By Tunde Joshua
Barely 20 days to the primaries of political parties, the two major ones, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are still undecided of where their presidential candidates will come from.
The two parties are no doubt caught in the web of zoning and are making frantic efforts to wriggle out without causing for themselves more mistrust by the electorate across regions, tribes and zones. While the PDP has not made a formal commitment, the APC owing to its political arrangement is more entangled as there is much expectation that the party will produce a southern candidate.
But the APC dashed the hopes of many Nigerians from the southern part of the country by not being decisive in announcing the preferred zone for its presidency and moreso, the increase in number of its northern aspirants showing interest in the race.
Political observers have noticed similar trends in activities and decisions of the two parties in recent times that suggest the two are watching each other’ moves for advantage, especially on which will first it’s presidential candidate and from what zone. It started with the national convention of both parties. The PDP in October 30, 2022 zoned its chairmanship to the north.
Dr. Iyorchia Ayu from the North Central emerged. The APC likewise on March 26 this year zoned its chairman’s seat to the the north. Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu also from North Central emerged. An APC committee led by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El- Rufai prior to the convention, suggested to the party to swap its positions between the north and south, just like the PDP did.
There have been changes to election timetable and schedule of activities in both partiee recently, with both finetuning processes at getting round producing nationally acceptable presidential candidates that can win the 2023 poll.
The two parties have a serious task of meeting up with deadlines of conducting wards, local government congresses in line with INEC directives. Meanwhile, the National chairman of the Inter- Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Engr. Yabagi Sanni at a meeting between INEC and leadership of parties demanded on behalf of the 18 registered political groupings for extension of deadline for conduct of primaries from June 3 to August 16, 2022.
Before the closed door meeting, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu reiterated the decision of the commission not to review the timetable. In the PDP, both southerners and northerners are in the race for the presidential ticket but it is widely believed that the party is looking up north for its standard bearer. It has an array of qualified aspirants in the persons of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, erstwhile Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Governors Aminu Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed of Sokoto and Bauchi respectively as well as respected business mogul Hayatu-Deen Mohammed, from the north.
Though attempts to have a consensus northern candidate broke down amid agitation by southern aspirants that one of them should emerge as the presidential candidate, it is the belief of a majority of PDP members that Atiku Abubakar may bulldoze his way to emerge the standard bearer.
This notion, might have, in the first place, influenced the pronouncements of the APC on zoning. The Trumpet gathered that the APC would have settled for a southern candidate but decided against this when it was becoming obvious that no other aspirant from the South (East, West or South) can withstand the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu in a transparently conducted presidential primary.
The thought of emergence of a Tinubu as its candidature and possibly the nation’s President , it was further learnt is already unsettling some stakeholders in the party. A source said influx of other gladiators from the South West was a plot to whittle down Tinubu’s chance by dividing delegates from the zone.
This, the source added was a premeditated design to shop for another person from the South as APC candidate. Hence, the coming up of names like Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, former President Goodluck Jonathan, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele, and President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.
Jonathan has denied having interest in the race while there is indication that Adesina was not properly contacted by the group that bought nomination forms for him. Apart from Yahaya Bello whose candidature has not been taken seriously by many, the venturing of Jigawa State Governor Abubakar Badaru and Senate President Ahmad Lawan into the race is causing suspicion as to what game the APC might be playing.
According to findings by The Trumpet, the leadership of the APC came to a conclusion that the only way not to lose power in 2023 is to field an acceptable northern candidate.
The calculation is that a northern candidate will split votes of the north with probably Atiku from the PDP while other geopolitical zones will be up for grabs. The APC, it was learnt has come to terms with the fact that aside Tinubu, no southern aspirant among the personalities who have collected forms can match Atiku Abubakar.
The party acknowledged how tedious it was to defeat Atiku and the PDP with a popular candidate in President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. The PDP, it is expected might make a categorical statement on the dicey issue of zoning at a make-or-break meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.
The APC may react to the outcome or pronouncement of the PDP by toeing the line of the opposition party. Weeks of apprehension over Jonathan’s interest or otherwise in the APC presidential race came to a halt on Monday when a group of cattle breeders and nomadic communities reportedly contributed N100 million to buy nomination forms for him with the intention to urge him to contest the 2023 election.
But in a swift reaction, the ex- President through his media office refuted Jonathan’s interest in the race and denied having anything to do with the group.
