By Ezra Odogu
After two high-level meetings within 48 hours, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has zoned the National Working Committee (NWC) offices.
It adopted the consensus option to pick its national chairman and other officers at its March 26 convention in Abuja.
The swapping of all offices commonly in the South for North and vice versa gives the South the advantage of getting the presidential ticket.
The North will have the Chairman whose last occupant is former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
“We have agreed on a zoning formula for all the six geopolitical zones and essentially, northern zones will take positions that southern zones had in the last eight years and vice versa – very simple, equitable and fair formula.
“We will now go back and consult at the zonal level, and look at the positions that are available and the process of the convention preparation will start in earnest,” Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai told reporters after the governors met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
The governors had met on Monday night to fine-tune the zoning proposal which was presented to President Buhari at yesterday’s meeting.
The breakdown of the zoning proposal according to geo-political zones is as follows: National Chairman (Northcentral), Deputy National Chairman (North) (Northwest), Deputy National Chairman, South (Southeast), National Secretary (Southwest), and National Organising Secretary (Northeast).
Speaking further on the zoning, El-Rufai said: ”So, by the grace of God on the 26th of March, we would have done a national convention.”
The chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, said President Buhari favoured consensus.
He said: “Mr. President reminded us that we have produced a number of national chairmen by consensus; Baba Akande emerged as the pioneer chairman of the party by consensus; His Excellency, John Oyegun, emerged by consensus; His Excellency, Adams Oshiomhole, emerged by consensus.
“So, he is a believer in consensus as one of the options for producing leadership, and he urged us to explore consensus so that we can generate a list.
“While recognising in that many people who have indicated interest are equally competent, but knowing that just one person will occupy the office, the consensus is part of our Constitution and urged us to work towards consensus.
“And the governors I have said earlier have also been working to ensure that as part of the equitable arrangement, zoning and consensus are incorporated. We have done that at the lower levels, and even at the national level, it’s almost certain that we will achieve it.
“Then, the date of the convention, the caretaker committee briefed us yesterday about their meeting and the proposed March 26, 2022. And today, the governors informed Mr. President that we have had the briefing from the caretaker committee and we are supportive of their position.”
Bagudu explained that even though the planned zonal congresses of the APC is not provided for in its constitution, the law is also not against the process.
He said: “On proposed zonal congresses not in the constitution, I think there has been so much debate. Yesterday (Monday), there was a statement to the effect that even the letter that has gone out was withdrawn.
“So, zonal congresses are not explicitly stated in the constitution, particularly how you do zonal congresses.
“And we have in the past done them with national convention, but nothing again in the constitution stops them from being done outside the national convention. But, the final form will be decided, given the input we have provided.”
The President left the governors guessing on his preferred choice for the national chairman.
A source said President Buhari neither consented to the zoning formula presented by the governors nor gave direction on modalities for the sharing of party offices.
The governors, who agreed on the zoning formula Monday night, had put into consideration the President’s body language, politics within the party, zonal and state politics.
A governor said: “I will tell you the ongoing intrigues which may or may not guide the President, who controls the party machinery.
“Some governors are in favour of some of the aspirants for the office of national chairman but they are afraid of the body language of the President.
“Out of 12 aspirants, seven of them are from the Northcentral. They are the pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; ex-Governor Umar Tanko Al-Makura; ex-Governor George Akume; Mallam Saliu Mustapha (Turaki Ilorin); Senator Sani Mohammed Musa; a former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bawa Bwari; and the youngest, Mohammed Etsu.
“The truth, however, is that the governors were careful because they know that Buhari is a bit favourable to Senator Adamu, who was asked to be the chairman of the party’s National Reconciliation Committee (NRC).
“There was an incident, which was not lost on most of the governors. When the list of aspirants was presented to the President, Adamu was omitted because he is yet to express interest. The President directed on the spot that the name of the senator should be included.
“In the last few weeks, Adamu’s residence on Ali Akilu Crescent, within the precinct of the Presidential Villa, has been a beehive of activities.
