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 party will nominate its presidential candidate at its National Convention in Abuja next week. Twenty-three (23) aspirants have been screened to participate 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 government met twice on Tuesday but could not agree on who to recommend to the president for consideration and whether the party should consider nominating a candidate from the North.
The APC has 14 governors in the North and eight in the South. While there is a consensus among the southern state governors that their region should produce President Buhari’s successor, five of their colleagues in the North think only a northern candidate can defeat the PDP candidate, Mr Abubakar.
However, in previous discussions among the governors and in other fora, nine northern 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.
These governors also dismissed the view held by some of their northern colleagues that only a northern candidate can win the presidential poll for the APC.
The nine governors rooting for a 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,” a governor said.
However, the nine governors do not agree on who the choice from the South should be because “there are many contending aspirations. What unites us is that they all believe in southern presidency at this time,” said the source.
“We have our various preferences we are keeping to ourselves,” 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) or Tinubu.”
On Wednesday, Mr Ganduje was in the entourage of Mr Tinubu as the former Lagos Governor continued his campaign tour of the country.
A former governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura, was also in the delegation. Mr Al-Makura was the choice of APC leaders in Nasarawa for the position of national chairman of the party until another former governor of the state, Abdullahi Adamu, made a late entrance into the race and was named as the consensus candidate with the approval of Mr Buhari.
Southern governors united
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.