The moves to getting President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 have commenced as both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have started shopping for presidential materials.
The PDP which has a strong zoning principle as provided in its constitution has resisted going into extinction despite all the odds stirring the nation’s political waters.
The opposition party is hit by a gale of defection of its key actors who determine where the pendulum swings. This is sequel to the APC’s resolve to whittle down its structures ahead of the 2023 polls.
But the PDP is still swimming in the nation’s murky waters with a view to zoning its offices and reclaiming power in the next general election.
The waves of politicking are being felt as political actors have started alignments and realignments in subtle forms.
Political observers say the most intriguing and high point of the game will be how and from which zone political parties, and especially the “big” ones; the PDP and the APC would field their candidates for the election.
President Buhari’s nephew, Mallam Mamman Daura, had ignited the agitation when he said there was no need for zoning of the presidential ticket by the parties to any part of the country, thereby suggesting that competence should be given priority.
The PDP 2019 Post-Election Review Committee headed by Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, recently recommended that the PDP’s presidential ticket be thrown open to both the South and Northern political bigwigs.
The committee added that in the event the party decided to take a different line of action, it should consider the North East and the South East for the ticket.
“In line with certain unwritten conventions of the nation’s history, many people think that, for fairness and equity, the North East and South East Geo-political zones that have had the shortest stints at the presidency, should be given special consideration in choosing the presidential standard bearer of the party, for the 2023 elections.
“However, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country. Moreover, the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing the leader with the attributes to disentangle the country from the present quagmire.
“Therefore, we think that every Nigerian, from every part of the country, should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate, through a credible primary election as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process for the country,” the report read in part.
Credible sources in the party, however, told Daily Trust that the recommendation has sparked a sharp division among the governors elected on the platform of the party, National Working Committee (NWC), Board of Trustees (BoT) and National Assembly Caucus among others.
This is sequel to serious agitations by Southern leaders that the party’s ticket is to be ceded to the South.
It was however gathered that top politicians from the North were lobbying various organs of the party to discard the Bala Mohammed Committee’s report and specifically zone the Apex ticket to the North.
Impeccable sources told one of our correspondents in Abuja, that some heavyweight politicians from the North were consulting and lobbying key members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party to ensure the North retained the presidential ticket.
A competent source said some Northern governors who have presidential ambition were also pushing for a Northern candidate in the PDP and demanding the party to zone the chairmanship to the South.
In 2019, the PDP fielded a presidential candidate from the North East, Atiku Abubakar, but he lost to the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.
Some party leaders have argued that the North has to retain the ticket because Atiku did not win the election. Yet, others argue that once the ticket was zoned to the North, it could be counted.
On July 5, 2020, a former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, said in an interview that the PDP would zone its presidential ticket to the North.
He said,” Of course, the PDP will maintain zoning. We have not realised it. So the zoning still remains in the North in PDP.”
“In PDP, we zoned the presidency to the North and have we realised it? No. So the zoning arrangement still remains in the North for 2023. Once you say North, every person in the North is entitled to contest and the best person wins,” he added.
Similarly, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust recently, said the ticket would be zoned to the North.
Waziri, a former Minister of Police Affairs, said, “Let me say that we must emphasise that the PDP wants to put forward a candidate that can win the presidency.
“When the time comes, that overriding desire will be a major input into the decision we are going to make. I, as an individual, will be in support that the presidential candidate must be from the North,” he added.
But the highest Igbo Socio-Cultural Organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, accused the Bala’s Committee of “duplicity” saying its recommendation was in bad faith.
The National Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Alex Ogbonnia, said, “Nigerians had agreed on rotation of presidency between the North and the South. When President Buhari’s tenure ends in 2023, it would be the turn of the South to take over.”
But a political analyst, Dr. Mohammad Lawan, said in the interest of equity and fairness, the ticket should be zoned to the North.
He argued that of the three Presidents produced by the PDP between 1999 and 2011, the North produced only one President of the PDP extraction (Umaru Musa Yar’adua).
He said Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were both from the South and spent 14 years in power while Yar’Adua who was elected in 2007 later died in 2010.
Last week, a South East group under the aegis of Igbo Leadership Development Foundation (ILDF) flayed the Bala’s Committee for recommending that the party’s 2023 presidential ticket be thrown open.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Chairman of the group, Dr. Godwin I. Udibe, alongside the National Secretary, Onyebuchi Obeta, and the Director, Public Affairs, Law Mefor, said the recommendation was a move to deny the South and particularly the South East, the 2023 presidential ticket.
“We are aware of the surreptitious moves within the party to zone its presidential ticket to the North. That explains why the Bala Mohammed Committee mentioned North East particularly for consideration if zoning must be contemplated at all by the party,” the group said.
A few days ago, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said, “The recommendations will be subjected to its (PDP) democratic process by relevant organs of the party and consultation across all national interests.”
Daily Trust reports that lobbying and agitations within the PDP had started sparking tension ahead of the party’s December 2021 National Convention where the zoning arrangement would be ratified and a new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members would emerge.
The PDP, formed in 1998, has a history and culture of power rotation between the North and the South which is enshrined in its constitution.
Some analysts have, however, predicted that the APC and the PDP would end up fielding their presidential candidates from the North even though they were still undecided on zoning.
However, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, said recently that, “It will be unfair and provocative to allow the presidency to continue in the North post-2023.”
Chief Falae, an elder statesman, said, “If the president were from the South now and people are saying it should remain in the South, it will be unfair to other Nigerians.”
A politician from the South who craved anonymity said, “If PDP zones to the North and APC zones to the South, the APC will lose power in 2023, because the Northern political cabal will align with the Northern candidate; and you know they are in the majority.
“Out of the 36 states, the North has 19, and the FCT, summing up to 20. In the entire South, how many states does the APC control? How many governors does the APC have in the entire South?
“So, I’m confident that the PDP will zone to the North, and if that happens, then the APC will equally zone to the North, because the PDP spent 16 years in power, so the APC can’t afford to spend only eight years,” he said.
Daily Trust learnt that some PDP bigwigs from the North have already started scheming for the ticket.
The Adamawa State Commissioner for Works and Energy, Adamu Atiku, who is son of a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, while presenting the score card of his ministry last year confirmed that his father would contest again in 2023.
Governor of Sokoto State and Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, are also said to be warming up for the race.