Roadto 2023: Zoning, consensus options as litmus test for APC national leadership

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From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

After the heightened storm and anxiety during the national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the eventual emergence of the national leadership, attention has now shifted to the possibility of the party matching the lofty expectations of members and that of Nigerians. The question now is whether the ruling party would be able to consolidate its hold on power, especially at the centre, beyond the 2023 general elections.

Interestingly, the March 26 national convention, surprisingly set a record as the most  peaceful and credible convention since the ruling party came into existence after the historic merger in 2014.

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Although many of the short-changed aspirants have continued to quietly nurse the wounds of sacrificing their ambition after being forcefully or voluntarily told to step down from the contest for the anointed candidates, the convention, however, recorded the least litigated cases.

Expectedly, activities have since picked up and accelerated even with the new national leadership still struggling to hit the ground running with major and minor stakeholders, turning the national secretariat of the party into a Mecca of some sort to seek one favour or the other.

Haunted by the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the ruling party’s leadership is already racing against time to put up a near-perfect strategy to help the party consolidate its hold on power, especially at the centre.

The choked timetable and schedule of activities may not be the only thing mounting pressure on the new leadership as the galaxy of aspirants, numbering over 10 heavyweight chieftains of the party from virtually every part of the country have indicated interest to contest the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 polls.

Ranging from some relatively unknown persons to heavyweight politicians like the party’s National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, former governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, his former Abia, Rivers, Ebonyi, Anambra, Akwa-Ibom and Ogun States counterparts, Senator Orji Uzor-Kalu, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige, Godswill Akpabio and Ibikunle Amosun respectively.

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Others include incumbent governors like Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.

Apparently, with these eminently-qualified aspirants jostling for the presidential ticket of the party and haunted by the difficult decision to settle for the mode of primaries to select the best candidate, critical observers argue that the national leadership of the party should be indecisive on the best decision to take to keep the party a united family ahead of the presidential poll.

Expectedly, the aspirants are not leaving anything to chance in strategising to outsmart one another in the game for the presidential ticket, including possibly manipulating the structure with the largely strange bird fellows as members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) installed by party chieftains, the presidency cabal and the indefatigable members of the Progressive Governors Forum.

Little wonder the rate of visitations to the homes and offices of the members of the national leadership by the aspirants, geared towards brightening their electoral chances have increased marginally in recent times.

However, miffed by the quantum of challenges confronting the ruling party, its national leadership has horribly convened an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party to iron out and possibly put in place near perfect arrangements toward putting the party on the right footings ahead of the elections.

Other myriads of challenges confronting the party which should equally be treated during the emergency meeting include an amicable resolution of the issue of the zone to produce the next presidential candidate of the party in addition to other zoning arrangements.

Some others are the probable realistic date for the conduct of the party’s primaries and more importantly, the mode to be adopted for the presidential primary from the three options of direct, indirect or consensus.

Akin to the plethora of issues that will form part of the agenda for the meeting could be the skewed unfavourable Northern Nigeria-dominated number of delegates for the presidential primaries. Out of the 7,800 delegates earmarked for the primaries, 4,414 of them from the total number of 7,800, will come from the three Northern geopolitical zones of North East, North West and North Central.

According to the delegate list in speculation, the North West will produce the highest number of 1924, South West 1568, North Central 1278, North East 1212, South-south, 927, and the South East, 838.

Another issue in contention is also arriving at a realistic amount of fund to be paid for the purchase of expression of interest and nomination forms and possibly putting a mechanism in place to restrict the sale of the forms to perhaps only the anointed aspirants so as to avoid the litigation of refunding the amount the aggrieved persons may have spent to avoid them feeling short-changed.

The ratification of the resolution to sell the nomination forms free of charge to women, the appeals to certain aggrieved gladiators especially in some state chapters still pursuing one form of litigation or the other at certain law courts might equally get mention during the emergency NEC meeting scheduled for Wednesday, this week in Abuja.

