The issue of who would emerge as the All Progressives’ Congress presidential ticket candidate in the 2023 election is unknown, but one certainty is that the party would zone it to the South since North would produce the National Chairman of the party. In this analysis, JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM argues that the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Ameachi, might be the only albatross to the ambition of APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the ticket
As the Independent National Electoral Commission has fixed February 18, 2023 as the presidential election day, the agitation for who should fly the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and replace President Muhammadu Buhari has occupied the centre stage of discuss.
The ruling party is not alone on this because the opposition party feels strongly the same way.
The first concern here is the North and South dichotomy and rotation that has existed since 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule. In 1999, the two major political parties – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Peoples Party (APP) – produced their presidential candidates from the South and South-West precisely.
The PDP candidate, former President Olusegun Obasanjo defeated the then APP candidate, Chief Olu Falae. Obasanjo governed for two terms of eight years and returned power to the North in the person of the former governor of Katsina State, late President Umar Umusa Yar’Adua.
President Yar’Adua could not complete his first term due to his demise and power returned back to the South, and South/South in the persons of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was Yar’Adua’s Deputy. Jonathan completed Yar’Adua’s first term, stood for election in 2011 and won.
During this time, agitation became so high from the North that they were being shortchanged from the presidency.
However, in 2015, the South lost to the North in the presidential election as the candidate of the ruling APC, Muhammadu Buhari won. Buhari and APC were reelected in 2019 and would be completing their 2nd term in 2023.
Characteriscally, the agitation of the political party and candidate who succeeds the incumbent is high when the tenure of the incumbent has been completed. This has given rise to the level of agitation for the 2023 Presidential election both from the parties and aspirants. For APC, the agitation is high on where the presidential ticket should come from among the six geopolitical zones.
The geo-political zones are: North-Central, North-East, North- West, South- East, South-South and South -West. Little wonder then that a disclosure by Sen. John James Akpanudoehede, National Secretary, APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), that the party’s congresses and the National Convention, we will shock them (PDP) by bringing a consensus and an agreeable candidate that will fly the flag of the party come 2023, was met by stiff opposition.
A group of northern youths recently said that the zones qualified to contest for the 2023 Presidency are: South East, North Central and North East.
The group based its argument on the fact that the other three geopolitical zones – North-West, South -West and South- South – have produced the President since 1999.
Before the northerner youths posi tion, the southern governors at their Lagos meeting resolved that the South should produce the President come 2023. The position did not segregate political parties.
The governors, in their resolution read by their Chairman, governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, said that presidential power should be shifted to the South in 2023. Their view is that after eight years, it is unjustified for North to continue to retain power. On the zones that have governed since 1999, the North -West 10 years, South -West eight years and South- South six years.
The argument that the ruling APC presidential ticket should be zoned to the South is one that many consider logical, moral and democratic given the fact that a northerner has served as President on the platform for eight years.
However, what has been a gray area in the southern APC presidential ticket is which of the zones would the ticket go to or who should fly the ticket for the party in the zone.
Today, among those who are interested in the Presidential ticket of APC are former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Rivers State and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, former governors of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Babatunda Fashola, governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Other silent interested persons are Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi. Among these aspirants three of them: Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Ameachi and Bola Tinubu seem to be more favored.
Also among the three, two are said to be much more favored.
They are Rotimi Ameachi and Bola Tinubu because of the assumed relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari and their contributions to his election in 2015. Beyond being closed to President Muhammadu Buhari, there are other mundane considerations for Nigeria President.
Such issues are his antecedents, deep pocket, popularity in political base and geopolitical zone, and whether such aspirant is a bridge builder.
Looking at the consideration of the mundane issues, Okorocha, Ameachi and Tinubu all have deep pockets to prosecute a presidential election. On the political base, Okorocha and Tinubu have a better zonal political base than Ameachi.
But it seems that Okorocha has a better bridge building with the North than the other two. Some political pundits believe that South-West should not be considered for the 2023 Presidential ticket having done eight years as President and heading for eight years as Vice President.
They argued, “No matter how you look at it, it would be injustice for tial candidate or vice presidential candidate for a national party. If they should, there is no justifiable reason to stop the North- West.
