Mr. Babatunde Fashola
• Private agreement cannot be breached, it must be honoured, says minister
• There is an understanding on zoning – Ex-National Vice-Chairman
the All Progressives Congress has said it is currently not concerned about the zoning of the presidency in 2023.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, who stated this in an interview with reporter on Tuesday, was, however, evasive when asked if the party agreed on zoning before the 2015 elections.
Nabena spoke amid disclosure by some chieftains of the APC that before 2015 elections, its leaders had an unwritten agreement on zoning of the presidency.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, in an interview with journalists at the ministry headquarters in Abuja on Tuesday, indicated that there was a gentleman agreement on zoning.
Others chieftains of the APC including the immediate past National Vice-Chairman (South South), Hilliard Eta, and the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu supported the minister.
Recall that the Director-General of the Progressives Governor Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, had on Monday insisted that the party’s presidential ticket would be open to all members to compete for in 2023.
Lukman, in an interview with journalists, dismissed speculations making the rounds that the party had agreed on a zoning arrangement.
He said, “The level playing field in the APC has been well conceived, nurtured, and now gaining more traction by the day. For instance, everybody could see that the place is open whether you call it with reference to 2023 or reference to any election.
It’s about the fact that the spirit of political contest in the party is now very high. It means that if you want to negotiate, as a good negotiator if you want to canvass, as a good canvasser for a specific interest, the party is up to you.”
But On Tuesday, Fashola said although the issue of zoning was more of a gentleman’s agreement in the APC, it behooved parties who entered into such an agreement to honour it.
He said, “First let’s talk about law. Let’s talk about agreements. The law is the constitution. The constitution decides the age which you can contest certain offices and there is nothing in the constitution that says zoning.
All are political parties are clubs where you write agreements just like a social club and we can decide that it is the youngest person who will be the chairman of the club or we can decide that it is the oldest person or the next female or the next male, that is the matter of agreement between people.
“ But the constitution that sets up the climate of political parties formation does not prescribe zoning. The truth is that what makes an agreement special is the honour in which it is made not whether it is written.
If it was written there would be no court cases on a breach of contract because it’s a document that is written and signed that go to court. But the private agreement you make with your brother and sister cannot be breached. It must be honoured.
He explained that the best politics was one that would enhance good governance and impact positively on the lives of most, especially the vulnerable in society.
The APC chieftain said, “I belong to a party, APC and it is committed to good governance because I think the best politics is good governance. The beauty of it for me is the opportunity it gives to impact people’s lives. We have elections only once in four years but we have responsibility to provide good governance every day and that’s the culture.”
While speaking on the chances of the APC to retain power in 2023, he said, “To retain power in 2023, certainly if we keep our promises, it is that simple. That’s politics. If you do what you said you will do even if you don’t do it 100 per cent and they see that you are making progress, they will even want you to finish something you started.”
Supporting Fashola, Eta, in an interview, explained that there was no written agreement to rotate or zone power.
He, however, said, “I think it was an understanding of our fault lines.
“We don’t operate on an island. Our constitution also recognises zoning in a way that is why it made provision for Deputy National Chairman North and South as well as six zonal National Vice Chairmen.”
Also, another foundation member of the APC, who was the Bauchi State Secretary of the Action Congress, later Action Congress of Nigeria, Abdullahi Dauda, also explained that there was an agreement in principle.
Dauda, said this in an interview in an interview in Abuja, on Tuesday. He explained that there was an understanding between party members that power would rotate between the North and South when the party was formed.
He said, “While it is true that there is no written agreement, there was an understanding. It was based on this understanding that at least five out of the six states in the South-West ensured that President Muhammadu Buhari received block votes to win the presidential election first in 2015 and also in 2019.
“It is expected that by 2023 when Buhari completes his second four-year tenure, a candidate from the southern part of Nigeria will succeed him, this is the only fair and just thing to do.”
Also, another foundation member of the party, who until the formation of the APC was a member of the Congress for Progressive Change, Okechukwu, said, “It has been a convention since 1999.
I remember that the same arrangement ensured that former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West emerged as the candidate to contest against a fellow southerner, Olu Falae, in 1999, the same arrangement led to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua contesting against General Muhammadu Buhari in 2007.
It was a gentleman’s agreement meant to foster national unity, equity and good conscience. It is not like a written thing. It is like a convention and moral code or like the British would say, it is an unwritten constitution. One of the reasons why President Jonathan lost is that a section of the country which felt it was their turn felt short changed.”
The APC Chairman in Zamfara State, Alhaji Lawal M. Liman, said there was such a gentleman’s agreement regarding zoning.
He, however, said as party member, he would abide by whatever divisions taken by the national leadership.
“There is such an agreement but as an official of the party at the state level, we will always respect the decision of the party leadership.”
According to Liman, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who is the leader of the party knows best on what to do for the party to remain stronger and united.
“We have no alternative but to always respect the leadership of our great party and whatever decision they are going to take, we have no objection,” said Liman.
In Gombe State, a chieftain of the party, Habu Muazu, said zoning would be maintained in the 2023 presidential election.
Muazu stated this in an interview with journalist, adding that merit will be a focal point for the party in the next election.
He said, “It will be maintained; for the sake of peace and unity of the country. There is nothing wrong in zoning.”
Bu Nabena said zoning had not been discussed. Asked if the issue was agreed on during the formation of the party and if the party was bound to respect such an agreement, he said, “It has not yet been discussed. We have not got to that stage yet; we still have our party registration and convention to do. When we get to the point when such issues are discussed, it will not be a secret.”