BY NIYI ODEBODE, JOHN ALECHENU AND ALWELL OKPI
The newly registered All Progressives Congress has launched a charm offensive to woo the South-East and South-South zones, which are considered to be the strongholds of President Goodluck Jonathan.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered on Friday that the party, having realised its weakness and President Jonathan’s strength in the two zones, has decided to revisit the zoning of its offices.
Sources told our correspondents that the mega opposition party might zone its vice-presidential ticket and top party offices to the South-East and South-South. Currently, the new party has a governor in the two zones apiece.
President Jonathan is from the South-South, Vice-President Namadi Sambo (North-West); Senate President David Mark (North-Central); the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal (North-West); Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim (South-East); Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (South-East); and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha (South-East).
An APC chief, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “We believe that we should not have any problem in the North-West, North-East, North-Central and the South-East.
“But we need to do more work in the South-East and South-South. From all indications, President Goodluck Jonathan will get the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential ticket. He has strong support in the two zones. We, therefore, need to neutralise him there.
“Apart from embarking on aggressive campaigns in the two zones, more positions will be zoned to the areas. The South-East may get the vice-presidential slot, while the post of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation may go to the South-South. The presence of the Edo State Governor, Adam Oshiomhole and his Imo State counterpart, Rochas Okorocha, will also assist us in the zones.”
The APC leader also explained that the present structure of the party was tentative, adding the composition of its National Working Committee would be national.
According to him, the structure of the party will emerge after its national convention
He said, “We have learnt from the mistakes of the PDP. Although there is a gentleman’s agreement that the presidency will go to the North, others zones will not be neglected.
“We believe that even in the South-South, this government has not met the expectations of Nigerians. The rate of poverty in the country is going up in spite of figures being reeled out by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.”
The APC’s present interim management includes Chief Bisi Akande (Chairman); Senator Annie Okonkwo (Deputy Chairman, South); Aminu Masari (Deputy Chairman, North); Mr. Tijani Tumsah (Secretary); Mallam Nasir-el-Rufai(Deputy National Secretary); Hajiya Sadiya (Treasurer); Mr. Lai Mohammed (National Publicity Secretary); and Mr. Isa Madu Chul (Deputy National Publicity Secretary).
Others are the National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso; National Vice-Chairman for South-West, Mr. Niyi Adebayo; National Vice-Chairman, South-South, Chief Tom Ikimi; National Vice-Chairman, North-Central, Gen. Abdullahi Aboki; National Vice-Chairman, South-East, Dr. Ayim Nyerere; National Vice-Chairman, North-West, Mr. Salisu Fagge; and National Vice-Chairman, North-East, Mr. Umaru Duhu.
The party has governors in 11 states: Edo (South-South); Nasarawa (North-Central); Imo (South-East); Zamfara, (North-West); Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun (South-West), Borno and Yobe (North-East).
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the party, among other strategies, was banking on the incumbency factor to retain the 11 states. Although the APC only controls Zamfara State in the North-West and Borno and Yobe states in the North-East, it is banking on the presence of the former presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in the party to sway voters in the two zones. Buhari enjoys tremendous goodwill in the core North.
Besides the former head of state, other prominent northerners in the party are a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Masari, and an ex-governor of Zamfara State, Senator Ahmed Yerima.
The APC is also said to be enjoying the backing of top members of the Northern Elders’ Forum and the Arewa Consultative Forum, who see it as an alternative platform for the North to actualise its plan to produce the president in 2015.
The party, sources say, is banking on the popularity of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in the South-West to retain the zone while also being optimistic that Goodluck Jonathan administration’s alleged marginalisation of the South-West would make it difficult for the ruling party to win the zone.
When asked the plans of the APC for the two zones, the Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said the party would focus on the South-East and the South-South.
“Even before the advent of the APC, at the level of the ACN, we had a strong presence in Edo State, which is in the South-South. The governor is in APC, and we have members of the National Assembly.
Also in Anambra, in the South-East, we have federal legislators. We also have a presence in Imo State. We know that Jonathan got a lot of votes from the South-East and South-South in 2011, but things are changing. We know that we have a lot of work in those two zones and we will not relent.”
Similarly, former National Publicity Secretary of the now defunct CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, confirmed the possibility of a realignment of structure.
Fashakin said, “The truth of the matter is that the offices were shared when we were three different parties.
“Now that we are one party, there is nothing like CPC, ACN or ANPP anymore. It’s all one single party — APC. You know, a part of APGA is in this enterprise. The Anambra State election will be a test case. We will work at getting Anambra, and from there we can reach the whole of the South-East.
“We are going to work in all geopolitical zones to ensure the complete routing of the PDP. There will be no hiding place for the PDP. By next week, we will begin membership registration across the country. Everybody will be on the same level. It is going to be a mass movement.
“For the South-South, the question is what have the South-South people benefitted from Jonathan’s government, except the Ijaw people? But it is not only Ijaw people that are in the South-South. We will reach out to every ethnic group in the South-South and other zones too. We will soon hold our convention and whatever issues are left will be sorted out.”
On his part, the spokesman for erstwhile All Nigerian Peoples Party, Emma Eneukwu, said the APC was certain of getting the South-East.
“Igbo people now know that Jonathan is not working in their interest. So, through Imo State that is already with APC, we will get the South-East. We may consider zoning if it becomes necessary. Now that we have been registered, we are starting massive mobilisation across all zones of the country, South-East and South-South will not be exceptions,” he said.
Fashakin further disclosed that the defunct constituent parties of the APC would meet on Tuesday to discuss “guidelines.”
He said, “One thing I am sure of is that our mobilisation efforts will be comprehensively done. We are going to the polling unit level. That is why it is going to be big trouble for the PDP because in our constitution, we are going to have executive committees of five persons each, in each polling unit.
“If INEC says that there are 120 polling units, there will be at least five persons in each of those polling units. The Independent National Electoral Commission too will have to conduct credible elections because they are being watched by Nigerians every step of the way.”