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Zoning dilemma for APC, PDP as north-central, south-east demand equity

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Atiku. Photo/Facebook/Atiku Abubakar

As Nigerians watch how presidential candidates will emerge from the major political parties, there are expectations that principles of fairness, equity, and justice would be observed while zoning the tickets.

While the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is likely to zone its presidential ticket to the South, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is yet to make a categorical statement on which geopolitical zone will produce the party’s flagbearer. Unlike APC, PDP has zoning more as a convention.

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The major opposition party is said to be divided on whether to follow its tradition and zone its presidential ticket to the South or follow various interpretations by some leaders in the event that APC goes southward.

Some PDP stalwarts have argued that if the party is desirous of winning the election, its presidential ticket should be zoned to the North. They said it will be unfair for the South to produce the presidential candidate in 2023 given the fact that since 1999, the South was in power for 13 years out of the 16 years that PDP held sway, while the North governed for just three years. 

Specifically, they argued former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who spent two terms was in office between 1999 and 2007, is from south. He handed over to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in May 2007. Unfortunately, Yar’Adua, who battled ill health even before his election did not spend up to three years in office before he died on May 5, 2010. His deputy, Goodluck Jonathan completed their tenure till 2011 when he contested and governed the country till 2015. Jonathan’s attempt to continue in office failed, APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, defeated him.

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Speaking on how the PDP should zone its presidential ticket to win the election, a party stalwart, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, said only a northerner can win the 2023 presidential election for PDP. He said party members who are canvassing zoning of the ticket to the South are only doing so because they want to copy APC whose members are rooting for zoning of the ticket to the South after the completion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023. 

He said, “We are all Nigerians and there is no need for us to keep deceiving ourselves at this point in time. At the age of 70 and with my experience in organising campaigns in this country, I can tell you that unless there is a candidate from the North, in my own considered opinion, PDP will not stand a chance of winning the election. 

“On the ambition of those from the South who are asking for the presidency to be zoned to the South, I can say that they are only echoing what prevails in APC. In that party, President Muhammadu Buhari has done eight years, so it is imperative on APC to cede presidency to the South. 

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“In the case of PDP, let us look at it honestly, former President Olusegun Obasanjo from southwest did eight years; Goodluck Jonathan from the South-south also did six years. That made a total of 14 years. 

“On the other hand, Umaru Yar’Adua from the North did three years, so there is an imbalance of 11 years. If in 2019, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had not been rigged out of that election, he would have come back in 2023 to say that he wants to do a second term. And would anybody have stood in his way? No! So, for PDP, the presidential candidate must come from north in 2023. People should exercise patience because it will still come back to south”.

North-central agitates for ticket 
WHILE this argument is going on, some PDP leaders are already canvassing that the ticket is micro zoned to the North-central in the spirit of justice, equity, and fair play. To these PDP members, only the North-central has not had the privilege of producing the presidential candidate of the party while the Northwest (Yar’Adua) and Atiku Abubakar (North- East) have done so, even though Atiku did not become president. 

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Arguing in favour of the zone, Timothy Ojomo, a lawyer and political analyst said the North-central is the best bet for PDP if they are serious about regaining power they lost in 2015. 

He said, “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 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 really want to win”. 

“The PDP can now say that ‘in the spirit of fairness, justice, and equity, we have had people from the Northwest, Yar’Adua was from the Northwest (Katsina), Atiku Abubakar from the North East (Adamawa) who have been given the presidential ticket. So, let’s go to North-central”. 

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“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” he said. 

Sharing Ojomo’s views, Hon. Sunday Karimi, a former member of the House of Reps who represented Yagba Federal Constituency in the National Assembly between 2011 and 2019 also said the North-central should be considered in 2023. 

He said, “Since south has a combined period of 14 years while north will complete 10 years in 2023, for the sake of equity, the next President should come from another geo-political zone from the North, preferably North-central”. 

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Only on Tuesday, six states from the North-central geopolitical zone, comprising Kogi, Plateau, Niger, Kwara, Benue, Nasarawa, and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), protested what they called continued political marginalisation of the region since 1960.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, members of North Central Renaissance Movement (NCRM), drawn from the six states and FCT, said the North-central has not had a fair share of the political fortunes of the country especially during democratic dispensations since 1960.

Chairman of the Movement, Nghargbu K’tso, and secretary, Aliyu Mustapha, while making a strong case for North-central specifically, said, the zone has not produced a President or a Vice President.

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They argued that it was only fair that North-central is allowed to produce candidates for the major political parties to produce a President of North-central extraction.

According to the group, “North-central is still at zero years in terms of access and ascension to the two top offices in the Presidency.

They stressed that as permutations for 2023 start to coalesce, equity must be done to all sections of this country by correcting historical imbalances that engender pain and frustration among all, or a section of the populace.

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It reviewed the history of democratically elected Presidents and Vice Presidents in the country and submitted that “there is hardly a more politically excluded and disgruntled Geo-Political Zone (GPZ) in today’s Nigeria than the North-central.

They said, “The exclusion revealed by this data, when weighed against the North-central’s contributions to sociopolitical stability of the party, the North and indeed, the whole country, is enough to raise questions of her value as a ‘co-equal team player and ally in north, and in the nation.

The group argued that because the North-central zone had supported the Northeast and Northwest zones to produce President in the past, “now is the time to request for the same support from our brother GPZs in the North for a North-central presidential run in 2023. It is one practical way of reassuring us that we are not mere adjuncts but bonafide stakeholders in the One North project, fully entitled in our own rights to aspire and run for the two top leadership positions in this country.

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“It is on this premise that we, the North-central Renaissance Movement (NCRM) demand in the interest of fairness, equity and justice that the Office of President of Nigeria is ceded to the North-central.”

“Further, and with all love and respect for all our compatriots, we insist that our claims are superior, being the most marginalised in the history of civilian/democratic occupancy of the Office of President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, since Independence.

“We therefore respectfully demand that the North Central, our geopolitical zone, receive accommodation and support from all the others in her quest to produce the next Nigerian President in 2023,” the NCRM pleaded.

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Will APC consider southeast? 
UNLIKE PDP, APC has hinted at zoning its presidential candidate to the South. But what the party is yet to decide is which part of the geopolitical will be favoured to produce the party’s flag bearer in the 2023 presidential election.

While Southwest and South-south have produced president, many are arguing if APC will consider Southeast, the only zone that has not produced occupant of Aso Rock since 1999 to fly the flag in 2023.

There are also speculations that religion may be a crucial factor as some stakeholders in the party are clamouring for a Christian due to the fact that President Buhari is a Muslim. 

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However, some APC members whose names are being touted as likely presidential candidates are from the Southwest and South-south while one or two from the Southeast have expressed interest to contest for the plum office from the APC. Apart from former Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, there is also Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim from the North-central.

Shedding light on this, another political analyst, Akpan Bassey said, “In APC, it speaks to justice, equity and fairness that after Buhari’s eight years, the party should move the Presidency to the South. In any case, zoning is not a constitutional arrangement, it is something peculiar to each of the parties as they deem fit”. 

“So, it is only fair that after the eight years of President Buhari, the ticket goes to the South. Then in the South, that is where the problem is right now because the Southwest wants it, the South-south wants it and neither the Southwest nor South-south thinks it should go to the Southeast, which has never tasted power. Yet, they are clamouring for fairness, equity, and justice. If that should be the case, the South should not even think it twice before zoning it to the Southeast. The Igbos are not second-class citizens, they are a part of this country and they deserve to be treated well and better than we currently do”. 

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