
A majority of the contenders who declared interest and those that have obtained nomination forms so far are from the southern part of the country.
This, it is believed, may win sympathy votes for the APC in the southern part of the country. There are those who also think that once the presidency is zoned to the south, the ticket should be micro- zoned to the southeast in the spirit of fairness, justice and equity. Former Abia State governor and Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu has been specific in the clamour for a President of Igbo extraction. In a recent statement, Kalu dismissed the insinuation that power is not given but taken.
He said: “ In reality, for a Southerner to become president of Nigeria, power is given and not taken. Power was given to the South West in 1999. Power was given to the South South in 2011. In 2015, the North did not give power to the South and that was why a sitting president lost.
Unless for mischievous and selfish reasons against the South East, no one can comfortably deny these facts. “As long as the Presidency of Nigeria is concerned, any pointer to equity and fairness is South East and North East, otherwise, and as I strongly advocated, Buhari’s kinsmen, including his wife is free to run for the office of the president in 2023.
It is very ungodly and immoral for any Southerner to talk about fairness and equity, but sees no fairness in working hard to cease the third meat that belongs to their remaining brother. “None of the other aspirants is more Nigerian than me.
Aside the capacity and what it takes to govern a country as diverse as Nigeria, I remain the most detribalized living Nigerian today and these are verifiable facts. “It is a false claim and an old propaganda that the South East is not united in this contest.
In the pursuit for the presidency, there is nothing the South East is doing that is different from what others are doing. Let the two major political parties zone their tickets to the South East and see the miracle that will happen to Nigeria.”
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the statement last weekend by APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu that the party is yet to decide on zoning of its presidential ticket.
His comment sparked reactions from Nigerians, especially nonnortherners and leaders of ehnic nationalities. In a swift reaction to Adamu’s comment about APC’s indecision on zoning, leaders of the regional socio-cultural groupings, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), the Niger Delta group, PANDEF, Yoruba’s Afenifere and the South East Ohanaeze, condemned the party’s position.
The joint leaders issued a threatening statement which suggested they could opt for a dismembering of Nigeria should the presidency go to the north in 2023. They vowed to resist another tenure of a northern President after Muhammadu Buhari might who will be completing his final term in office on May 29, 2023.
One APC leader who made effort to justify Adamu’s statement said the decision of the PDP on presidential ticket will influence the next move to be made by the ruling party. He said Nigerians should hold the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) responsible if the 2023 presidency is not zoned to the South.
The Director General (DG) of Voice of Nigeria (VON), was apparently reacting to the knocks on APC’s indecision to zone the 2023 Presidency to the South.. He lampooned the opposition party for breaching the zoning convention, which has helped in no small measure to unite and harmonize the country.
Okechukwu said, “PDP is aware that President Buhari will not be on the ballot in 2023, therefore, for them, there is a void to fill. They must have reasoned that the Buhari vote bank would be up for grabs if they go north.
“PDP’s calculation is a desperate one, and selfish to the extent that they breached their own constitution and their agelong die-hard supporters in the South, especially the Southeast.” While not holding brief for the national chairman, he said the APC has not abandoned zoning but the party has to fine-tune its strategies for the 2023 polls.
“Although one is not holding brief of our distinguished national Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, one’s little understanding is that the leadership of our great party, is watching closely the desperation and antics of our other sister political party, the PDP.
“They want to capture power by all means, indeed using Machiavellian tactics. We all know that PDP is famished, thirsty and desperate to win the Presidency in 2023. They loathe the loss of their slogan ‘Share the Money’ through their absence from power at the center for seven going to eight years.” he said.
The ruling party has failed to implement its earlier zoning format of swapping offices between north and south, as declared by Governor Nasir el-Rufai before the March 26 National Convention. Indications that the APC might have a northern presidential agenda up its sleeves started emerging with the interest of northerners in the presidential race.
The vigour and seriousness that the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello put into his presidential aspiration is seen in some quarters as no fluke.
Another northerner from Kwara State, Gbenga Hassim Olawepo is said to be joining the APC presidential race. The rumoured dragging of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan into the race further confirmed that the APC may have secretly thrown open the ticket. It was gathered that many members of the 9th Senate are seriously mobilising for an Ahmad Lawan presidential bid.
Though this was said to have divided the Senate as Senators rooting for Bola Tinubu and Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, among others have vowed not to be swayed by the Lawan bid. Lawan has though not come out to declare his interest. He was however quoted to have said that God will lead him aright but grapevine information has it that the Senate President may pick the APC presidential forms before the end of this week.
