TRANSPORTATION Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, and a host of leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the South have thrown their weight behind rotating power to the South in 2023 as canvassed by Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, on Monday.
They said doing otherwise would hurt APC’s long term interest and the nation as well.
In an interview with reporters, Fashola, specifically, urged the APC to respect the zoning agreement reached during the formation of the party for the 2023 elections.
Fashola spoke amid reports that some APC members are plotting to thwart the arrangement for power shift between North and South, and retain the presidency in the North after President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term.
“The truth is that what makes an agreement spectacular is the honour in which it is made not whether it is written,” Fashola said during the press meeting.
Concurring, Amaechi, who spoke during a Channels TV programme on Sunday night, said the arrangement, which is usually between the North and South, should remain the same.
Asked if the APC would give the South-East a chance for the presidency in 2023, Amaechi responded: “It is a difficult question for me to respond to. I just believe that the zoning which was done in the North and South should be respected, just like Fashola said.”
The minister, who is from Rivers State, also said it was “a bit too early” to have conversations about contesting for president either in 2023 or afterwards. “The best conversation to have now is how to deliver on the railway, maritime as it pertains to the responsibility assigned to me by the president,” the minister said.
Amacehi and Fashola’s views on APC respecting its agreement on zoning were re-echoed by some Southern APC leaders and stalwarts. Those who backed the move include: Chief Chekwas Okorie; former Military governor of Rivers and Ogun states, Group Captain Sam Ewang (retd); former member of the House of Representatives, Eseme Eyiboh; APC United Kingdom Leader, Prince Ade Omole; and a National Democratic Coalition, NADECO chieftain, Linus Okoroji.
They spoke as the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, urged the South-West geo-political zone to forget about the presidency in 2023 and focus on restructuring because a ‘’toothless presidency’’ is of no use.
Fashola, Amaechi right, equity, justice demand it goes to South-East – Okorie
Speaking on the issue, Chief Chekwas Okorie said: ‘’The two of them (Amaechi and Fashola) are serving ministers. They were there at the very beginning. If they are talking of a gentleman’s agreement it will not be far from the truth because they are two persons from different geo-political zones. For them to even have the audacity to delve into that aspect when they are still serving and should be concentrating on their ministerial jobs means there are things that they are seeing that they believe that an early caution is helpful to the party. So, their observation and advice must be considered with every seriousness.
‘’The other part is the APC does not want to be in power for only eight years. If PDP was there for 16 years, APC should aim higher. Therefore, moving the presidency to the South after President Buhari’s tenure is a strategic move that cannot be faulted. In fact, anything contrary will be putting the party’s continued control of the centre in serious jeopardy.
‘’Some APC leaders in the North including Governor Nasir el-Rufai and other opinion leaders have said it is the turn of the South. And when it gets to the South, equity, justice and fair play demand that it goes to the South-East. This is more applicable to the PDP, which has rotation in its constitution.’’
Noting that Governor Dave Umahi’s recent defection to the APC because the PDP refused to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South-East was on point, Okorie said in APC, it is important that the South-East earns the presidential ticket. ‘’Umahi has taken it a notch higher with his defection and the defections will increase in 2021. We shall march to Anambra and take the state for APC to position the South-East for 2023,’’ he added.
Akwa Ibom APC stakeholders back zoning
Some prominent Akwa Ibom State stakeholders of the APC also backed calls for the party to zone its presidential ticket to the South for the 2023 election.
Group Captain Sam Ewang, retd, said in the spirit of equity and justice, zoning of the position is not something that should attract noise since it has been the basis for a long time.
His words: “It came from the South and then it went to the North, so it has to come to the South now. If you want Nigeria to remain as it is, it has to come to the South in 2023, there is no question of whether it should or it should not.
“As far as I am concerned it is something that has already been established and the party should respect that. We have seen a lot of things happening in Nigeria which cannot be abated. So if we want Nigeria to remain we must continue to respect everybody.”
APC needs to reinvent itself – Eyiboh
In his contribution, Eseme Eyiboh who also supported the zoning, however, stressed the need to first reinvent the APC due to discontentment among various interests.
He also said that the party should be explicit on the issue, saying: “If zoning is seen as a mechanism perceived to redress injustice, they should be able to say where it is going. Is it South-West, South South, South-East? They should be able to come clean about this issue.
