Why no geo-political zone wants to produce next PDP national chairman

AHEAD of the election of new national officers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the national convention scheduled for October 30 and 31, no geo-political zone wants to produce the party’s next national chairman.

The ICIR learnt that the determination of the two regional blocs in the country – North and South – to avoid the prestigious position has so far stalled the party’s efforts to stage a hitch-free convention.


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Checks by The ICIR reveal that the development is as a result of intrigues over the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 general elections.

The PDP, at its last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on September 9, set up key committees for the national convention – the Convention Planning Committee and the Zoning Committee.

The Convention Planning Committee, chaired by Adamawa State governor Ahmadu Fintiri, was mandated to organise the national convention.

The Zoning Committee is headed by Enugu State governor and its task is to arrive at a formula for allocating the party’s national offices, including the office of national chairman, to the various geo-political zones.

The Zoning Committee met in Enugu on September 23 to take a decision on the allocation of the various national offices to the zones.

Besides Ugwuanyi, other members of the committee that were part of the crucial meeting included: Benue State governor Samuel Ortom, Deputy Governor of Zamfara State Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed, 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.

Others 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.

However, the meeting was deadlocked as the committee could not agree on which particular zone should produce the national chairman.

The ICIR learnt that deliberations in the meeting were marred by the unwillingness of the various zones to produce the national chairman.

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 would want the position to move to the North.

PDP National Chairman Uche Secondus, who is currently suspended, is from the South.

At the moment, the Zoning Committee has been divided along regional lines – North and South.

Southern members of the committee want a northerner as the next PDP national chairman while the northern members want the office to remain in the South.

The northern bloc, which is canvassing the maintenance of the status quo, wants the South to retain the position of national chairman in the expectation that the development would pave the way for the presidential candidate of the party to come from the North.

In the event that the presidential ticket would not be zoned to the North, the northern bloc wants the PDP to adopt the position of a committee chaired by Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed which, after reviewing the performance of the party in the 2019 general elections, recommended that the presidential ticket be thrown open for aspirants from all the six zones in 2023.

On the other hand, according to The ICIR’s findings, the southern bloc wants all the party national positions currently held by the South to be transferred to the North while the ones in the North move southwards.

The position of the southern bloc is 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.

Going by an informal zoning arrangement that has played out in major Nigerian political parties since the return to democratic rule in 1999, the zone where the party national chairman comes from hardly produces the presidential candidate.

Suspended National Chairman of the PDP Uche Secondus is from the South-South, specifically from Rivers State, whose Governor Nyesom Wike wields considerable influence in the party.

Secondus’ suspension is linked to the conflict of interests between him and 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, hence his largely successful quest to remove Secondus from office.

President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North and by 2023, when he will have completed two terms in office, there are expectations that the presidency would go to the South, no matter the party that gets to produce the president – in line with a rotation of power principle that has been playing out between northern and southern Nigeria.

The Southern Governors Forum, the umbrella body of governors of the Southern states cutting across different political parties, has repeatedly insisted that it is the turn of the South to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023.

But there are indications that the rotation arrangement would encounter difficulties in 2023. Already some politicians from the North in both the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are showing interest in contesting the next presidential poll.

Governor of Kogi State in Nigeria’s North-Central Yahaya Bello has already declared his intention to vie for the presidential ticket of the APC and insists that the contest should be thrown open for all sections of the country.

Also, in the PDP, there are indications that the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections former Vice President Atiku Abubakar would again run for president in 2023.

Atiku is from Adamawa State in the North-East.

Governor of Sokoto State, in the North-West, Aminu Tambuwal is also believed to be eyeing the PDP presidential ticket.

* South, North bicker over 2023 presidency

The PDP is yet to decide on zoning of its presidential ticket for 2023 but a chieftain of the party Doyin Okupe recently warned against moves by northern politicians to run for president on the party’s platform in 2023.

Okupe, a former presidential spokesman and candidate, described as unreasonable and ridiculous, alleged moves by the party’s leaders to choose a northern standard bearer for the 2023 presidential election.

“In 2023, with APC having ruled for eight years with a northern candidate, it will be preposterous, unjust, uncaring and blatant for the PDP to zone the presidential ticket to the North because the arrangement expired the moment our party lost power in 2019.

“There should be a reset of the zoning arrangement in 2023. It does not make sense to replace a northern government of eight years with another northern government for another eight years, it doesn’t make sense.

“That is why the PDP should zone the presidency to the South. The southern governors who are the leaders of the South had spoken, we should listen to them.”

Okupe warned that it would be foolish, reckless and insensitive for the party to ignore the position of the southern governors.

In a communique released after its latest meeting in Enugu on September 16, the Southern Governors’ Forum reiterated its “earlier position that the next president of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigeria in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness”.

But an influential northern pressure group, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), has voiced the North’s opposition to calls for the presidency to be zoned to the South.

NEF spokesman Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, at a lecture in memory of the late Maitama Sule in Zaria, Kaduna State, suggested that northerners would not allow the presidency to be zoned to the South in 2023, as, according to him, the position was a democratic office that should be determined by the majority.

Baba-Ahmed insisted that the North had the numbers to continue ruling Nigeria.

*PDP Governors Forum, BOT to wade into zoning impasse






     

     

    Meanwhile, the PDP Zoning Committee is to hold further meetings on the zoning formula.

    Chairman of the committee Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi said the committee would consult relevant stakeholders in the party, particularly the PDP Governors’ Forum and the Board of Trustees (BOT), in a bid to resolve the matter.

    Ugwuanyi also explained that the mandate of committee did not extend to zoning the party’s 2023 presidential ticket.

    “We have no mandate to zone political offices such as president or vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he explained.

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