Dissent, disquiet and condemnation are trailing the alleged moves by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to choose its presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections through consensus. While some key members of the party are insisting that the presidential candidate of the party should emerge from the Southern zone of the country in support of the position of the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) at a recent meeting, others want a free for all contest, where people from the major divides of the country; North and South would contest for the office at the party’s primaries.
Secretary of the National Caretaker Committee of the APC, Senator James Akpanudoedehe, had stirred the hornet’s nest on Wednesday, when he said that the party would adopt a consensus candidate for the 2023 presidential election. Reacting to allegations by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the effect that President Muhammadu Buhari was planning a selfsuccession bid, Akpanudohede had said that the party would produce a consensus candidate for the office of the president for the next general election.
“Unlike the opposition, we are a disciplined party. PDP is just being haunted by its past. You will recall the inglorious third term agenda while PDP was in power. So, it is easy to accuse APC now. “After our (APC) congresses and the National Convention, we will shock them (PDP) by bringing a consensus and an agreeable candidate that will fly the flag of the party come 2023. APC has no 3rd term agenda like PDP.”
He also said the party was recommending the consensus option for the election of party officials at all levels to reduce acrimony.
“For us, we have to take into consideration the need to accommodate everyone because the APC is a party for all Nigerians. “We are encouraging states to adopt the consensus arrangement because it saves costs and reduces acrimony. That is why when you look at Article 20 of our constitution which talks about elections, the first thing there is for members to try reaching a consensus. When that fails, then you go to cast ballots.” It will also be recalled that the APC had not come out clear on what method it would adopt for the election thus putting party members in suspense on how it would go about the sensitive issue.
Commenting on the statement of Akpanudoedehe, South West Agenda (SWAGA) 2023 disclosed that the APC was yet to take a position on consensus presidential candidate for 2023. Speaking in an exclusive interview, the Secretary of Senator Dayo Adeyeye-led SWAGA, Bosun Oladele, who is a former member of the House of Representatives, said that Akpanudoedehe is on his own and that he was not speaking for the party, saying that the party organ charged with such responsibility by the constitution of APC was yet to be constituted, adding that Akpanudoedehe’s position is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.
‘‘If we are talking about consensus candidate, there should be a basis for it,’’ he said, while stating the position of his group on the matter is on zoning of the presidency to South West.
He added: ‘‘First, we (SWAGA 2023), are saying there should be zoning, based on the ‘gentleman agreement’ that has always been adhered to when choices of presidential candidates are being made.
‘‘When we say there should be zoning, the first point of consideration is that it should be South and if we are saying it should be South, the next thing that concerns us is that we have looked around Southern Nigeria and we are saying that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is the most qualified. There are others that are qualified but Tinubu is the person that we want to throw our weight behind.
‘‘Maybe we should be telling them that the consensus as it concerns us should be that everybody should agree with us, the South West. He has not told us what will be the basis or the terms of reference of the consensus that he is talking about and I am not sure that is the party’s position as of today.’’
According to him, the secretary’s pronouncement is not supported by the constitution of the party, saying that what should concern him and every member of the party now is putting in place party officials at all the levels.
‘‘I want to say that he is putting the cart before the horse. Let’s finish with the congresses, let’s have the national convention so that we can have national executive in place and let the national executive now take on the task of the nationwide convention. It is not his duty, but his duty with all due respect is birthing new executives for the party from the ward to the national level.
“I want to say that there is no position yet as far as we are concerned because the people that will give us the direction, we are still in the process of trying to elect them. ‘‘We should first and foremost be concerted in our efforts to birth new executives right from the ward to the national level and we should as much as possible do that through consensus and if consensus is not possible then free and fair election should be encouraged by every party member so that we have our executives.
‘‘When we have done that the people that we have chosen by virtue of popular support or consensus or popular votes via election will now be in the best position to consult widely and give direction to the party as to what to do.’’ He further stated that: ‘‘the consensus must take cognizance of zoning; that is what we are saying. But don’t get me wrong, we can’t put the cart before the horse.
