In a bid to ensure that the South produces the next President, leaders in the South-East and the South-West are expected to meet separately on Thursday and Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.
The leaders of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the leading members of the All Progressives Congress in the South-West, who spoke separately with our correspondents, warned that the high number of southern presidential aspirants was a threat to the efforts of the region to produce the next president.
The meetings in Enugu and Lagos, it was learnt, were convened to ensure that the number of aspirants is reduced in order to strengthen the unity in the zones.
Out of the 15 presidential aspirants that have been screened by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, five are from the North while 10 are from the South.
Those from the North are Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State; former Governor Bukola Saraki; former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and Economist, Mohammed Hayatudeen.
The PDP aspirants from the South are Governor Nyesom Wike, Governor Udom Emmanuel, former Governor Peter Obi, former Senate President, Pius Anyim; ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa; Publisher, Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu; Charles Ugwu, Chikwendu Kalu, Teriela Oliver and ex-Governor Ayodele Fayose.
In the APC, at least 14 southerners are already in the race. They are Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River, former Governor Rochas Okorocha, ex-Governor Adams Oshiomhole, APC stalwart, Bola Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajuiba and a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
Others from the South contesting on the platform of the APC include the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and influential Pastor, Tunde Bakare.
The number is expected to rise as the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, is believed to be eyeing the presidential ticket. On the other hand, only three northern aspirants have declared their interest in the Presidency. They are Governor Yahaya Bello, Governor Mohammed Badaru and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.
It was learnt that southern elders are beginning to fear that the high number of aspirants in the South could divide the southern delegates and give the North an advantage at the APC and PDP primaries which come up at the end of the month.
S’East to present one aspirant each for PDP, APC – Ohanaeze
It was learnt that Imeobi Ohanaeze Ndigbo, an Igbo socio-cultural group, will meet on Thursday to review and take a final position on the 2023 presidency as it concerns Ndigbo.
The meeting which will hold at Ohanaeze Ndigbo National Secretariat, 7 Park Avenue, GRA, Enugu from 12pm will also discuss how to field a single aspirant for the presidential primaries of the two major political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, who confirmed the meeting of the highest decision-making organ of Ohanaeze, in an interview with The PUNCH said the meeting would examine all the intricacies surrounding the 2023 presidency and the future of Nigeria
On the agenda of the meeting, he said, “It will focus mainly on the 2023 Presidency. At the end of the meeting, they (Imeobi Ohanaeze) will make a final resolution on the zoning of the presidency. The meeting will also talk about how to harmonise the various interests so that one aspirant will be presented in each of the two major political parties at the forthcoming presidential primaries.”
Igbo elders threaten to disown indigenes supporting other zones
Also, the Igbo Elders Forum led by a former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said on Wednesday that any Igbo aspirant that supports an aspirant from a different zone would be disowned.
“The Igbo Elders want Nigerians and the whole world to note that the existence of Nigeria as a corporate entity may be seriously threatened by any attempt to deny the South, especially the South-East the opportunity to produce the next President in 2023,” he said.
Speaking on the Vice Presidency, Ezeife said, “It has come to our notice that some of our sons and daughters are colluding shamelessly with some unreasonable and dishonest Nigerians to sabotage our collective efforts to produce the next President of Nigeria of the South-East extraction.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Igbo Elders Consultative Forum will not only pursue to a logical conclusion the sanctions of these shameless renegades and bootlickers, who plan to accept to be running mates to any presidential candidate not from the South as well as those who are working hard to sabotage our efforts masquerading as coordinators and promoters of presidential aspirants outside the South-East zone, but also curse them and their families publicly; we will visit them accordingly.”
Number of S’West aspirants too high, we mustn’t lose out – Party leader
Also, The PUNCH learnt that the five South-West governors of the APC will be joining all aspirants from the region in Lagos for a meeting on Friday.
The meeting, it was learnt, is being convened to ensure that the number of aspirants from the South-West is brought to a minimum.
An APC chieftain told The PUNCH that the South-West APC would be happy if all aspirants could stand behind one candidate in order to strengthen the unity and chances of the region.
He said, “This is the highest number of aspirants that has ever come out of the South-West for the Presidency. From the look of things, they may be up to eight by next week. So, what we are trying to do is to encourage them to meet and form a consensus.
“We need to ensure that we are united so that we don’t lose out. We must also ensure that the South gets the Presidency. We don’t want to lose out due to infighting.”
Group protests at APC, PDP secretariats
Meanwhile, a group, Concerned Nigerian Citizens, on Wednesday held a rally at the national secretariats of the PDP and the APC in Abuja.
The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, demanded the zoning of the presidency to the Southern region of the country, stating that the North had had a fair share of power.
The group also delivered a letter to the national chairmen of APC and PDP, admonishing them to give their presidential tickets to southern aspirants.
The letter was jointly signed by the CNC Convener, Femi Osabinu; Alhaji Sidi (Secretary-General); Okpanachi Jacob (North-Central); Femi Lawson (South-West); Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed (North-West); Dr Uzoh Chukwuemeka (South-East) and Preye Hossanah (South-South).
