The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will decide on which part of the country will produce its presidential candidate for 2023 in June next year, sources in the party told Daily Trust on Tuesday.
One of the sources said if the North gets the slot of the national chairman of the party during the national convention of the party, the South will produce the presidential candidate and vice versa.
An emergency virtual National Executive Committee (NEC) yesterday extended the lifespan of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led 13-member APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) by six months. The timeline given the caretaker committee will expire on December 25, but the NEC extended it for another six months period that would terminate on June 30, 2021.
Among other issues, the reason given by the party was for the committee to complete membership revalidation and registration of new members, but competent sources said the window will most importantly afford the party opportunity to resolve contentious issues zoning inclusive.
“This is partly why President Muhammadu Buhari in his remarks at the NEC meeting harped on healing wounds, mending fences and respecting the free-merger agreement reached by those behind the formation of the APC,” another source said.
He said the issue of which part of the country should produce the APC’s flag bearer was threatening the existence of the party as the second tenure of Buhari eats deep into the second year.
“While there are sources that believe APC leaders from the North can use the numerical strength of the region to hold on to power, those in the South feel it would amount to a betrayal of trust if the North did not reciprocate what was done to them in 2015.
“The extension of time for the Buni-led committee is honestly beyond membership registration…The major issue is the sharing formula without causing an unnecessary distraction.
“And even if the North agrees to hands-off, we have to agree on which part of the South should have the presidential candidate.
“There are those who believe it should go to the South West.
“There are those who believe it should go to the South East, and some people are saying the South-South should be given a chance, but it all depends on the disposition of the Villa,” the source said.
‘We must respect pre-2015 agreements’
In his remarks during the NEC meeting, President Buhari said the Buni-led caretaker committee had succeeded in bringing the new atmosphere of hope to the party and urged party members to collectively work towards the sustenance of peace.
“Healthy debates are now taking place and the potential for organs of the party to affirm the majority positions as the decision of the party is now possible,” Buhari said.
“What is required now is for all of us as leaders of the party to maintain discipline and ensure that this new momentum is protected, sustained and the decisions of party organs are respected by every member.
“May I use this opportunity to remind all of us of the need to recreate our negotiation the secret of 2012, 2013 under our legacy parties, what guided our success to achieve the merger that produced the APC was the respect we were able to have for each other.
“In those times, decisions reached both formal and informal consultations were respected.
“We trusted initiatives taken and believed that they were required to produce the needed political platform that could guarantee electoral victory.
“Every one of us as leaders ensured that those decisions were respected,” the president said.
While briefing State House reporters after the NEC meeting, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State in the company of Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), and Secretary of the CECPC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, said the national convention where new party leaders would emerge would hold after the revalidation of registration and membership of party members that would soon start.
“Since we undertook our last membership registration in 2015, about 25 million have reached the age of 18 and may want to join the party.
“So, we want to capture those (people) and then after we complete the registration, we will have congresses at various levels, leading up to the national convention before the 30th of June 2021 by the grace of God.”
Beyond the surface
Our correspondents could not establish whether the president had “categorically” mentioned the issue of zoning as part of the agreement, but a source at the meeting said it was part of it.
Recalled that the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, had recently said there was a zoning arrangement, urging that it should be respected on the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
A close ally of the president, who was part of the formation of the APC, told Daily Trust that there was an agreement on zoning.
The APC was formed in 2013 following the merger of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP.
The president’s ally, who does not want to be named, said the agreement was reached before the merger process was sealed.
“The agreement was informally reached between the then ACN and CPC with Buhari and Asiwaju in attendance.
“There were four persons from each side. It was a serving minister from the North that first raised the issue.
“Then it was agreed that Buhari should fly the ticket and afterward, the power will shift to the South, specifically South-west,” he said.
State, LG, ward excos to serve as caretaker c’ttees
Tuesday’s NEC also approved an immediate dissolution of the party organs at the polling units, wards, local governments, states and zonal levels as well as the non-National Working Committee (NWC) component of the NEC.
