The agitation for zoning of the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) intensified yesterday.
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu urged the ruling party to make a categorical statement on which zone should produce its next presidential candidate.
He said the principle of rotation guided the party’s decision at the recent national convention in Abuja.
Akeredolu maintained in a statement in Akure that it was the turn of the southern part of the country to produce the next president.
He said the adoption of a power shift would make the APC avoid self-inflicted crises ahead of next year’s election.
Also yesterday, Ijaw leader Chief Edwin Clark, former Senate Majority Leader Ali Ndume and Employment and Labour Minister Chris Ngige renewed their call for zoning in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice.
Urging the party leadership to make a pronouncement on zoning without delay, Akeredolu said: “It will be disingenuous for anyone to argue against rotation at this period.”
He added: “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 we take a stand.
“We cannot, therefore, 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 the conduct of elections and succession to political offices, we must do nothing capable of tilting the delicate balance against the established arrangement which guarantees peace and promotes trust.
“Our party just elected officers on the established principle of giving every part of the country an important stake in the political calculus.
“The focus has now shifted to the process, which will culminate in the participation of our party in the general elections scheduled for next year.
“All lovers of peace and freedom must do everything to eschew tendencies, which may predispose them to taking decisions which promote distrust and lead to a crisis, the end of which nobody may be able to predict.
“It is expected, fervently, that it will proceed to complete the process by limiting the propensities for disagreement to a region for possible micro-management. It is very expedient that we avoid self-inflicted crises before the general elections.”
Ndume backs Akeredolu on Southern presidency
Ndume, who spoke on Channels yesterday, agreed with Akeredolu’s position, saying that it would be unfair for the party to do otherwise.
The senator, who said the principle of zoning was part of the federal character, added that zoning was adhered to during the election of party executives.
Ndume said: “I support the position of Governor Akeredolu 100 per cent. I adopt the counsel of the governor to the party.
“I believe in equity, fairness and justice. This, we did during the emergence of our national chairman. That was why nobody from the south contested for the chairmanship position of our party.
“In 2015, based on the principle of zoning, it was agreed that the presidency should be zoned to the north. And that was why most of those that contested were from the north. This time around, I don’t think that should change.”
Ndume dismissed the argument that zoning would disenfranchise some Nigerians.
He believes zoning and rotation are issues of equity under the principle of federal character, which according to him, covers both elective and appointive positions.
He added: “On the principles of fairness, justice and equity, we should allow the south to put forward their candidates and let the party members decide.”
He said though he was not at the top of the party affairs, he expressed confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire and determination to ensure justice and equity prevail.
When asked if the APC would heed Akeredolu’s call, Ndume said: “I am hopeful that the party under the leadership of Abdullahi Adamu, the APC chairman, will heed the counsel by Governor Akeredolu.”
He said Adamu was quoted out of context when he said the party has not taken a position on zoning.
He disagreed with the notion that if the PDP gives its ticket to a northern aspirant, the APC should also do the same.
Lending his voice to the demand for a power shift, Ngige said it was in tandem with the agreement of the founding fathers of the APC when it was formed in 2014.
Ngige, who spoke with our reporter on phone on Tuesday, said: “My position on zoning is what the founding fathers agreed on and the subsequent organs of the party have been adopting and doing.
“For example, they decided that party positions in the South should go to the North and all in the North go to the South. That is what it is. There is no cause for alarm.
“The South should have the Presidency in 2023. That is what the founding fathers agreed and that is what our organs of the party had been implementing.
“Presidency North, chairman South and thereafter, Presidency South, chairman North. We have done chairman North during our convention.
“So, we are now operating for the elective offices, which the presidency is the numero uno. There is no cause for alarm.”
The minister allayed the fears of party members over plans to jettison the zoning of the Presidency.
He said at the right time, the party would make its position known.
Ngige said: “The National Chairman says the party has not officially zoned the Presidency and if he says so, that is what it is.
“We have organs of the party and the organ that can speak now after him (Adamu) is the National Working Committee.
“Luckily, a lot of members of the working committee were members when we formed the legacy party called APC.
“They are members of All Nigeria Peoples Party, Congress for Progressive Change, a portion of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and of course, the Action Congress of Nigeria, being the major and most senior partner in the whole arrangement. We came there with six governors.
“We have no fear. They all know what the agreement was at the formation and they all know what the subsequent NEC and conventions have been adopted.
“At the right time, I think not too long to come, they will make the position of the party known.”
Youth leaders across the six geo-political zones called on the two major political parties – the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to zone their 2023 presidential tickets to the South to foster equity, justice and unity.
They said since the North has produced President Muhammadu Buhari, his successor should come from the South.
The youth leaders made their position known in a joint statement by Okpanachi Jacob (Northcentral); Mr Femi Akindele Lawson (Southwest); Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed (Northwest); Dr. Uzoh Chukwuemeka (Southeast) and Blessing Hossanah (Southsouth).
Convener, Concerned Nigeria Citizens, Femi Osabinu, who addressed reporters in Abuja on behalf of the youth leaders warned that if zoning was jettisoned, it may throw the country into confusion and shake the unity of the nation.
There is no doubt that the North has had its fair share of the country’s leadership for the past seven years and now it is time to zone the Presidency to the Southern part of Nigeria.
“We thus urge all political parties to follow what will retain the unity of the country and zone presidency to Southern states come 2023. Parties should stop playing politics with Nigerians.
“We hereby reiterate our call for the need of our political parties to shift power to the South for equity, justice and unity of the country. This will sustain our unity and ensure that the country remains one with each region seeing itself as a stakeholder in the Nigeria Project.
“We must respect zoning, and now is the time for this to be done,” he added.
The leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Edwin Clark, insisted that the next president should come from the Southeast extraction.
He alleged that Southerners are treated as second-class citizens in the country, adding that there may be no Nigeria without zoning in 2023.
He spoke on Arise TV.
According to him, there is a monopoly of leadership by the North.
He said: “My idea of zoning the Presidency to the South-East is well-known. No Nigerian will like to live in a country where certain people believe that they have the only right to lead.
“Nigeria stood on three legs, and it has never been steady since one of the legs was destroyed during the Civil War.
“If zoning which will heal the wounds is not done, there will be no Nigeria. Nobody will remain in this country as a second class citizen.
“The North believes their population can be used to oppress other Nigerians. This is not acceptable. The era of that has gone. There are many good Northerners but the Fulani-oriented ones want to dominate everywhere.”
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