The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are both temporarily stuck over the principle of zoning and power rotation for their presidential tickets ahead of the 2023 election.
It was learnt that stakeholders in both parties are currently divided over which zone of the country will produce the next president and the impasse has already thrown up intense power struggle with some leaders threatening to defect if their interest in zoning is ignored.
The crisis, it was learnt, have also dovetailed into the preparation for the national conventions of the parties as the decisions from the conventions will point to where the presidential candidates will come from. Since the advent of civil rule in 1999, no political party has ever ceded the position of the President and that of the National Chairman to the same region. For the PDP, power has rotated between the South and North but for the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, which altered the arrangement. The incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, was elected on the platform of the APC and he is expected to serve out his second term by 2023.
The PDP had its last president from the South- South in 2015 in the person of Goodluck Jonathan, but fielded a candidate from the North-East, former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar in 2019. He, however, lost to the incumbent, President Buhari. The APC, which inaugurated a Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee almost a year ago, has not been able to fix the date for its convention, but rather extended the tenure of the Governor Mai Mala Buniled 13-man committee.
“The delay in holding our convention is tactical and deliberate. Don’t tell me that the party is busy with membership revalidation; it is all an attempt to hijack the process. While it is safe not to quickly heat up the polity ahead of the 2023 polls, the game plan is to also knock out some camps that are interested in the presidency which the cabal are opposed to,” a former Ogun State executive of the APC, who spoke on the issue said.
He further noted that: “What they are doing is to just postpone the evil day because they are aware that immediately the zoning of national officers, especially the National Chairman is done, the picture of where the presidential ticket will go to is then predictable. There is clearly an agenda and that is where the elders of the party should intervene.
“I think we may have found ourselves in a similar quagmire the PDP was prior to the 2015 presidential race before it resolved to retain its ticket in the southern part of the country. The only difference is that the incumbent is not contesting again. The APC is watching the PDP closely and I think it is vice versa.” The APC leader further stated that the issue in APC at the moment is first about power rotation from the North to South, and secondly about ceding what to particular zones, adding that, the contestation has polarized the party.
A former United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, had recently said: “Nigeria’s politics is an old men’s club. The next election (2023) will be a challenging one because of a gentleman’s agreement to rotate power.” Speaking recently, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, declared that the ruling APC has no zoning arrange-ment. “There is nothing like zoning in our party. In 2015, there was no zoning; many aspirants, including former Governor Rochas Okorocha contested.
In 2019, there was no zoning; people in APC were not courageous enough to contest with President Muhammadu Buhari.” But his view ran contrary to those of Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasiru el-Rufai, and Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola that the 2023 presidency be zoned to the South after Buhari’s tenure elapses in compliance with the understanding reached by the party’s leaders during the merger talks before 2015 general election. For the PDP, which has said it may throw open its presidential ticket, the party’s forthcoming National Convention will determine whether it will still retain its ticket in the North or will shift it to the South.
The report of the PDP 2019 Election Review Committee led by Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State submitted to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, recently ruffled feathers when it recommended, among other things, that the presidential flag bearer of the party for the 2023 elections should be chosen through a meritbased system But the party swiftly addressed the concerns when it said: “Due to enquiries from our members and the general public, it has become imperative to clarify that PDP is yet to adopt any of the recommendations proposed by the Senator Bala Mohammed’s Committee on the Review of the 2019 Elections. “As such, it will be incongruous for anyone to assert that any decision has been taken by PDP on the zoning of the presidency ahead of the 2023 elections.
PDP leaders, members and support-ers are enjoined to note that the party is yet to take any decision on the proposals presented by the committee.” Despite the debate over power rotation, some members of two major parties are already warming up to take a shot at the top political office in the land. Interestingly, the unofficial aspirants are from both the South and North. Among those believed to be positioning themselves for the APC ticket are a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu (South- West), Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State (North Central) and ex-Zamfara State Governor, Ahmed Sani (North- West). Presidential hopefuls in the PDP are Atiku (North- East); Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (North-West); former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (North-West); former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido (North-West); former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki (North Central) and former Deputy National Chairman of the party, South, Chief Olabode George (South-West). George, who spoke with New Telegraph, said: “If our party is ready on the national ticket, we should sit down, think and be fair. We should sit down and look at the issues. If the APC elects somebody from the South to be its presidential candidate, isn’t that a bell with a ringing tone in our eardrums? “Do we want to pitch the North and South at the same time? There will be a period of discussions which is the normal thing we do in PDP. We should discuss this and not manipulation.
We have to be very careful because manipulation will send the party to the canvas. We must be loyal to the system and not any individual.” However, a founding member of the APC and the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Chief Osita Okechukwu, said for the sake of equity, unity and fairness, both the PDP and APC should field candidates from the same part of the country.
“My advocacy is that the two dominant parties, the APC and PDP, should adopt the 1999 Obasanjo-Falae and 2007 Yar’Adua-Buhari models and zone their tickets to a particular zone, such that head or tail, the presidency goes to that zone. This will create a sense of belonging and justice for that zone and the country. I am one of the advocates of the zoning convection to be adhered to by the two parties. “This will create equity and build unity. I believe the presidency should come to the South in 2023, when the North completes its tenure. And when it comes to the South, it should be zoned on the basis of equity. The only zone that has not benefited from the zoning convention is the South-East. That model must be used, otherwise, it won’t work.”