APC Still Divided on Zoning, Mulls Options to Face Atiku
•Some govs want to go south; Adamu, others prefer north
•Party may reopen sale of forms to broaden choices for candidates
•Moves to encourage El-Rufai, Zulum to join race
Four days to the rescheduled presidential primaries of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), billed to hold Monday, June 6, in Abuja, the leadership of the party, has remained divided on the zoning of its ticket, even as it continues to ponder the options opened to it to match the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The current state of play in the APC, has been further compounded by the differing positions of its stakeholders on the zoning palaver, a development, which has seen some governors insisting on going south for balancing, while the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, in cahoots with a few others, would rather go north, for political expediency.
Interestingly, the development, has pushed the party leadership to consider the reopening of sales of Expression of Interest and Nomination forms to more members by way of broadening its choices for a suitable presidential candidate, that would secure the confidence of the people and lead the party to victory.
Already, two persons being targeted to encourage to join the race, are the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and his Borno State counterpart, Professor Babagana Zulum, even though the later had since dismissed the idea of looking at other possibilities in 2023, except returning to Borno to finish off what he had started.
The APC was first thrown into confusion, when Atiku emerged candidate of the PDP at a keenly contested presidential primaries in Abuja, a situation, which completely unsettled the thinking and extrapolations in the ruling party.
Unfortunately, the confusion was further accentuated on Monday, when President Muhammadu Buhari, at a meeting with the 22 governors of the party and Adamu, pleaded with the stakeholders to let him choose his successor as a sign of reciprocity.
Buhari, in a two-page speech, reminded the governors that, while those governors, who just served their first terms, had a field day securing their tickets to return to office, the outgoing ones, after serving out their constitutional two terms of eight years, also had the privileges to choose their successors.
He, therefore, enjoined them all to let him too enjoy same privileges through “reciprocity” of similar action, to choose his successor at the proposed June 6 presidential primaries.
By implications, the president had ruled out the possibility of an elective convention but a consensus option that would allow him choose his proffered candidate, who would be affirmed on Monday, at the Eagle Square, in Abuja.
But since this new thinking was thrown into the mix by the president, the leadership of the party, including the governors, as major stakeholders, had started pondering the options opened to them and particularly, lead them to victory.
Thus, while some of the governors insisted that it would remain indefensible to go north, since Buhari, a northerner, would be serving out eight years in 2023, others, including the national chairman of the party, believed going north was the surest path to victory, if they must match Atiku in all the boxes critical to their victory in next year’s elections.
To this end, the party leadership, has resolved to consider reopening the sales of forms to some members of the party by way of broadening the options and further opening up the turf to more candidates for a competitive approach to the ticket, even when the president had said without equivocation that, there would be no election.
In their consideration as they came up with this idea, THISDAY gathered, were El-Rufai and Zulum, a move believed would help them push some of their best from the north into the race and put the party on a sure-footing ahead of the elections.
It is not certain yet if El-Rufai would buy into the idea, having said time and time again that, he was not interested in the presidency and that he believed in the need for power to shift to the south after Buhari’s eight years, because it was the right thing to do.
Zulum, on his part, had been touted earlier as a possible option for running mate to whoever emerged the candidate of the party, but had openly come out to turn down the idea, saying also that, while it was a good thing to consider him for the office, especially, given the privileges attached to it, he preferred to return to Borno to consolidate the work he had started.
This, nonetheless, the governors had maintained the position, that despite Buhari’s appeal for reciprocity in the choice of his successor, they too had a responsibility as stakeholders to advise and guide him on the suitability of his choice candidate for the party.
Indeed, many of the governors, who were insistent on going south, held the view that there was no need to panic over the emergence of Atiku in the PDP, because with a strong southern candidate, which they claimed to have in good numbers, the party would still comfortably defeat Atiku in 2023.
Aside not seeing anything wrong in pandering to Buhari’s request for reciprocity, many of the governors still believed that an acceptable choice of successor was key, not just to their victory at the general election, but to help prevail on other contenders, who would be persuaded to stand down for the sake of the president.
Against this background, while waiting for Buhari to return from his trip to Madrid, Spain, and present his candidate to the party ahead of the convention, a majority of the governors still stood strong against going north, notwithstanding the fears of other stakeholders, including Adamu.