From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Where will the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zone their presidential tickets in the 2023 polls?
That is the pertinent question as the two major political parties engage in a hide-and-seek over their zoning formula ahead of the next general polls.
It is usually the practice for the major political parties to announce the zoning of the office of the National chairman and other party positions, and the presidential ticket, well ahead of the beginning of electioneering for any general election.
However, few months to the commencement of active politicking for the 2023 general elections, the two major political parties are yet to take a formal decision on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) has fixed February 27, 2023 as the date for the next presidential poll.
Since President Muhammudu Buhari, who is in the last lap of his second and last tenure as president, is from the North, expectations are that his successor will be from the South.
Regardless, both the APC and the PDP have kept Nigerians guessing as to their plans for zoning in the next general elections.
While the APC has kept its National Convention, which would have given a clue to where it intends to zone its 2023 presidential ticket in abeyance,
the PDP has not been forthcoming in taking a decision on the report of its committee that recommended throwing its presidential ticket open to all qualified persons.
In the aftermath of the sack of former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as APC National Chairman, after a protracted crisis, in 2020, the ruling party had set up a caretaker committee to pilot its affairs for six months.
The caretaker committee, which is headed by the Yobe State governor, Mai Buni, was set up on June 25, 2020 to act for six months period. It was expected to hold a national convention, last December to elect a substantive National Working Committee (NWC) for the APC.
However, the APC has consistently shifted the goal post for the election of a new leadership. The move, pundits say is not unconnected to the zoning challenge.
After the initial six months elapsed, the APC caretaker committee got a six months extension, which expired last Friday. Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari further extended the tenure of Buni committee.
In April, Nigerians went into a frenzy after a list indicating that the APC has announced its zoning for the 2023 polls emerged online. However, the secretary of the APC caretaker committee, John Akpanudoedehe in dismissing the list said the party is not concerned about zoning at the moment.
“That is not what we are concerned with now. What we are concerned with is data collection. We are not going to be pressurised by sentiments and then we do the wrong thing. Let me say that zoning is not for the Caretaker Committee alone. It has to do with the President, it has to do with other major stakeholders. It has to do with a lot of people.”.. We are focused on delivering our mandate and we are to do it rightly,” Akpanudoedehe stated.
Analysts say the dithering by the two major political parties on their zoning formula for the 2023 polls, is informed by the desire to see where the others will zone its presidential ticket to, so as to make maximum political capital from its own zoning.
APC shifts focus to chairmanship seat
Nevertheless, while Nigerians await the ruling party’s zoning formula for the 2023 polls, the campaign for the APC National Chairmanship seat is gathering momentum by the day.
Daily Sun gathered that so far, no fewer than four aspirants have indicated interests in the coveted position. They include Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Senator Al-Makura, Alhaji Abdul Aziz Yari, former governors of Borno, Nasarawa and Zamfara states, as well as Saliu Mustapha, a former deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
A top source told our correspondent
that party leaders will critically evaluate the pedigree and antecedents of all the aspirants, before deciding on which of them will lead the APC to the 2023 polls.
Apart from Mustapha, the three other aspirants for the chairmanship of the APC are former governors and either former or serving members of the National Assembly.
The former Borno governor had served as a senator at the aborted Third republic and at inception of the present political dispensation. He was later to serve as governor of the North East state for two consecutive terms after which he served as national chairman of the PDP.
On the other hand, Yari, served as a member of the House of Representatives, before his election as governor of Zamfara in 2021. However, the APC lost the state in the 2019, as result of political tussle between the former governor and Senator Marafa.
On his part, Al-Mukara was elected into the Senate in 2019, after serving two terms as Nasarawa State governor.
However, Daily Sun gathered that the odds seem to favour Sheriff as an influential bloc within the APC is pushing for him to become the next national chairman of the APC.
An APC leader, who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that “Sheriff knows the PDP in and out and knows when and how to strike, to leave it suffocating lifeless on the canvass. His knowledge of partisan politics and party administration is not a commodity purchasable over the counter.”
PDP waiting for the APC
Amidst clamour in 2020, for the PDP to disclose its position on zoning for the 2023 polls, the national chairman of the opposition party, Uche Secondus, had said that the party would await the report of its committee on the review of the 2019 polls, before deciding on its zoning formula for the next general elections.
“We did the same thing when we lost election in 2015 when we set up the Senator Ike Ekweremadu committee to look into why we lost. It was from that report that the party took action towards 2019.
“The same way this time, we must study our last outing before looking ahead. We can’t be talking of zoning when we have not appraised how we fared in the last election.
“I stand by my position that the Governor Bala-led committee is still working, they are coming out with a report on why we lost and by the time they finish, we will take decisions and the decision is not for the National Working Committee but for the entirety of our party,” Secondus told journalists, in Abuja, last December.
Eventually, in March, the committee headed by the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed submitted its report and advised the PDP to jettison zoning in choosing its presidential candidate for the 2023 polls.
According to him, “in line with certain unwritten conventions of the nation’s history, many people think that, for fairness and equity, the North East and South East geo-political zones that have had the shortest stints at the Presidency, should be given special consideration, in choosing the presidential flag bearer of the party, for the 2023 elections.
“While we admit that this is a strong argument, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country.
“Moreover, the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing the leader, with the attributes to disentangle the country from the present quagmire.
“Therefore, we think that every Nigerian, from every part of the country, should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate, through a credible primary election as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process, for the country.”
Expectedly, the submission of the committees did not go down well with party stakeholders, especially those from the South East geo-political zone.
In a bid to douse tension over the zoning controversy, the PDP leadership had said it will study the report and come up with a position.
Secondus, while receiving the Bala Mohammed Committee report had said, “the NWC is going to study and analyse your report meticulously and come up with a position that will be beneficial to the party.”
Regardless, more than three months after, the opposition party is yet to come with a position on the zoning of party and elective offices for the 2023 polls.
Inside sources said the PDP leadership believes that the opposition should not declare its position on zoning before the ruling party.
However, like in the APC, leaders of the PDP are focused on the National Chairmanship of the party at the moment. The tenure of the current NWC is expected to elapse on December 10.
In recent times, tension has heightened in the opposition party over the leadership of the PDP in the run-up to the 2023 polls.
Regardless, unlike in the APC, there are no known aspirants for the chairmanship of the PDP, at the moment. Nevertheless, different interest groups are strategizing on how to take control of the NWC post December 10.
Pundits say from the mood in the two major political parties, it is unlikely that they will unveil their zoning formula for the 2023 polls, anytime soon.