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2023 presidency: Groups strategise, favour Jonathan, Tinubu, Fashola, Amaechi, Osinbajo 

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Suspense still pervades the ranks of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over which zone in the South would produce the presidential candidate of the party.

The Governor Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee had declared at the height of speculation that the presidential ticket had been zoned to the South and that President Muhammadu Buhari will take a final position on the matter.

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A zoning arrangement for major elective offices purportedly released by the party recently apart from indicating that the presidential ticket is zoned to the South, said others include: Vice President (North), Senate President (South), Deputy Senate President (North), Speaker (North) and Deputy Speaker (South).

For the zoning of the National Working Committee (NWC), the list, among others showed the north will produce the national chairman, national secretary (South), national treasurer (South), financial secretary (North), legal officer (North), and welfare officer (South).

The decision by APC caretaker committee secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe to distance the party from the list calmed frayed nerves.

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Already, chieftains of the party from across the country including Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, and former Governor of Zamfara State, Ahmad Sani Yarima had since declared interest in the plum job.

This is aside from the much-touted interest of the national leader of the party Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu to succeed as President.

Tinubu’s residence in the United Kingdom has become a Mecca of the sort, as President Buhari, several serving and former governors and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila who is also said to be eyeing the presidential ticket of the party have paid solidarity visits to Tinubu within the last two weeks.

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Several groups including the Tinubu Vanguard led by Mr Johny Benjamin have been rooting for the Tinubu presidency, marketing his contribution to the sustenance of democratic rule in the country.
There is also South West Agenda or Asiwaju (SWAGA) being led by former Minister of State for Works, Senator Dayo Adeyeye.

There has been hush-hush talk that some ministers including Rotimi Amaechi and Babatunde Fashola, who were said to have played active roles in ensuring victory for President Buhari during the 2014 presidential primaries held in Lagos are also on the cards as likely successors.

Curiously, the name of President Goodluck Jonathan who is said to have been having a cordial working relationship with President Buhari in the last six years is also on the list of possible presidential hopefuls of the party. Sources say power brokers from the north are disposed to having Jonathan complete his second term in office by 2027, to pave way for the return of power to the north for another eight years.

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Senator Rochas Okorocha has also shown interest in flying the party flag in the 2023 presidential election. He has argued that time is ripe for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction to emerge.

He said: “For me, I have run for the office of the presidency using different political parties and up to three times now, I have run for the office of the presidency under the ANPP, and the second time under PDP, the third time in APC. 

“And now if I must run, it is for the unity of Nigeria. If I must run, it must be for the empowerment of the youths of Nigeria, and if I must run for the presidency, it will be to make this nation compete with other greater nations of the world economically.”

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“The North has produced a president, the West has produced the president and the South-south has also produced a president of this country and we have seen all they have done. It is time for Igbo to produce a president and let us see how the Igbo will change this country.”

Yerima, who on three occasions stepped down to enable Buhari clinch the presidential ticket of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as well as the APC refuted claims of an existing gentleman’s agreement to zone the Presidency to the South in 2023.

The former governor said, “I don’t think there is anything like agreement, you can ask Mr President, he led the group, Asiwaju was there, I was part of it, there was no meeting I didn’t attend or any meeting that I attended that there was such agreement.

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“Agreement can’t be verbal; it has to be written. In any case, any agreement that is contrary to the laws of this country is not an agreement. The Constitution is very clear, the Constitution of the political parties and the Electoral Act is also clear, we are in a democracy and democracy is governed by processes and procedures and bylaws.”

However, the campaign for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to succeed President Buhari by scores of APC chieftains from across the country has gained traction in recent times.

The group under the aegis of the Progressive Consolidation Group (PCG) argued that Prof Osinbajo’s competence when he took the reins as Commander-in-Chief during President Buhari’s absence within the last six years is not in doubt. 

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While on advocacy visits to various states including Katsina State, PCG made case for the cerebral scholar who has had a smooth working relationship with President Buhari as against the scenario that played out between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Vice President Atiku Abubakar between 1999 and 2007.

PCG, led by Aliyu Rabiu Kurfi stressed the need to sustain the successes recorded by the Buhari-led administration, adding that Osinbajo is one of those elements within the current system that can further enrich the nation’s prospects.

