The political weather in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is stormy, sequel to the party’s move to consider consensus arrangement ahead of the 2023 presidential poll.
This is especially as the party is yet to resolve issues of zoning and how candidates would be fielded across board.
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The party is still navigating the country’s political murky waters, characterised by crises and conflicts of interest, anxiety and uncertainty, among others.
This is considering that it is yet to redefine itself by organising a national convention where a new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members who would lead the party to the much-touted 2023 poll would emerge.
The secretary of the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, noted that at the appropriate time, the APC would pick a consensus presidential candidate for 2023.
The statement was in reaction to the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) recent allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari had a self-succession plan.
Part of the statement reads, “After our congresses and the national convention, we will shock them (PDP) by bringing a consensus and an agreeable candidate that will fly the flag of the party come 2023.
“The APC has no third term agenda like the PDP. What we are doing now is to stabilise the party and not allow individual ambitions to derail the President Buhari administration.”
But our correspondent gathered from multiple sources within the party that the statement had caused stir and apprehension among stalwarts as some felt it was calculating how to scheme some aspirants from other blocs out of the race and “plant” a preferred candidate.
The statement, pundits argued, was too early, considering that the aspirants were yet to start obtaining their expression of interest and nomination forms and yet to meet with the party’s top echelon over a consensus agreement.
This is despite internal wrangling in some state chapters of the party and among various blocks.
Following the furore that greeted the statement, Senator Akpanudoedehe on Thursday issued another statement, saying the party would not impose any candidate.
According to the statement, “In adherence with internal democracy, when the time comes to elect the APC 2023 presidential flag-bearer and other party candidates, the process will be in full compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended), the APC constitution and the approved party guidelines for the nomination of candidates.
“For clarity, the APC constitution provides that party candidates in all elections emerge through democratically conducted primary elections, or where possible, consensus.
“The misleading interpretations given the earlier statement, particularly conspiracies aimed at senior party leaders and their perceived presidential ambitions are unnecessary and misplaced. The APC leadership will not impose any candidate in the lead-up to congresses, national convention and the 2023 general elections.”
Controversy is raging within the party over which zone would produce the presidential candidate ahead of the 2023 polls.
The party’s national convention, which should have addressed the issue is now postponed indefinitely without following due process and the party’s constitution.
Agitations are coming from both the northern and southern political gladiators with different reasons.
Some have argued that the South has spent more years in the Presidential Villa since the return of democracy in 1999, after many years of military rule, than the North.
Their argument is premised on the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West zone had a shot from 1999 to 2007. At the expiration of his eight-year tenure, Umaru Musa Yar’adua from the North-West won the 2007 presidential election and was sworn in, but he died abruptly in 2010.
The then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South took over, and in 2011, he contested, won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and administered the affairs of the country until in 2015 when he was defeated by the candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari, a politician from the North-West, assumed office on May 29, 2015. His tenure will elapse in 2023 when another election would be held for a new president to emerge.
Some political bigwigs have argued that there was a pact among APC stakeholders, prior to the 2015 general polls, that there would be power shift to the southern part of the country at the expiration of Buhari’s tenure in 2023. This is, however, still a subject for debate among party leaders and members.
The founder and pioneer national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Senator Rufai Hanga, said recently that there was an “implied agreement” that President Buhari would hand over to the national leader of the APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu in 2023.
Hanga said, “This is an open secret. There was an implied agreement. Even in law, there is implied and expressed act. If something is expressed, there are no two ways about it.
“There was an implied agreement that Tinubu would take over. That is why he didn’t back out after the first tenure. If Tinubu knew that he would not benefit, he would have backed out during Buhari’s first tenure. But he knows there was an agreement.”
But a former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani Yerima, told newsmen in one of the interviews recently in Abuja that there was no pact that there would be power shift to the South in 2023.
A chieftain of the ruling party and director-general of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, equally said President Buhari did not reach any succession agreement with Tinubu.
“As a member of the defunct CPC, I never heard of such an agreement. Most importantly, Mr President will not want to, or better put, rarely enters into any formal or informal agreement with anybody. But he appreciates good deeds.
“All I know is that Asiwaju could have been the vice president if not for what lawyers will call force majeure,” he said.
Some chieftains have, however, suggested that the party’s presidential ticket be thrown open for all the six geo-political zones to contest. Yet, others are of the opinion that the APC should slow down and watch what the PDP would do regarding zoning before taking any decision.
Pundits have argued that if the PDP allots its ticket to the North and the APC fields its candidate from the South, the PDP would reclaim power. It is believed that if the North produces the chairman of the party, the South will take the presidential ticket and vice versa.
It was gathered that scheming and machinations by various blocs to produce the presidential candidate and national chairman of the party have begun.
There are three main blocs in the party, but there exist smaller caucuses – the bloc of the presidency, national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s camp and that of the governors, who are members of the party.
Party members are, however, thrown into the dark considering that President Buhari had extended the timeline for the Governor Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee indefinitely after they had already served for one year.
Impeccable sources told Daily Trust Saturday that if the issue of presidential ticket is not meticulously handled, the party would be entangled in another intense crisis that would consume it in 2023.
With the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC dissolved in June 2020 and the Buni-led caretaker committee’s timeline extended by the National Executive Committee (NEC) by another six months at the expiration of its initial timeline of six months, the ward, local government, state and zonal executives were also dissolved.
The Buni-led committee, which was supposed to organise a national convention before the expiration of its second term timeline in June, 2021, failed to do so as President Buhari extended its timeline indefinitely, with the approval of the NEC, which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party, after the convention.
With the processes leading to the conduct of the party’s congresses put in place, its national leadership has asked contestants and stakeholders at various levels to uphold consensus arrangements rather than primary polls.
Akpanudoedehe had also stated, “We have to take into consideration the need to accommodate everyone because the APC is a party for all Nigerians.
“We are encouraging states to adopt the consensus arrangement because it saves cost and reduces acrimony. That is why when you look at article 20 of our constitution, which talks about elections, the first thing there is for members to try reaching a consensus. When that fails, then you go to cast ballots.
“We are making sure we do not leave any room for the opposition, especially the PDP, to sponsor people to cause confusion in our midst,” the party said.
But a stalwart of the party who spoke in confidence expressed fear that with the move, “there is a likelihood that some aspirants will be forced out of the race.”
The South-West Agenda for Asiwaju, 2023 in Ekiti State has already rejected the proposed consensus arrangement.
The state chairman of the group, Senator Tony Adeniyi, in a statement in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, titled, APC Congresses: Why consensus will not work in Ekiti, noted, “The APC in the state is polarised and only a direct primary can bring it back on a stable foot.”