Some All Progressives Congress politicians from the South-East have responded to a statement by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, that the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling party would be zoned to the South-West.
Joe Igbokwe and Osita Okechukwu, both leading Igbo voices in the APC, said Mr Fashola’s comment was a wake up call that the South-East must turn out to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Mr Fashola said at a town hall event in Lagos on Thursday that the people of South-West should vote for Mr Buhari in order to get the presidency back to the region.
“A vote for Buhari in 2019, means a return of power to the South-west in 2023. I am sure you will vote wisely,” Mr Fashola said per the News Agency of Nigeria.
Mr Fashola’s comments contradicted repeated claims by Messrs Igbokwe and Okechukwu that the party’s ticket will go to the South East in 2023.
But in separate interviews Friday, they told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Fashola’s comments should not be seen as offensive but only logical and political.
“It is okay for the minister to say what he said because this is politics,” Mr Igbokwe said. “It is now left to the Igbo to see whether they would take this seriously and compete well in 2019.”
“What the Igbo need to do now is to massively vote for the president in 2019 so that by 2023 the party would see that we have the numbers and zone the presidency to us,” Mr Igbokwe added.
Mr Okechukwu, director-general of state-owned Voice of Nigeria, said the APC would be ready to toe the path of equity and justice by zoning presidential ticket to the South-East in 2023, but warned that it would not come on a platter.
“You have to fight for it to get it. We have to show that we deserve the ticket in 2023 by voting heavily for the president at the upcoming elections,” Mr Okechukwu said.
“The APC I know would consider how the South-East has not produced president since 1999 and, therefore, zone the ticket to us on the principle of equity and natural justice,” he said.
The two politicians have often added their voices to the call for Nigerians of Igbo extraction to embrace the APC as a political party, but this has largely been rebuffed.
While the South-West is considered a swing region, the South-East is predominantly against the APC, overwhelmingly embracing Peoples Democratic Party, the major opposition party that was Nigeria’s ruling party from 1999 to 2015.
Rochas Okorocha, the only APC governor in the South-East region of five states, has repeatedly urged the Igbo to embrace Mr Buhari in order to realise their 2023 presidential prospects.
The South-East APC politicians have repeatedly claimed that they have assurances of the president and his top administration officials, like Boss Mustapha, that the region would produce a presidential candidate in 2023.