According to him: “As everyone knows, we started our awareness for good governance in March 2019, with a collective resolve to promote our great party, so as to ensure that APC again produces Nigeria’s next President come 2023.

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“Looking at the extant developmental challenges that the country is contending with, it is only wise for the party to choose a most qualified and most acceptable candidate to sustain and improve on the positive gains, achievements, and legacies of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“It is in view of this development that we at PCG feel convinced that an Osinbajo Presidency in 2023 will bring down tension, facilitate stability and accelerate further progress in all sectors of the economy.”

The group’s position came on the heels of Osinbajo’s stance on the state of the nation during the National Social Cohesion Dialogue held penultimate week in Abuja.

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Osinbajo, who had since distanced himself from PCG’s advocacy visits argued that Nigerians have much more to gain from being citizens of a united country than they may derive from any secessionist entity that emerges from the nation’s fragmentation.

The dialogue, which was organised by Africa Polling Institute and Ford Foundation, was held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre featured the presentation of the 2021 edition of the Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey Report. 

Osinbajo who was the special guest of honour noted that Nigeria’s challenges are not insoluble and that many countries have undergone and are undergoing similar trials as part of their historical evolution. 

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Faulting advocates of the country’s disintegration, he argued that Nigeria has evolved beyond the sort of easy balkanization that is proposed by separatist groups in the country.

The Vice President stated that Nigerians do not hate one another but must resolve issues of fairness, inclusion, and justice that have driven wedges between communities. 

“In many quarters, there are genuine feelings of alienation and exclusion. We must strengthen institutions which at every level can deliver justice, inclusion, and mutual security.” 

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Decrying the differentiation of indigenes from non-indigenes as “apartheid”, Osinbajo affirmed that, “all Nigerians have a constitutional right to live, work and enjoy their lives in peace and safety under the law.”

Stressing that governments at all levels have a responsibility to uphold the rights of Nigerians, he called for an end to all forms of discrimination. 

The Vice President cited Social Investment Programmes as an example of a government programme under which eligible beneficiaries had been chosen based on where they resided and without consideration of their ethnicity or religion. 

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In respect of crime and insecurity, the Vice President observed that governments at all levels are adopting more local and decentralised policing strategies but urged State Governments to ensure that localised security arrangements “are constituted in an inclusive manner and reflect the true diversity of those that live in local communities.”
 
“This way,” he said, “the whole community, will gain a sense of belonging and more importantly feel that they have a stake in protecting their homesteads from criminals. No truly sustainable security umbrella can be built on the basis of exclusion.”

Against the background of communal conflicts, Professor Osinbajo insisted that “criminals must not be seen not as representatives of any ethnic or religious group” and that “it is unjust to harass an entire community for the crimes alleged to have been committed by some of its members.”

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Osinbajo argued that calls for the breakup of the country are rooted in socioeconomic frustration rather than any deep desire for disintegration. “I remain convinced that the majority of Nigerians want to succeed in their country rather than secede from it,” he stated. 

Osinbajo while delivering a lecture at the maiden convocation of the Sokoto State University in Sokoto reiterated the need for unity among Nigerians.

At the occasion graced by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, Osinbajo said: “The champions of division are going to mobilise followership along ethnic and religious lines to secure their own pieces of the so-called national cake. However, the choice before our society is clear: Either we fracture our communities in order to seize what remains of a rapidly diminishing national cake; or we commit ourselves to the task of baking more cake in ever-increasing quantities as we unleash our boundless capacity for enterprise and innovation.

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“I, therefore, urge all of us to consider the importance of national unity. Nigeria is more than a sum of its many parts and its diversity – ethnic diversity, cultural diversity, and religious diversity – is a value-add for our nation. Difference should not mean division.

“In the context of national unity, it is essential for us to establish a culture of tolerance, open-mindedness, and acceptance of people of all cultures and creeds. There is a unity to be found even in the face of such differences. There is a Nigerianness that binds us all, there is a shared commitment – no matter how suppressed – to build a better Nigeria for ourselves and future generations. It is who we are, it is in our very beings, that love of country, that aspiration to do better.”

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