“It is certainly a straightforward battle between Adamu and other six aspirants in the Northcentral.”
Speaking on the division among the governors, El-Rufai said: “We were divided over the timing of the convention. Some governors felt that we should put off the convention until we resolve all the congress’ issues in some states.
“Some governors held the view that we should wait until all these are resolved and this is not borne out of any agenda or selfishness. It is just a realistic proposition to avoid us violating any laws or putting our party structures of elected candidates in danger.
“There were differences in opinion about timing. Some of us are saying the Constitution allows us to have the convention, even if three or four states have unresolved issues, while others are saying no, let us finish all the reconciliations and we do this convention, after all, there is no time limit for the convention, as long as we do it before the time for the primaries.
“So that was the difference. This is what the media has called divided governors. In a democratic setting, there is no way you can have 22 governors, plus the deputy governor of Anambra State, agreeing on every issue.
“After our meeting last night to deliberate on the proposal by the national caretaker committee, and our briefing with Mr. President today, we’re all on the same page.
“So, by the grace of God on the 26th of March, we would have done a national convention. We could do the zonal convention before that, or do it at the same time. Again, the constitution is silent. So, as our chairman said, we can decide either way.
“But, let nobody leave this room with any doubt that the Progressive Governors are united and the convention and the future of the party and our commitment to ensure that the People’s Destruction Party doesn’t come back to power,” he said.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, dismissed fears that the ruling party will collapse at the end of President Buhari’s time in office, noting that the APC had done very well at the federal level.
At yesterday’s meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Eighteen governors attended the meeting at the Council Chambers.
They are from Yobe, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Cross River, Kaduna, Lagos, Borno, Niger, Gombe, Osun, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kano, Imo, Kogi, Ogun, and Plateau states.
The outgoing deputy governor of Anambra State, who last year defected to the APC, was also in attendance.
It was however learnt that an in-house committee has advised the President to consult with the National Caucus of APC before the convention date.
A governor, who spoke in confidence, said: “In his usual manner, the President listened to us. He didn’t accept the zoning formula brought to him and he didn’t present his own.
“But he told us that the party has a tradition right from when Chief Bisi Akande was made the interim national chairman of our party. He said we always do consensus.
“Therefore, he was clear to us that we will adopt consensus at the national convention.”
Asked if the President disclosed his preferred candidate for the national chairman, the source added: “He was not forthcoming on any position but we already knew his mindset on some offices .”
Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu lauded Buhari and caretaker committee chairman Mai Mala Buni for postponing the convention.
Kalu, in a statement in Abuja, said the shift in the date of the proposed convention has saved the party from implosion.
Yesterday, PDP mocked the APC for postponing its convention.
PDP spokesman Debo Ologunagba said the ruling party was ineligible to contest in the 2023 election.
He said: “Our party is not surprised that the APC, a party of backstabbers, again postponed its national convention already scheduled for February 26, 2022.
“The failure of the APC to hold a national convention is, therefore, a clear warning to those aspiring for various positions in the 2023 election on its platform to note that with the APC, they are on a journey to nowhere.”
Former Governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha said President Buhari, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and other founding fathers of the APC should be allowed to determine the NWC members.
Okorocha who spoke while answering questions from reporters in Abuja said the suggestion if adopted, would help put the ongoing squabbles in the party to rest.
He insisted that the founding leaders of the party across the original four blocs should be allowed to nominate interested party members for sensitive positions such as National Chairman, National Secretary, Woman Leader, Youth Leader, Organising Secretary, National Auditor and National Legal Adviser of the party, among others.
According to him, while President Buhari as the leader of the former CPC bloc should be given the honour of deciding who becomes the next National Chairman of the party, Tinubu of the defunct ACN, Ogbonnaya Onu of the defunct ANPP, himself (Okorocha) as leader of the APGA faction should also be allowed to decide who should occupy the office of National Secretary and others.