Furore in the South as APC Toys with ‘No Zoning’

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Editor May 16, 2022
Updated 2022/05/16 at 7:04 AM

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The vehemence with which the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, reacted to claim by the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adamu Abdullahi, over the latter’s statement on zoning clearly, underlined the importance of the issue to the power permutations within the ruling party and the intrigues going on in the party. Abdullahi had declared, to the shock of southern leaders and members of the party, that the ruling party, had not taken a final decision on the issue of zoning, claiming that he was not in any position to categorically ruled on that.

“I am today privileged to be the Chairman of the party. The party is greater than me. The party has not made a decision and I cannot pre-empt what the party’s decision will be,” Adamu said. 

But Akeredolu would not allow such open politicking and water testing to go unchallenged. And he immediately fired a salvo that it shall “be disingenuous for anyone to argue against rotation at this period.” 
Apparently aware of the import of what Abdullahi said and the cold calculations going on in the North vis-à-vis the issue of zoning, Akeredolu had to quickly fire back. He said the ruling party could not afford any internal bickering, which holds the potential promise of causing distrust and militating against cohesion, harmony and the zeal to achieve set objectives. He added that even if it was unwritten, the issue of zoning was anchored on equity and fairness. 

“The current democratic dispensation is anchored on the unwritten convention driven by a principle of Equity. Political expediency dictates, more appealingly, that while adhering to the spirit and letters of the laws guiding conduct of elections and succession to political offices, we must do nothing which is capable of tilting the delicate balance against the established arrangement which guarantees peace and promotes trust.” 

He also averred that same principle applied during the process that produced the current party executives.
Abdullahi was not talking out of ignorance. In fact, as the party’s number one elected official, he knows more than many others. The ruling APC is only jittery about where the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would be picking its candidate from. That was why the party nor its leaders wanted to be categorical about where its presidential ticket would be zoned to. Before now, the general consensus within the party was that its presidential ticket has been zoned to the South. But with Abdullahi’s declaration that the party had not taken any position on zoning, it was a red flag for the party’s motley crowd of southern presidential aspirants. 

Two weeks ago, a new political kite was flown with the name of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, touted as the likely consensus candidate for the ruling APC. This was quickly dispelled but sources confirmed to THISDAY that the Senate President picked his nomination form last Monday. And the speed with which the Senate passed the new amendment to the 2022 Electoral Act showed something was fishy.  

This is why the weeks ahead promise to be quite interesting for the ruling APC, and with the purported picking of nomination form by the Senate President, the equation has become even the more fluid. Analysts opine that Lawan, from the North-east might serve as counterfoil to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar should the PDP pick him as its presidential flag-bearer. 

And now, with pressure mounting on the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), to extend the deadline for the picking various candidates for elective positions and APC extending the sale of its presidential nomination form, the jigsaw puzzle will soon fall into place. Watch this space.

Now That the Ministers Have Resigned
The new 2022 Electoral Act was very specific about what happens if a serving political office holder wants to contest for any elective office: he or she has to resign his appointment first. However, quite a number of serving ministers under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration were all scheming to ensure that they were still holding their respective offices, at least, until after the presidential primaries of the APC. Lawyers and eminent Nigerians, had cried out that these office holders were not only abusing their offices, but the laws of the land. They were holding office but still obtained the APC presidential nomination form and paid the mandatory N100m. But they stubbornly refused to resign. 

Many thought that as usual, President Buhari was aloof and his silence was a continuation of lack of hold on his own appointees. But he shocked the aides and Nigerians last Wednesday, when he said any of his ministers of political appointees, who were gunning for different elective offices should resign within days. Those who have heeded the order included the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who is billed to formally resign today; Godswill Akpabio, who held the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs; Emeka Nwajiuba, former Minister of State for Education; former governor of Abia State and then Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; Timipriye Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Tayo Alasoadura, Minister of State Niger Delta Affairs; Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs and Uche Ogar, Minister of State for Mines and Steel. 

Ironically, at the state level, commissioners and special advisers, who wanted to contest have been resigning to pursue their ambition but not at the federal level. Now that the ministers have resigned, perhaps, a level playing field has been seemingly created. At least! 

Knocks as Atiku ‘Untweeted’
The gruesome killing of a Christian student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, Deborah Yakubu, by a mob over alleged blasphemy, has elicited negative reactions virtually from across the world. In fact, the supreme head of all Muslims in the country and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, also intervened and said no one had the right to take another person’s life. To also lend his voice is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and top contender for the presidential ticket of the opposition PDP, who in his verified Facebook and Twitter handles, condemned the killings and asked that the perpetrators be brought to book.  

No sooner had the social media posts made than negative reactions came from Muslim fanatics, who railed against the former number two man and threatened not to vote for him. And in a jiffy, the posts were pulled down. The pulling down of the post elicited almost equal measure of negative reactions, like those who attacked the post initially from, majorly, Christians from the southern part of the country, who felt Atiku chickened out because he placed political expediency and his 2023 ambition over being a statesman and showing that he was actually a nationalist. 

