Thursday, 30 April 2015

Zoning tears APC apart

Leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, may have realized that some blessings, despite their salacious nature come with daunting challenges as they move to take one of the first major decisions since its victory against the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the just concluded national elections.

The decision to allocate positions to different geopolitical zones may be one of the party’s first litmus test. Most analysts have avowed that care must be taken as political stakeholders are waiting on the crossroad for the party’s first unbiased decision. Many are of the views that an equitable and unbiased zoning will further boost Nigerians’ confidence on the APC led government.

Geopolitical struggle

Reports available to DAILY POST have suggested infighting among party stalwarts from different geopolitical zones who are interested in having some juicy positions allocated to their zones.

North Central

As the zoning issue takes the central stage, political bigwigs from the North Central have already commenced rigorous campaign and lobbying for the Senate Presidency seat, arguing that politicians and people of the zone carried out what appeared like a very difficult task by unseating the PDP leadership in the state, and giving the APC a block vote in the presidential election.

The North Central has two formidable contenders in the persons of Senate minority leader, Senator George Akume and Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial zone, Sen. Abubakar Bukola Saraki. The two Senators believe that they have the clouts to lead the 8th Senate based on their experiences.

It would be recalled that Senator George Akume, in 2011 battled with the current Senate President, David Mark over the same position when it was zoned to the North Central. David Mark however pulled through, considering his experience and popularity among his colleagues and his people.

It then means that Senator George Akume may appear like a wounded lion this time again that many are suggesting that the Senate presidency position be zoned to the North Central.

However, Saraki may have a comparative advantage over Akume, not only by his experience but by the fact that David Mark hailed from Benue State, the same state with Sen. George Akume. Political watchers have argued that since both individuals were formerly of the PDP and David Mark became Senate President while they were in the same party, it’s only reasonable that George Akume allows a politician from another state to benefit from the highly revered position. The question however is whether Akume is ready to give up the position as sources have disclosed to DAILY POST that the Senator has already initiated an early move to sway support for himself.

While backing the zoning of Senate Presidency to the North Central, a group in a communiqué signed by the zonal chairman of the party, Mr. Zakari Ede, and the six states chairmen in the region, said the senate president be zoned to their area, noting that in due course, the “Senate President will be chosen from one of our Distinguished Senators.”

The group argued that the North Central, being a susceptible zone, its success and victory should not be undermined, stating that it would only be fair for the Senate President position be zoned to the North Central.

The group argued thus: “We further observed the followings facts among others, that the block vote of the North Central, which is over 2.4m, is same as South West. The North Central delivered 13 Senators same as North East.

“The North Central also delivered 100 per cent state Governors as North West compared to the North East with only four Governors.

“It is our strong belief that these efforts and performances need to be rewarded since our role was pivotal to our party’s success at the national level.

“It was expected that the North West and North East would largely vote APC, however, it was crucial that the North Central should also deliver its votes for our party to succeed. It was on this, we believe, that contributed in no small measure to our party’s victory.

“It must be noted that since 1999, the North Central Zone even under the PDP has been ‎taking third position and with our recent performance, we equally believe the Zone should have the same third position.’’

While the battle for the Senate Presidency and other positions continues within the APC fold, media reports had it during the weekend that following last Wednesday caucus meeting of the APC, there are strong indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has developed a new zoning arrangement for the party.

The new zoning structure, a copy of which was obtained by DAILY POST is believed to have taken into consideration the performance, integrity, legislative experience and ranking for the various positions in the National Assembly.

Proposed zoning formula

Surprisingly, the new zoning formula did not go the thinking of many as it cedes the Senate Presidency to the North-east while the Speakership position goes to the South-west. Relatively, while the Senate majority leader went to the North-west, the North Central is left with the deputy Senate president’s position.

