Strong indications have proved that the All Progressives Congress may field a northern candidate that can compete with the Peoples Democratic Party if the opposition party picks its presidential standard-bearer from the North in 2023.
According to PUNCH, it was gathered on Monday that although the APC was interested in zoning its presidential ticket to the South, the outcome of the PDP’s presidential primary scheduled for May 28 and May 29 would determine its final decision.
It was also learnt that the chieftains of the party in the North had started shopping for a strong presidential candidate from the region if the PDP’s candidate is picked from the North.
The speculation that a northern candidate emerging at the presidential primary of the APC on May 30 have continued to rise due to the possibility of the opposition PDP to present a northern candidate.
Currently, the majority of the APC presidential aspirants including its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; the Ebonyi State Governor, Dr Dave Umahi and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, are from the South except a few like the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, who hails from the North-Central.
The APC’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had in an interview with State House correspondents on Friday, said the party had yet to zone its presidential ticket.
But a member of the party’s National Working Committee, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “The presidential ticket can go anywhere. In fact, we will get a strong northern candidate that can defeat the PDP if it zones its presidency to the North.”
Efforts to reach the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, were unsuccessful as he failed to answer the calls made to his phone.
But in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday, a founding member of the APC, Mr Osita Okechukwu, confirmed the possibility of a northerner emerging at the party’s presidential primary.
He said the party was fine-tuning its strategies on the 12 million vote bank of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The APC had in 2015 claimed that Buhari had strong support base in the core North, where 12 million voters, which the party referred to as the President’s 12 million vote bank, would always vote for him.
It added that the 12 million voters consistently supported him in 2007 and 2011. According to the party, the President won in 2015 with additional support from the South-West.
On Monday, Okechukwu said the APC had been watching with studied interest “the desperation of the PDP to prey on President Muhammadu Buhari’s 12 million vote bank.”
According to him, as a political party, the APC has to fine-tune its strategies for the general elections.
Okechukwu said that although it was doubtful that any politician in the PDP could sweep Buhari’s 12 million votes away, the PDP’s desperation to break into Buhari’s 12 million Vote Bank explained APC’s indecision.
He stated, “Although one is not holding the brief of our distinguished national Chairman, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, one’s little understanding is that the leadership of our great party is watching closely the desperation and antics of our elder sister political party, the PDP.
“They want to capture power by all means, indeed using Machiavellian tactics. We all know that PDP is famished, thirsty and desperate to win the Presidency in 2023. They loathe the loss of their slogan, ‘Share the Money’, through their absence from power at the centre for seven going to eight years.”
Presidential ticket: APC adopting cat and mouse game with PDP, says VON DG
Explaining why the PDP should be blamed if the South failed to get the presidency, Okechukwu said it was unconscionable and despicable that the opposition party should breach the zoning convention, which helped in no small measure to unite and harmonise the country.
The “PDP,” he said, “is aware that President Buhari will not be on the ballot in 2023, therefore, for them there is a void to fill. They must have reasoned that the Buhari’s Vote Bank would be up for grabs if they go north.
“The PDP’s calculation is a desperate one, and selfish to the extent that they breached their own constitution and their age-long die-hard supporters in the South, especially the South-East.
“As a corollary, the APC seems to have adopted the cat and mouse game, because if the PDP adopts the terra firma or doctrine of realpolitik, which places electoral victory above their constitution, the moral high ground and ethics of their members and supporters in the South; the APC wants to do the pragmatic thing. That is going back to the drawing board.”
Okechukwu also explained why the ruling party was shifting away from implementing the party’s earlier zoning format of swapping offices between north and south, as declared by Governor Nasir El-Rufai before the March 26 National Convention.
He stated, “If at the end of the day the zoning fails, we should blame the PDP’s desperation, because we have been advocating a repeat of the chiefs Obasanjo/Falae; Yar’Adua/Buhari and Buhari/Atiku models of 1999, 2007 and 2019.”
“To be frank, my take on the matter is that the swap option is still open, because some of us from the South are still arguing that we have dormant votes, especially Igbo votes which will augment APC members’ votes from the North,” he added.
On his part, a former Governor of Benue State and current Minister of Special Duties, George Akume, on Monday said the APC would arrive at a zoning arrangement that would be acceptable to all party stakeholders.
Akume disclosed this to State House Correspondents shortly after he joined at least 100 guests on Sallah homage to the President at the New State House Banquet Hall.
Presidential ambition: God will show us the way, says Lawan
There were reports on Monday that the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and some northerners would join the presidential race.
But Lawan, in an interview with State House Correspondents, said the reports were speculative.
According to him, such political ambitions remain secondary as they can only thrive when the country and the economy are stable.