As the jostling for the sole Presidential ticket gathers momentum, an APC governor, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has cautioned the party to thread the path of equity, He said “the current democratic dispensation is anchored on the unwritten convention driven by a principle of equity and that political expediency dictates, more appealingly, that while adhering to the spirit and letters of the laws guiding conduct of elections and succession to political offices, we must do nothing which is capable of tilting the delicate balance against the established arrangement which guarantees peace and promotes trust.
“All lovers of peace and freedom must do everything to eschew tendencies which may predispose them to taking decisions which promote distrust and lead to a crisis, the end of which nobody may be able to predict. “The leadership of the party ensured that the principle of rotational representation guided its decision at the justconcluded Convention.
The party Chairmanship position has gone to the North. All other offices have been filled on this understanding. This is the time the leaders of the party must make a categorical statement, devoid of equivocation, on the pattern of succession.
“The party Executive Committee has fixed a fee for the purchase of the nomination form for the office. It is expected, fervently, that it will proceed to complete the process by limiting the propensities for disagreement to a region for possible micromanagement.
It is very expedient that we avoid self-inflicted crises before the general elections.’ Akeredolu categorically stated that it is the turn of the Southern part of the country to produce the next President.
“The party leadership should have no difficulty in making pronouncement on this very important issue, just as it has fixed various fees for the purchase of forms. This must be done without delay.
The principle of Federal Character is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended. It will be disingenuous for anyone to argue against rotation at this period.
“We must not keep our party men and women guessing on the position of the leadership of the party. This is the time to weigh in and take control of the process.
No statement must suggest, even remotely, that the party harbours certain sentiments which may predispose it to consider throwing the contest open. This is certainly not the time for equivocation.
Equity dictates that we take a stand,” he declared. In a statement entitled, THE ILLUSION OF A SOUTHERN PRESIDENCY, Governor Yahaya Bello’s coAPC friend and former Aviation minister Femi Fani-Kayode reportedly said: “As each day passes the illusion of a Southern Presidency in 2023 melts away like an iceberg approaching the tropics. “At the end of the day both parties will present a Northern candidate, NOTHING will happen and the heavens will not fall.
“This is because Southerners do not know the meaning of unity or collective interest whilst most northerners do. “As at today over 30 Southerners have indicated an interest to run for the Presidency when you look at all the political parties. The APC alone has at least 18 and is still counting.
“They can’t even come together and agree on a shortlist of three but instead they are busy fighting each other and running each other down in an obsessive and frenzied attempt to get the golden fleece and win the prize. “Meanwhile the North remains silent and is quietly doing their homework and planning with no rancour and little division. “That is why they will have their way and no-one can deny the fact that they deserve it.
“He who plans quietly, operates covertly, displays caution, patience and wisdom, builds bridges, seeks unity, establishes alliances, identifies new friends, pursues a common and collective interest and is strategic in all his ways always wins.
“He who is loud, brash, reckless, boastful, ostentatious, self-serving, incurably ignorant, historically illiterate, divisive, cowardly, quarrelsome, intellectually dishonest unforgiving, u n c o m p r o m i s i n g , politically inexpedient, shortsighted, blighted by bitterness, hate and rage, blinded by wealth and riches and is always fighting and pulling down his brother always loses.
“That is the lesson of life and the story of Nigerian politics. “And these are the lessons that Southern politicians and leaders are yet to learn. “Let me give you one example.
There is only one zone in the South that has never enjoyed the Presidency. Yet how many Southern politicians and leaders are ready to step down for that zone? “See what I mean? It appears that some Southerners are more equal than others.
“If the South insists on fairness, equity and charity let it begin amongst themselves and within their own ranks but we know that they are wholly incapable of doing so and will even insult you for suggesting it.
How sad and pathetic. “Like Cassius said in Shakespear’s ‘Julius Caesar’, the Nigerian Southerner must concede that “the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves”. “Weep not O south: you made your choices and you threw away your own chances for 2023 because you did not have the courage and foresight to pursue your collective interest and act with one accord.
“To you, individual interests were more important than the collective one. Individual “Yet again the North has floored you. “Abuse me as much as you like but this is the bitter truth. “Know the truth and let it set you free!!! “(FFK).” Mr. Suyi Ayodele, writing in Nigerian Tribune, reportedly said: “Sources hinted that there is no notable presidential aspirant in the APC from the south today, who did not get the approval of Buhari and the northern mafia to go ahead!
That is the strategy. Get as many of them down south to be in the race and then shop for a candidate up north that can upturn the apple cart. It is already happening.”