There are intrigues and realignment as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s 37-member zoning committee saddled with the responsibility of advising the party on how positions should be shared among the six geopolitical zones of the country begins work.
Even though the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party last week said the establishment of the committee was to make “recommendations for the zoning of various elective positions for the 2023 general elections,” the most prized position being coveted by all stakeholders and all the zones is obviously the presidency.
- 2023: Saraki courts South West PDP delegates
- 2023: Zoning has come to stay in PDP, Ayu tells presidential aspirants
The constitution of the party recognizes the zoning arrangement, but the present mood in the party by many stakeholders is to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The leading opposition was sacked from power after 16 years of reign from 1999 to 2015. The All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed following the coming together of the opposition political parties.
As expected, the North and South of the country are already up in arms against one another over which zone should produce the flag bearer of the party ahead of the elections next year.
As part of the justle for power, South West leaders of the party rose from a meeting within the week, insisting that they should be handed the presidential ticket of the party.
They insisted that the zone was in support of the southern governor’s forum agreement that the next Nigerian President should come from the south.
A communique to that effect was read by the Southwest Vice Chairman of the Party Soji Adagunodo.
But to show the seriousness which the North attached to grabbing the number one elective ticket of the party from other zones, some presidential aspirants on the platform of the party from the north are already planning to present one candidate from the zone as part of their strategy to win the ticket of the party.
Three aspirants seeking the nomination of the PDP presidential ticket and already working for a northern consensus are Governor Bala Muhammad of Bauchi State, his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
The trio is working to build a consensus initiative among aspirants. This they said will lay the foundation for the party’s victory come 2023.
The National Working Committee (NWC) and by extension the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party seems to be in limbo over which direction to take in the ensuing melee between and among presidential aspirants of the party.
Last week, the first meeting of the Caucus was cut short and adjourned over disappointments mainly on zoning and the inability of the stakeholders to agree on which zone to produce the presidential ticket.
When the aucus members reconvened at the Akwa Ibom Governors lodge the next day, the stalemate persisted. Chieftains of the party from the south insisted that it was their turn and the North argued that the south had enjoyed more of the PDP years and it was time for the north to lay claim.
The party hierarchy did not help matters when it announced the setting up of a zoning committee and at the same time approved the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms to anyone interested.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the party leadership is trying to play safe by not denying any zone of the country the presidential ticket.
A source said two things are involved: “the party wants to shift the outcome of any decision that it will arrive at the end of the day on zoning to the 37-member committee.
“That is why you see the zoning committee is peopled by very heavy bigwigs in the party.
“Also, by commencing the sale of forms, all the aspirants believe that they still have an opportunity of picking the ticket. Also, it will give the party opportunity to meet up with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) guidelines,” he said.
Presidential aspirants from the north have so far been the ones opposed to the zoning formula of the party.
They have at one time or another spoken against the idea of zoning and the need for the party to first concentrate on winning the election before considering zoning.
The move was also supported by the National Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, during the inauguration of the 37-member committee when he charged them to first and foremost concentrate on the big picture.
Just as Ayu was inaugurating the zoning committee, three presidential hopefuls of the party were having their second meeting in Abuja to finetune their consensus arrangement.
In their earlier meeting in Bauchi, the former Senate president Saraki had said although all of them seeking the number one position in the land are all qualified to contest, “we are ready to sacrifice our ambitions.”
The former Kwara governor said “We have agreed to put our heads together and see how best to provide leadership and direction for this country, its unity, stability and progress.
“These are more important than our ambitions, thus the need for us to work together.”
After the Abuja meeting, the three champions of consensus – Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed and former Senate president Bukola Saraki, said they would still meet with other aspirants to come to a compromise on the best way forward.
Saraki, who spoke for the rest of the governors, also said they would meet other leaders of the party to work out the best way to “continue to share our views about the importance of the unity of our party because we believe it is only PDP that really has the solutions to help us get out of the problem we are in this country today.”
“We’ve already identified senior leaders of the party, other aspirants across the country and also stakeholders; some former colleagues and governors. We’re going to reach out to all parts of this process of bringing us together and uniting the party.
“The major issue and message we want to put across to Nigerians are that the country is larger and bigger than our interests. And we’re committed to the process because we believe that once we unite as PDP, we’ll lay the foundation there for a strong party that will help in delivering Nigerians from the challenges that they’re facing now and prepare for the country to be much stronger as we go ahead,” he said.
Asked about the party’s position on the consensus arrangement, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the party has no say on aspirants meeting themselves to discuss and come to a compromise.
“They are free to discuss among themselves and the party has no control over that. The consensus is part of the arrangement of the party and if you notice, that was extensively used during our convention.
He also said, “Aspirants have the right to run their campaign the way they want.”
Options open to party
Party stakeholders are canvasing for options to enable them resolve the impasse and return to the presidency come 2023.
While some are pushing that the race be opened to all, especially those in the north, the southerners being led by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, are insisting that the ticket be zoned to the South in line with the party’s constitution.
Article 7 of the party’s constitution states that the principle of zoning of elective offices between the various regions in the country would be respected in the selection of its candidates.
A member of the zoning committee had said that they would push an arrangement whereby all aspirants would be allowed to contest.
“If we open our ticket to all, we will be able to beam our searchlight to across the country,” he said.
He alleged that the southern governors who are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are pushing the PDP to pick the presidential candidate from their region where they have comparative advantage.
“Our aspirants from the North are our best bet. But for the APC, it is not. From all indications, they are picking their candidate from the South. We should avoid following the crowd and adopt a strategy that will work for us,” he said.