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2023: PDP and politics of zoning – Daily Sun

From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
After weeks of serious horse trading, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had. penultimate Thursday, unveiled its zoning formula for party offices, ahead of its October 30-31 national convention
The chairman of the PDP Zoning Committee, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, after a meeting of the committee  in Abuja, disclosed that the chairmanship position has been zoned to the North.
Ugwuanyi explained that in accordance with the PDP constitution, the committee resolved that all the positions occupied by the South in the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) will go to the North, while positions occupied by the North will be filled by the South.
According to him, “zoning of offices on PDP has traditionally been between the North and South of Nigeria. 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.”
A meeting of the committee, a week earlier had ended in a stalemate over sharp disagreement on which of the zones should produce the next PDP  national chairman. The development forced the committee to adjourn to enable it consult with party leaders, especially the governors.
However, the PDP Governors Forum had at meeting  in Abuja, on September 29, resolved that next chairman of the opposition party should come from the North. Apparently, the resolution of the governors made it possible for zoning to reach a decision.
Nevertheless,  the zoning template generated mixed feelings among PDP leaders and supporters, across the country. In a  section of the South,  especially in the South East, the zoning formula elicited celebration, as the people saw it as an indication that  2023 presidential ticket  of the PDP will be ceded to the South.
Ironically,  the zoning formula unsettled not a few in the North and in the South West, especially those, who have their eyes on the presidential ticket and the chairmanship seat.
Prior to the zoning of the chairmanship seat, power blocs in the PDP were  working with the assumption that the chairmanship of the opposition party will be ceded to the South, with the South West making a strong case for the position, while the presidential ticket would go to the North.
Already, former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola had  indicated interest in the coveted position, with posters announcing his aspiration pasted at strategic points around the PDP national secretariat, in Abuja.
The South West had contested for the PDP chairmanship at the 2017 national convention of the opposition party but all the aspirants from the zone, including Chief Olabode George, Professor Tunde Adeniran and Professor Taofeek Adedoja withdrew from the contest, on the eve of the convention, after it became obvious that majority of the party leaders had settled for Prince Uche  Secondus.
Similarly, in the North, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Governors Aminu Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed of Sokoto and Bauchi states respectively, are known to be interested in the 2023 presidential ticket of the party.
Expectedly, PDP leaders in North, as well as members of the National Working Committee kicked against the zoning formula, as they perceived it to be against their political interests in the forthcoming general elections.
Some members of the NWC had expressed misgiving over the zoning formula, saying it is an infringement on the party’s constitution, which make them eligible for a second term, if they so desire.
Owing to the protests against the zoning,  not a few had anticipated that last Thursday’s meeting of the PDP National Executive Committee ( NEC), where the report of the zoning committee was considered would be stormy.  Pundits had predicted that NEC might reject the report as a result of the controversy trailing it. Regardless, the NEC adopted the zoning.
In the aftermath of the NEC meeting, the chairman of the Convention Organizing Committee, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri said there was no going back on the zoning formula.
According to him, “the highest decision organ of the party has taken decision on zoning). Which is the NEC. And I think that decision is final. It is binding on all of us members. And we will abide by it. And that is what we are working on.”
Analysts say the zoning formula is the climax in the quest of the governors to take total control of the party, as well as stop members of the NWC from continuing in office, beyond their current tenure. The governors in their mediation in the crisis that rocked NWC in August, had sought to stop the NWC members from re-contesting. However, it was shot down at one of the NEC meetings.
Intrigues in North over choice of chairmanship
However, the politics of who emerged the party’s chairman has shifted to the North, where sources say PDP top shots, with presidential ambitions, are working hard to ensure that the chairmanship position is not micro-zoned to their geo-political zones. Daily Sun gathered that this is to brighten the chances of picking the presidential ticket, in the event, that the PDP decides to throw it up.
Those touted to be interested in the chairmanship contest include former Senate President, David Mark; former Kaduna State governor,  Senator Ahmed Makarfi; former Kastina State governor, Ibrahim Shema; former Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dakwambo; former Kogi State governor, Ibrahim Idris and PDP deputy national chairman, Suleiman Nazif.
