Amid the controversies over where the ruling All Progressives Congress might zone its presidential ticket for the 2023 election, a chieftain of the party and Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said the founding fathers of the party won’t speak on the zoning arrangement until 2021.
He said nine among those of them who founded the APC were still in the party and that they would speak at the appropriate time whether or not there was an agreement on the zoning of the presidential ticket of the party for the 2023 election.
He said, “Nine of us are still in the APC. I can’t speak on the issue now. Most of us agreed that we are going to speak next year – from (Bola) Tinubu to Chief (Bisi) Akande, Chief Olusegun Osoba, myself; Tom Ikimi, Yusuf Ali; Ogbonnaya Onu; Danjuma Goje and Senator Wamakko.”
“We will speak next year after we would have done the APC caucus meeting on it. Caucus will agree that we speak on it publicly.”
Recent opposing claims by foundation members of the APC over an alleged gentleman’s agreement for a southern candidate to succeed the President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 has been causing apprehension within the ruling party.
Three major opposition political parties, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party and the Congress for Progressives Change came together and were later joined by a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and other smaller groups to form the All Progressives Congress in 2014.
They were later joined by a group of aggrieved members of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party under the platform of the New PDP.
It was gathered that fears of a possible decision by northern APC leaders to renege on the 2014 gentleman’s understanding on zoning led to the recent comment by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN, for the party to honour the gentleman’s agreement.
Fashola said, “The constitution that sets up the climate of political parties’ formation does not prescribe zoning. The truth is that what makes an agreement specification is the honour in which it is made, not whether it is written.
“If it was 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. But the private agreement you make with your brother and sister can be breached, (it) is honour.”
This position was reiterated by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, in a separate television interview. In response to a question on the zoning issue, he said, “It is a difficult question for me to respond to. I just believe that the zoning which was done in the North and South should be respected, just like Fashola said.”
Fears by party leaders from the South were further heightened by last week’s declaration by the former Zamfara State Governor and chieftain of the party, Senator Sani Yerima, that the much talked about agreement didn’t exist and that even if it did, it was not binding because it neither had a basis in the Nigerian constitution nor that of the APC.
Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, also kicked against zoning, adding, “there are excellent Nigerians from all parts of the country.”
One of the former ANPP northern governors, actively involved in the merger talks, said that before agreeing to bring the Action Congress of Nigeria bloc into the merger, Tinubu extracted an unwritten commitment from leaders of the legacy political parties that power would return to the south.
The former governor said, “Before Tinubu finally agreed for the merger to happen, his principal demand was that after the north, power should shift to the south. That was a gentleman’s agreement which all the parties involved were aware of.
“It was not something that everybody sat down, agreed on and signed in writing. It was a gentleman’s agreement. I remember it was on the final day of the meeting he threatened to pull his ACN block out of the merger if his demands were not met. It is this understanding that ensured that not a single aspirant showed interest in our 2014 primary.
“You will recall that four northerners and Rochas Okorocha from the South East contested that primary which Buhari won. With due respect, Yerima has an ambition which he is entitled to pursue as a Nigerian.”