The meeting thereafter approved the immediate reconstitution and composition of the dissolved excos to serve in their respective offices in a caretaker committee capacity with the exclusion of the non-NWC members of NEC.
NEC, therefore, donated its powers as enshrined in Articles 13.3 Subsection 5 and 13.3 Subsection 6 of the APC Constitution to the Buni committee.
Governor Akeredolu, who spoke on the matter, said the dissolved excos at other levels would continue to serve in their respective offices in a caretaker committee capacity “until we complete party registration and conduct congresses.”
‘My expulsion a nullity’
The NEC also approved the expulsion of former APC National Vice Chairman, South-South, Ntufam Hilliard Eta, for flouting the directives of NEC to discontinue all litigations against the party and its members.
However, Eta said his expulsion from the party was a nullity.
“I am already in court. The lawyers amongst them should have told them that they can’t make that pronouncement since I am in court.
“Their action is a nullity because it isn’t even the NEC of the party that met.
“Their so-called acting national secretary has no power to convene NEC,” he said.
Eta, in a suit he filed on November 26, 2020, through his lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), is challenging the dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC which he was part of.
He also asked the court for an order of injunction to restrain the caretaker committee of the APC from running the party.
A source in the party said the litigation by Eta and others could throw sand into what the party was doing to galvanise forces ahead of 2023.
“I think he has a case and the party must act fast because, in the eye of the law, someone with a superior argument could have his way.
“Eta might likely be working in cohort with other people to ensure instability in the party.
“He might also be working towards enforcing his fundamental human rights but the party must resolve the impasse to avert collateral damage,” he said.
Waivers for Umahi, Dogara
The NEC meeting also, on Tuesday, granted waivers to those who had joined the party and those wishing to follow suit in the nearest future to be able to contest for positions in the party and elections without any requirement of being members for a number of years or period of time.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State recently joined the party from the Peoples Democratic Party while a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara also returned to the party from PDP.
El-Rufai said the waivers given to them formed part of the resolutions of the meeting.
“By this, such new members will enjoy all the benefits and privileges accruable by virtue of their membership of the party.
“So, they will be able to contest for positions in the party.
“They will be able to contest elections without any requirement of being members for a number of years or period of time,” he said.
The two big defectors are seen in many quarters as formidable forces that would shape the 2023 politicking.
“If the APC decides to take the presidential ticket to the South East, Umahi will definitely be handy and if the ticket goes to the South West where the likely candidate will be a Muslim, then Dogara could be considered,” a source said.
“But all these would depend on what would happen between now and 2023 and you know politics is fluid, and that is why you are hearing names like El-Rufai, Fayemi, Tinubu, Zulum, Lalong and all that,” he said.
We’ll continue to do our best – Buni
Governor Buni, while speaking during the NEC meeting, said they did a lot in reconciling warring factions.
He said: “Tempers within our party have substantially come down although the works of our various reconciliation committees are yet to be concluded.
“While progress is being recorded by our respective reconciliation committees, the task of reconciliation should be continuous, the NEC may therefore wish to review development and direct accordingly.”
He added that almost all pending cases in courts instituted by members had been withdrawn to create “neutral ground’’ for discussions, while a time table for membership registration and revalidation exercise will be released after the initial sensitization.
The PDP Tuesday asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister the APC and recall its certificate of registration because it allegedly had no operational structures as required by law.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan also asked INEC to declare the seats of all lawmakers elected on the platform of APC at the federal and state levels vacant and commence the process of the by-election to fill the seats “as required by law.”
“The APC being overburdened by the weight of failure, humongous corruption as well as the plagues of economic recession, violence, killings and hardship, it has brought to our people, forcefully exited itself from the nation’s political firmament by dissolving all its national, zonal and state structures,” the PDP said.
But the APC in a statement by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, said, “The PDP leadership has gone senile”, adding “it is a beer parlour rant.”