The quest by top-shots of the leading opposition party to get the presidential ticket zoned to their area has widened the gulf in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While some PDP governors, especially those of southern extraction and their allies believe the presidential ticket should be left for them, few others from the North and their supporters are of the opinion that the ticket should be left open for the fittest to clinch.
The PDP controls 13 out of the 36 states of the federation. Eight are in the South and five in the North.
The states are Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Delta, Enugu, Edo, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Taraba.
The scheming and machinations for the presidency by various tendencies in the party are threatening the relative peace being enjoyed in the party after the ouster of the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC).
It was gathered that the Iyorchia Ayu-led NWC constituted late last year has incurred the wrath of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike over the matter.
While Wike, who is said to be leading the moves to actualise the southern presidency, wants the North to be edged out of the race, it was reliably gathered that many of the party’s NWC and Board of Trustees (BoT) members want the ticket opened to both the North and the South. No decision has been taken on this.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Wike, who is regarded as the most influential governor in the PDP (the chief financier) had on Monday said the South would soon make another statement to reaffirm its earlier position on 2023.
The Southern Governors Forum had on September 16, last year, at the end of their meeting in Enugu, insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 must come from the South in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness.
But while the southerners are advancing their course, PDP’s presidential aspirants from the North; including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, are not leaving any stone unturned to pick the party’s ticket.
Sources around them said they had gone far in their consultations for the presidency and were set for declaration.
The battle for the PDP presidential ticket, Daily Trust on Sunday reports, has also ignited a war of words among the country’s elder statesmen.
Alhaji Tanko Yakasai had tackled Chief Edwin Clark over his request that all northern presidential aspirants in the PDP should withdraw from the presidential race.
Clark, 94, had said: “Doing otherwise is to invite chaos, which will lead to the disintegration of our dear country.”
Yakasai, who is 93, in his reaction, warned Clark against issuing threats.
Similarly, a former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, a founding member of the PDP, had punctured Zoning, saying, “The issue of zoning was a onetime thing designed to heal a particular problem, which has been healed. We are now fully reconciled.”
Lamido had recently endorsed Sokoto Governor Tambuwal for the presidency.
With this development, the various interest groups in the leading opposition party are all out to actualise their presidential bids.
Each of the “warring factions” is claiming right to the presidency. While those in the South are saying the presidency has been in the North for eight years, therefore, they deserve a fair deal, those in the North are saying that former President Goodluck Jonathan led the country since the death of Umaru Yar’adua in May 2010 up till when he was defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.
There are fears in many quarters that if PDP chieftains fail to put their acts together, the crisis ripping them apart would diminish their chances of confronting the APC in 2023.
A political scientist, Mohammed Mukhtar said, “It will be suicidal for the PDP to go to their presidential primary election where they would pick their candidate with a divided house.
“Of course, party chieftains across the divide have their convincing reasons for getting the presidential ticket. In the North, the delegates are higher in number while the South has more states.
“Both sides have people with large pockets to bankroll the convention, but the danger is that if any of the sides walks out at the last minute, it would be difficult for them to confront the APC.
“They must reach a compromise so that they would not have a repeat of what befell them ahead of the 2015 general elections,” Mukhtar said.
‘Aspirants from South cannot match Tinubu, Osinbajo, others’
Two leaders of the party who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday said aspirants of the PDP from the South, if given the ticket, would not be able to defeat the APC come 2023.
One of them, a founding member of the party, said the five persons nursing presidential ambitions from the South cannot win the presidential election.
“Nigerians are anxiously waiting for us to give them the candidate that can defeat the APC in 2023 because of the rot in the system. We will not fail them,” one of them said.
“To win the presidential election, we need to have a candidate known across the country and not a sectional leader. The five people who are said to be interested from the South cannot win the election,” the other person said.
There are insinuations that the Rivers State governor, Wike and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Udom Emmanuel, are eyeing the presidency.
A former Senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim and publisher of the Ovation magazine, Dele Momodu, are also in the race from the South. It was further gathered that the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, is being pushed to contest for the presidency.
A northern chieftain of the party said the party would not afford to field an unpopular candidate because of zoning.
He said, “Winning election is what should be paramount to all members of our party and not zoning.”
In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust on Sunday last year, a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, said the party ticket should be zoned to the North.
