As a precondition for submitting their expression of interest and nomination forms, presidential aspirants on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress are to submit with the forms the signatures of 10 statutory delegates from each state and the Federal Capital Territory, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
One of our correspondents, who sighted the forms, observed that each aspirant was required to get the signatures of 370 statutory delegates, covering the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. As of Saturday afternoon, about 17 aspirants had obtained the N100m forms, but it could not be ascertained how many of them had submitted the forms.
Those who have picked the forms include Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; and Governors Yahaya Bello and Abubakar Badaru of Kogi and Jigawa states.
About 30 aspirants have so far declared interest in the coveted office on the APC platform while about 17 have obtained forms already.
The party in the guidelines and timetables released by its National Organising Secretary, Sulaiman Argungu, fixed Tuesday as the last day for the submission of the forms.
The party had come under criticism for the Form 18 ‘Letter of Withdrawal’ attached to the forms. The aspirants were expected to sign the letter and submit it with their forms and other documents.
The letter, which must be signed before a commissioner for oaths/ notary public before submission, read in part, “I hereby voluntarily withdraw my candidacy from the contest. My withdrawal is in the best interest of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”
Some of the aspirants were said to be uncomfortable with the letter as they perceive it as a move to impose a consensus candidate on them.
Findings by Sunday PUNCH revealed that getting the statutory delegates’ signatures and the letter of withdrawal were some of the reasons a number of the aspirants had yet to submit their forms. The statutory delegates include the President and his deputy, serving governors and ex-governors, State Executive Council members, National Executive Committee and National Working Committee members, as well as all former national officers of the party, among others.
Meanwhile, members of the National Assembly across political parties and regions have asked the ruling APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party to jettison the idea of not fielding southern presidential candidates for the 2023 general election.
The lawmakers predicted dire consequences for the country should power be retained in the North beyond next year. Neither the APC nor the PDP has zoned its presidential ticket to the South, though some northern aspirants in the major parties are already campaigning for the presidency.
A ranking member of the Senate, Ali Ndume (APC, Borno), told one of our correspondents that it would be unfair for the South not to assume power in 2023.
Ndume, who is leading the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi’s presidential campaign, said, “So, an agreement, whether written or unwritten, is an agreement and equal rights and justice are famous in every religion. The fear, as they are claiming now, is that if the PDP fields a northern candidate, then the APC’s chance of winning is doubtful.
“They have forgotten that a southerner (Jonathan) in 2011 contested against a very popular northerner (Buhari) and he lost. To me, it is better to lose honourably than to win dishonourably.”
Another senator, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu), noted that though power rotation and zoning were not captured in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the law could not contain all the issues affecting a people.
When asked what would happen if the PDP jettisons power shift to the South, Utazi said, “It will be too bad. That is not good for the PDP. I know the party is grappling with the problem of not having an authority over the college of governors that we have presently. That is a challenge; if they manage it very well, it will be okay for them. If they don’t, that will signal the end of the PDP as a party.”
On what the APC stands to lose by dumping power rotation, a member of the House of Representatives, Rotimi Agunsoye (APC, Lagos), said, “I cannot say anything for now on that. I am a party man and I have leaders in the South here that we listen to. What is fair is fair. That will spell doom for the party.”
Another member of the House, Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos), urged “the APC and the PDP to zone the presidency to the South as we have competent, capable and accomplished people in the South who can keep the flag flying.”
He stated, “Anything short of that, we will be sitting on issues that will be a Trojan horse that we don’t know where it will carry us to.
“Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder right now, so you must zone the presidency to the South, either to the South-South, South-West or the South-East. They should compete and present one candidate that everybody will support.”
Another member of the House, Dagomie Abiante (PDP, Rivers), said there was the need for fairness, equity and justice, adding that where a president comes from does not automatically translate to development of his region.
“Today, we have a Buhari presidency of northern extraction. How well has he performed in the area of security? How many villages in the North can the people sleep with their two eyes closed?” he queried.
The leader of the South-West caucus in the House, Olufemi Fakeye (APC, Osun), said lawmakers from the geopolitical zone would meet and take a position on zoning.
Another ranking member of the caucus, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it would be fair for power to shift to the South, noting, “I was not privy to any gentleman’s agreement (on zoning), but I know it makes sense for it to go back and forth – North and South – for balance.”