The atmosphere in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is characterised by heavy dust over zoning of National Working Committee (NWC) offices and the 2023 elective offices as well as the consensus option.
This is especially as the top echelon of the party has announced its intention to set up convention sub-committees including the one that would address the issue of zoning.
There are divergent permutations by some party stalwarts regarding the issue of zoning. This is especially as the party’s national drivers have kept members in the dark.
Some stakeholders of the party are sequel to this, drafting fake zoning lists in line with their agenda and sentiments, and releasing them for public consumption in the name of the party.
However, the party has consistently denied zoning its National Working Committee (NWC) and the 2023 offices ahead of the convention and next year’s general polls.
There are reports that the top shots of the party, including governors and those at the presidency, have narrowed down on four of the contenders out of the many vying for the chairmanship seat.
Those contesting the party’s apex seat are; a former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Tanko Al-makura; former governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda; former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje; former governor of Benue State and Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume.
Others are Sunny Sylvester Moniedafe from Adamawa State; Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger East); Saliu Mustapha; Mohammed Saidu Etsu, and Dr Sani Shinkafi.
Sources had told Daily Trust on Sunday that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s men and governors are looking into the direction of four of the aspirants. Two of them are already in the race while two are not.
They are Al-Makura, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Malam Saliu Mustapha and former Minister for Mine and Steel Development for the national chairman position, Abubakar Bawa Bwari.
The APC is currently run by a Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee led by the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, who assumed office on June 25, 2020, sequel to the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC.
The committee is expected to organise a national convention on February 26, this year.
Agitations to zone the party’s presidential ticket to the South are ongoing. Various camps in the southern part of the country are awaiting the convention of the party for a final decision on zoning.
It is believed that if the North produces the chairman of the party, the South would produce the presidential candidate for the 2023 election.
There are arguments in the party that before the 2015 general elections, the party’s stakeholders met and reached a consensus that the presidential ticket of the party would be ceded to the South at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
While some political gladiators like a former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani Yarima, had argued that there was no such agreement, promoters and agitators for a Southern candidacy say the pact was reached to ensure equity, fairness, and justice in the party’s political calculation between the North and South.
As part of southern political bigwigs’ strategy to position and take the party’s apex ticket, no politician from that region is running for the chairmanship race, thus making it strictly a Northern Affair.
But while aspirants from the three geo-political zones in the North are springing up for the race, agitations for a national chairman to come from the North East or North Central are gathering momentum.
The North East region has, in recent times, decried marginalisation in the political equation of the country. The North Central has also reacted similarly while accusing the North West of taking more of the apex slots.
Addressing newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja, after a meeting of the Caretaker Committee, Secretary of the Committee, Senator James Akpanudoedehe, dismissed reports that the party has zoned its offices.
“I’m here to debunk the fake news going round on the social media that we have zoned offices. We are yet to meet on the issue of zoning,” he said.
Our correspondent reports that the APC Constitution provides for three methods of selecting candidates for elections; direct primaries, indirect primaries, and consensus.
But various aspirants who spoke with our correspondent yesterday said they preferred participating at the convention for delegates to decide their fate than the consensus arrangement, even though it’s part of their party’s constitution.
Some of them explained that consensus gives room for imposition, hence the need for direct or indirect primaries.
While there are reports that the party was considering the North Central for the chairmanship slot, aspirants from other geo-political zones and especially the North East are pushing for the slot.
The immediate past Director-General of the Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Mohammed Lukman, said last week that the Buni-led committee was holding members captive by not giving them direction on zoning and allegedly delaying the convention.
How zoning should be done – Sheriff
The Spokesman for Sheriff APC Chairmanship Campaign, Senator Victor Lar, however, said zoning the chairmanship to the North East would benefit the North Central more.
He argued that if the party’s apex slot is allotted to the North East, the North Central would likely get the vice-presidential slot.
He said the party needed someone who would provide leadership with the requisite knowledge of the political intrigues of electioneering, adding that Senator Sheriff is the one with “these towering credentials” in the race.
“Other people may have been governors. They may have been senators, but have never been chairman of a political party or BOT. The PDP had its reasons for zoning the chairmanship to the North East. We don’t have that in the APC.
“President Buhari comes from the North West, the same North West produced Umaru Yar’adua. The North East has produced Atiku Abubakar as Vice President.
“So, it is expected that if the chairmanship stays in the North, the presidential candidate will come from the south, then the vice-presidential candidate will come from the North; this time it should come from the North Central,” he said.
A former political adviser to Governor Kashim Shettima and chieftain of the ruling party, Mustapha Gambo, who is one of those mobilising support for Sheriff, had said, “The APC needs a stabilising force; and with due respect to all those reported to be nursing the ambition to vie for the chairmanship of our party, none of them comes close to what Senator Ali Modu Sheriff brings to table.”
However, some leaders of the ruling party have expressed optimism that the consensus arrangement if adopted would favour a former governor of Benue State and the current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume.
They said Senator Akume currently stands tall among all other aspirants in the race based on his experience, capability, integrity and support among all interests.
Speaking with newsmen on Friday in Abuja, the Chairman Contact Committee and Media group for Senator George Akume Campaign Team, Chief Simon Shango, who led other prominent APC leaders and media personalities, said if elected, the minister would work towards ensuring that APC becomes a model in political party administration in Nigeria and beyond.
Chief Shango said: “If elected, Senator Akume will be committed to upholding the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Constitution of our great party, the APC. To this end, he will respect the powers and responsibilities of all organs and officers of the party, which is necessary to entrench internal democracy and party discipline.”
But a former presidential candidate and elder statesman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the chairmanship should go to the North Central while the 2023 presidential ticket should be either thrown open or specifically zoned to the South East.
He said, “I suggest that the chairmanship of the party should go to the North Central. The party should throw its presidential ticket open and that is what they are likely to do because that is what the PDP is doing.
“But my view is that it will give APC an advantage if it is zoned to the South East. Opinion leaders in this country irrespective of where they come from; irrespective of their religion have said the South East deserves to be given the opportunity to produce the next president of Nigeria for several reasons.”
However, it is left to be seen how the party would slug things out.