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Already, some political watchers have argued that the NEC meeting is a very crucial one that could decide the fortune and trajectory of the party for the 2023 presidential election, beginning with getting it right with the selection of an acceptable candidate for the party.

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Contrary to speculations that President Buhari may not have it easy in unilaterally anointing a presidential candidate following the alleged confrontation with the Progressive Governors, the meeting has only become necessary to arrive at a common ground towards averting possible implosion of the party.

However, a chieftain of the party who spoke to Daily Sun in confidence expressed the same apprehension that the ruling party may be on the verge of disintegration should the national leadership and other stakeholders fail to get it right in organising a rancour-free presidential primary that will produce an acceptable candidate to confront its common foe, the main opposition party.

“My biggest fear for the APC is that it may make the same mistake of allowing President Buhari to anoint an aspirant as consensus presidential candidate like they did during the national convention. I want to think that they will not be deceived by the submission of the aspirants for the national chairmanship after intimidating them out of the race and do same in the presidential ticket.

“The two situations are not the same because while the chairmanship aspirants chickened out easily in the face of subtle threats, most of the presidential aspirants are established, self-made chieftains and could go extra mile to seek redress to their mandate and frustrate the party from retaining the presidential seat beyond 2023, knowing very well that they have no stake again in the party.

“Don’t forget that since this may be the brightest opportunity and last chance for many of them, they may see it as a do-or-die affair should the presidency muzzle them to accept any other aspirant other than them in the name of consensus arrangement.

“Have you ever imagined what will happen to the presidential ambition of an aspirant like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who may see the 2023 ticket as his last chance for the position?

“Unless drastic measures are put in place to select the candidate and pacify others, I am afraid that the presidential primary may disintegrate the APC and deny it the opportunity of remaining in power beyond 2023.

“The only good thing is that APC may conduct its presidential primary after the PDP.  It will provide them the opportunity to redress any challenge that might affect the outcome of the person chosen ad the candidate,” our source said.

Corroborating the fears of the APC chieftain, the former National Publicity Secretary (NPS), Bolaji Abduallahi, had dismissed the chances of the party retaining its position at the State House beyond 2023, alluding that having failed since taking over government from the PDP, the ruling party lacks the capacity to contest again and win in the 2023 poll.

“If the APC has run this country for close to eight years and this is what we have and where we are now, I wonder what those that will contest the 2023 elections under the APC ticket will tell Nigerians. If they choose to tell us that it is not the party but President Muhammadu Buhari that kept the country under this condition and if given the chance they can do better, good and fine. We can understand that argument.

“But if they claim that they have run this government together under the APC, and this is what we have, then on what basis should Nigerians entrust anything under the APC and expect it will work? It is either that the candidates exonerate themselves or accepting responsibility that they are part of the situation we found ourselves in.

“APC has led us from frying pan to fire because they told Nigerians in 2015 when they came to power that we were in frying pan, but today the APC has led Nigerians into the fire. PDP is a party designed to be in power, but the problem is that they forgot who they are over the years. Nigerians have learnt their lessons.

“The PDP can say that they are not part of the problems the country is encountering today; they can challenge boldly that people should go back to what happened to the country since the APC took over power and ask Nigerians which one do they prefer. APC should not be a force to reckon with in the 2023 presidential election especially as the incumbent will not be in the ballot box,” he argued.

However, bringing the message of hope despite the precarious situation facing the party is the immediate past Secretary of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, who argued that if the party can hold a successful convention, party primaries will be a child’s play.

“APC is a party with the capacity to sort out its problem any day, anytime time.  Did you care to know why our national convention went so peacefully despite the apprehension in many quarters that the party will implode after the convention. I don’t have any iota of fear that APC will conduct the best presidential primary for the 2023 election and even go ahead to win the main election and retain the power.  I can only tell you that as far as the PDP is concerned in the 2023 election, it will be a case of the Egyptian you see today, you will see no more,” he quipped.

Head or tail, the handling of the events leading up to the 2023 presidential election especially in the next few days, will determine the future, fortune and trajectory the ruling party will take during the 2023 general elections.

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