The two have produced the President for eight years since 1999, with South -West having the advantage of producing the Vice President.” But it seems the affinity with the President is a factor that might count in the Presidency for 2023, even though the President has warned that Nigerians should be allowed to choose who would become their leader.
Ameachi, riding on the presidency seems to have the upper hand above Tinubu and any other aspirants. He is one aspirant that would want to take some many advantages. He has positioned himself as an Igbo aspirant, as his supporters in the South-East are ready to speak on president of Igbo extraction and not just one from the South-East.
The former Rivers State governor is one of the APC chieftains that could be said to have enjoyed the present administration. He also has good support from the Federal Executive Council and the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). The Minister of Works and Housing and former governor of Lagos State are said to be his supporters in the FEC.
A source said that Fashola, who is interested in the presidency would rather support Ameachi than his predecessor Ahmed Tinubu for the reason that Tinubu has wielded so much influence in the South -West politics and would take all should he become President. Fashola is believed not to have gotten over the fact he was not allowed to produce his successor in Lagos State, as other governors.
So, making him look like a lame duck in Lagos politics. He would use the opportunity to pay Tinubu back, the source said. Similarly, the former Minister of Solid Minerals and governor of Ekiti State Kayode Fayemi is nursing an ill feeling against Tinubu.
Fayemi who fell out with Tinubu in his second term aspiration to govern Ekiti State, believed that with Tinubu as Presidency, his political career might not have any headway with Tinubu as President.
The Ekiti State governor counterpart in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu would have an axe to grind with Tinubu, who didn’t want him to become governor but had preferred his candidate, Dr. Olusegun Abraham.
Tinubu had worked for Abraham to become the governor of Ondo State but for the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led National Working Committee (NWC), which stood its ground to conduct a primary that brought in Akeredolu.
There is no gainsaying that there are many other South-West APC chieftains who wouldn’t want Tinubu to emerge as APC presidential candidate in 2023. Their reason, according to some APC members, is that the former Lagos State governor is politically sagacious to the extent that he would be so independent in thought and action.
“You know Tinubu today has political influence that even President Buhari is not comfortable with and to give him the presidency of the most populous black nation in Africa would engrave him in Africa more than any other Nigeria leader.” Ameachi, they believe, could be tamed.
Some persons on this belief are the governors of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and his political group. El-Rufai who was alleged to be having political arrangements to run with Ameachi recently announced that he was too old to run for Nigeria Presidency.
Another advantage that Ameachi is banking on to clinch the ticket is the demand for president of Igbo extraction. With his supporters, Ameachi is Igbo despite the fact his political zone is South- South.
According to his supporters, President of Igbo extraction is more of it than that of the South-East. This was recently brought to fore when Ohanaeze sociopolitical group called on some Igbo politicians to start preparing for President of Igbo extraction.
Ameachi was one of the people listed in that call. The 2023 presidency is not about the Igbo but about the South-East to many people who are Igbo and none Igbo.
They have argued that former President Jonathan presented himself as an Igbo when he was interested in contesting the Presidency. He added in his name, ‘Ebele Azikiwe’ in order to secure the votes and support of the Igbo and he got that in 2011.
The belief of these proponents of the presidency of South-East extraction is that the presidency should be on geopolitical zones and not on tribes, as the South-East is being shortchanged with it.
To buttress this they have argued that the Yoruba in the Kwara or Kogi State would not demand for the presidential ticket zoned to the South -West, since their geopolitical zone is the North Central.
Ameachi, unlike Tinubu, does not have control of his geopolitical zone, South- South. He is relying strongly to contest the 2023 presidency on Igbo plank. For Tinubu, he has a very strong political base in the South -West despite some few elite opposition.
However he does not enjoy any followers in the South-East or South -South. Coming to the North, he has the likes of the governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje as his supporters, but it is pertinent to say that the northerners would not support his presidency.
This postulation is obvious with the recently declaration of President Buhari that no one would stay in Lagos and decide on who becomes Nigeria’s president. President Buhari, despite his submission that Nigerians should be allowed to determine who becomes their leader would play a vital role on who clinches APC presidential ticket. He might decide on this by asking the party to zone the ticket to a particular geopolitical zone or tribe in the South.
However, taking the level of agitation from the North both Ameachi, Tinubu or any other persons from the South might lose the 2023 Presidency should the opposition PDP retains its ticket in the North