…S-East APC aspirants to meet this week—Ngige
…I want democracy, not consensus —Tinubu
…Tambuwal hints at consensus arrangement by PDP
…Uzodimma tasks APC, PDP on ceding tickets to S-East
By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Victor Ahiuma-Young, John Alechenu, Umar Yusuf, Peter Duru , Femi Bolaji, Juliet Umeh & Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
PRESIDENTIAL aspirants in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were locked in moves and counter-moves to get both parties to zone the presidential tickets to their favoured zones yesterday.
Both parties are however, yet to take a firm stand on zoning. While there are 27 aspirants in the APC, the PDP has 17, out of which 15 have been cleared by the party’s screening committee led by former Senate President David Mark.
In what is panning out as zonal battle for the presidency, Labour and Employment Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, who is also aspiring, said presidential aspirants from the South-East will meet this week on the issue.
South-West presidential aspirants on the banner of the APC met with stakeholders on Friday in Lagos where they resolved to ensure that the zone produces President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, next year.
On the platform of Greater Nigeria Conference, GNC, presidential aspirants met in Abuja, penultimate week with a clamour for the top seat to go the South-East. Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is already meeting with the aspirants.
To ensure a free and fair contest in the APC, former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday, kicked against selecting the party’s flagbearer by consensus.
However, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, said yesterday that the PDP standard bearer might emerge through consensus. Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed spoke in like manner.
This happened as Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, urged the APC and PDP to cede their presidential tickets to the South-East for the sake of justice and equity and to ease tension in the zone.
Agitation for zoning in PDP
Meanwhile, presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP have taken their lobby for the zoning of the presidential ticket to the National Working Committee, NWC.
It was gathered in Abuja, yesterday, that lobbyists are reaching out to members of the Senator Iyorchia Ayu-led NWC to zone the ticket to the North or South depending on their preferred candidate.
Supporters of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and those of Aminu Tambuwal and other northern aspirants want the ticket ceded to the North while their counterparts from the South especially the South-East are making a case for their zone.
A top ranking member of the party pushing for the emergence of a northern candidate told Vanguard, “We cannot act outside our constitution. Article 7 (2c) makes it very clear.”
Article 7(2c) of the PDP constitution (2009) states that: “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.”
The source further said, “Yes, President Buhari is a northerner, who will be leaving office in 2023 by God’s grace but he is not a member of our party. The last time a northern PDP person held office was in 2007-2010, that was the late Umaru Yar’Adua.
“We are only asking that for equity and fairness, it should come back to the North so that we correct the mistake made when President Goodluck Jonathan tinkered with this arrangement and we lost power in 2015.
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“We are aware of the zoning principle, this is how it works. Once a northerner picks the ticket, the Vice Presidential slot goes South. Remember, the zoning principle does not apply only to the office of President.”
However, another party leader sympathetic to the South said: “Our party will be making a grave mistake if it retains the ticket in the North. How can you convince the South-East to maintain its fidelity to the PDP brand if you continue to leave them out? It should go to the South-East.”
Yet another party leader said: “The best option for us as a party is to throw it open. Let the best man irrespective of zone win, then we can deal with other issues. We don’t have the luxury of time, let us educate our delegates, let the candidates sell themselves and get the votes.
“Party members from the North and the South have bought forms, let them test their popularity, it’s as simple as that. Let the APC deal with its confusion over this issue. For us in the PDP, what matters to us is a sellable candidate, who will restore us to power.”
PDP leader tasks Southern aspirants on selflessness
Indeed a member of the PDP zoning Committee led by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, has berated presidential aspirants from the South-East for their alleged self-centeredness.
Asked the PDP’s plan on zoning, he said: “We are still going for meetings. In this country, what I have learned, if you stick your neck out to fight a cause and those you are fighting for are not bothered, you may become a scapegoat. I am not bothered about that. No one has disputed the truth I said about zoning and no one has gone against it.
“Those you are fighting for are still the ones undermining you. It is sickening. If they are not serious, they can go to hell. It is self-conceitedness and self centeredness. They are only concerned about their interest and they will hit a brick wall. I am tired of their attitude.”
The NEC of the party is scheduled to hold its much-awaited meeting on Tuesday. It is expected that the party leadership will point the way forward on the zoning issue as well as the finer details of the party primaries.
The NWC is also expected to present the report of the outcome of the North-West Zonal congress held in Kaduna on Saturday for ratification.
National Chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, had on Friday, while leading other NWC members to receive Governor Aminu Tambuwual, who is one of the aspirants, promised that the party under his leadership will ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done to all aspirants. He promised that each of them would be given a level playing field to test their popularity.
Tambuwal hints at consensus arrangement by PDP
Meanwhile, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, who was also in Jalingo to woo Taraba State PDP delegates, ahead of its presidential primary election, hinted at agreeing to a consensus arrangement if his party considers the option.
The aspirant however, said he has all it takes to get Nigeria working, if elected, adding that he and three other presidential aspirants on the PDP platform from the North had earlier tried to work out a consensus arrangement but failed.
Tambuwal said: “I am sure you are aware that four aspirants from my party, including myself, came together voluntarily to try a consensus, which we were unable to achieve. I am not averse to anything the party may decide to come up with at the national level, but what I can say is that we have tried consensus in producing our national working committee members and leaders of the party.
“The National Chairman himself, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, is also a product of consensus, so it is part of democracy. If our party decides to attempt it, I will be ready to participate and be part of it.”
