APC and the next unavoidable zoning challenge
Which is the most likely geopolitical zone to produce the All Progressives Congress´s (APC) presidential standard-bearer in 2023? The right answer happens to be one, which most APC insiders would rather prefer to be left to blow in the wind. But, try as hard as they may, some telltale signs, including events of the recent weeks; have continued to combine as plausible indicators.
In the light of the foregoing therefore, the following posers would also help to elucidate the foundation of those pointers:
For instance, was the sacking of the party´s National Working Committee (NWC) the only pathway to peace and unity in the party´s leadership following the recriminations and counter-claims to its leadership after Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was suspended from the post of national chairman?
Given that the APC´s constitution expressly provides for two deputy national chairmen, one apiece for the north and south, does commonsense and logic not favour the deputy national chairman north, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, to step into the acting position since his then counterpart from the south, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, was facing some health challenges that eventually e dot his death?
Some stakeholders maintained that that would have been the proper thing to do, but in the face of political calculations and scheming, things that seem proper lose their essential qualities as they are made to look odd and counterproductive.
The general notion among APC stakeholders is that it was the political supremacy contest between Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki, which gave rise to the suspension of the former national chairman that stoked the leadership crisis in the NWC.
But the speed with which the National Executive Committee (NEC), led by President Buhari dismantled the NWC, instead of exploring alternative routes, like empowering Senator Shuaibu, or even allowing Victor Giadom to exhaust his two-week ex parte order, shows that a takeover was long contemplated.
Not that alone, although it could be argued that Governor Mai Mala Buni’s experience and stint as APC national secretary placed him in pole position to serve as chairman of the Caretaker Committee and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, his choice betrayed the scheming to give the APC presidential ticket to a particular zone.
Before his sudden death, the former Chief of Staff (CoS) to President Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, was allegedly working assiduously alongside other notable northern leaders of the party to recompense the Northeast with a shot at the presidency.
The clever scheme
Kyari and others, particularly the former vice presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Ambassador Babagana Kingide, were said to have covert scheme that would throw up a perceived weak candidate from the Southeast, whose preference would trigger opposition from established APC stalwarts from the zone, especially the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator (Dr.) Chris Ngige and former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha.
The group could not settle on who, between the Ministers of Science and Technology and Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ogbonnia Onu and Geoffrey Onyeama, to put forward before Kyari passed on last April.
According to those privy to the plot, the game plan was to fly the kite of putting forward either Onu or Onyeama while some APC leaders in Southeast would be tipped off to work for their emergence as running mate to a northern candidate at the expense of their fellow Southeast aspirants.
The plot was so thick that prior to the 2019 presidential poll, Kyari took the message to the Southeast through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
The SGF had enjoined the Southeast electorate to vote en masse for President Buhari, stressing that doing so would pave the way for the emergence of a president in 2023 from the zone.
APC stakeholders from Northeast have been making a case for their zone to produce President Buhari’s successor, a development sources said made states in the zone, especially Bornu, Gombe and Yobe to boost votes for the president in 2019.
Apart from the concentration of prestigious federal appointments in the zone, particularly Bauchi State, most APC stakeholders are in the know of the plan to reward the Northeast with the APC presidential candidate in 2023.
Few days to his emergence as the Senate Deputy President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege parried the issue of zoning the 2023 presidency to Northeast during an interview with The Guardian in such a way that belied the non-verbal cue.
However, if the motivation to postpone APC’s zoning stance is to keep the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) guessing, it appears the gambit is not paying off. This is because feelers from PDP show that the party does is not in a hurry to alter its 2019 zoning format. Immediate past Benue State governor, Senator Gabriel Suswan recently confirmed that position in an interview with a national newspaper.
A highly placed source in PDP also informed The Guardian that the general belief within the major opposition party is that it did not lose the 2019 presidential poll.
Return of APC’s zoning troubles
As if responding to a cue, shortly after the Caretaker and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CENCPC) was put together, the nagging zoning issue reared its head. A list detailing what the authors called the “APC 2020 extraordinary zoning arrangement for the forthcoming national convention” started making the rounds in traditional and social media platforms.
In the list, which the deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena repudiated, the positions of national chairman and deputy national publicity secretary were zoned to the Northeast, while the Southeast was allotted the posts of national secretary and deputy national organizing secretary.
For Northwest and Southwest, the major party positions carved out for them are as follows: national organizing secretary and national financial secretary as well as national treasurer and national publicity secretary respectively. While the North Central has national legal adviser and national auditor, the South/South is expected to produce the deputy national chairman (South) and the deputy national organizing secretary.
Caretaker and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CENCPC) Secretary, Senator John Akpan Udoedehe, told The Guardian over the telephone that the issue of zoning did not arise in the course of their consultations with the leaders, stressing,
“Our guidelines are very clear.”
The Akwa Ibom State-born APC stalwart explained that there are things the caucus can do and those that only the NEC and convention can do also, adding that the zoning of offices falls within the responsibility of the NEC.
“I don’t think that that (zoning) is within our mandate,” Udoedehe. “We have not reached a decision on those things you have said,” adding that all what the committee was doing is “to put our party together.”
While remarking that the CENCPC has only six months to complete its assignment, Udoedehe said there was no quarrel within the party, explaining that the committee’s visit to Tinubu was part of the consultations by the team.
“We just met with our leader as part of the wide consultation to guide us to bring everybody on board,” he said. “If anybody is talking about zoning that could only be done by the caucus, by which I mean the NEC of the party. It is not this committee; we have not that power.
“I talk to you because you are The Guardian. I am not supposed to talk to the press, because I align myself with what my chairman has said. Social media has this knack for knocking heads through speculations and spreading falsehood.”
But despite the official denials, it is becoming obvious that the zoning issue might present the governing party with more problems than the sacking of the NWC solved.
Whether the next national chairman comes from either Northeast or Southeast, the point has been unwittingly made that the two geopolitical zones have been primed for the presidential joint ticket. And knowing that there is no way a candidate from Southeast could trounce his rival from Northeast in a delegate election in APC, ceding the position of national chairman to Southeast would go along way to confirm where the next presidential candidate of the party would emerge.
Could it be that the CENCPC’s visit to Bourdillon Street residence of the APC national leader was to dissuade him from oiling a possible divorce plan or a mere feel good gesture to rub in the displacement of his protégé, Oshiomhole, from the commanding heights of APC?
Like Oshiomhole said, whatever people meet at night to plan would come to light by the day. As such, if the issue of zoning does not present a nagging problem to the party, it would be evident in November, when the convention holds.
A big question that only APC leaders at the level of NEC would answer is whether the convention would be an all-comers affair for aspirants to the positions, particularly those of the national chairman, national secretary and national organizing secretary.
Those are the pillars upon which every political party erects its candidates for election. In a statement, the APC deputy national publicity secretary, Nabena, urged party faithful and the general public to disregard the purported zoning arrangement. Nabena insisted that the inaugural meeting of the CENCPC, which held at the APC National Secretariat last Monday did not discuss or issue the fake zoning arrangement for the forthcoming national convention.
He, however, added that if “and when a zoning arrangement is made for the planned national convention, it would be officially communicated and publicised.”
Nigerians are waiting to see how the next APC national convention could be planned without a word on zoning. That indeed would determine what becomes of the party or its take-off point for the journey to 2023.
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