“Since democracy returned in 1999, the PDP had three presidents for 16 years. For President Obasanjo, there was unanimity in the country that he should be drafted and elected because that time required an Obasanjo in Nigeria because we wanted somebody who could fix the country and return it to its past opportunities, the path of good governance and cohesion.
“He did his best, but unfortunately, in Nigeria, people must also refer to the quality that brought him back – that he is a Christian and a southerner.
“After he finished his tenure, the successor must be a Muslim and northerner. So events brought in Yar’adua who started ailing the moment he assumed the seat; and he died. To maintain a system, the vice president took over, less than one year before the expiration of the tenure.
“In 2011, the question was if we could deny Jonathan the seat and bring somebody to take over, or allow him to continue. I think good conscience required that he should be allowed to continue. I am one of those who supported his re-election in 2011, based on that consideration.
“It was based on a written understanding that former President Jonathan was going to do one term and fix certain inequities that became visible in the administration of Nigeria.
“Jonathan made a commitment and a public statement that he would like to amend the constitution, such that the tenure would be one term. He said five or six years were better; and they would do an electoral reform. This was because the system that brought in governments in 2003 and 2009 was disputed by the court and other observers.
“But for one reason or another, Jonathan reneged, a situation that became the death knell of the PDP in 2015, though there were other contributory factors; and the system was dislocated.
“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.
“But we cannot enforce a system on the APC, neither can the party enforce a system on the PDP,” Waziri.
How we’ll resolve impasse – Bode George
A former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George, in a chat with Daily Trust on Sunday on the widening gulf in the party, said the suggestion by southern leaders for the presidential aspirants of the North to step down would be critically looked into.
George said that as an elder of the party, he was convinced that whatever issue thrown up by zoning in the PDP would be resolved amicably.
He said the PDP was faced with a situation where another party produced the presidency, thereby truncating the party’s zoning formula, which would have ceded the presidency to the North for eight years.
He said, “I have said it as an elder of this party. When we have an internal disagreement, which is normal in politics, we will call the elders to sit with us and we will tell ourselves some serious home truths. You don’t take your family’s dirty linens to the marketplace to be discussed.
“I believe, like I said, that there is a major parameter now in the political equation of the PDP, which relates to zoning; the parameter we never thought about, and that is the fact that another party produced the presidency, and now, it has happened in the North; in future, it may happen in the South. So it is a new parameter, a paradigm shift. We need to sit down and discuss the pros and cons.
“At my level, the suggestion that they should step down will also be put into the equation. We will solve it amicably. We can disagree, but we must not be disagreeable. So we will get back, call a meeting and resolve the crisis.
“We have heard them. When we put it into the political equation we will resolve it. We have listened to them, but we will go back, maybe we will find a mid-course.
“We respect them and their voices. We will weigh all the options. We will be for or against in the interest of the country, the party and everybody.”
Zoning stifles merit but can’t be jettisoned easily – Dons
Lending voices to the debate, some university dons said zoning stifled merit but it cannot be jettisoned easily due to the peculiarity of the country.
In his response, a political scientist, Dr Mohammed Idris Danjuma of the Kwara State University, Malete, said PDP leaders may have to come to a consensus over the issue.
According to him, for democracy to run appropriately, the will of the people in the majority must prevail.
“On this issue, although it is not constitutional, looking at parity and equity, the three major groups in the country, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo (in the PDP) should come together if we want the country to survive as one.
“Both groups will just have to dialogue and come to a consensus over it,” he said.
On his part, Dr Isiaq Atanda Abdulwaheed, a political scientist from the University of Ilorin, said that while the constitution allows all of them to contest at any particular time, the popular opinion now is for the president to go to the South.
“They all have the right to contest as there is no issue of zoning in the constitution; it is only a gentleman’s agreement. However, the dominant narrative now is for the seat to go to the South after the tenure of President Buhari. Anything contrary to that might not augur well for the country. However, zoning arrangement stifles merit; that is where we are,” he said.
He said it was people like Atiku and other northern aspirants that are promoting the narrative that the South has had it more.
“Such statement is only sentimental and is being promoted to rationalise and legitimise their ambitions to contest the seat, given their ages and other factors,” he said. (Source: Daily Trust)