“Two, talking as a member of the APC, the problem of the party may not be the issue of zoning, it is the problem of APC reinventing itself by welding the various interests in the party. And this should be a matter of urgency. There is a lot of discontentment in the party across the country. If the various interests are not wellded together then who are the people you are going to use to promote this issue of zoning?”
Zoning, the right thing to do – Omole, APC UK leader
Leader of the APC in the United Kingdom, Prince Ade Omole, also spoken in favour of zoning ahead of the 2023 Presidential election.
In an interview Tuesday in Abuja, Omole who is also the chairman, Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council as well as leader of the Nigerian Community in the UK, said: “We all know that zoning is not part of the constitution of the party but it is an arrangement that was put in place for fairness. As for me, zoning has been in our political environment for a very long time and I believe it should continue as long as the party actually agrees with it.
“So, at the end of the day, it is the party that will actually decide what zone the presidency or whatever office goes to. We also believe in the position of the party and we will keep doing that. There are few divergent views regarding zoning but personally, I believe it is the right thing to do. It is a step in the right direction and it just gives everybody a chance to actually have a shot at the presidency or any other office in the country.
“I think it is the right thing to do even though it is not part of the Constitution. It is more of a gentleman’s agreement. Now, as we know, it (presidency) has been in the North and hopefully, it will come to the South this time around. We have read reports about chieftains from both sides of the divide saying that the North is having it for eight years, it is time for the South to have it for another eight years. So, it is a gentleman’s agreement that should continue for the greatness of the country.”
No zoning, no APC – Ebri
On his part, former Governor of Cross River State and a chieftain of the APC, described as jokers those who think zoning should be outlawed in the party.
According to him, zoning is the only glue that can hold the party together, saying without zoning, APC would be history.
“Anyone that thinks that zoning should be outlawed in APC must be a joker. Zoning is the only glue that can hold the party together. Dump zoning, forget APC”, he said.
Power zoned to the South not in collective interest – NADECO chieftain, Okoroji
Speaking on the issue, a NADECO chieftain, Comrade Linus Okoroji said: “As much as I want power to be zoned back to the South, that alone cannot address the ordeals that have plagued us as a nation. True federalism or restructuring should be the agitation of anybody who has the interest of the nation at heart. We cannot be running a unitary system under the guise of federal system and expect any meaningful transformation. Anybody calling for power or zoning to the South in 2023 instead of restructuring is doing so basically for personal gain not in collective interest.”
Forget presidency, insist on restructuring, YCE tells South West
In like tone, the Yoruba Council of Elders, YEC has told the South-West zone of the country to forget the idea of the presidency in 2023 and intensify its calls for the restructuring of the country.
The apex Yoruba council said this through its Chairman, Ondo State chapter, Chief Anthony Meraiyebu, in Ibadan.
He said: “This is the more reason it is imperative for those gladiators from the southern part of the country angling to contest the presidency in 2023 to refocus their attention on how to restructure the country if they are genuinely in love with their people they are claiming to represent.
“Of what use is a toothless presidency that must of necessity kowtow to northern cabal’s interest to function in the office be? Even, would their emergence as political parties’ candidates be truly that of their people or the northern cabal anointed?’’
For the restructuring of the country, he called on the National Assembly to use the current constitution amendment process to effect the restructuring of the country without which Nigeria would hit the rocks.
He maintained that experience so far has shown that there cannot be effective and efficient non-northern president the way and manner the country is presently structured, stressing that the longer the country shies away from restructuring, the longer it would take before it gets it right.
“We will continue to hammer it to the hearing of the powers that be that we will get nowhere as a country until the call for restructuring is heeded. The unfortunate aspect of it is that while vacillating on the issue, things would continue to degenerate.
“It is better the call is heeded now so as to halt the drift and reverse the already battered situation. Already, we have lost a lot of precious lives which cannot be brought back due to the lopsided arrangements the country has been subjected to over the years,’’ he lamented.
The elder statesman insisted that the current structure of the country would not ensure benefits to all and sundry as envisaged by the founding fathers, hence, the need to re-jig the entire structure towards making it beneficial to all.
He called on everybody professing to love the country to buy into the restructuring debate noting “we owe it a duty to bequeath to this generation and the coming ones an enduring structure that would give to all genuine sense of belonging where justice and fairness would remain supreme.”