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Intrigue as PDP Finally Zones National Chairmanship to North

The Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal
The Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal
THEWILL APP ADS 2

October 10, (THEWILL) – The National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Thursday upheld the recommendations of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led zoning committee, which recommended in its report that the North should produce the next National Chairman during the forthcoming National Convention of the party scheduled to take place between October 30 and 31, 2021.

The ratification of the zoning committee’s report was the high point of the PDP’s 94th NEC meeting held in Abuja last Thursday.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said that although there were discussions around the Governor Bala Mohammed–led Committee, which looked at the reasons why the PDP lost the 2019 general election and the issue of zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket, it was agreed that further discussions and decision on the subject should be left till another date.

atiku
Atiku Abubaka

The Ugwuanyi-led zoning committee had earlier submitted its report to the party’s National Working Committee last Monday. The committee had in its report recommended that the position of national chairman should be zoned to the North while all party positions currently held by northerners should be swapped with those being held by southerners.

It was gathered that the report was submitted by the Secretary of the committee, who is also the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, to the Acting National Chairman of the Party, Mr. Yemi Akinwonmi.

Gusau told Akinwonmi that the committee’s recommendation was a product of wide consultations with party members across board.

He explained that members also took into consideration the fact that the party was determined to win the 2023 general election and that the mandate given to the committee was to zone party offices and not the presidency.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State

Feelers from the NEC meeting indicated that most party leaders from the North took different positions on the zoning of the chairmanship position to the region. Key leaders in the North-Central zone, it was gathered joined the South in supporting the zoning arrangement and this development reduced opposition to the zoning formula.

The ratification of the zoning committee’s report has put an end to the ambition of a former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the PDP’s candidate in the governorship election held in Ondo State in 2020, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) and the South-South Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, who had earlier put their hats in the ring to contest for the national chairmanship of the party at the forthcoming convention of the party.

Before the zoning committee made known its decision, many PDP faithful had hoped that the position of national chairman would be zoned to the South, hence the number of aspirants from the region and none from the North. But all that has changed since last Thursday’s ratification of the zoning committee’s report.

The issue that comes to the fore now is whether there will be micro-zoning in the North, with regard to where the national chairman should come from, or it would be thrown open to all the three geo-political zones in the region, namely, North- Central, North-East and North-West.

It was gathered that opposition to zoning of the national chairmanship to the North was loudest in the North-West and parts of the North East.

In the meeting of the PDP governors that preceded the announcement of the zoning arrangement, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who is the only PDP governor from North-Central, was said to have expressed his unflinching support for the zoning of the position of National Chairman of the party to the North.

Although the governors from the North-East were said to have advised against the move, they were eventually defeated.

It was gathered that the silence of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State boosted support for the zoning formula.

Political analysts believe  that what is of concern at the moment is how the positions taken to particular regions are being politically shared among the zones in the North and South as this was not spell out in the recommendation of the zoning committee.

For instance, watchers of political developments believe the North-West should be given the chance to produce the next national chairman of the party, given the fact that no substantive chairman of the party has come out of the zone before. Both Haliru Bello and Ahmed Makarfi, who hail from the North-West, served in acting capacities.

Analysts believe that the North-Central has produced five chairmen in the past – Chief Solomon Lar, Ahmadu Alli, Alhaji Kawu  Baraje and Audu Ogbe and so should not be considered alongside the North-East, which has also produced past chairmen of the party in the persons of Bamanga Tukur and Adamu Muazu.

Many leaders of the PDP from the North, it was gathered, are already thinking in the direction of the North-West, to present the candidate.

It was also gathered that the North prefers a Northern Muslim so that the South can produce a Christian as National Secretary.

It was the thinking of the northern leaders of the party that taking a Northern Christian as Chairman would narrow the choice of a southern National Secretary to the South West that has a preponderance of Muslims as opposed to what obtain in the South – South and South East.

Another contentious issue is whether zoning of the national chairmanship to the North will hamper the ambition of northern presidential aspirants like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki to carry the presidential flag of the PDP in the 2023 general election.

While the zoning committee keeps giving these presidential aspirants the assurance that the zoning of the chairmanship position would not interfere with the party’s decision on which region will produce the next President and Vice President in 2023, some leaders of the party in the North-West and North-East appeared unconvinced.

The Secretary of the committee, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, who has been providing clarification on the zoning of offices in the party, debunked the speculation that the presidential ambition of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Atiku Abubakar ; Saraki, and  Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, had been foreclosed.

“After our meeting, some mischief-makers started spreading false stories that our committee has zoned the presidential slot to the North.

“This is not true. Our committee was mandated to decide those that would seek party positions. This does not include those who want to be president, vice president, state governors, and the like.

