The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may cave in to pressure from powerful stakeholders in the party who wants the ticket for the 2023 presidential election to be thrown open so as to accommodate all intending aspirants, Daily Independent has gathered.
A chieftain of the party, who is also a member of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, who disclosed this to Daily Independent on Thursday said some northern governors who are serving out their second term and are interested in the presidency are mounting pressure on the Mai Mala Buni-led committee to throw the ticket open so as to give all aspirants a level playing field.
He also said contrary to reports in some quarters, it was not true that the Caretaker Committee has concluded arrangements that the ticket will go to the South.
According to him, there have been divergent views in the party and the party leadership is still considering all the options in order to arrive at a decision that will not jeopardise its chances at the polls.
The three views, according to him, were those who want the ticket zoned to the South, those who want it retained by the North and those who want the party to throw it open for all the aspirants so that no one will feel excluded.
“In all honesty, we have not agreed on zoning of the presidential ticket. What we have are just clamour by various stakeholders in the party on where the ticket should be zoned to and they have all canvassed arguments backing their claims.
“While there have been arguments on whether it should be North and South, there have been strident calls by some stakeholders that the best way to go out about so that no aspirant will feel excluded is for the party to throw the ticket open so that all intending aspirants will vie for it and the best will emerge.
“I have sampled the views of many of our party members and I can tell you that majority of them agree with the idea of allowing all intending aspirants to try their luck so that we can arrive at the best.
“On our part, we have not gotten to that stage yet. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. We have just concluded our membership and revalidation exercise and we are also preparing for our national convention which is not too far away,” he said.
There were reports last week that the party had zoned the presidency to the South and national chairmanship position to the North.
However, this was denied by Senator John AkpanUdoedehe, the Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, who said that the Buni-led committee could not have ventured into such sensitive decision without consulting widely among key stakeholders.
Speaking on the issue, Hon. Abdullahi Bello, State Chairman, APC, Kogi State, said the party should throw the ticket open so as not to deprive some of the best aspirants the opportunity of vying for the ticket.
Bello, who said zoning is ungodly and undemocratic, added that given the dire situation Nigeria currently finds herself, what should be the focus of everyone now is to get the best candidate that can unite the nation and proffer solution to the insecurity challenges across the country.
“I have never for once supported zoning because it is undemocratic. Zoning is ungodly and it deprives the best candidate the chance of getting the ticket. It is only when you throw the ticket open to all the aspirants that you can get the best candidate.
“I belong to the school of thought that the APC ticket should be thrown open to every eligible aspirant to aspire for the number one position of our country.
“Looking at the situation in our country today, this is not the time to be talking about zoning. Our focus should be on capacity. Let the best man take up the job of leading Nigeria”.
“The best candidate for APC in that election is no other person than my principal, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and it will be unfair if he is deprived of contesting because of zoning”, he said.
However, speaking with Daily Independent, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, Lagos State Chairman of APC, said it will amount to changing the goalpost in the middle of the game if the zoning arrangement is jettisoned now when President Muhammadu Buhari is almost completing his tenure in office.
Warning that dumping zoning arrangement now may cause crisis within the party, Balogun advised that the gentleman’s agreement reached by the founding fathers of the party must be strictly adhered to in the spirit of justice, fair play and equity.
“It is not possible for the ticket to be thrown open. We have founding fathers of this party and based on their agreement at their meetings then, President Muhammadu Buhari was able to pick the ticket after it was zoned to the North.
“So, now that he is completing his eight years, how can we now begin to change the goalpost in the middle of the game by saying the ticket should be thrown open to both North and South?
“It has been agreed then that the zoning arrangement should continue in 2023, which means it has to come to the South.
“Talking of throwing the ticket open doesn’t show fairness and justice. In order not to create problems for ourselves, it is just wise for us to abide by our agreement in the spirit of justice and fair play”.