Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe
A Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a staunch ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Osita Okechukwu has appealed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to “rig” its unwritten zoning arrangement to favour the north and disfavour the South-east in the 2023 presidential election.
Okechukwu, who is the Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON) said if the PDP zones the presidency to the north, it would be difficult for South-east members of the APC to convince the party’s leadership to zone the presidency to the South-east.
He said this yesterday, on ‘The Morning Show,’ a breakfast programme of ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
Also, he said he was in favour of an extension of the tenure of the Governor Mai Mala Buni- led caretaker committee of the APC as against a hurried congress that would bring rancour and disunity.
He praised Buni’s appointment of the contact and reconciliation committee, adding that extending the tenure of the committee would enable them to properly reposition the party towards the upcoming general election.
According to him, “The confusion we have on ground is the bid by the PDP to rig the zoning convention. If you look at the Governor Bala Muhammed’s committee report, you would see that they have gone out their way to target Buhari’s 12 million vote bank in the north. They are reasoning that if President Buhari is not in the ballot it will be easy ride for them with a northern candidate.
“They are trying to breach their own constitution that clearly spells out the convention of zoning. On our own side we are telling them that equity, national justice and good conscience dictates that the zoning convention that started in 1999 should be upheld.”
Okechukwu who has been Buhari’s ally since 1999, called on both APC and PDP to zone the presidential tickets to the South-east in 2023 as was done for the South-west in 1999, when both the ANPP and PDP fielded candidates from the region.
“If possible and if PDP allows, we want the Falae/Obasanjo model where the two dominant political parties would choose a candidate from the same geopolitical zone in the south and that geopolitical zone to our reasoning is the South-east.
“I am appealing to the PDP not to rig the zoning convention because the convention is based on moral high-ground, national justice and good conscience. If the PDP goes ahead to rig the zoning convention, it would be very difficult for us to convince our leadership in APC that they should zone to the South-east, ”he said.
Furthermore, on APC not being in a hurry for national convention and indication that the caretaker committee is likely to ask for another six months’ extension, he noted that getting it right within the party was more important than the timeline of the committee.
He said: “For some of us, our biggest interest and concern is what the committee is doing, which is a total overhaul. Because when you cast your mind to where we were in 2015 and 2019 and where we are today and how we lost our key areas where President Buhari had a vote bank of 10 to 12 million votes repeatedly in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 elections, you have to agree that there is a need for a rejig and I think what Governor Mai Mala Buni and his committee is doing is a rejig.”