But he has come out to say that he ordered that the posts to be pulled down because he didn’t personally authorise them in the first place. According to him, he always wanted to be sure that whatever was posted on those handles got his blessings but these latest ones were not cleared from him before being posted.
“During Sharia, I stood up and condemned the northern governors, who introduced it, telling them that, what they were doing was political Sharia,” Atiku said on Saturday, adding: “I was pelted, abused and denigrated but I stood my ground and what happened? The political sharia died a natural death. Therefore, I am not one to be afraid to speak out against anything. But these posts were not authorised by me and that was why I asked them to pull them down.” 

Good explanation. But the fundamental question is whether the thoughts expressed in those posts reflected his or not. If they had resonated with his thoughts over the unfortunate killing of Deborah, then, he had no reason to order it pulled down. That was totally unnecessary. And it won’t be the first time a media aide would speak on behalf of his principal over issues as long as he or she understands his or her principal’s thoughts over such issues. 

While Atiku might be trying to rationalise his actions and justify the pulling down of the posts, the fact remains that he ordered the pulldown because of the negative reactions from a section of the North, especially, from those Muslim fanatics. Any other explanation is semantic and beating about the bush. Atiku actually ‘untweeted’ for political reasons, and let down many people by his sheer insensitivity for political exigencies. 

As Hayatu-deen Criss-crosses the North…
Former top banker and presidential aspirant on the platform of the opposition PDP, Mohammed Hayatu-deen, might be considered as a dark horse by many political watchers, especially, as it relates to the presidential ticket of the opposition party, but the former managing director and chief executive of the now defunct FSB International Bank does not see himself as such. And the confidence that oozes from his camp is surprisingly effervescent. 
Hayatu-deen has been criss-crossing the northern states selling his candidacy to delegates from state to state and why he should be trusted with their votes at the coming PDP convention. So far, he has visited Borno, his home state, Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Niger. 

Speaking in Bauchi, Hayatu-deen said he stood a big chance because he had all that was required to save the country from the economic quagmire it has found itself. And he prided himself as having the requisite wherewithal to save the country from the current mess.  
In Niger State, Hayatu-deen said his father was an educationist and Nigeria is the same country, where he was educated and where he built his career. And he said he felt so nostalgic about the good old days when Nigeria was a peaceful and prosperous country. 

Senator Zainab Kure, who represented Niger South Senatorial District at the National Assembly between 2007 and 2007, said the Niger State chapter of the party was happy to receive Hayatu-deen in their midst.
“We are quite excited to have you in our midst. Some have wondered about your person and the work you have done. You are one of the highly revered economists and a banker that we cherish. Listening to you, we can see the passion you have. We are proud to have you. You are passionate about the country. You are not just talking about being president. You have spoken about the issues and asked us to think about the generations yet unborn.

Anyone who wants to lead should help us think about the things you have asked us to consider,” Senator Kure said. 
Even the staunchest of supporters of Hayatu-deen know he is a dark horse amidst an array of veterans of political contests that are vying for the ticket of the PDP. The likes of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, have the needed experience to navigate even the stormiest of political waters. But with some of the heavyweights rumoured to be backing the Hayatu-deen challenge, it will be politically suicidal to underrate him. 

For Ekiti 2022, Final Home Sprint Beckons…
During an early morning interview with Arise Television early last week, former governor of Ekiti State and standard bearer of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in the June 18, 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State, Segun Oni, dismissed claims that he was an opportunistgoing by the fact that he has criss-cross virtually all the main political parties before finally pitching his tent with the SDP for the coming governorship elections. The interviewer, Reuben Abati, had said many of critics see him as a political opportunist, who usually moves whenever he could not have his way in any party. Perhaps, there are some merits to the ‘allegation’.

Oni contested the governorship election in the state in 2007 on the platform of the PDP, and won under controversial circumstances. His election was initially annulled and a re-run ordered in some local governments and wards in 2009. He won again before he was eventually removed from office by the retired Justice Ayo Salami-led Appeal Court on October 10, 2010 and Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), was sworn in as the duly elected governor of the state.

Oni later moved to the APC, in 2014 like some of his other political associates. In fact, he became the Deputy National Chairman of the party for the South-west. He wanted to contest the governorship of the state again in 2018 but was outsmarted by the then Minister of Solid Minerals Resources, Fayemi, who went on to win the election. Oni was offered the senatorial ticket for the Ekiti North Senatorial District but he declined and remained within the party until he defected back to the PDP in 2020, where he contested the ticket of the party again for this year’s governorship election, which he lost to the eventual winner, Bisi Kolawole, under very unsavoury circumstances.

Oni moved again. This time to the SDP where he picked the ticket. Initially, words making the round in the state were that he was going to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), but he eventually moved to the SDP.
While Oni has been junketing politically, the fact remains that he is immensely popular in the state. And this is due to his sterling performance in the a little over three years that he was in the saddle between 2007 and 2010. In fact, civil servants never had it better than when Oni was the governor and he was the only governor in the state, who promised that gratuity of anyone who retired from service must be paid within 45 working days. He didn’t only promise this, he ensured it was done.

Sources told THISDAY that many APC leaders really didn’t want the PDP to pick him as its candidate owing to the fact that his credibility remained high despite the question marks over his annulled mandate of 2007. As weeks are set to turn to days for the election, but for the lack of structure of SDP in Ekiti State, he remains arguably the candidate to beat. And this is without prejudice to other contestants. The game is on.

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