The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday said all eligible aspirants from the Northern part of the country will not be barred from participating in the party’s presidential primaries scheduled for 2022 even if the ticket is zoned to the South.
There has been raging controversy in the party over zoning formula following attempts by some power blocs to ensure that the presidency remained in the North in 2023 after the completion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year tenure in 2023.
Leading party chieftains, which include Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi; his Works and Housing counterpart, Babatunde Fashola (SAN); Aremo Olusegun Osoba, former Ogun State governor; former Zamfara State governor, Senator Sani Yerima and Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, representing Kano Central, have started taking position on the matter.
While Amaechi backed Fashola who had earlier said the party had a gentleman’s agreement on zoning, and urged APC to respect the zoning agreement, Shekarau said rotational presidency is alien to the party as it is not in the APC constitution. On his part, Yerima said the APC had no pre-merger agreement to rotate the presidency between the North and the South.
Osoba on Tuesday said there was a gentleman’s agreement during the 2013 merger talks that the presidency would rotate between the North and the South.
Even though President Buhari is yet to speak on the controversy, his nephew Mamman Daura in an interview had said Nigeria should consider competence and merit in the choice of the next president instead of zoning.
Even though many Nigerians said Daura spoke the president’s mind, the presidency distanced itself from Daura’s position, saying his views do not represent the position of President Buhari or that of his administration.
However, speaking with Daily Independent on Wednesday, a member of the APC National Caretaker Committee, said though the party is yet to take a position on the issue, the body language of many leaders of the party is that “it will be fair to zone it to the South in the spirit of justice, fairness and equity”.
He said even if the party’s ticket is zoned to the South, eligible aspirants from the Northern part of the country who feel they have what it takes to win the election will not be barred from participating in the primaries.
According to him, doing so will amount to violating the constitution which does not recognise zoning in the choice of elective offices.
“The general belief is that the APC constitution does not provide for premeditated exclusion of candidates from elections and that is why many of the stakeholders are talking about a gentleman’s agreement which is not in black or white.
“From what we have seen, the issue is already becoming a serious controversy and will be much more serious in the coming days. Some stakeholders have boldly come out to take their stand while others have written to us to handle the issue with utmost care so as not to cause an implosion in the party, which the opposition is lying in wait to take advantage of.
“But one thing is certain, let’s assume the ticket is zoned to the South today, does that mean any Northern aspirant who feels he is qualified and meets all the requirements will be barred from contesting? The answer is no. Even if it is zoned, it will be an open contest for all as long as you meet all the criteria laid down by the party and INEC”.
Speaking on the zoning controversy, Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information and one of the party’s national leaders, said it will be ill-advised for the APC to consider the North again for the ticket in 2023 after President Buhari’s tenure.
He said, “You don’t need an agreement about power rotation. In a presidential system, when you have one person to be the president, it is inevitable that if he comes from one area, his successor will come from another area. It is not a question of gentleman’s agreement. That is understood. If you don’t want power rotation, then you go to parliamentary system.
“If someone in the North has been president, the next time, someone from the South has to be considered to be president. The same party will be ill-advised to say they want to pick another person from the North. However, it is not that if they zoned the ticket to a particular zone, others will be stopped from contesting.”
He added that while all qualified aspirants from all parts of the country are free to contest, only the person who has the highest number of delegate votes will emerge as the presidential candidate.
Momoh, who cited the example of the APC primary in December 2014, said even though the APC zoned its ticket to the North, other presidential aspirants from the South such as Rochas Okorocha and the late Sam Nda-Isaiah contested the primaries.
He said, “It is not a question of being surprised or not. It is a question of someone who has clout and support contesting and emerging as the presidential candidate. There is no way anybody who doesn’t have any support especially from delegates all over the country will come out and say he wants to be president.
“In other words, many people who say they want to be president and don’t have the support of the delegates will be wasting their time. It is the person who has the support of the delegates, no matter where he comes from that will be the person flying the party’s flag. That is the process in every political party, not just in APC.
“For instance, in the APC during the presidential primary in December 2014, people contested from the South- East, North and all over the country. But the fact is that we wanted Buhari to become our presidential candidate and those who have that commitment organised the delegates for Buhari to emerge. It wasn’t all the Northern delegates who voted for Buhari then. Many of the delegates from Kano voted for Kwankwaso, others voted for Atiku, Okorocha, Nda Isaiah and others.
“Anybody can come from anywhere as long as you have the votes of the delegates, that is what will get you the ticket. So, nobody should think of zoning and then go and sit down and expect that you will be the presidential candidate. It doesn’t happen that way”, he said.