The controversy over zoning of the 2023 presidency has taken a deeper crisis dimension, as some Nigerians yon Wednesday stormed the national secretariat of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), insisting that the two major parties in the country must zone the presidency to the southern part of Nigeria.
The protesters under the umbrella of a civil society organisation, Concerned Nigeria Citizens, were everywhere at the secretariats of the two political parties carrying banners and placards with various inscriptions to push for their demands.
Most of the placards had inscriptions such as, ‘2023: Power must shift to the south, PDP, APC please note our concern’, ‘Presidency to the South for one Nigeria’, Save democracy, Zone presidency to southern Nigeria’, ‘We support power shift’, ‘Promote unity, shift power to the South’s, ‘Rotation is key to Nigeria’s unity’, among others.
Their position paper read during the protest and submitted to officials of the political parties titled: ‘An Appeal/Demand for the Zoning of Your Party’s Presidential Ticket to the Southern Nigeria’ was jointly signed by their convener, Femi Osabinu, and Secretary-General, Alhaji Sidi Ali.
The position paper addressed to the national chairman of APC and PDP respectively reads in part: “We bring you sincere greetings, from the members and leaders of our organization and by extension, the good people of the six geopolitical states of our great country, Nigeria.
“Sir, this letter becomes imperative, in the wake of the National questions that have begun to emerge, on the zoning of the Presidential ticket of your party, ahead of the forthcoming 2023 Presidential election, in our country and presentation of the zoning committee report expected to be laid today.”
Osabinu said they are seriously concerned as patriotic Nigerians that just a few days to the presidential primaries of both parties, the APC and PDP are yet to intimate Nigerians about their decision in respect of where they are zoning the presidential ticket to.
According to the protesters, rotation of power in Nigeria goes beyond the mere aspiration of political parties.
They said it is also a tool towards ensuring national unity and stability and in this regard, candidates from southern Nigeria must be allowed to occupy the position of President in the country come 2023.
“We also wish to remind you that the established convention is that power must rotate between the North and the South. Hence a President of northern extraction follows that of Southern extraction and vice versa. Any consideration outside of this is foul and may destabilize the polity.
“It is only fair that after President Muhammadu Buhari, power must come to the south. Any argument against this is inimical to the unity and stability of our nation,” Osabinu said.
He noted that it is equitable that once power is conceded to the south the parties would not only be respecting established conventions of power rotation, but would also be contributing to the dire need to restore stability and national cohesion in the polity.
The protesters further stated: “It is the turn of the Southern part of the country to produce the next President, and we believe that your party should have no difficulty in coming out with a categorical declaration, on this very important issue, in the next few days.
“This must be done without delay. The principle of Federal Character is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Remember, there won’t be APC if there is no country called Nigeria. Let us put Nigeria first in our resolutions.
“While wishing you the best as we move towards the general election, we wish to restate that nothing other than the rotation of power to the South, shall be acceptable to us, and our people,” he said.
At the APC national secretariat, the party’s deputy national secretary and the deputy national women leader received the protesters.
He said the governor agreed to pick the forms after a series of calls and consultation with critical party stakeholders and political associates.
Sankara noted that the governor succumbed to the pressures mounted on him to come to serve the nation at the higher capacity.
“Governor Badaru has all the capacity and ideas to lead Nigeria to promising land and I am optimistic that if given the mandate he will prove Nigerians right.
“Under Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, Jigawa is one of the most peaceful states of the federation and the most inclusive government, as every community out of over 12,000 communities in the state has enjoyed minimum of one project,”
“In terms of Judicial use of public funds Jigawa is number one, equally in the payment of workers salary and other entitlements, agricultural transformation, construction of over 1500km roads, youth and women empowerment,” Sankara stated.
He assured the APC delegates that if given the party presidential ticket, Governor Badaru has enough track records that can contribute to the party’s success in the forthcoming general election.
On his part, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, joined other aspirants seeking to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, with a promise to bring his wealth of experience to bear in fixing Nigeria.
Speaking at Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium, AKwa Ibom State, venue of the declaration ceremony, yesterday, Akpabio recounted achievements recorded in various public offices he had occupied from inception of the present democracy in Nigeria.
He listed numerous bridges in AKwa Ibom, free and compulsory education, good road network and other facilities in the state as infrastructures that can be replicated in Nigeria if given the opportunity by the APC to fly the flag in the party primary election.
