Former Chairman of the Special Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla has said that the claim by the Lagos State All Progressives Congress, APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Tunde Balogun that the founding fathers of the party in 2014 reached an agreement that the 2023 presidential candidate of the party will come from South West is false.
A statement credited to Balogun said that it would be “dishonorable” for the APC to jettison the agreement now, and that President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and many other persons made the “gentleman’s agreement.”
But Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, who was a former co-Secretary Joint Inter Party Merger Committee that negotiated the merger of opposition parties to form the APC in 2013, said Balogun’s claim was “a lie,” and a ploy to blackmail and arm twist the ruling party.
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According to the former Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, zoning of APC’s presidential candidate to any region was not a part of any o the discussions during the merger talks.
He recalled that the merger talks among the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, CPC and splinter factions of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, that led to the formation of the APC took place between February to June 2013.
Adding that the merger talks took place in the house of Chief Tom Ikimi at Thames Street, Maitama, Abuja.
He said: “Chief Tom Ikimi was the Chairman ACN merger committee, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau was the Chairman of ANPP merger committee; late Senator Mohammed Garba Garba was the Chairman of CPC merger committee and Senator Annie Okonkwo was the Chairman of the faction of APGA merger committee.
“All the parties taking part in the merger talks agreed that all their merger committees should be collapsed into one committee known as the Joint Inter-Party Merger Committee (JIPMC).
“It was unanimously agreed that the Chairman of JIPMC should be Senator Ibrahim Shekaru and Senator Garba Gadi; Senator Annie Okonkwo and Cief Tom Ikimi should be Co-Chairman of JIPMC.
“The secretariat of JIPMC had four Secretaries namely late Dr. Ibrahim Lame (ACN); Dr. George Moghalu (ANPP); Okoi Obono-Obla (CPC) and Senator Osita Izunaso (APGA).
“I make bold to state categorically and unequivocally that during the Merger Talks the issue of the zoning of the APC presidential Candidate to any geo-political zone or the Region of the country was never discussed.
“In other words, there was no time in the Merger Talks that it was resolved that the presidential candidate of APC in the 2015 presidential election would come from a particular region of the country.
“It is instructive to note that when APC was founded on 31 July 2013, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senator Bukola Saraki were not members. In May 2014, a splinter group or faction of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Senator Rabiu Kwankaso; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senator Bukola Saraki just to mention but a few left PDP and join APC.
“Accordingly, in the National Convention held on the 10th December 2014 to elect the presidential candidate of the APC, we had aspirants from North West, General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was); Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso); North West (Alhaji Atiku Abubakar); North Central (Sam Nda-Isaiah) and South East, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
“General Muhammadu Buhari emerged the winner in a keenly contested election as the presidential candidate of APC for the 2015 presidential election.
“He polled 3,430 votes to beat Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Sam Nda-Isaiah. The rest is history.”
Continuing, he said, “the political dynamics of 2015 are markedly different from the prevailing times.
“It follows that, even though APC did not specifically zone the presidential candidate in 2015 to any region or geo-political zone in the country, it can do so in 2023.”
But the Lagos State APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, who spoke on Saturday said, “In 2014, the founding fathers of APC had a gentleman’s agreement and they committed themselves to the agreement. The party was victorious because they honoured the agreement they made and everyone worked together for the party in 2015 and 2019.”
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