Why PDP may not zone its presidential ticket
As preparations for the May 28 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) begin in earnest, the party is faced with a dilemma of adhering to its constitutional provision on zoning or leaving the Presidential race open to all aspirants.
Although the opposition party has inaugurated a 37-man zoning committee, headed by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, to determine suitable zoning formula for the 2023 presidential election, party leaders and stakeholders are still divided on the issue. While some leaders from the North have been canvassing that PDP should concentrate on picking somebody who can win the election and return power to the party, some Southern governors insist it is the turn of the region to produce the next Presidential candidate of the party.
This debate might have forced the party to be silent on the zoning of the presidency while inaugurating the Ortom committee. The national chairman of the party, Iyorcha Ayu had during the inauguration saddled the committee members with responsibilities of sharing positions of Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and other leadership positions in the two chambers of the National Assembly among the six geopolitical zones.
However, the unresolved matter has not prevented some of the aspirants from north and south from formally declaring their intentions and purchasing the N40m nomination forms. Less than 24 hours after the party began sales of nomination forms, a group procured it for former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who will for the third time contest the party’s ticket. Others that have purchased nomination forms include former presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 general elections, Mr Peter Obi, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor and Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, while party sources said other aspirants like Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa may soon join the fray.
While the eight governors of the party from the South joined their counterparts in the PDP from the same region to continuously demand that the Presidential candidate come from their area, the five others from the North, as well as other stakeholders from the northern region want the position to be open to all and sundry.
Some party leaders, however, believe that zoning is not a matter that PDP can treat with levity because it is enshrined in Article 7 of the party’s Constitution where the party specifically states that it will adhere to the principle of zoning of elective offices between the various regions in the country.
The group pushing for zoning argues that after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari from the Northwest, the next President of Nigeria should come from one of the three zones in the South.
Those in this group also argued that the PDP today has its safe states in the South-south and Southeast and that it is only good for the party to reward the zone with the presidential ticket.
But other stakeholders in the party are arguing that the party should refrain from zoning to allow the best candidate to emerge. This group noted that what the party needs is a solid candidate, who can win the election and defeat the APC, not a regional candidate. They believe that the party should first win the 2023 general elections before thinking of zoning key positions.
They further argued that the last president produced by the party is a southerner and that between 1999 and 2023, the presidency would have stayed in the South for 14 years and in the North for just 10 years, meaning that if the next President comes from the North, the region will still be doing catch up with the South.
However, the pro-south advocates countered that Nigeria did not start in 1999 and that between 1960 when the country gained independence and now, the North has produced leaders for more than 40 of the 61 post-independence years.
After reviewing the arguments of all the sides, political analysts believe that the PDP must be careful not to fall into the subterfuge game being planned for them by the ruling party.
They said APC is not comfortable that while it is embroiled in serious crisis about how to elect members of the national working committee, the PDP, as far back as last October had held a peaceful, rancour-free convention to elect its leadership. Thus, the APC will do anything to promote crisis in the leading opposition party.
Incidentally, APC governors and leaders are the ones leading the chorus on the campaign for the Southern presidency. Among the 17 Southern governors championing the shift of presidency to the South, nine of them are in the APC. Also, the APC as the ruling party was formed on the basis that the Southwest, which aligned with the Northwest to win the 2015 elections for Buhari will produce his successor in 2023. Thus, it seems the APC leaders in the South are the ones coming out loudest on the issue of the Southern presidency.
Analysts said the plot is to lure the PDP to also go the route of the South so that it will not have any advantage over the ruling party in the next presidential election.
Meanwhile, it is believed that APC has spent the last seven years grooming people from the South to contest the 2023 presidential polls. Therefore a Southern presidency is an APC plot to lure PDP and the rest of the opposition to a region where it presently enjoys comparative advantage. Thus, the APC may just be canvassing the idea of zoning to lead PDP into its safe area where it has a comparative advantage.
It is also being argued that in 2015 when the APC should have allowed the then President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner, to complete his term or pick a southerner to contest against him, it went to the North to select a presidential candidate to exploit the advantage over the then ruling party. Now, the APC is not comfortable the PDP might do the same and go to the north where it might have more support and also where it has solid, leading candidates who can defeat the ruling party.
For the analysts, PDP must be careful not to make the political pitfall being designed and dug by APC. The PDP leaders should rather open their eyes wide and make decisions that are in their best interest.
Party members are of the opinion that PDP should avoid following the crowd and adopting a strategy that will fail the party. The party, as an opposition party, must take whatever measure is needed to defeat the ruling party.
Stakeholders said there is a need to decide on the candidate that is capable, competent, compassionate, courageous, and solid who can deliver on the promises of creating a functional country.
The PDP should consider the interest of Nigeria and that of the party in making the decision.
Therefore, leaving the decision open is the best option for PDP. It means the party can search for its candidate from all districts, all cities, all states, all regions, and across the country.