His Media Adviser, Ikechukwu Eze in a statement categorically stated that Dr. Jonathan was not aware of this bid and did not authorize it. While appreciating the overwhelming request by a cross-section of Nigerians, for Dr. Jonathan to make himself available for the 2023 Presidential election, he said the former PDP President “has not in anyway, committed himself to this request.”
He said “buying a presidential aspiration form in the name Dr. Jonathan without his consent, knowing the position he had held in this country, is considered an insult to his person. The general public is therefore advised to disregard it.
“We want to state that if the former President wanted to contest an election, he would make his intentions clear to the public and will not enter through the back door.” But a story of his alleged meeting with the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu same Monday night further heightened tension in the party throwing some major contenders into confusion on what game the national leadership of the party might be playing.
The Trumpet recalled several meetings the former president had held with Buhari at the State House in recent times, though on the claim of discussing matters of national interest.
A reliable source said there might be an unwritten agreement between the two leaders after Jonathan willingly conceded victory even before the announcement of results of the 2015 presidential election.
Another source said a group of concerned leaders sold Jonathan’s candidature to the Presidency as one that will attract sympathy and appeal across geopolitical zones, adding to the fact that he is a southerner in tune with popular request that power must go to the south in 2023.
Our investigation revealed that Jonathan who might have heeded the call after consultations decided to go to the negotiation table with APC with terms and conditions for accepting to tun on APC ticket.
One of such, the source added is that Jonathan wants to enter the race as APC candidate and not as aspirant. This condition is said to be giving party leaders sleepless nights as it has not come up with method of pacifying other aspirants. The idea of Jonathan becoming a consensus presidential candidate, it was argued may be the reason that the APC invented a ninepoint condition tagged ‘withdrawal letter’ included in the nomination forms to be obtained by all aspirants.
The condition in the Form 18 is considered a ploy aimed at arm-twisting aspirants not to challenge the decision of the party in court should it adopt a consensus candidate where applicable. Contenders are barred from going to court without first exhausting avenues for redress and ventilation of grievances.
The aspirants are also expected to sign undertakings to accept the outcomes of the shadow polls and support whoever emerges as a candidate for the general election. The ruling group also directed them to take oaths not to engage in thuggery, anti-party activities, factionalisation or the creation of parallel congresses and APC organs at any level. These conditions are contained on page 18 of the nomination form given to the aspirants. Most of presidential aspirants are said to have expressed concern about the “voluntary letter of withdrawal”, which they are expected to sign before a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public.
They feared that the withdrawal clause may lead to either imposition of a presidential candidate or abuse of the consensus clause in the Electoral Act 2022. It was learnt that most presidential aspirants have been seeking legal advice on Page 18 of the nomination form, which they considered a boobytrap. Denying this insinuation, the partv leadership claimed that the conditions were in line with Article 21. 2 (i — xii) of the APC Constitution. Many aspirants faulted the conditions as inconsistent with fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The conditions are: “Abide to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the APC and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “Abide by the Primary election guidelines of APC and Nigerian Electoral Act.
“Abide to place APC above selfish interests. “I, my primary campaign organisation and my supporters undertake to accept the outcome of the primary and support whoever emerges as APC candidate for the general election.
“Abide not to engage in dishonest practices, thuggery, being absent from meetings to which he/she is invited without reasonable cause; carrying out antiparty activities which tend to disrupt the peaceful, lawful and efficient organisation of the party or which are inconsistent with the aims and objectives of the party.
“Abide not to give wrong information to any organ of the party or unauthorised publicity of a party dispute without exhausting all avenues or settlement or redress within the party. “Abide not to file any action in a court of law against the party or any of its officers on any matters relating to the discharge of the duties of the party without first exhausting all avenues for redress provided.
“Abide to always follow the path of justice, honesty and unity amongst fellow contestants and party members. So help me God. “Abide not to factionalise or create a parallel congress, election, or party organ at any level.” The letter of voluntary withdrawal says: “I… of the above address… vying for…hereby voluntarily withdraw my candidacy from the contest…scheduled to hold on…2023. My withdrawal is in the best interest of our great party, the APC.” Apart from addressing the letter to the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, each aspirant is expected to endorse the letter before a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public as aforementioned.
It was learnt that most aspirants were shocked by the attachment of the condition to the party’s nomination form. A source stressed: “Most of the aspirants have opted for legal advice on whether or not to sign the letter of withdrawal.”