2023: Will APC betray the trust of Southerners on Power Rotation?

Though power rotation between the North and South is not enshrined in its Constitution, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had demonstrated that it intended to zone the 2023 presidency to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year tenure. Many chieftains of the party, including a former Governor of Ogun State, Mr. Olusegun Osoba had confirmed that there was indeed, a gentleman’s agreement by the party leaders on zoning.

He said as the chairman of the constitution drafting committee during the formation of APC, the party leaders were careful not to use the word “zoning” so as not to be in conflict with the constitution.

Osoba, however, confirmed that they agreed that the North should produce the president, while the chairmanship position of the APC should be produced by the South

He stated: “Part of the understanding in the case of rotation is a conventional understanding that the presidency will move between the North and the South. That was the reason why we now allowed the chairman (of the party), I don’t want to use the world zoning, because we definitely did not put zoning, we know it may go in conflict with the Nigerian constitution which says anyone who is a Nigerian, who has read up to school certificate can contest and at the age of 35, I think, can contest for the presidency of the country.

“But there was a clear gentlemanly understanding that the northern part of the country will produce the president when we did the merger in 2013, and the chairman of the party will then come from the South,” Osoba reportedly added.

To corroborate Osoba’s position, a member of the National Assembly representing Borno South and former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, had last week declared that it would be unfair, and a betrayal of trust and gentleman’s agreement if the APC zoned the Presidency to the North. Ndume, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, while reacting to APC’s alleged jettisoning of zoning, said, “that will be unfair, injustice and almost a betrayal of trust and a gentleman’s man agreement.

“We had an agreement, though not written in 2015 that the North should produce the President. That was why all the presidential aspirants were from the North: Atiku, Nda Isaiah, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Muhammadu Buhari,all contested.

“Only Rochas Okorocha just participated because he already had the governorship ticket in his pocket. He just participated for the sake of it because Buhari even won in Imo State. That was why no aspirants contested from South-west, South-south and South-east. I believe in justice; I am not against anybody from the North contesting, it is their constitutional right,” Ndume reportedly explained.

The ruling party had in February this year demonstrated its commitment to implement power rotation when it agreed on a zoning formula that swapped offices held between North and South. The agreement was reached when President Buhari held a meeting with 19 governors of the APC at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

By the arrangement, all offices that were occupied by northerners in the last eight years went to the South and vice versa.

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who addressed journalists after the meeting, reportedly stated that agreement had been reached on zoning formula. He said: “We have agreed a zoning formula for all the six geo-political zones.

“Essentially, northern zone will have the positions the south had in the last eight years and vice versa. It is a very simple, equitable and fair formula,” the governor said.

It was this zoning arrangement that produced Senator Abdullahi Adamu as the National Chairman of the party. The emergence of the former Nasarawa State governor as the chairman of the ruling party raised the hopes that the party’s presidential candidate would come from the South. But the Adamu’s leadership appears to be working towards zoning the party’s presidential ticket to the North-east.

Currently, there are strong speculations that the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan would likely emerge as APC’s presidential candidate in the 2023 elections. Adamu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has also decided to allow ad-hoc delegates to elect presidential candidate at its forthcoming convention.

This, many believe, will boost the chances of a northern aspirant emerging as the presidential standard bearer. Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal had hinted that the ruling party may have settled for Lawan as its presidential candidate.

The National Assembly’s latest amendment to the Electoral Act, 2022, to allow statutory delegates – all those elected – to participate and vote in the conventions, congresses or meetings of political parties, was said to have been designed to boost the chances of the Senate President. The current Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) has no role for statutory delegates at the convention. The sudden entry of Lawan into the presidential race at the last-minute gave strong indications that the ruling party was plotting to jettison zoning. To actualise this plot, APC has been shifting its presidential primary to prepare grounds to either impose a consensus candidate or possibly manipulate the process in favour of the North-east.

In a strange development, one of the northern governors, who had publicly expressed support for power shift to the South, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had recently hinted that the party delegates in the state had not taken a final position on their choice of candidate. After the state delegates had endorsed a frontline presidential aspirant of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, the Kano State governor, in an apparent volte face, told another presidential aspirant, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi that Kano as a “swing state, will continue to swing.”

Ganduje added that Amaechi would know where the state eventually swung to at the right time. His failure to reaffirm their support for Tinubu during Amaechi’s visit has sent strong signals that their pledged support for Tinubu, and by implication, a southern presidency under APC is not yet a done deal.

Unlike Ganduje, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had told Amaechi in clear terms that Tinubu remained their rallying point in Lagos State. The unreliable position of Kaduna State delegates has also become a cause for concern. Governor el-Rufai rallied the delegates to endorse Amaechi after they had promised Tinubu their votes.

Former Director General of Tinubu’s Campaign Organisation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, who recently abandoned the APC and the Tinubu project to pursue his personal ambition in the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) is also believed to have seen the handwriting on the wall that the ruling party has no plan to concede power to a southerner.

APC chairman, Adamu had on Wednesday reaffirmed that the party had not zone its presidential ticket. This dangerous gamble will amount to a betrayal of the trust of southerners. This will further divide a country that has already been divided by the APC-led administration.

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