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Next president must come from Southern Nigeria, Akeredolu tells APC

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Matthew Ogune (Abuja) and Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure)
04 May 2022   |   4:15 am
Governor of Ondo State and chairman of Southern Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, yesterday, said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) must take a position on zoning, insisting that it is the turn of Southern Nigeria to produce the next president.

Akeredolu. Photo/FACEBOOK/ONDOGOV

• ‘Ruling party must take a stand on zoning to avoid self-inflicted crises’
• Retaining APC presidential ticket in North betrayal of trust, says Ndume
• Failure to consider Southern president will divide Nigeria, Coalition warns
• Shehu Sani: How power can return to South

Governor of Ondo State and chairman of Southern Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, yesterday, said the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) must take a position on zoning, insisting that it is the turn of Southern Nigeria to produce the next president.

There have been different agitations in the APC and major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the 2023 presidency. The PDP had, yesterday, postponed its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting billed for today to, among other things, decide on whether or not the party would zone its presidential ticket.
National Secretary of the party, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, in a fresh notice, said the much anticipated meeting would hold on May 10.

The NEC meeting was expected to deliberate on the Governor Samuel Ortom-led zoning committee, which submitted its report to NEC through the National Working Committee (NWC) over two weeks ago.

The debate over zoning heightened after some members the committee hinted that the committee recommended that the ticket should be thrown open to all contenders, a claim Ortom has since denied, noting that only the NEC can determine whether or not the presidential ticket should be made open to all aspirants or zoned.

In the APC, before the ruling party’s convention in February, which led to the emergence of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as chairman, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State had said though the APC had not decided on zoning the presidential ticket, the swapping of national offices was an indication of where its presidential candidate would come from.

But after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja last week, Adamu told reporters that the party had not taken a position on zoning. “I am today privileged to be the chairman of the party. The party is greater than me. The party has not made a decision and I cannot preempt what the party decision will be,” he had said.

However, in a statement yesterday, Akeredolu said the issue of zoning must not throw the party into another round of crises.

“We cannot afford any internal bickering, which holds the potential promise of causing distrust and militating against cohesion, harmony and the zeal to achieve set objectives.

“The current democratic dispensation is anchored on the unwritten convention driven by a principle of equity. Political expediency dictates, more appealingly, that while adhering to the spirit and letters of the laws guiding conduct of elections and succession to political offices, we must do nothing, which is capable of tilting the delicate balance against the established arrangement that guarantees peace and promotes trust.

“The leadership of the party ensured that the principle of rotational representation guided its decision at the just-concluded convention. The party chairmanship position has gone to the North. All other offices have been filled on this understanding. This is the time the leaders of the party must make a categorical statement, devoid of equivocation, on the pattern of succession.”

Governor Akeredolu warned: “It is expedient that we avoid self-inflicted crises before the general elections. It is the turn of the Southern part of the country to produce the next president. The party leadership should have no difficulty in making pronouncement on this very important issue, just as it has fixed various fees for the purchase of forms.

“This must be done without delay. The principle of Federal Character is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended. It will be disingenuous for anyone to argue against rotation at this period.

“All lovers of peace and freedom must do everything to eschew tendencies, which may predispose them to taking decisions that promote distrust and lead to a crisis, the end of which nobody may be able to predict.

“We must not keep our party men and women guessing on the position of the leadership of the party. This is the time to weigh in and take control of the process.

“No statement must suggest, even remotely, that the party harbours certain sentiments, which may predispose it to consider throwing the contest open. This is certainly not the time for equivocation. Equity dictates that we take a stand.”

ALSO weighing in strongly for power rotation to the South, former Senate leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume, said any attempt by APC to retain its presidential ticket in the North would amount to betrayal of trust. He disclosed that there was an unwritten agreement in 2015 that the North should produce the president while the South would wait till 2023.

In an interview with journalists in Abuja, Ndume, who is now Director General of the Rotimi Amaechi campaign organisation, said: “Retaining the ticket will be unfair, unjust and a betrayal of trust and gentleman’s agreement.

“We had an agreement, though not written, in 2015 that the North should produce the president. That was why all presidential aspirants were from the North: Atiku Abubakar, Nda Isaiah, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Muhammadu Buhari. Only Rochas Okorocha participated because he already had the governorship ticket in his pocket. He just participated for the sake of it because President Buhari even won in Imo State.”

Ndume, who said he believes in justice, added: “I am not against anybody from the North contesting, it is their constitutional right, but if APC fields a Northern candidate, that will be tantamount to a third term. I think it is better to lose with honour than to win without honour. Southerners are Nigerians who should be given equal right.”

Ndume’s outburst against the North came barely 24 hours after it was reported that President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, might obtain the N100 million APC nomination form to seek to contest the 2023 presidential election.

Lawan, in an earlier reaction to the report, failed to deny it. Rather, he said his 2023 ambition is in the hands of God. The tentative closing date for the collection of APC nomination forms is Friday, a development sources said has put more pressure on Lawan and others who are yet to declare their aspirations.

At the moment, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, is the only APC presidential aspirant from the North who has obtained the nomination form.
FOLLOWING the increased clamour by some Nigerians and political groups for the zoning of the presidency to the Southeast, a former Kaduna lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani, has said the only way the Southern region can produce the president is for the APC and PDP not to pick a Northern candidate. Sani said this in his tweet yesterday, which read: “Power will shift to the South only if the candidates of the two main political parties are picked from the South.”

He, however, added that the people that could not be ignored in the elections remained the ‘Northern poor.’ He said: “The most critical group of voters no national political party will ignore are ‘the Northern poor.’ They vote in the direction of their sentiment and the interest of those who control them, and not on their collective plight.”

A COALITION of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of Concerned Nigeria Citizens for Power Shift to the South have urged all political parties to consider what will retain the unity of the country and zone presidency to the South next year.

Convener of the coalition, Femi Osabinu, who stated this during a media briefing, yesterday, in Abuja, cautioned that no political party would exist if there is no country called Nigeria.

“Let it be known that there won’t be either APC, PDP or any other political party if there is no country called Nigeria. National interest must override personal interests of those pushing parties to jettison the conventional rotation agenda of the presidency.

“We, hereby, reiterate our call for political parties to shift power to the South for equity and justice of the country as this will sustain our unity and ensure that the country remains one with each region seeing herself as stakeholder in the Nigeria project. We must respect zoning and now is the time for this to be done.”