Abuja – There is a high likelihood that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will pick its presidential candidate for the 2023 elections from the northern part of the country as stakeholders are set to zone the chairmanship position of the party to the South.
During its 92nd National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the weekend, the party had announced that it will arrive at a zoning formula for the National Working Committee (NWC) at a meeting billed for September 9.
This comes as the struggle for political power among the political gladiators hots up ahead of the party’s national convention slated for October 30 and 31.
The process for the election of new NWC members continues despite the raging crisis in the party which has sparked several litigations and court injunctions.
The embattled National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who was elected in December 2017 for an initial period of four years, but recently suspended by a court, has insisted that his tenure will elapse in December 2021.
But top party officials told Daily Trust that the October 31 elective convention date is sacrosanct and would throw up a new crop of NWC.
It is also expected to ratify the zoning of 2023 political offices.
Though Nigerians have mixed views about zoning of key political positions, the arrangement is, however, entrenched by the PDP, to allow for all parts of the country to taste key offices.
A founding member of the PDP, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido had, in a recent interview with Daily Trust explained that zoning arrangement was conceived to heal past wounds and assure all parts of the country, advising that the mood should be reviewed in deciding whether to maintain or jettison the zoning arrangement.
Already some bigwigs in the party have commenced scheming in their bid to influence the emergence of their preferred persons as new leaders of the party.
Scores of PDP stalwarts are already positioning to contest various offices, especially the chairmanship and presidential slots.
Those yet to publicly declare their intention but believe to be warming up for the party’s presidential ticket are; former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; former Governors of Jigawa and Kano States, Sule Lamido and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, among others.
Top-shots push for choice candidates
Daily Trust gathered that the party’s top-shots gunning for the presidency are working hard to identify persons they will support to clinch the party’s NWC positions.
For the chairmanship, a former military Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olabode George; the embattled National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus; former PDP candidate for Ondo State governorship election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede; Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Suleiman Nazif; former Governor of Osun State, Ọlagunsoye Oyinlọla; former Kaduna State governor and one time interim chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Mr Jimi Agbaje, governorship candidate in Lagos; former governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo and former South-West National Vice Chairman, Dr Eddy Olafeso, are eyeing the seat.
Support for the chairmanship candidates is said to be informed by zoning configurations in the party with contenders from the North supporting southern aspirants for the party leadership while those with ambition in the South are pushing for the chairmanship to be zoned to the North.
Daily Trust, however, reliably gathered that the wind is presently in favour of the emergence of the chairman of the party from the South-West zone, while the presidency is zoned to the North.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the ongoing horse-trading told our reporters that those advocating for ceding the presidential ticket to the North may seem to have an upper hand, as the argument for the need to woo the massive votes from the North gain currency among the ranks of the party.
Two top chieftains of the party told Daily Trust that a widely popular proposal is for a northerner to be paired with someone from the South-East or South-South.
“Already a lot of them are jostling for the vice-presidential slot at our own end,” a source close to Atiku told one of our reporters, without naming those angling for the position.
Informed sources said former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who tore his PDP membership card in 2015, in a dramatic style to announce his exit from the party, is pushing for Oyinlola to emerge the next party chairman.
Though Obasanjo’s has not announced his rejoining the PDP, party leaders still defer to him, with many of them, including embattled Secondus, visiting him at different times.
“Though many party leaders have no problem with Oyinlola, some of them are expressing fears that the man may at the end be answerable to the former president. But personally, I believe that a 70-year-old man is beyond manipulation. We should just hope that he would not mistake himself as executive chairman and go about disregarding critical stakeholders,” a former minister and chieftain of the party told one of our reporters.
Atiku, on his part, is said to be supporting the emergence of Jegede, one of his lawyers, for the position. Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), only recently lost his Ondo governorship bid at the Supreme Court after he had earlier lost at the polls.
A source close to Governor Tambuwal, said the Sokoto governor is working for the emergence of a Southerner as the party chairman to pave way for his aspiration.
“If, as some chieftains are proposing, the chairman comes from the North-West, it means Oga’s ambition will be in jeopardy, and you know he would not let that happen after he has suffered for a long time,” the source said.
The politics of where the chairman of the party comes from is said to be responsible for the crack in the otherwise cordial relationship between Tambuwal and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. The intrigues led to recent support expressed by Tambuwal for Secondus, in spite of Wike’s opposition to his fellow Rivers man.
Secondus and December timeline
The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Prince Diran Odeyemi, told our correspondent in a telephone chat that if a new chairman emerged at the October convention and Secondus insists on vacating office in December, the party will use internal mechanism to resolve the issues.
“We can have the convention in October and possibly whoever emerges as chairman will hold down if Secondus still insists on finishing his tenure in December.
“In PDP, we have internal mechanism of resolving our crisis. There is what we call exigencies in the political arrangement that may defile the party’s constitution, but it is done for peace to reign.
“If this has not happened in the PDP before, there is always a first time,” he said.
The zoning debate rages on
A member of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Adamu Maina Waziri, told Daily Trust recently that “As far as the PDP is concerned, the presidency should return to the North because the successor to President Jonathan in 2011 should have been a Northern candidate, not Jonathan.
“That is the understanding in the PDP and that is what I subscribe to. We cannot enforce a system on APC neither can the APC enforce a system on PDP.”
A foundation member of the PDP, Alhaji Aminu Yakudima told Daily Trust in a telephone interview that “Looking at the political terrain, we are thinking that the best way to resolve this permutation is to allow the presidency to go to the North and let the chairmanship go to the South.
“When you look at the political cloud in the country and the permutations that can aggregate, that is the way to go. We look at this as the best option for the PDP as a political party if PDP wants to bounce back.
“It is possible also that the PDP calculation may have an opposite of the permutations of the APC. APC presidential candidate may come from the South. So if PDP plays this card, it may bounce back.
“What it means is that if the APC fields a presidential candidate from the South and the PDP fields from the North, PDP may bounce back.”
Advancing the reasons for his argument, the PDP stalwart said, “We have seen the performance of the current administration that is being run by a northerner.
“Northerners are yearning to have another chance not only to redeem their image but to send a signal and make people believe that is not the best hand they have.
“It is wise for the North to retain the presidency if you look at the number of years the South has spent in the presidency from 1999 to date. It is rotational presidency but for fairness, the North should be given another chance.
“We should look at our brotherhood and then try to see that we are not carried away by unnecessary agitations or ethnic jingoism based on North/South dichotomy.”
On arguments that Secondus does not want to obey the NEC decision, he said, “PDP is a big party and it has a convention since its formation that nobody owns the party. It was formed by the people and owned by the people. Therefore, the party is for the people and no one will be allowed to hijack the party.
“Nobody will say he is above the party or the rule of law. What has been done was done by an organ of the party that has the constitutional power to do what it did. Secondus as an individual cannot go against it.”
Similarly, a former stalwart of the PDP, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, said, “Obasanjo did eight years from the South, then power shifted to the North but Yar’adua didn’t complete his tenure. Jonathan completed that tenure and enjoyed a fresh tenure of four years.
“That is to say eight years of Obasanjo plus six years of Jonathan that is fourteen years. Two years of Yar’adua and eight years of Buhari will be ten years. So the South is still ahead of the North by four years. So PDP will zone presidential ticket to the North,” he said.
Contacted for comments, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “The zoning the party is going to do now is not about the presidential ticket. It is the zoning of party offices. The zoning committee of the national convention is to zone party offices.”
On whether the South would retain the chairmanship, Ologbondiyan said, “I don’t know. We have not even composed the committee members yet.”