“Ab initio, it was made clear that our committee does not have the mandate on any other matter regarding zoning or otherwise, except that which regards the party at the federal level”, Gusau said

Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike
Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike

But speaking with THE WILL on  the development, a former  Deputy  National Chairman and a member of Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, said the zoning was instituted by the founding fathers of the party  to bring a sense of belong to all the sections of the country.

”The six geo political zones are not stated in our constitution. But it is a workable arrangement to make sure that no Nigerian will go home without him being taken into recognition. In other words, when you finish dividing the positions, if the presidency goes to the North, the position of vice president will go to the South,  senate president will go to the North, speaker of the House of Representatives will go to the South.

‘Then the position of secretary to the government of the federation will go to the North, while the chairman of the party goes to the South. This means that three positions will go to the North, while another three goes to the South. So you can see each zone having one of these six top positions in the land. After eight years, they will be reversed. The three positions in the South will go to the North and the three positions in the North will go to the South.. What is wrong with that? Turn by Turn Nigeria Limited. If we don’t do that, we are just postponing the evil day. Justice, fairness and equity are the tripod that sustains democracy. I am not reinventing any wheel,” he said.

George added that zoning, which was devised by the founding fathers of the PDP to give both majority and minority ethnic groups a sense of belonging, should be handled well and should not create problems for the party.

With that, it is clear that the North will not be able to produce the presidential candidate and the chairman of the party at the same time.

Political observers also noticed that the internal arrangement of the party since the advent of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, has been that when one zone produces the party’s national chairman, another zone produces the party’s presidential candidate.

It is trite that when the national chairman of the party comes from the North, its presidential candidate must come from the South and vice versa.

It would also be recalled that the zoning of the PDP’s national chairmanship to the North was coming on the heels of the clamour from northern governors and northern traditional rulers for the region to retain power and produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023, as against the clamour by southern governors for the South to produce the next President at the end of Buhari’s tenure.

This clamour by northern governors, politicians and traditional rulers has given impetus to the aspirations of northern politicians within the party, who are eyeing the presidency and those who have been scheming for the party’s national chairmanship to be zoned to the South, so that the coast would be clear for them to vie for the party’s presidential ticket, ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

Despite assurance from Ugwuanyi, while reading the communiqué of his committee in Abuja, that the zoning of the offices of the President and Vice President was not included in the mandate of his committee, many founding members of the party are quick to remind the party that the National Chairman and the presidential candidate cannot come from the same zone, as this has been the tradition in the PDP since 1999.

While intrigues have become the order of the day, it is clear that with this development, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the coast is clear for the October 30 national convention of the party to go as scheduled.

Apart from the position of national chairman of the PDP, the North is also expected to produce the next treasurer, women’s leader, organising secretary, legal adviser and youth leader of the party, while the South will produce the national secretary, national publicity secretary, financial secretary and national auditor.

Speaking with THEWILL on the condition of anonymity, a PDP leader from the South said, “Zoning of the offices of the PDP has traditionally been between the North and South. The decision of the PDP Zoning Committee is in line with the constitution of the party on zoning and rotation of the party and national offices in the interest of justice, equity and fairness.”

Meanwhile, northern presidential aspirants in the PDP, whose ambition seems to have been scuttled by this decision, have kept sealed lips over the zoning committee’s resolution, with their aides and allies refusing to comment on the issue.

A Public Affairs commentator, Paul Arayi, who claimed to be close to the workings in the PDP over the past years, has said that it is not yet over for the aspirants, reminding  members of the decision of the Bala Mohammed-led committee that recommended that the presidential slot should be thrown open to all the zones. “It means nothing has changed and that anybody who is interested in the Presidency will still be free to contest, irrespective of the zone he comes from,” he said.

Gbolahan Nasiru, who is a grassroots PDP leader in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State, insisted that for equity and fairness, it should be the turn of the South to produce the next PDP presidential candidate.

One of the prominent persons behind the zoning of the chairmanship of the party to the North, THEWILL gathered, is Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who does not want  to leave any chance open for the embattled chairman, Uche Secondus, to have a second term in office.

Wike, who bankrolled the election of Secondus to the position of the national chairman in 2017, has declared ‘a war ‘which led to his removal through a court pronouncement.

It was gathered that Wike, who is also eyeing the party’s Presidential ticket, played a great role in ensuring the reversal of an initial agreement to zone the national chairmanship to the South.

Wike is said to favour the idea of the presidential ticket coming to the South so as to pave the way for his ambition and to make things easier for him.

Another aspirant in the South, who seems happy with the decision of the party, is the party’s vice presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential election and former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi.

Obi is seriously looking forward to grabbing the party’s presidential ticket, ahead  of the 2023 presidential election.

But for those clamouring for power shift to the South, it is not yet Uhuru as impeccable sources, who pleaded anonymity, opined that the northern presidential aspirants are not sleeping and that  they are intensifying efforts to realise their ambition.