In the last few months, there had been debates over zoning of the presidency in 2023 and this to an extent is gradually building up suspicions among southerners in the two dominant political parties, the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The suspicion is being cleverly planted by the North between the three Southern blocks of the South west, the South east and the South south.
It was learnt that right now the debate in the two political parties about zoning of the presidency is going to split the southern zones, especially, the South west and the South east which are likely contenders.
While the South west claim that it had an unwritten agreement with the North when the APC was being formed, to take over from Buhari after eight years, the South east in both parties is laying claims to the presidency, saying that for fair play, justice, equity and as a stakeholder in the Nigerian Project, it must be its turn to rule, since the North, the South west and even the South south, have had a go at the presidency, leaving the zone yet to produce the president since 1999.
The scheming now in the two parties known to be strongly contesting for the presidency, is to create confusion in the south over the zoning formula and choice of the right zone by supporting both sides’ claims in the typical divide and rule policy to ensure that the North would hang on to power, or at worse produce a surrogate that would not have a total grip of power.
The plot in both political parties is to first have the chairmanship position of the parties zoned to the south. This is already being perfected in the PDP as a strong Northern group wants to retain Mr. Uche Secondus as chairman ahead of 2023 to scuttle the chances of the South, especially the South eastern from making any strong claim. Also APC is plotting to zone the chairman to either the South west or South east.
Also an alternative but diversionary plot to silence the South west, BusinessHallmark has learnt is a scheme to install the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was a former National Secretary of the party, but was removed at the heat of the crisis in the party during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.
This move too, it was learnt is another clever way of playing the South west against the South east in the party, which may be compensated with the position in place of PDP presidency. The game plan which sources said was being studied carefully by members of the party in the South west is to make the south competitors among themselves and incapable of presenting any strong challenge.
Also those in the South east and even the South south have already kicked against the retention of Secondus.
Although the issue of zoning the presidency has been in the political front burner of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria, the fear now being expressed is the animosity which it could generate in the South, leaving the North as a strong political entity.
This fear was voiced out recently by the General Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who warned that if care was not taken, the issue of zoning the presidency could cause a frosty relationship within the South especially, between the Igbo and the Yoruba
He argued that while the North would come out stronger, the south would be divided. He warned that the game plan of the North is to keep playing drums of discord and what would cause serious suspicions in the South and warned the Southern politicians against the on-going antics of the North to cause commotion in the entire South in the quest to hang on to power.
Already some groups in the South west region especially the Afenifere, a strong voice in the Yoruba agenda, believed that in all ramifications the presidency should move to the South east, while there are other groups too, which believed that the South west should have it.
The move for the South west to have it among the Yoruba groups seems to be stronger than that of the Afenifere but the fact remains that Afenifere’s voice really counts in Yoruba affairs and how it would be able to convince others, especially, the political elites is the difficult task.
The only person who has openly shown interest in the South West PDP has been Chief Olabode George George.
Also within the zones, the presidency too, has been polarizing as groups and organisations in the South west, for instance, are canvassing for different candidates. This it was argued was the antics of the North to weaken the zone and its strongest contender Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
In the APC alone, more than six people are being speculated to be interested in the race for AsoRock in 2023. Although none of them has come out openly, from all indications, they already have people on ground selling their candidatures.
The leader of the APC Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and who happens to be the mentors and the strongest contender of all those jostling for the presidency in 2023 has rolled out it machinery under the South West Agenda. Also the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi too, has some groups in the party that have endorsed him.
The same with both the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, former governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Works and Housing and former governor of Lagos state, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, all who have been products of Tinubu’s National leadership and nation building.
The other person in the APC who is standing alone is Pastor Tunde Bakare, apparently being goaded by President Buhari, who has never hidden his interest in the presidential game and had always prophesy that he would be the next person to succeed Buhari.
Political analyst have said that all what is going on in the APC was aimed at weakening the South West, while the North has begun similar process in the South East and the South South.
It was learnt that the defection of the Governor of Ebonyi state, Dave Umahi to the APC should not be regarded as sudden but a well planned script to further divide the south by propping him to contest against the West.
It was said that his defection would better prepare him as trusted ally of the North for the presidency since they have lost confidence in Senator Rochas Okorocha, adding that since the likes of Chief Chris Ngige and others are hardliners, who could not be used as proxies by the North.
