2023 elections

By Dirisu Yakubu

AHEAD of the 2023 election cycle, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are at a crossroad over which geo-political zone of the country should produce the next President in 2023.

While there are strong indications that the APC will zone its Presidential ticket to the South, the PDP is still considering which zone the ticket should go to.

But both parties have always preached justice, equity and fairness in the zoning of political offices in the country.

Unlike the PDP, the APC has no provision for zoning in its constitution.

The APC which came to power in 2015 with the election of Muhammadu Buhari was again re-elected in 2019 and by 2023, Buhari would have spent eight years cumulatively in office.

Yet, prominent Nigerians including Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state and former Presidential aide, Tanko Yakassai, have at different fora, urged the APC to zone the ticket to the South. 

They argue that after two consecutive terms of four years each; it’s natural for the North to yield the opportunity to the South to produce the next President in 2023.

Governor El-Rufai has repeatedly ruled himself out of contention, insisting that although zoning is not a constitutional matter in the affairs of his party; he will support the APC to have a Nigerian of Southern extraction emerge as the President in 2023, as agreed verbally when Buhari was re-elected in 2019.

As a result of this apparent gentleman’s agreement, eminent Southerners including former Lagos state governor, Bola Tinubu; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and recently Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have all been linked with the top job. 

There is also a clan of South-East chieftains of the ruling party who believe the zone should be supported in their quest to produce the next President, arguing that since the return of democracy in 1999; the zone has not produced a President for Nigeria.

As the party begins skeletal preparations to hold its national elective convention, the North is expected to retain the chairmanship of the party, a fact underscored by the fact that while the chairman, APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee, Mai Mala Buni is a Northerner, fellow Northerners including Senator Modu Sheriff, Senator Tanko Al-Makura and Abdulazeez Yari are aspiring to succeed him.

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It is, therefore, in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness for the North to keep the chairmanship while the Presidency goes South in the next election cycle.

Findings by Vanguard revealed that Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have been pencilled down as potential running mate to a Southern candidate on the platform of the APC.

A former Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, however, believes that zoning must not be entrenched in the nation’s political engineering process, given its unconstitutionality. 

He said: “I have said it over and over again that there is no national consensus on politics of identity symbolized by rotation of the President between the North and the South. That accounted for why Buhari from the North contested against President Obasanjo from the South in 2003.

And when President Umaru Yar’Adua took over in 2007 and died before 2011, President Jonathan from the South contested against Buhari from the North. Were there any national consensus binding on political parties, Buhari would not have challenged President Obasanjo in 2003, and President Jonathan would not have contested in 2011 and 2015 against Buhari.

“In 2019, though President Buhari and Atiku both Northerners, many political parties fielded their presidential candidates from the South. As a result, where the Presidential candidate comes from depends on the winning game plans of political parties.

“By 2023, the South will have governed for 13 years and the North 11 years.

I cannot say which region should produce the President in 2023 as I see politics of zoning as an admission of failure of leadership to deliver on the promise of democracy fairly and justly.”

Why not North-Central?

While this argument is ongoing, some political pundits posit that the PDP is already canvassing that the ticket is handed over to the North-Central in the spirit of justice, equity and fair play. 

A lawyer and political analyst, Timothy Ojomo, posits that the North-Central is the best bet for the PDP if they are serious about regaining the power they lost in 2015. 

Ojomo said: “To the PDP, what is preeminent in their mind is to gain power in 2023. That can only be done by strategising and building on their options. That is why the issue of zoning is also very serious. PDP spent 16 years in office as Nigeria’s ruling party. Out of those 16 years, the South spent 13 years and 24 days while the North under late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua spent just 3 years and few days”. 

“Under PDP, Obasanjo spent 8 years; Jonathan spent 5 years and 25 days. So, if we are talking about zoning, where should it go? Fairness demands that it should go to the North. If we are talking about fairness, equity and justice, the last President the PDP had was from the South, which is Jonathan. So, it should go back to the North. Strategically, that is what they should do if they want to win. So, let’s go to the North-Central.

“In 2023, it pays PDP to go to the North-Central because the zone is the liberal part of the North, that is the Middle-Belt. To assuage the North and Southern divide, then the PDP should look at the North-Central. For instance, a candidate like former Senate President, Bukola Saraki can do the magic for them. He is from the North-Central and a liberal northerner. He has a leg to the North and the other to the South. To the North, he is one of their own as Abubakar, while the South also see him as their own in Bukola. His experience as a two-time governor and former Senate President is also an added advantage.”

For the PDP, however, 2023 will witness a repeat of its 2019 zoning formula which saw the North preferred the South for the Presidential ticket. In 1999, President Olusegun was elected President of Nigeria and stayed on till 2007 following his re-election in 2003.

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The party kept faith with its zoning principle as enshrined in Section 7 (3c) of the constitution by ceding the ticket to the North in 2007. 

However, President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office in 2010, paving way for the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan to succeed him. Jonathan would again win the 2011 election only to lose in 2015 to the ruling party.

Why PDP must tread carefully

Human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, in a chat with Vanguard urged the PDP to tread carefully, saying the South-East deserves a shot at the Presidency in 2023.

He said: “I think PDP should look at the political terrain carefully. I am not a politician but ideally, the Igbo should now have the Presidency because they deserve it in a pluralistic society such as ours. 

“Therefore, the PDP needs to go back to the drawing board to determine its best line of action to capture power. After all, the APC captured power without knowing what to do with it, and hence for the over six years in power, it is still rudderless, increasing Nigerians’ woes and misery by the day.”

But valid as Ozekhome’s argument is, a school of thought believes that the PDP should in the spirit of fairness and equity micro-zone the Presidential ticket to the North Central zone. 

They argue that while the South-West, North-West and South-West have produced the President on the party’s platform in the past, North-East produced Atiku Abubakar as Vice President from 1999-2007, leaving the North-Central as the only zone yet to clinch the Presidency amongst the Northern sub-zones.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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