We’re making progress to ensure consensus candidate — Saraki
Another PDP presidential aspirant, Senator Bukola Saraki, said that they are making progress to ensure the emergence of consensus candidate.
Speaking after meeting with delegates of the PDP in Kaduna, Saraki said: “2023 is not the time to vote just anyone as President of Nigeria. This country is in a very difficult situation as Kaduna knows that better. In 2015 you could travel from Kaduna to Abuja anytime of the day and night.”
While speaking on the issue of his emergence among the two northern consensus candidates, Saraki said: “We are trying to ensure that we have a process that unites us and is less rancorous and then, we can now move forward to the bigger issue, which is winning the 2023 election.”
I’ll abide by my party’s decision —Bala Mohammed
On his part, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State promised to abide by whatever decision reached by his party on which zone of the country gets the presidential ticket.
The Governor, who spoke in Makurdi noted that the decision of the party was being awaited by the aspirants assuring that the decision would be in the interest of all.
He said: “Zoning is a party issue, we are waiting, there is nothing that has been mentioned by the party. I am a party man, anytime zoning is agree on, I will abide by it. “I do not know whether it will be zoned to the North or South, or that it will be monolithic zoning or rotation. No one knows whether it will be zoned to the North East, North Central or South-East.
“But wherever it is zoned, I will definitely abide by the party’s decision because I am a good party man and I will stick by the decision of my party.”
Why APC, PDP should cede tickets to South-East
Speaking on the clamour of the South-East to produce the next president, Governor Hope Uzodimma said: “To the best of my knowledge, what we practice here in Nigeria is partisan democracy, a democracy driven by the political parties. As much as we want every geopolitical zone in the country to test the position of the president in Nigeria, it has to be within the political parties.
“As of today, neither PDP nor APC has selected a candidate. What will be utmost in the mind of every political partys is the capacity to win the election. I know that in the South-East today, we are in strong hunger to produce the president of Nigeria but we will not do it alone. We need the other political zones, other members of the party to work with us.
“If you recall, in 1999, after the annulment of June 12 election, it was the decision of the national political leadership of Nigeria that the South-West as part of what would cool the tension in the South-West, was to allow the zone produce a president, and then, there were two political parties, both parties worked internally to produce two presidential candidates that came from South-West. That means that whichever party that won the president would come from South-West.
“Now, the situation is repeating itself. There is a national sympathy for South-East to produce a president and what will make it work is for the two ruling political parties to produce candidates from the South-East. Let PDP and APC produce candidates from the South-East, that way, we would have decentralized this power sharing in a manner that it becomes all inclusive and justice and equity would be seen to have been done.”
South-East APC presidential aspirants to meet this week —Ngige
Meanwhile, indications emerged weekend that APC presidential aspirants from the South-East will meet this week to chart the way forward.
One the presidential aspirants from the zone and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige gave this hint in a chat with a cross section of journalists in Lagos. He said leaders of the APC from the zone will be meeting this week with all presidential aspirants on the platform of the APC from the South-East to advance their bid to produce Nigeria’s next president.
The former Governor of Anambra State said if the need arises, the South-East APC presidential aspirants could work towards a consensus aspirant.
The APC president primary election is slated for May 31 and June 1, 2022.
Discussions at the crucial meeting, Ngige said, would focus on how the geopolitical zone could approach the APC presidential primary election in a manner devoid of rancour and back-stabbing.
He said the meeting might consider a consensus aspirant from the zone if it is seen that such was needed for a common front, noting that APC leaders from the zone would also reach out to other geo-political zones, to see the need to support the South-East to produce the president in 2023.
The minister said consultations around this were being intensified in view of the fact the Igbo as a major ethnic group has yet to produce a president since the Nigerian civil war, adding that there is need to give the zone a sense of belonging in Nigeria.
His words: “We aspirants from the South-East are stretching hands of fellowship to people from other zones and telling them to look at their South-East brothers that have not since independence been in the executive position of governance in Nigeria except during the tenure of Aguyi Ironsi, which lasted for six months. For 42 years there hasn’t been any Southeasterner as president or prime minister of Nigeria.
“If we want to be our brother’s keeper and to bury the pains of the Nigerian civil war and the impression that some group of people are not wanted in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, our brothers from other zones should concede that position to the South-East in 2023.”
I want democracy, not consensus — Tinubu
Meanwhile, Bola Tinubu, weekend, said he remains unshaken and confident of winning the presidential ticket of the APC.
Speaking in Jalingo, Taraba State capital after an interface with delegates of the party, he said his chances of winning the presidential ticket are very high.
Tinubu said: “My chances of winning the ticket are incredibly high and I am very confident. I am sure I can and I will win it.”
Asked if the option of a consensus arrangement sits well with him if his party eventually opts for it, Tinubu said he prefers democracy, “I want democracy. I am voting for democracy; one man, one vote.”
Urges Nigerians to be hopeful
Also speaking in Yola, Adamawa State, Tinubu, who addressed APC faithful, said: “Have hope in a greater Nigeria. Have belief, courage. You need me, I need you. We must join hands. We will be like our broom (APC symbol). Held together as it is at the base, you can’t break the broom. That’s how Nigeria should be.
“This country has potential for growth, but it’s not by mouth. We have to work towards it. We have to learn to choose our leaders. A leader who has the capacity, a determined and courageous leader, a leader who perseveres until the right results manifest.”