THE Zoning Committee of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), on September 30, announced that the party’s chairmanship position had been zoned to the North.
The development is an indication that the party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 elections will likely come from the South.
Going by an informal zoning arrangement that has been in force in the party since it won the presidency when Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the zone where the national chairman comes from hardly produces the presidential candidate.
The PDP Zoning Committee, which was set up by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party on September 9 to work out a formula for allocating the party’s national offices, including the office of national chairman, to the various geo-political zones, had earlier held a deadlocked meeting in Enugu on September 23.
However, after another meeting in Abuja on September 30, the committee released a communique announcing that its next chairman, to be elected at the national convention scheduled for October 30-31, would come from the North.
The committee resolved that all the positions held by the South would be transferred to the North, while those held by the North should move southwards.
“The decision of the PDP Zoning Committee is in line with the constitution of the party on zoning and rotation of party and national offices in the interest of justice, equity, and fairness.
“Consequently, the current offices being held by officers in the southern zones of the country, namely South West, South East, and South South zones, should swap places with the offices currently in the northern zones of Nigeria, namely North-West, North-East, and North-Central zones,” the communique read by the chairman of the committee Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, said.
The committee stressed that the formula used in zoning the national offices was in tune with the party’s tradition of zoning offices between the North and the South.
The communique said the committee’s decision would be passed to the NEC.
“We shall pass on our recommendations to the National Executive Committee of the party through the National Working Committee of the party,” the communique said.
Other members of the committee are: Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who served as deputy chairman, and Deputy Governor of Zamfara State Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed, who is the secretary.
* Southern governors relied on majority to influence decision to zone chairmanship position to North
The zoning committee came out with its decision after governors elected on the platform of the party, under the aegis of the PDP Governors Forum, met over the issue in Abuja on September 29.
The governors had to meet after the zoning committee failed to arrive at a decision at its initial meeting in Enugu on September 23.
At the September 29 meeting in Abuja, which held at the residence of the governor of Akwa Ibom State, a vote was conducted to determine where the chairmanship position would be zoned to.
Nine governors voted that the position should go to the North, while three voted that it should remain in the South.
Governors of eight southern states, namely Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), and Douye Diri (Bayelsa) all voted in favour of the chairmanship going to the North.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom also voted in favour of zoning the chairmanship position to the North, making it nine votes for the pro-South zoning of the office to the North.
Three PDP governors of northern states, Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa, Bala Mohammed of Bauchi and Darius Ishaku of Taraba voted for the position to remain in the South.
The southern PDP governors carried the day as a result of their larger numbers.
The Southern Governors Forum, an umbrella body of governors of the southern states, across the different political parties, had, at a meeting in Enugu on September 16, declared that the next president of Nigeria must come from the South in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
The southern PDP governors’ push to have the party’s chairmanship position zoned to the North is believed to be in line with the region’s quest to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023.
The ICIR had reported that the initial meeting of the zoning committee, in Enugu on September 23, ended in a stalemate as the committee could not agree on which particular zone should produce the national chairman.
The development was as a result of the unwillingness of the various zones to produce the national chairman.
Besides Enugu governor Ugwuanyi, Benue Governor Ortom and Zamfara Deputy Governor Mohammed, others at the September 23 meeting included: former Senate presidents Iyorchia Ayu and Anyim Pius Anyim, former governors of Niger, Ekiti, Sokoto, Jigawa and Adamawa states, Babangida Aliyu, Ayo Fayose, Attahiru Bafarawa, Sule Lamido, and Boni Haruna, respectively.
Also at the meeting were PDP chieftains Abubakar Kawu Baraje, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, Sunday Okoye, Dan Orbih, Ali Odefa, Kema Chikwe, Osita Chidoka, Chidi Lloyd, Bassey Ewa Henshaw, Emmanuel Nwaka and Donatus Udeh.
During the deliberations at the September 23 meeting, the zoning committee split into two camps – those who wanted the office of national chairman to remain in the South and others who wanted the position to move to the North.
Southern members of the committee pushed for the emergence of a northerner as the next PDP national chairman while the northern members insisted that the office should remain with the South.
The northern bloc canvassed the maintenance of the status quo in the expectation that having the South retain the position of party chairman would pave the way for the presidential candidate of the party to come from the North.
In the event that the presidential ticket was not specifically zoned to the North, the northern bloc wanted the PDP to adopt the position of a committee chaired by Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed which, after reviewed the performance of the party in the 2019 general election, recommended that the presidential ticket be thrown open for aspirants from all the six zone in 2023.
On the other hand, the southern bloc wanted all the positions currently held by the South to be transferred to the North while the ones in the North move southward.
The position of the southern bloc was informed by the belief that zoning the office of national chairman to the North would automatically ensure that the South gets the presidential ticket in 2023.
The communique released by the zoning committee on September 30 announcing the allocation of the chairmanship position to the North suggests that the southern bloc in the PDP has taken an early lead in the race for the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 elections.
Suspended National Chairman of the PDP Uche Secondus is from the South-South, specifically from Rivers State.
Secondus’ suspension is linked to the conflict of interests between him and Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike, who masterminded his emergence as national chairman in 2017.
Secondus wants to seek a second term as PDP national chairman at the national convention. However, it is believed that Wike is eyeing a presidential or vice presidential ticket in 2023 and being from the same state (Rivers) with the party’s national chairman would undermine his chances.