JUST IN: APC postpones screening of presidential aspirants

Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) has zoned its presidential ticket to the South, just as it has opted to chose its national chairman by consensus.

The party reached the decision yesterday at a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and governors elected on its platform in Abuja.

Rising from the meeting, the party said it had agreed on a zoning formula that will swap offices held between the North and the South, meaning that the South will produce the next presidential candidate of the party.

This is as President Buhari directed the party leadership to explore the option of consensus, among other options, in the choice of its national chairman, in line with the party’s tradition.

Briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said contrary to reports in the media of division among APC governors, 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 have had in the last eight years, and vice versa. It is a very simple, equitable and fair formula.

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

el-Rufai affirmed that APC governors were divided over timing of the national convention as some were of the belief that there were many issues left unresolved.

The governor, who spoke in response to a question, said: “Yes, we were divided. 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 issues about congresses in some states.

“As you know, in some states, these matters are even in court. So, some governors held the view that we should wait until all these 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 or elected candidates in danger.

“So, yes, there were differences in opinion about timing. Some of us are saying the Constitution allows us to have 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 do this convention. After all, there is no time limit for the convention as long as we do it before the time for the primaries.

“So, that was the difference. This is what the media has called divided governors. 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 of last night, to deliberate on the proposal by the national caretaker committee, and our briefing with Mr. President today, we are all on the same page. We are committed to ensuring that the Peoples Destruction Party doesn’t come back to power.”

In his remarks earlier, chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said that President Buhari is in favour of consensus to select candidates for party offices.

He said: “On consensus, Mr. President reminded us that we have produced a number of national chairmen by consensus; Baba Akande emerged as the pioneer chairman of the party by consensus; John Odigie-Oyegun emerged by consensus; Comrade Adams Oshiomhole emerged by consensus.

“So, he is a believer in consensus as one of the options of producing leadership, and he urged us to explore consensus option, so that we can generate the best.

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

“And the governors, I have said earlier, have also been working to ensure that as part of equitable arrangement, 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.

“On the date of the convention, the caretaker committee briefed us yesterday of their meeting and the proposed March 26, 2022. Today, the governors informed Mr. President that we have had the briefing from the caretaker committee and we are supportive of their position.”

Bagudu explained that even though the planned zonal congresses of the APC is not provided for in its constitution, the law is also not against the process.

He said: “On proposed zonal congresses not being in the constitution, I think there has been so much debate. Yesterday (Monday), there was a statement to the effect that even the letter that has gone out was withdrawn.

“So, zonal congresses are not explicitly stated in the constitution, particularly how you do zonal congresses. And we have in the past done them with 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.”

Asked to confirm the report that the APC governors were divided, Bagudu said: “Are governors divided? Not at all. The 22 governors of the APC are united. We are in total support of Mr. President, we are appreciative of his leadership, we commend him for his leadership, we are appreciative of the sacrifice of the national caretaker and extraordinary convention planning committee. And we thanked them for the successes recorded under them. Our party, like I said, is greater and stronger, with more members by the day.”

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