“When we get to that level the constitution will still be adhered to and the practices and procedures will still be adhered to and then democracy will be at play. ‘‘Whether we are going to vote to choose whoever at the primaries or we are going to have a consensus, the role of the incoming executive is very, very sacrosanct,” he said.
Efforts to get the views of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who is widely believed to be eyeing the presidential ticket of the APC were unsuccessful as he declined to comment. His media aide, Tunde Rahman, simply said in a WhatsApp chat: “The truth is we have no comment for now.
Reacting to the matter, a chieftain of the APC from Abia State, Chief Chekwas Okorie, warned that any consensus presidential candidate that excludes the South East zone would have serious political consequences for the party. Chief Okorie while responding to the recent comment by the APC national caretaker committee secretary that the party would soon announce its consensus presidential candidate, expressed surprise at the proposal of a consensus presidential candidate for the party.
“It came to some of us as a surprise. But it is not as if we cannot adopt a candidate by consensus. Consensus means that no one else wants to contest. When you give it to somebody by consensus you preclude others,” he said.
He described the decision as a weighty policy. “Such policies are usually made by the National Executive Committee not by the National Working Committee as in the present case.” Okorie said it was a dicey policy shift, an early kite flown by the party so that those who would contest would be properly guided, adding that it could generate acrimony which can lead to litigation against the party. He argued that though rotation was not expressly stated in the party constitution, it had become conventional and should be adopted as a gentleman’s agreement which had been in practice.
“In the APC, the issue of rotation to the South is a moral issue because after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari it will be a political error to retain the presidency in the North,” he said. He noted that across the country even in the North some statesmen have made a case for the presidency to go to the South East. The founder of APGA and UPP was unequivocal that if the South East was excluded in the 2023 presidential political arrangement it would force many to look elsewhere. “I am optimistic that it will come to the South East. The leadership of the party will look at it again. Igbo people have been apolitical before now but the enormous awareness and mobilisation currently is unprecedented,” he said.
The Imo State chairman of the APC, Hon. Daniel Nwafor, in his reaction urged the national leadership of the APC to allow internal party democracy to thrive. In a chat with one of our correspondent in Owerri, Nwafor argued that picking a presidential candidate of the party through consensus could not guarantee a strong or competent candidate.
He said: “As for selecting our presidential candidate through consensus, I think that in a case where there are several strong candidates who are contesting for a position, the candidates should present themselves for primary election so that they will be voted for according to their popularity and acceptability. The party must allow internal party democracy.”
While urging members and leaders of the APC to embrace openness and transparency in matters of the party, Hon. Nwafor maintained that,” Consensus is not really a way of identifying strong candidates. As such, everyone in our party should encourage transparent systems of producing candidates through voting.”
On the issue of zoning of the presidency, the party chairman said: “I think naturally the next president of Nigeria should come from the Southern region of the country. Political parties should zone their Presidential candidates to the South.”
A Chieftain of the APC in Niger State, Comrade Jonathan Tsado Vatsa, who also spoke on the matter, warmed that the moves for consensus candidate would be tantamount to a time bomb waiting to explode. Vatsa, who was the Niger State Publicity Secretary of APC and former Commissioner for Information and Strategy warned the leadership of the party to learn from what killed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said: “I do not subscribe to consensus candidacy; it does not project the image of democracy in any ramification. Consensus candidate is a time bomb for the party and waiting to explode. Consensus in Nigerian politics means imposition of candidates. In ideal democracy, you allow everybody to come out and test their popularity and the popular choice of the people will emerge.
“But, this consensus candidacy, I can assure you that, we in the APC are incubating rotten eggs. And when rotten eggs hatch, people cannot stay, rather they will run away. I am calling on the national leadership of the party to learn from what killed the PDP”. He expressed concerns saying “consensus is a game of manipulation, the whole idea is, they will want to manipulate and bring people who they feel will do their biddings. And it is as if there is something the party is afraid of.
“They cannot continue to hide from the truth, they can only succeed in postponing the evil days. The idea of consensus candidate does not represent democracy at all except the whole members of the party meet and agree and say that is what they want. In real democracy, you allow every voice to be heard,” he said. (New Telegraph)