As such they picked on Umahi, who could at best be a vice President after they must have sown in the seeds of discord among the East and the West
Also the move by the APC to woo the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan from the South south, to the APC to contest, is said to be a grand plan to further heightened the rift between the South south and the South east, and undermine the existing solidarity between the two zones in PDP.
With all these going on, the South west and the South east are resolved to have the presidency. While the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has said that the Igbo would not bargain for anything less than the presidency, after Buhari, the South west groups in the APC are also bent on the same objectives.
.For instance, one of those being promoted for the presidency and who is currently the Minister for Works, Fashola has warned that the party to abide by the agreement reached while they were forming the APC that the party should zone the presidential ticket to the South West.
Fashola who was one of the technocrats who worked out the terms of the APC merger pointed out that the controversies on the power shift to the South west was unnecessary because the terms were clear.
“The truth is that what makes an agreement spectacular is the honour in which it is made, not whether it is written. If it were written, there would be no court cases of breach of contract because it’s a document that is written and signed that goes to court. The private agreement you make with your brother and sister should not be breached. It must be honoured.”
He believed that zoning is not in the party’s constitution, insisting that the party leaders had agreed on zoning when the party was being formed and argued that political parties are like clubs, Fashola maintained.
“Where you write agreements just like a social club and we can decide that it is the youngest person who will be the chairman of the club or we can decide that it is the oldest person or the next female or the next male. That is the matter of agreement among people.”
“There is no categorical provision for presidential zoning in the APC Constitution. The nearest to zoning is implied in Article 20, which states: ‘Election and Appointments (iv) Criteria for Nomination (6); it states that: “All such rules, regulations, and guidelines shall take into consideration and uphold the principle of federal character, gender balance, geo-political spread and rotation of office, to as much as possible, ensure balance within the constituency covered.”
“Some governors have joined us, from where we think we could not get voters before now. To retain power in 2023, certainly, if we keep our promises, people will vote for us. It is that simple, that is politics.
“If you do what you said you will do, even if you don’t do 100 per cent and they see that you are making progress, they will even want you to finish what you started.”
What also heightened the agitation that the power must shift to the South west based on the APC merger agreement was said to have been tabled when the former governor of Osun Sate and the Interim Chairman of the APC Chief Bisi Akande led some associates of Tinubu to Buhari after the end SARS protests, which tended to dent the image and credibility of Tinubu.
Although the main issue of the meeting which was attended by the former governor of Ogun State Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Chief Tajudeen Olusi, Dr. Yomi Finih etc, was not released but sources hinted that the President was told the truth on where the South West stands
It was speculated that the meeting brokered peace between the presidency and Tinubu and as well reminded the presidency of the roles played by the South west in the formation of the APC and the emergence of President Buhari in 2015.
The president only turned back to Tinubu about a year to the 2019 election, when he discovered the national leader would be useful to his re-election ambition.
No sooner was the second term won than the fresh plot against Tinubu began anew, such that his political associates like the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, have now been technically sidelined. Also all his direct appointees like Babatunde Fowler of the Federal Inland Revenue were shown the way out.
The result is that the likes of Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who had largely benefitted from the political machinery of Tinubu is not in tune with him. Even the Minister of Interior, Ràuf Aregbesola, and a host of others are now romancing the north against Tinubu.
With this at the background Akande was said to have bluntly told President Buhari that even if he has anything against Tinubu, he should not forget their agreement while forming the APC and anything against the South West stands as a strong betrayal of trust.
The president of the Voters Assembly of Nigeria Comrade Mashood Erubami who is also a policy analyst, said that while it is still part of politics for the north to woo Jonathan or Umahi “it is important for APC to look back and consider its agreement”.
The arguments now is that the last has not yet been heard about 2023 presidency, zoning and who would get it, but as Erubami said “if the South East and the South West failed to reach a consensus on aspirants to get the presidency in 2023, the North will take advantage of that; the solution is that the country will end up in restructuring if we must stay together.
Also former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA Ikeja Branch Barrister Bisi Ade Ademuwagun posited that the political situation is now glaring that both the South west and the South east are bent on having the Presidency in 2023.
He said while some dissidents in the South emay want to bargain for the position of the vice President, he was sure that no one in the South west will bargain for anything than the presidency.
He also believed too, that there would be political uncertainty and the consequences of that would be restructuring, “which has been described as an antidote for the unity of Nigeria if we must remain as a nation”.