The much-anticipated national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is due in less than 35 days. But the nagging concern on where and how it will zone its top offices to remain contentious.
If anything, pundits aver that this critical decision will go a long way to define its performance in the 2023 presidential election.
The former ruling party is desirous of returning to power at the centre. It was knocked off that perch in the 2015 presidential election and failed to reclaim the ruling status in 2019.
Ahead of 2023, it boasts the capacity to reclaim the presidency. But the task is herculean, especially as it must first decide where its party leadership should go which, according to pundits, is an indicator of which geo-political zone will get its presidential ticket.
However, the task of giving direction on where the party will zone it’s offices falls on the laps of the Enugu State governor, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led committee. The committee, which also has Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom as Deputy Chairman and Zamfara State Deputy Governor Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed as Secretary, was constituted by the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), at it’s September 9 meeting, to specifically suggest the zoning of National Working Committee offices.
Having fixed the convention for October 30 in Abuja, the NEC also appointed Adamawa State governor, Adamu Fintiri, as chairman of the convention planning committee.
Expectedly, subtle pressure is mounting on the zoning committee within the context of its anticipated report as it will also set the tone on where the party’s presidential ticket will go to.
A party source who confided in LEADERSHIP hinted that the pressure is both from within and outside the party.
The pressure from outside is against the backdrop of the push for a Southern presidency which incidentally was agreed to by all southern governors during their inaugural meeting in Asaba, Delta State in July.
The declaration by the governors was sequel to the meeting of Southern and Middlebelt Leaders who in May this year asked the two leading parties, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP to zone their presidential ticket to the South.
They also told party leaders from the South not to accept national chairmanship positions and vice presidential slots.
“So that is the pressure the committee will have to deal with. These declarations seems to have put the committee and even the PDP in a position where it has to really be creative in how it’s addresses the situation,” the party source said.
But within PDP, the argument is different. Some chieftains argue that the PDP zoning arrangement favours the North to produce the presidential candidate. For them, the zone has been shortchanged after the demise of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
They further posit that the clamour for South presidency within the PDP is a transfer of the power shift agitation within the APC.
This is against the backdrop of a seeming fear that if the APC fields a Southern candidate and PDP fields a Northern candidate, the latter might amass more Northern votes which could swing the election in its favour.
This is besides the fact that some northerners within the APC have supported that their party should zone the presidency to the South.
Although PDP, through its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, had earlier cautioned against the transfer of the internal wranglings over the party shift in APC to PDP, he had repeated declared that the party is yet to take a position on zoning.
Earlier, the post-2019 election review panel led by Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed which was also supposed to recommend on where the party should zone it’s 2023 ticket had, perhaps sensing how touchy the issue was, suggested it be thrown open.
Nevertheless, PDP chieftains from South West are pushing for the chairmanship seat, a situation which projects that the contest for the party’s 2023 presidential ticket is poised to go to the North, even though the case for a South East presidency is being made as well.
LEADERSHIP checks however reveal that the PDP is inclined to retain its practice of North/South arrangement for presidency and national chairmanship positions.
Further checks reveal that most party members linked with a contest for the presidency so far are from the North even though some party leaders are sympathetic to the South East zone getting the ticket.
So far, some party chieftains speculated to be interested in the presidency are, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; former Senate president Abubakar Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State governor and chairman of PDP governors Forum, Hon Aminu Tambuwal; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido.
On the other hand, only members from the South West and South South have been linked to the contest for the national chairmanship seat so far.
The contenders are former national secretary of PDP, Col Olagunsoye Oyinlola and former governorship aspirant in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede.
Others are former deputy national chairman, Chief Olabode George, national vice chairman (South South) Dan Orbih, former governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke and former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.
However, a party source told LEADERSHIP that PDP leaders in the six states in South West are lobbying the leadership of the party on the need for the zone to produce the next national chairman in the forthcoming national convention.
The source, a former ranking federal lawmaker and top party chieftain, said, “The South West PDP leaders believe the chairmanship should be specifically zoned to the South West to compensate for the 2017 situation in which it was unjustly denied the slot after the post had been zoned to it.
“They also mentioned that the denial of the zone the post of chairman in 2017 led to the dwindling fortune of the PDP in the zone as demonstrated by the 2017 poll results.
“The South West PDP leaders noted that apart from Anambra where a gubernatorial election will hold in November, the zone has two governorship polls pending in Ekiti and Osun States before the 2023 general elections and having the national chairmanship slot will help seal victory in two states, thereby shoring up the chances of the party in the 2023 general elections,” the party source said.
Corroborating, a former director of communications under President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Jackson Ude, said, “The zoning, from my discussions with party leaders, would keep the presidential ticket in the North and the chairmanship in the South West.“
Whichever way it goes, for the national convention committee, the sooner the zoning committee does it’s work, it easier it will be for aspirants.
Chairman of PDP national convention, Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, asked the zoning committee of the party to conclude it’s assignment before Friday in order for party members who are interested to contest and occupy party positions to start criss-crossing Nigeria seeking votes.
Fintiri who stated this during the inauguration of the convention committee last week, said “To make our job start in earnest, I call on the zoning committee to work and conclude their assignment latest by end of last week (this week), so that we can start our job. It is not an order, but that is what we least expect from you, end of Friday next week.
“Roundup your job so that those who are interested to contest and occupy these very important positions in our party will start criss-crossing Nigeria. Nigeria is not a small country. Nigeria is not Benin, or Togo. Nigeria is a very big country, that needs time to go round and sell themselves,” he said.