2023 Presidency: Furore Over PDP Committee’s Report On Zoning

Secundus - Mohammed

BEVERLY HILLS, March 29, (THEWILL) – The report of a committee set up by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to review the 2019 general elections which said the 2023 presidential ticket should be contested by aspirants from all the six geo political zones appears to have attracted more condemnations than, unexpectedly, applause.

The committee headed by the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, had as members, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; Senator Stella Omu and Emmanuel Agbo, who served as secretary.

The Committee in its report submitted to the National Working Committee of the party, said “though many people think special consideration should be given to the North East and South East geo-political zones for the sake of fairness and equity; merit, rather than zonal consideration, should be adopted in the choice of the party’s presidential flagbearer.

It said the two zones have had the shortest stints at the Presidency.

The committee’s recommendation, if adopted, would dash the hope of some of the members of the opposition party who had canvassed the zoning of the presidency exclusively to the south.

The view of the committee is not sitting well with South East members of the party who do not understand why the PDP will now deny them the ticket despite all the support from the zone since 1999.

The zone’s disappointment was conveyed in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, who said the Bala Mohammed Committee’s recommendation was “despicable, un-reflective and unconscionable.”

He added: “It is very worrisome that some highly placed Nigerians who have benefited so much from the unity of the country would be inclined to decisions and actions that will further inflame the passions of the patient but aggrieved part of the country.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerians agreed on the rotation of the presidency between the North and the South, in which case it is the turn of the South after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“For clarity purposes, both the South West and the South-South had both taken their turns in the persons of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan respectively.

“It is rather very unpatriotic and a trifle on the sensibilities of the Igbo for the committee to even suggest the rotation of the presidency to the Northeast in the first instance and open to every part of Nigeria as a major slight.

“It is disturbing that all the indignities, perceived and real, that the Southeast suffer in the current dispensation are the outcome of the Igbo support to the PDP since 1999.

“The leadership of the PDP is advised to retract the comment made by Alhaji Bala Mohammed and countered the content of the obnoxious committee report in the interest of the party.

“Let it be known that Ndigbo does not wax so eloquent on political parties. The Igbo is bound to advertise the party that caters to the interest of our people.

“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor is committed to a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction and there is no going back on it.”

In a similar protest, the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), described the committee’s recommendation as anti-people.

According to the President General of the coalition, Goodluck Ibem, it was all about returning Prince Uche Secondus as PDP National Chairman and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate.

He said the PDP has no respect and value for party loyalty and support.

He recalled how the Southeast has been a major supporter of the PDP since its formation in 1998 till date and how a prominent son of the zone, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, used the G34 which he led at the time, to lay the foundation of the party.

He said the Igbo having suffered, sacrificed and invested so much towards the progress and success of the party deserve to be given the party’s presidential ticket in 2023.

On its part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF) condemned in strong terms the recommendation by the PDP committee.

The forum in a reaction by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, described the recommendation as irrational and inconsistent with extant provisions of the PDP Constitution on zoning between the North and South.

Robinson stressed that the position of PANDEF “is that a northern president is to complete eight years by 2023, so the presidency must, therefore, rotate to the South in 2023.”

According to him, it is absurd for anyone to imagine that the North would retain the presidency as nature abhors injustice, adding that the sun does not rise in the east and set in the east.

He said the PDP will be better if it discards off the committee’s report “and work towards ensuring that its 2023 presidential candidate is from the South, whether the person emerges from the South-south, South-east or South-west is a different matter entirely.”

The forum warned that it will be suicidal for any of the registered political parties to field any northern candidate for the 2023 presidential race.

“The PDP and indeed any other political party, need not be told that it would be a suicidal adventure for it to toy with the idea of presenting a northern presidential flagbearer in 2023″, it said.

Speaking with THEWILL, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party is yet to adopt any position on the zoning ahead of the 2023 Presidential elections.

He further explains that it has not taken any decision on any of the recommendations proposed by the Senator Bala Mohammed-led PDP Committee on the review of the 2019 Elections.

He said: “The PDP immensely appreciates the overwhelming interest by majority of Nigerians in the PDP as their national rallying point to elect a Pan-Nigeria, unifying and people-oriented leadership that would rescue our nation from misrule, come 2023.

”Our party notes that such unprecedented public interest and confidence in the PDP is responsible for the widespread discussions and enquiries on the recommendations of the Committee on the Review of the 2019 Elections.

“The PDP notes that the recommendations will be subjected to its democratic process by relevant organs of the party and consultation across all national interests.

“While our party appreciates the enthusiasm by Nigerians on our nomination processes, the PDP assures that its decision on zoning will be the product of wide consultation, discussions and consensus building, taking into consideration the aggregate aspiration and hope of the generality of the Nigerian people.

“Our party has however noted the disposition and line of discussion from various political interests across the six geo-political zones of our country in this regard, and at the appropriate time, the collective understanding of Nigerians will prevail”.

Also speaking with THEWILL, the Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said, the party didn’t say that there will be no zoning in 2023.

“The committee was set up and the committee said that as far as they are concerned, they are not going to recognize zoning. But that report would still be submitted to the party, that is not the position of the party yet. “Let’s wait for them, but for me that is not going to work. In fact it is going to work against them if they make a mistake of adopting the report.

Nigeria is terribly polarised now, there is mutual suspicion, so any party that does not zone the presidency to the South in 2023 will fail, and I can say that clearly.

Few PDP leaders and stakeholders in Plateau State who spoke with our correspondents on the issue seem to appreciate the idea of merit and credentials as superior to the expediency of zoning and its huge potential to narrow choices and at the same time elevate mediocrity and throw up the wrong person. At the same time, the party men are not oblivious of the circumstances and expediency that the country is in ruins presently and that there is the urgent need to rescue it from further drift.

One time speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly and former member of the House of Reps for Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal constituency, Hon Emmanuel Goar, said, “in really competitive democracy and by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, zoning is unconstitutional”.

However, he said although absence of zoning bolsters the credibility of democracy in Nigeria, zoning is topmost in the minds of the people.

According to him, this, coupled with other sensibilities and recent experiences in the country, makes the rule an exception for now. He maintained that emotions of the people is more important now, saying “I am not comfortable” with the open option as recommended by the committee.

Right Hon. Istifanus Nmwansat, also a former speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, said the more urgent task now is to salvage Nigerians who have been living like a conquered people under the APC government. Thus, he said, “it is liberation before right”. Leaving the options open, he said, is good, but “the party must be circumspect and narrow down to any strategy that will guarantee victory in 2023”.

Similarly, a legal practitioner and PDP bigwig in Plateau State, Danlami Agyisa is of the opinion that there is urgency to save Nigeria from collapse. “Now is not time for right, but strategy that will produce victory. That is what Nigerians are waiting for in 2023”.

Also speaking, former Transport Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the committee’s report is not the final decision of the party on zoning.

Babatope who is also a member of PDP Board of Trustees said “It is just a recommendation that was submitted and it is not yet our party’s position. The interest generated is good. It shows that Nigerians are looking up to us and we will not disappoint them.The party is going to take a decision that will be acceptable to the people. Just wait for us”.

The newly elected National Vice Chairman South –South of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih told THEWILL: “A committee’s report is just a Committee’s report, nothing more.

“It is just a mere suggestion and there are several other people making different suggestions. At the appropriate time, the party will sit down and look at the various propositions by different segments of the party and we will take a position that will be official. For now, there is no official decision on the presidency as regarding zoning or no zoning”.

The days ahead will show which of the positions will prevail.