At least nine northern state governors are urging their colleagues to support the All Progressives Congress (APC) to pick its presidential candidate for the 2023 election from the southern part of Nigeria.
The APC has 14 governors in the region and like their eight counterparts in the South, they have been holding meetings to deliberate on the possibles aspirant to recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari as the consensus candidate of the party.
The party will nominate its presidential candidate at its National Convention in Abuja next week. Twenty-three (23) aspirants have been screened to take part in the primary, 19 of whom are from across the three geopolitical zones in the South.
But a push has intensified for the party to look north in its choice since the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party on Saturday picked former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its own candidate for the poll.
On Tuesday, President Buhari met with the 22 APC state governors and urged them to support him in picking his preferred successor.
Following the president’s statement, the state governors met twice on Tuesday to recommend a candidate to the president but the meetings ended in a deadlock.
While the governors agreed that their southern and northern groups should meet separately to recommend an aspirant each for presentation to the president, they could not agree on whether their picks should be governors or any of the aspirants already in the race.
After the general meeting, the northern APC governors moved to the Kebbi State governor’s lodge in Abuja from 8 p.m. on Tuesday but spent several hours arguing on whether to present a northern candidate or back the south to produce the candidate.
The meeting was attended by all the 14 APC governors in the region, except Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai who is away in Dubai. El-Rufai was represented at the earlier meeting with the president by his deputy, Hadiza Balarabe.
According to an insider, the meeting at the Kebbi Governor’s lodge had the same tone as in previous discussions where nine of the governors had argued that it is not in the interests of national cohesion and social justice for the presidency to remain in the north in 2023, after eight years of the Buhari presidency.
Some of these governors also dismissed the view that only a northern candidate can match the PDP candidate, Atiku, at the poll.
The nine governors rooting for power shift to the South are Babagana Zulum of Borno, Simeon Lalong of Plateau, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano. Others are Aminu Masari of Katsina, Abubakar Bello of Niger, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara.
“Kwara, Kano and Katsina are less vocal but they all support the view that as Northerners, we should honour the unwritten agreement (power rotation between North and South).Governors El-Rufai, Zulum and Lalong are more vocal,” the source said.
However, the nine governors do not agree on who should be the choice from the South because “there are many contending aspirations..What unites them is that they all believe in southern presidency at this time”, said the source.
“They have their various preferences they are keeping to themselves,” the source said. “But Ganduje clearly prefers Tinubu while Lalong prefers Amaechi. The Niger governor too is following Tinubu but the Nasarawa governor prefers the VP (Yemi Osinbajo).
On their part, the eight southern governors are united in their demand for a southern candidate.
However, the governors could not agree on an aspirant for recommendation to the president for consideration as his preferred candidate.
Three of the governors are among the 19 presidential aspirants of the party. These are Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Ben Ayade of Cross River and David Umahi of Ebonyi.