WITH the belief of political party leaders that the issue of presidential tickets for the 2023 elections has been resolved, parties are faced with other aspects of power sharing of high-level positions that are usually awarded to achieve the inclusiveness in the six geopolitical zones, writes KUNLE ODEREMI as the parties prepare for the electoral campaign starting in September.
July 15, 2022 marked the expiration of the window of opportunity granted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to political parties to present the list of their candidates for the 2023 general elections. INEC (INCP) candidates at its headquarters in Abuja to receive and process these nominations. Thus, on Friday at 6 p.m., the commission had closed the gate. About 48 hours before the deadline, one of the leading candidates in next year’s ballot, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, was still struggling with issues over choosing a running mate.
For the large power blocs in the main parties, the selection of running mates by the candidates is regulated. It remains to be seen how to appease these various vested interests expressing certain reservations about the choice of candidates as individual running mates.
The coming days are sure to witness intensive and serious consultation, negotiation and compromise on the way forward. With the slots for presidential candidates and their running mates seemingly settled, the contentious question of which of the other areas other than where the candidate and his deputy are from, gets the slots for other key positions in the next dispensation is another crucial issue on the table.
The way the issue is handled could go a long way in mitigating or exacerbating the tension caused by the tone and shouting over the choice of running mates.
Slots under the broad power-sharing formula include the positions of President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as that of Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), considered the engine room of the government. In deciding where these positions should go, some existing laws of the country are relevant.
The 1999 Constitution, the country’s basic norm, remains cardinal in this regard. Under different chapters and sections, the constitution provides for fairness, justice and balance in the distribution of major national offices. The section on the federal character is quite instructive. It stipulates the need to find a fair balance and scale in appointments to combat marginalization and imbalance in the system.
These valves are considered timely to ensure fairness, balance and justice in the federal structure and all organs of governments. Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution on the matter is succinct on the matter. It is said:
“The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be conducted in such a way as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, as well as to engender loyalty national government, thus ensuring that there will not be a predominance of people from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectoral groups in that government or any of its agencies.
Of all the Presidents of the Senate in the country since 1960, only three have been Muslims, while the rest are Christians, just as only the Southwest has yet to hold the top office. For speaker, seven are Muslims from the North and the South out of 13, only three from the South-West; two from the southeast.
For the post of SGF, the list dating from 1999, indicated that of the seven who held the post, only two are Muslims from the North, namely Ambassador Babagana Kingibe; Yayal Ahmed. The others are Christians from the North, South-East and South-South.
The current SGF, Boss Mustapha, hails from Adamawa State, as does his predecessor, Babachir Lawal, both of Christian faith. Outgoing Senate Speaker Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, both Muslims, hail from Yobe and Lagos States respectively. The two main officers of the National Assembly are the result of elections that took place in the separate chambers of the Senate and the Chamber after intense and rigorous bargaining.
While the candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar hails from Adamawa State in the North East, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, the Senator Bola Tinubu is from the South West. Incidentally, the presidents of both parties are from the north of the country: Senator Iyorchia Ayu is from Benue State, as is APC Senator Abdullahi Adamu from Nasarawa State, both located in the north-central area.
The current fuss that Ayu should step down as PDP chairman stems from the principle of rotation of power between North and South in the PDP Constitution and because the party’s flag bearer (Atiku) is from the North. Some of those who have called for Ayu to leave office have claimed there is a remaining agreement that the post will be filled by the South once the party’s candidate emerges for the 2023 presidential election.
However, some influential party members vigorously defended Ayu, saying there was no breach of the agreement since the general election was uncontested and won by the PDP. Acrimony over Atiku’s choice of running mate has further fueled unrest, with Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom among PDP leaders unhappy with the storylines that unfolded in Atiku’s choice of a running mate. . PDP presidential primary runner-up and Rivers state governor Nyesom Wike distanced himself from the party and other power brokers, including a former Jigawa state governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, who said that Wike had declared before the primary that he only had an interest in being the PDFP’s presidential candidate.
As the party steps up its efforts to appease Wike after losing the bid for the ticket, the issue of power sharing now surrounds the areas that should produce the SGF, National Assembly leadership in the event the PDP forms government in the next dispensation. For the time being, the party has looked after the interests of the North East with Atiku as the party’s candidate, and the South South where its running mate and Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okonwa is from.
Three areas seem to be in the running for these slots: North-West, South-West, South-East and North-Center, even if the current president, Senator Ayu comes from the latter. One of the permutations is that the position of President of the Senate might not go to the northern axis since the party’s presidential candidate is from the region unless there is a deliberate action to undermine the principle of zoning and rotation of power in the DPP Constitution. Therefore, the South East or the South West is favored to be seen as barring new unforeseen political alliances and changes in the days to come.
Mindful of the principle of federal character as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended, the position of the SGF will also be subject to serious political calculations in the DPP as it prepares for the general elections. Some leaders of the South West PDP, who spoke to our correspondent on the issue of power sharing, said they were just waiting for the dust to settle on the choice of the running mate to come out forcefully on their demands for key positions to be used as bait in the electoral campaign which begins in September this year.
Likewise, there is suspense in the APC over the slots among the Speaker of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Federation Government (SGF) who will go to the rest of the geopolitical zones from the South- West and Northeast produced the ticket for the presidency. Areas affected include North-West, South-South, South-East and North-Central, although the latter has produced a national president. Under Buhari’s presidency, the North retained both the positions of President and President of the Senate, while the South-South and the South-West produced more national presidents and vice-presidents respectively.
On Friday, the Sunday Tribune came across a document containing the likely power-sharing arrangement mooted by the APC leadership, should the party win the presidential election next February. According to the document, with the Southwest having the presidency and the Northeast the number two position, the Northwest will obtain the position of President of the Senate. The Southeast, which in the past held the presidency of the Senate more than any other area in the South, will get the presidency.
The South-South must obtain the vice-presidency of the Senate and the North-East, the vice-presidency. The Centre-North, which currently boasts of the national presidency of the party, will be rewarded with the post of secretary of the government of the Federation. The zone also retains the chairmanship of the party, while the position of chief of staff to the president is reserved for the president.
Already, some names are being presented as possible figures in the APC or the PDP, depending on how the 2023 election swings, in the rest of the power equation. The question of faith will be factored into the choices for these positions given the hype generated by the fallout from the presidential primaries and the emergence of running mates of the presidential candidates.