Mark and Idris are from North Central; Makarfi and Shema, North West while Dakwambo and Nazif are from the North East.
Nevertheless, stakeholders have been drumming support for Mark, who his promoters say would be a stabilizing factor for the opposition party in the run-up to the 2023 general elections.
Last week the Northern caucus, at a meeting at the Bauchi Governor’s house, in Abuja, set up  committee to screen aspirants interested in the chairmanship of the party. The committee, which is headed by Fintiri is expected to narrow the number of aspirants to three and report back this week.
Also, the zoning of the chairmanship seat to the North is generating ripples in the Board of Trustees ( BoT). Some interests within the party are already canvassing that with the national chairmanship zoned to the North, the zone should relinquish the chairmanship seat of the BoT. 
However, the BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin told journalists, in Abuja, last week, that he would remain the leader of the party organ until his tenure elapses in 2023.
According to him, “ I am the chairman of the BoT and fully elected by the constitution of the party and the constitution says the chairman and secretary must come either from the North or the South. Today, I come from the North and Adolphus Wabara, the secretary of the BoT, comes from the South.
“The constitution also gives the chairman and the secretary opportunity to serve for five years only and there is no re-election. By God’s grace, we have already spent three years and we are only waiting for the next two years.
“It  is only the BoT itself that will elect its chairman and secretary. As far as I am concerned, I will continue to be the chairman until the time elapses.”
PDP keeps Nigerians  guessing on zoning of presidential ticket
Ordinarily, the zoning of the PDP chairmanship is expected to give a  clear direction as to where the party intends to zone its 2023 presidential ticket. However,
the zoning template has raised fresh controversy in the opposition party.
Pundits say that zoning the chairmanship to the North is at best a ploy to hoodwink the APC into thinking that the opposition party will field its candidate from a particular section of the group.
The PDP and APC are currently in a hide and seek game over the zoning of their presidential. The two major political parties are basically waiting for who will unveil its presidential zoning first. Inside sources said the PDP leadership believes that the opposition should not declare its position on zoning before the ruling party. 
Nevertheless, Daily Sun gathered that barring any last minute change of plan, the opposition party may throw its presidential ticket open to all qualified aspirants.
Recall that the PDP 2019 Election Review Committee, headed by Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, had, in March recommended that the party’s 2023 presidential ticket be thrown open to all qualified aspirants.
Mohammed, while presenting the report,  had advised the PDP to jettison zoning in choosing its presidential candidate  for the 2023 polls.
According to him,   “in line with certain unwritten conventions of the nation’s history, many people think that, for fairness and equity, the North East and South East geo-political zones that have had the shortest stints at the Presidency, should be given special consideration, in choosing the presidential standard bearer of the party, for the 2023 elections.
“While we admit that this is a strong argument, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country.
“Therefore, we think that every Nigerian, from every part of the country, should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate, through a credible primary election; as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process, for the country.”
Expectedly, the submission of the committee’s did not go down well with party stakeholders, especially those from the  South East geo-political zone. In a  bid to douse tension over the zoning controversy, the PDP leadership had said it will study the report and come up with a position. Nevertheless, the opposition party has kept the report in abeyance in the last seven months.
However, the  PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan,  confirmed to  journalists, at the end of the NEC meeting, last Thursday, that the opposition party has opened discourse on the Bala Mohammed Committee, report which talked about zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket.
According to him, “part of what was discussed today was the report of Bala Mohammed committee to look into the reasons why the PDP lost the 2019 election and the decision was that it should be slated for another NEC day.”
Analysts say with the current developments, gladiators have returned to the drawing board to plot on how to gain the upper hand in the argument on whether or not to zone the presidential ticket to the South, as expected, or throw it open.

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From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja After weeks of serious horse trading, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had. penultimate…

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