It read in part, “Sir, this letter becomes imperative in the wake of the national questions that have begun to emerge on the zoning of the Presidential ticket of your party, ahead of the forthcoming 2023 Presidential election in our country and presentation of zoning committee report expected to be laid today.
“We are seriously concerned as patriotic Nigerians that just a few days to the Presidential primaries of your party, the party has yet to intimate Nigerians about its decision in respect of where it is zoning the Presidential ticket to.
According to the group, conceding power to the south would not only be respecting the established convention of power rotation but would also help in restoring stability and national cohesion in the polity.
Fayemi, Oshiomhole, Akpabio declare
Meanwhile, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; Governor Kayode Fayemi and a former National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, all declared their interest in the Presidency on Wednesday.
While Fayemi and Oshiomhole both declared in Abuja, Akpabio did his at a rally in Akwa Ibom.
Governor Badaru also purchased the Presidential forms in Abuja.
At his declaration, Oshiomhole, who is a former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, said he would provide job-led growth for the economy in a way that economic growth figures links directly more jobs and opportunities for Nigerians.
Oshiomhole said this during his official declaration for the presidency in Abuja.
The former governor who lamented that Nigerian professors were underpaid noted that, as President, he would engage the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other stakeholders in Academia to provide commensurate remuneration for academics.
While declaring his ambition, Fayemi, on Wednesday in Abuja promises to “retool the Armed Forces and security agencies.”
He also promised decentralisation for the government to be brought closer to the people.
Fayemi stated these while unveiling his agenda for the presidency in 2023, with a promise to run a decent campaign.
He promised other aspirants to adhere to the highest standards of decorum and decency.
The event was attended by many dignitaries including a former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; former Senate President, Ameh Ebute; former Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Prof Modupe Adelabu; and many traditional rulers.
The governor said he was running for the position of the President because he was willing to work with Nigerians to surmount the current difficulties, foster trust and build bridges.
According to him, he would support any mode of primaries to be adopted by the APC in its forthcoming presidential primary elections.
He, therefore, promised to embrace any route that gives Nigerians a voice to decide their future.
Fayemi said, “I will retool the armed forces, intelligence agencies; the border guards will be pursued in tandem with an overhaul of the country’s policing system and the phasing in of bold universal social policies that will decisively tackle poverty and upgrade human capital and security. I will also run a decent campaign.”
Answering questions from guests, he said he was open to any mode of primaries that best captured the choices of Nigerians within and outside the APC.
Asked what route he would advise the governing party to take in choosing its presidential standard-bearer, the governor stated, “Let me begin with our Constitution. The constitution of our party identifies three ways to conduct our primaries. Now we have the Electoral Act, 2022 that says to have consensus, all parties must sign up.”
Also, Fayemi said that the presidential seat was not an inheritance nor was it a traditional title where a person would feel betrayed because other people decided to contest for the office.
Fayemi said this on the Channels Television programme, Politics Today, which was monitored by one of our correspondents.
The governor was asked if his decision to contest was not a betrayer to Tinubu.
He said, “The Asiwaju I know is a democrat and I am sure he wouldn’t share the views of betrayal. He believes politics is a marketplace of ideas and people should test their convictions.
“His courage of convictions is not in doubt, but I do not think that he will then want to stamp the convictions of others in terms of how Nigeria should go. It would be great for us to see things from the same point of view as democrats but if we don’t, then it’s useful to test those ideas and let Nigerians be the judge of the direction they want the country to go.”
“I don’t believe that we should see that as a basis for demonising anyone and the Asiwaju that I know and I have interacted with would not subscribe to that. I don’t believe that he would use terminologies like “betrayal” or whatever thing people called it.
“This is not an inheritance, it’s about Nigeria. Nigeria is the commonwealth of all Nigerians; it’s not a traditional title that we are seeking. The office we are seeking is to make improvements in the lives of Nigerians.”
The PDP in Ekiti State described Fayemi’s presidential declaration as a “declaration of failure.”
The PDP, while accusing the governor of wasting millions of naira belonging to Ekiti State on his presidential ambition, leaving entitlements of pensioners, salaries and deductions unpaid, challenged Fayemi “to tell Nigerians how well he has governed the state to qualify him as the President of Nigeria”.
The party stated this in a statement titled, “Fayemi wasted millions of naira, Ekiti money to declare failure in Abuja – PDP” by its state Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju.
APC extends sale of forms
In a related development, the APC National Working Committee, on Wednesday, extended the Party’s Sale of Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms for the 2023 General Elections to Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
This is according to a statement by the Party’s National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, titled ‘Breaking: APC extends sale of nomination forms to May 10.’
In a revised timetable issued by the APC National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Argungu, the last day for Submission of completed forms and accompanying documents is now set for Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Also, Congresses to elect Local Government Area, State and National Delegates will now be held from Thursday, May 12, to Saturday, May 14, 2022.
In a related development, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the PDP, Sam Ohuabunwa, in a chat with The PUNCH, stated, “If the abandonment of the zoning project is in good faith and in the best interest of the progress and peace of Nigeria, then no problem; but if it is a conspiracy to deny the South-East the opportunity to produce the Nigerian President in 2023, then it will fail. Any plan based on the wrong foundation will fail. Finally, no matter the plans of men, only God’s will shall stand in 2023.”