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PDP’s no zoning verdict is in bad faith

By Luke Onyekakeyah
13 April 2022   |   3:52 am
The recent no zoning verdict by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is absolutely in bad faith. There is no other way to explain it and there is no justification for it either.

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George (left); former Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido; Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Hon Ndudi Elumelu; Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; former Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahin Shehu Shema and Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku during the PDP screening committee meeting, at the Benue State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

The recent no zoning verdict by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is absolutely in bad faith. There is no other way to explain it and there is no justification for it either. The action is not in accordance with PDP’s avowed belief in justice and equity since the beginning of this political dispensation in 1999. Justice and equity informed the entrenchment of zoning formula in its constitution, whereby power would rotate between the north and the south. Doing the contrary is offensive.

If care is not taken, PDP may have shot itself on the foot. It would have served PDP better to be faithful to its own constitution by respecting the zoning formula as enshrined therein. But by blatantly going against a provision it made that is in the national interest, the party has started the 2023 political battle on a shaky note. The mood of Nigerians demands equity, justice and fairness and this should not be ignored.

There is no doubt that Nigerians, who are wearied by bad governance, are looking forward to a party that could be trusted; a party that could do things differently in the public interest; a party that could toe the line of equity, justice and fairness.

Since PDP is gearing towards reclaiming power it lost in 2015 at the centre, it should have demonstrated its readiness to do things differently by zoning the presidency to the south since the incumbent is from the north. There is no way Nigerians would be happy if the next president comes from the north again and from the same ethnic Fulani with the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. If PDP loves Nigeria and wants it to survive, the action it has taken may have proved otherwise.

As things stand with regards to PDP’s anti-zoning stance, something needs to be done urgently to reverse the verdict before the party incurs public disfavor. The party’s National Working Committee (NWC), which has the power to ratify the recommendation or throw it away, should save the party by not accepting the verdict. There is general discontent over that decision in the south, even though, some politicians from the north are happy purely on selfish grounds.

It needs to be reiterated that the old thinking that only a northern presidential candidate would garner votes at the polls and assure victory no longer holds. We have seen it happen and it is now a fact that the north alone cannot produce a president through vote without the south and vice versa. It is only the unity of the north and south that can produce a president.
Examples abound: Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) emerged president in 2011 after the north and south teamed up to elect him on sympathy basis that his acclaimed humble background could prompt him to identify with suffering Nigerians but he didn’t.

Similarly, General Muhammadu Buhari emerged as president in 2015 after the north and south teamed up in protest against PDP’s epic misgovernance. Nigerians did not vote in those elections along party lines but on perceived shift and value that was expected to be added. Prior to that, Buahri contested on three occasions backed only by the north without success. The situation in Nigeria today is worse than in 2015, which is why the PDP needs to be very strategic in its actions and decisions.

The PDP set up a 37-member zoning committee under the chairmanship of the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, to decide on the contentious zoning formula for the party’s presidential candidate. The general expectation was that the ticket would be zoned to the South and specifically the South-East to give the zone a sense of belonging since it has never produced a president since independence except the six-month interregnum by General Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966.

Unfortunately, the committee bungled the strategic assignment that would have placed the PDP on a right footing by declaring the contest open to all candidates. The decision showed the insensitivity of the committee to the hues and cries of the South-East to the blatant marginalization of the zone in the country’s leadership equation. How does the PDP want the South-East to respond?

The committee showed sympathy to the north by its decision but forgot that the decision could make or mar PDP’s chances at the polls. It failed to call a spade a spade. The shock and condemnation that has trailed the decision is symptomatic of how the public feels about the PDP. I am particularly shocked that Governor Samuel Ortom headed the committee that came up with this wrong-headed decision. Ortom who has been in the forefront of calling for change was swayed to align with a verdict that could perpetuate his troubles as a governor of Benue State. This is most unfortunate.

It’s not surprising that various interest groups perceive the PDP’s action as a political suicide. The apex-Igbo socio-cultural organization (Ohanaeze Ndigbo), the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural Organization (Afenifere) and the Middle Belt Forum, have all expressed deep displeasure with the PDP’s decision. They have threatened to campaign and mobilise against the north should the PDP fields in a northern candidate. That is the beginning of turbulent days ahead of the PDP.

The PDP should not ignore the power of protest vote. There are also pro-southern candidate adherents in the north who sincerely want power to shift to the south. This group cannot easily be swayed simply because they are living in the north. If forces are gathering against the PDP because of an avoidable mistake it has made, how could the party clinch victory at the polls in 2023?

My people say the morning shows the day. For a major project like seeking to win the presidency of a country, every step counts. If from the outset the PDP begins with a serious misstep, then the party is undoing itself. If the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) capitalizes on the PDP mistake and fields a southern candidate, there will be mass sympathy for such a candidate, which may lead to the party winning again. The die is cast. The PDP should redress its mistake before it is too late.

There is need for equity and justice, which the PDP should not run away from. Nigerians are more politically conscious today than even in 2015. The untold hardship that has plagued Nigerians since 2015 despite all the promises made by the APC has taught people lesson. Affliction will not come the second time. The PDP should not create room for Nigerians to see it as coming again in its old skin, as that won’t pay off.