Akpabio assured Nigerians that the second Niger Bridge will be completed just as he had inaugurated the Niger Delta Development Commission headquarters which was abandoned for 26 years.
“You have heard a lot of declarations. This one is very uncommon. I have never seen a politician loved by his people and others across the nation like Godswill Akpabio,” he said
The former Akwa Ibom governor said as a first-time Senator, he was honoured by his colleagues and elected the minority leader, adding that he was determined to bring the nation together.
He paid a glowing tribute to President Buhari for showing integrity in the affairs of the nation especially in the fight against corruption.
Akpabio insisted that the fight against corruption would continue to ensure that the nation is rid of corrupt tendencies and accelerate the pace of development.
He observed that his presidential declaration is backed by representatives of major political blocks in the nation, especially the North, West and South East which he recognised as his in-laws .
He acknowledged the representative of Northern Youths Forum who had bought the APC Presidential Nomination Form for him as a mark of solidarity and support.
He stated: “My dear Compatriots, determined to pay the debt of gratitude I owe our nation for the opportunities to serve in high offices of public trust; determined to let our nation drink from the deep well of experience acquired in these offices, I, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, with great humility, hereby, submit myself for your kind consideration as your next President.
“I pay tribute to President Muhammadu Buhari for the patriotic work he has done as our President. He has given hope and direction to governance, and fought corruption with uncompromising zeal. He has touched lives and empowered people, he has made great advances in agriculture, human capital development, and indeed, in all sectors of our economy.
“He has uplifted the integrity of the Nigerian nation. A lot can be said about all his amazing successes and achievements, but suffice it to say that I have come to perfect his marvelous works. Although, Absolute perfection belongs not to man nor to Angels, but to God alone. The labours of our dear President Buhari and our past leaders shall never be in vain.
“In line with this expectation in our National Anthem, I have come to build based on their developmental strides; to serve our country with heart and might — serve her as a nation bound in freedom, peace and unity, where the dividends of democracy shall be guaranteed.
“I have come with these key items on my agenda: to secure lives and properties; to make unity the touchstone of our nationhood; and to invigorate our economy, prosper our citizenry and promote democracy.
“In 2007, I was elected the Governor of a pedestrian state, languishing on the margins of our national life. A couple of years later, a European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, visited the State and described what he saw, in amazement, as “transformation extraordinaire.”
“He inadvertently became the originator of the swansong “Uncommon Transformation” which other amazed visitors and residents of the state still echo till now. In Eight years of Uncommon Transformation, we gave the State one of the best road networks in the country; the roads built by us 14 years ago are still pot-hole free.
“We gave the State free and compulsory education for all children up to Senior Secondary School; we gave the state free medical treatment for pregnant women and for babies up to the age of five.
”We delivered to the State world class facilities like the International Airport, Tropicana Entertainment Centre, E-Library, Ibom Specialty Hospital which is rated as one of the best in Africa, Africa’s first ever underground pipe-jacking drainage system, Ibom Power Plant, Akwa Ibom State University, the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium and many other projects too numerous to mention.”
Also, former national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, on Wednesday declared his interest to contest for the presidency in 2023, saying he is not contesting to lament the imperfections in the country, but to set Nigeria on the path of greatness.
Oshiomhole who promised to end the federal government-Academic Staff of University impasse, with a view to get rid of incessant strike action, noted that the economy of the country remains an issue despite the effort of the APC administration.
Noting that poverty, insecurity and unemployment are interrelated, he said one does not have to be a professor to know that poverty, unemployment breeds insecurity.
He stated: “I want Nigeria to be described as the smartest country on the continent under my presidency. I want to declare that I will do everything possible to engage not just ASUU, but all stakeholders to ensure the academic calendar is maintained”.
Meanwhile, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) on Wednesday announced the extension of its sale of expression of interest and nomination forms for the 2023 general elections to Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
Accordingly, the party has fixed congresses to elect local, state and national delegates for May 12-14, 2022.
A statement issued by National publicity Secretary of the party, Barr Felix Morka, noted that the development is contained in a revised timetable issued by the party’s national organising secretary, Sulaiman Muhammad Argungu, the last day for submission of completed forms and accompanying documents has also been shifted to Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
“Also, Congresses to elect Local Government Area (LGA), State and National Delegates will now be held from Thursday, 12th May to Saturday, 14th May, 2022,” the party stated.