2023: At Last, APC Zones Political Offices, South And North To Switch Places

In Breaking News, National News, Politics

By Leo Sobechi (Deputy Politics Editor) and Terhemba Daka, The Guardian Newspaper

  • Resolves division over convention date
  • Adopts consensus methodology for national chair
  • APC ineligible to contest 2023 elections, PDP alleges

After months of vacillation and doublespeak, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) has officially allotted political offices, including the National Chairmanship and Presidential slots to various geopolitical zones.

The issue of where the prospective National Chairman of the party would come from has been at the root of delay in organizing APC’s national convention, even as some stakeholders had expressed worry that the tenure of the Governor Mai Mala Buni’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) expired last December.

Last June, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party ratified the further extension of the interim committee’s tenure by another six months, which elapsed in December 2021.

CECPC Secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, did not respond to The Guardian’s inquiry on the status of the committee, whose tenure was yet to be extended by NEC after it expired last December.

But, after a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and Governors elected on the party’s platform yesterday, the APC leaders announced the swapping of political offices between the North and South.

While agreeing on the zoning arrangement that cedes the Presidential slot to the South and the office of the party’s National Chairman to the North, the party stated that it would elect its next National Chairman through consensus.

Going by the official position adopted by the party leaders, offices hitherto occupied by Northerners in the last eight years will shift to the South and vice versa.

The meeting held at the Presidential Villa included Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting, said the meeting agreed on the zoning format for all the six zones.

Stressing that the formula was simple, equitable, and fair, the Governor stated: “We have agreed on a zoning formula for all the six geo-political zones. Essentially, the Northern zone will have the positions the South has had in the last eight years, and vice versa.

“We will now go back and consult at the zonal level and look at the positions that are available and the process of the convention preparation we started in earnest. So, by the grace of God, on March 26, we will have our national convention.”

On the stalemate over the convention date, which threatened the proposed national convention, El- Rufai said some of his colleagues were divided over the timing of the convention, but noted that the issue had now been resolved.

His words: “Yes, we were divided over the timing of the convention. Okay, there were some Governors that felt that we should put off the convention until we resolve all the congress issues.

“Some Governors held the view that we should wait until all the issues are resolved. And this is not borne out of any agenda or selfishness. It is just a realistic proposition to avoid us violating any laws or putting our party structures of elected candidates in danger.

“So, there were differences in opinion about timing. Some of us are saying the constitution allows us to have a convention even if three or four states have issues that are unresolved, while others are saying no, let us finish all the reconciliations and we have the convention. After all, there is no time limit for the convention as long as we do it before the time for the primaries.”

The Kaduna State Governor blamed the media for characterizing the stalemate as division among the APC Governors, saying, “In a democratic setting, there is no way you can have 22 Governors plus the Deputy Governor of Anambra State agreeing on any issue.

“We can have differences. But after our meeting last night (Monday) to deliberate on the proposal by the National Caretaker Committee, and our briefing with Mr. President today (Tuesday), we’re all on the same page.

“We have agreed on a zoning formula for all the six geopolitical zones and essentially, we swapped. Northern zones will take positions that Southern zones had in the last eight years and vice versa. So, a very simple, equitable, and fair formula.

“Whether we do our zonal convention before that, or do it at the same time, again, the constitution is silent. So, as our Chairman said, we can decide either way.”

Earlier, Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Senator Atiku Bagudu, explained that in the course of their meeting with President Buhari Governors agreed to adopt a consensus option for the position of National Chairman at the March 26 national convention.

Bagudu disclosed that the President reminded the meeting of how the party has produced a number of National Chairmen by consensus, recalling that Baba Bisi Akande emerged as the pioneer Chairman by consensus.

While stressing that Chief John Oyegun and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also emerged by consensus, the PGF Chairman stated: “So, he is a believer in consensus as one of the options of producing leadership, and he urged us to explore consensus.

“So, we can generate a list, while recognizing that many people who have indicated interest are equally competent, but knowing that just one person will occupy the office. Consensus is part of our Constitution and he urged us to work towards consensus.

“And the Governors, as I said earlier, have also been working to ensure that as part of the equitable arrangement that zoning and consensus are incorporated. We have done that at the lower levels, and even at the national level it’s almost certain that we will achieve it.”

Continuing, the Kebbi State chief executive said the Caretaker Committee briefed the Governors the previous day on the convention date, saying that at their meeting, they proposed March 26, 2022. “And today, the Governors informed Mr. President that we have had the briefing from the Caretaker Committee and we are supportive of their position.”

Reacting to concerns that the proposed Zonal Congresses were not stipulated in the Constitution, Bagudu said: “Zonal congresses are not explicitly stated in the Constitution, particularly how you conduct them. And we have in the past done them with the National Convention, but nothing again in the Constitution stops them from being done outside the national convention. But the final form will be decided, given the input we have provided.”

He also dismissed insinuations that the Governors were divided on the earlier convention date, adding, “Are Governors divided? Not at all; the 22 Governors of the APC are united. Our party is greater and stronger, with more members by the day.”

Fielding questions from journalists, Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, dismissed fears of the possible implosion of APC as expressed by some Nigerians, saying: “Which reason will make us not to come back again? As far as we are concerned, based on assessment, and based on what the Federal Government is doing, there is every hope that this party, this government will move beyond our President and I think that is behind his efforts and that’s what he has been saying that by the grace of God, this government will move beyond his tenure.”

The 18 Governors that attended the meeting, which took place at the Council Chambers, were those of Yobe, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Cross River, Kaduna, Lagos, Borno, Niger, Gombe, Osun, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kano, Imo, Kogi, Ogun, and Plateau States, including the outgoing Deputy Governor of Anambra State.

The APC had set up the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Reconciliation Committee to reconcile members that felt aggrieved after the nationwide ward and State congresses, just as the issue of zoning of offices attended the bickering within the various caucuses of the party.

Some APC stalwarts wondered why the CECPC, which was set up to reconcile the party and organize a national convention should, in turn, establish another committee to perform the same function, even as members of the sacked Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) alleged that the dismantling of the elected NWC was to pursue a hidden agenda of retaining the Presidency in the North.

After several extensions, the Buni-led CECPC seemed to have run out of excuses after the membership registration and revalidation exercise, such that the NEC could not meet to ratify further extension of the committee’s mandate.

Responding to pressure from the party faithful, the CECPC fixed a February 26 tentative national convention to ostensibly douse tempers and prolong the timeline for the Senator Adamu-led reconciliation committee.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday said the continuous shift in date of the APC national convention has explained why all sectors of our national life have been in a shambolic state.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the opposition party noted that APC’s postponement of its National Convention has validated the stance that “the APC is not a political party but a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of strange bedfellows, ‘political buccaneers’ and ferocious power mongers on a mission to wreck our nation.”

According to the opposition party, APC’s postponement of its national convention had always been a fallout of the horrible infighting, backbiting, and gang war by “political bandits” who are desperate for power and access to our national treasury. “That explains why their congresses and other activities are always marred by violence, bloodletting, and killings,” the party declared.

It claimed that the activities of the Mai Mala Buni Committee remained invalid and unconstitutional by virtue of Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which bars a sitting governor from holding “any other executive office” in any capacity whatsoever while serving as a State Governor.

“The failure of the APC to hold a National Convention is, therefore, a clear warning to those aspiring for various positions in the 2023 election on its platform to note that with the APC, they are on a journey to nowhere,” the PDP mocked.

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