While this news may have ignited some questions and anger in the North Central, particularly in Benue State where many had reportedly started celebration ahead of the probable emergence of Sen. George Akume as the Senate President, other stakeholders who were reportedly privy to the new zoning formula from the North west and North east had expressed delight with the new arrangement. Some members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) who know of the new arrangement but not mandated to speak said: “the new zoning formula is with our leaders. We only await directives to make it public.”

Argument for the North East

Some analysts have in the interim backed the current zoning arrangement, justifying that the North east deserves the Senate President’s position more than all other zones in the country.

They are of the opinion that based on the massive votes gathered for the APC from the zone despite its overwhelming security challenges; the zone can only be compensated with the Senate Presidency’s position which is the number three position in the country. They have argued that since the Presidency position has now been zoned to the North West, and the Vice President to South west, it is only reasonable and most appropriate that the position is zoned to the North east that garnered the second-highest number of votes for the APC in the just concluded presidential election.

Political ‘heavy weights’ from the zone have equally argued that since the north east never really participated in governance, particularly in the 7th Senate due to the rising insurgency in the zone, it will be fair to compensate it with this highly contentious position.

The zone has argued that in 2011, zoning arrange­ment was not strictly followed as almost all the slots were given to other zones at the detriment of the north east. Some have argued that the region was left with no principal office in both the Senate and House of Representatives. The North east has therefore vowed that a repeat of the 2011 arrangement cannot be allowed under the APC incoming leadership. This has further put to doubt the expectation of the north central that it will produce the next Senate President.

Also arguing in support of reserving the Senate presidency to the north east, senator representing Yobe East Senatorial District in the Upper Chamber, Ibrahim Abba Bukar said it would be a great injustice if the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) zones the Senate President position to the North-Central and the Speakership position of the House of Representatives to South-West in the next legislative arm. Bukar had argued that North Central that had produced the said position four times should this time around leave it for the north east that has never produced even a single senate leadership since the democratic dispensation began.

Relatively, Senator Ali Ndume has showed his support for the application of zoning formula while choosing political office holders. He had argued that the best thing is to zone the Senate position to the north east.

While speaking to journalists at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, Ndume gave his reason to be the level of backwardness the zone is currently experiencing due to the Boko Haram insurgents. He argued that the people of the north east gave the party the second highest number of votes during the last general election, hence deserves a better position in the allocation of political offices.

“The North east deserves to be put in the power kitchen because of the precarious state of development in the area. You see, the north east has produced the second largest vote for APC during the last election and like I said, if you are looking for people that will be consistent for being in opposition all this while, Borno and Yobe in particular have been consistent in opposition, ‘’ Ndume said.

Kwankwaso cautions APC

Meanwhile, as tension continues to rise over the ongoing zoning controversies, Kano State Governor and Senator-elect for Kano Central District, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso has cautioned the leadership of APC to watch out against undue delay in the issue of power sharing so that the mistake of his former party (PDP) is not repeated.

He said the same mistake led to bickering and bitterness in the PDP led administration.

Tinubu pinch tent, overrules South West’s position

In their own thinking, politicians from the South West have requested that the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives should be allocated to the zone, as the North cannot be allowed to take all juicy positions. A caucus from the South West told DAILY POST that, ‘’ it doesn’t matter the geopolitical zones. North is north and South is South. We can’t allow the north to go with all the positions. We can’t be denied all other positions because we have just the Vice President’s position. The North already has the President’s position, which is the number one position. If the Senate President’s position goes to the North Central or any other part of the north, it will then become an obvious dominance. We may likely reject such zoning arrangement.’’

But on the contrary, recent reports have revealed that former governor of Lagos and his wife, Remi Tinubu on Monday night showed their support for Senator Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State. According to the report, Tinubu had offered Akume the choice of becoming the deputy Senate president, which he has turned down, insisting the Senate President position must not go another person’s way.

With this development, the hope of the North Central and other South West agitators may have been dashed. It remains unclear whether Tinubu will change his position as daunting opposition against his decision has become very visible from both the North Central and his own region, South West.

