The National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chekwas Okorie, on Tuesday defended the party’s adoption of President Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate in the 2019 presidential election.
He said the decision is to preserve the zoning formula of the party, adding that the re-election of President Buhari will enable power shift to the South in 2023.
Mr Okorie stated this in a statement made available to journalists after a press briefing at the party’s secretariat in Abuja.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the UPP in August decided the party would not field a presidential candidate in 2019 but back Mr Buhari.
After leading a South-east group to a closed door meeting with Mr Buhari on Friday at the Presidential Villa, Mr Okorie announced the party’s decision to adopt Mr Buhari as UPP presidential candidate.
The unwritten power-sharing agreement known as zoning aims to alternate the presidency between northern and southern parts every eight years.
It was consolidated during Nigeria’s first two democratic transfers of power — in 1999 and 2007.
It was however truncated in 2011 when former President Goodluck Jonathan, from the South-south, contested and won the general elections.
Mr. Jonathan also contested in 2015 against the wish of political blocks who felt the presidency ought to have been zoned to the North for eight years.
“Although the very desirable rotation of power in Nigeria has not been provided for in the Nigerian constitution, a noticeable convention of rotation of power between the North and South has been operative for a while”, the party chairman explained.
“Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule, this pattern of rotation has assumed the status of a convention rather than the rule. The expectation of shift of power from South to North and North to the South has some soothing effect on the perennial agitation for power shift, especially during each general election.
“It is therefore our position and for the sake of national stability, cohesion and unity, that four more years of President Muhammadu Buhari is far more reassuring and beneficial to most Nigerians whether from the North or the South than a possible eight years of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar government which will also foist on Nigerians the sad memories of the 16 years of nightmare Nigerians lived under the PDP government in Nigeria.”
Mr Abubakar, a former vice president, became the main challenger of the incumbent president at next year’s polls after clinching the presidential ticket of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Outlining how UPP will campaign for Mr Buhari, Mr Okorie also aimed shots at the PDP.
“As Nigerians we feel the difficult economic times the nation is facing. We are also aware of the enormous challenges of having to rescue Nigeria from imminent collapse as a result of the mindless and unconscionable looting of our common patrimony and treasury by the PDP administration consistently for over 16 years that the party held sway at the Federal and state governments including the outright control of a criminally compliant and conniving National Assembly.
“There is no discerning Nigerian or patriotic and rational political party that will have an objective assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that will not come to a logical conclusion that President Buhari towers head and shoulder above Mr Abubakar in integrity and all other consideration.
“As we hit the campaign train we shall from time to time share with Nigerians the many sound and logical reasons why president Buhari shall be returned to complete his second term in office and why it shall be a tragedy of a monumental proportion to return the years of profligacy, unbridled corruption, scandalous leakages and highly compromised judiciary, to power.”
Mr Okorie said the core values of his party remain unchanged but its main target from now is to “aggressively campaign in a very robust, vibrant and civilized manner to ensure the victory of President Buhari in the 2019 polls.”
Based on the official time table of the electoral commission, campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly elections commenced on Sunday, ahead of the elections on February 14, 2019.