It was also learnt that in the meeting of the North-central caucus of the APC that also took place on Monday night, when they got wind of the Senate presidency being zoned to the North-east, the news did not go down well with the leaders of the zone.

According to APC sources, the North-central caucus frowned at the continued manipulation of the system by Tinubu without considering the input of the zone to the recent electoral success of the party.

A party source said senators and other elected officials of APC from the North-central zone were worried, considering the fact that the Middle Belt completely turned the zone from a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-dominated region to one controlled by APC.

Legacy political parties

However, as the argument continues, some have disagreed with geopolitical zoning in the All Progressives Congress, saying that zoning should rather be based on the interests of political parties that came together to form the All Progressives Congress, APC.

A school of thought has however argued on the contrary that the zoning formula must not be based on geopolitical interest but on legacy parties’ interest.

They have argued that the All Progressives Congress, APC, was an offshoot of a coalition between the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. The argument is that the legacy parties’ interest must be protected in the new zoning arrangement. The advocates of this Zoning formula believe that the interest of these political parties cannot be totally eroded despite the fact that APC sees itself today as one indivisible body. An APC caucus member who spoke exclusively to DAILY POST, but pleaded not to be mentioned disclosed that the zoning formula cannot be done outside the interest of the different political parties that took pain to form the soon-to-be ruling party, APC.

“It’s not exactly true that our party is exclusively holding onto a geopolitical zoning arrangement. We are also considering that the interests of the legacy parties are protected. If you watch very well, you will understand that the position of the president has already been taken by the CPC that presented Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, while the ACN has also taken the position of the Vice President in the person of Yemi Osibanjo. The Senate President’s position will surely go to the ANPP,” he had revealed.

If the APC agrees on this legacy parties’ arrangement, then the agitation from the North Central may have a fruitless outcome.

However, other APC members have argued that legacy parties’ arrangement does not fit into the present structure and system being operated in the party. The argument is that immediately after the coalition, CPC, ANPP and ACN seized to exist. They said the mutual agreement signed by the party never allows the defunct parties to play separate party politics within the larger APC.

An APC stakeholder from the North Central told DAILY POST thus; “It’s going to be very unfair for anyone to bring into this current arrangement the issue of legacy parties.

“We all sat and agreed that we were not going to rely on any consensus arrangement in our party. In that sense, we opted for a primary that was done transparently before all Nigerians; then Gen. Buhari emerged victorious.

“So it’s clear that there was no legacy party arrangement as far as his emergence is concerned.

“The choice of Prof. Yemi Osibanjo as the Vice Presidential candidate was based on political calculation regarding his acceptability and for the fact that the President- Elect is a Muslim. Aside this, geopolitical arrangement was also an issue. I can’t see any legacy party arrangement in all this. We can’t go back to divide our party along legacy parties’ lines as our unity is extremely important to us”

APC elders to decide

Meanwhile, the ongoing struggle for the zoning of political offices in the APC has continued to generate more controversies as different lists are continually being circulated in the social media.

In a reaction to this development, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress has asked Nigerians to disregard any list that is not officially announced by the party as decisions on zoning can only be taken by party elders. In a statement issued on behalf of the party by the Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organization, Gov. Chibuike Amaechi, he said; “there is only one meeting the party has held as it concerns zoning of offices and we have said the elders should go and zone the offices. The elders are yet to return to the party so those things you people are doing are speculations.

“We don’t have a choice. If you want to serve in a government, then you have to abide by the rules. And the person that wants to run the government has said that anyone who wants to serve must publicly declare his asset,” Amaechi said.

The question therefore is whether the APC will pass this first litmus test without a crack or will give in to sentiment to the detriment of its overall national interest? Will the party resort to legacy parties’ arrangement or hold on to the popular culture of geopolitical zoning? The answers will come in a few weeks from now. Nigerians are watching, the soon-to-be opposition, PDP, is watching.

Source: Daily Post


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