Eniola Akinkuotu, Stephen Angbulu, Matthew Agbaje, Dennis Naku, Hindi Livinus and Matthew Ochei
7 April 2022
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• Party in dilemma over zoning, doesn’t want to appear anti-South – Chieftain
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party is currently battling a crisis over the refusal of the southern and northern elements to agree on zoning, The PUNCH has learnt.
Impeccable sources within the PDP told The PUNCH on Wednesday that the crisis was worsened by the absence of a defined leader, who could bring together opposing forces to reach an agreement.
The PUNCH gathered that because of the sharp disagreement between the southern and northern leaders, the party was in a dilemma whether to zone the Presidency to the South or not.
It was learnt that northern leaders, who were demanding that the presidential ticket of the party should be thrown open, hinged their hope on the fact that a northerner would emerge as the party flag bearer.
It was also gathered that they argued that by the time the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), concluded his eight-year tenure, the North would have spent 11 years in power if the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s three-year tenure was added.
This, they argued, would be short of a total of 13 years spent by former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.
But it was learnt that southern leaders insisted that the North had been in power in the country more than the South since independence.
Our correspondents also gathered that they also argued that the PDP had agreed on zoning since 1999.
There were reports on Wednesday that the PDP zoning committee had recommended that the party should throw its presidential ticket open.
But following angry reactions the reports generated particularly in the South, the party was in a dilemma on whether to adopt zoning or not.
A chieftain of the party, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “Actually, the party is in a fix over zoning. It does not want to present itself as anti-South by abandoning zoning. That is why the National Executive Committee will meet and carefully take a decision on the issue.”
But in a chat with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, a PDP stalwart, Chief Bode George, who was also a member of the zoning committee, said the party had not thrown its ticket open.
PDP constitution mandates zoning, abandoning it will be unjust – Bode George
George said the PDP constitution mandates zoning, adding that it would be unjust for it to be thrown open.
The PDP chieftain also rejected claims by northern elements in the party that the South had ruled Nigeria longer than the North since 1999.
“Zoning is sacrosanct and I can confirm to you that the committee in its report did not throw the ticket open. Observations were made as well as recommendations and they will be forwarded to the National Executive Committee for a final decision.
“Those saying the South has ruled longer than the North are only being clever by counting from 1999. They should count from 1960. If you are counting, you should start from number one and not number eight,” George said.
I don’t believe in not zoning, I didn’t contest in 2019 because PDP zoned the presidency to North – Fayose
In an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme, the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, also insisted that the party’s ticket be zoned to the South.
Fayose, who was also a member of the zoning committee, said the recommendation wasn’t for the ticket of the party to be thrown open. Rather, what was suggested was that there should be consensus because many people had already bought forms and it would be wrong to scheme them out.
“I don’t believe in not zoning this Presidential ticket. I was part of the zoning committee. To me, they didn’t even say it like that. All that was said is that because the party ought to have started the process a long time for reasons that some people had bought forms, maybe the party should work with consensus,” the former governor said.
Fayose, who purchased the N40m Presidential form of the PDP on Wednesday, stated that he wanted to contest the Presidency in 2019 but the PDP zoned its ticket to the North and he, therefore, put his ambition in abeyance.
“The last presidential primary in Port Harcourt was a northern affair. All the aspirants were from the North. So, when you talk about my not contesting the last time, I was told it was going to be a northern affair and that is why you had Saraki, Atiku, Tambuwal and all of them. There was no southerner. If we don’t begin to put things in perspective, our children will ask questions,” the ex-governor added.
The former governor said the northern PDP elements failed at the 2019 Presidential poll and had since lost their chance. He, therefore, maintained that 2023 must be the turn of the South.
He also faulted claims that only the North could provide the PDP with the needed number of votes to win the 2023 elections.
Fayose recalled that former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar won his home state of Adamawa by just 20,000 votes in the last Presidential election which Governor Tambuwal won in Sokoto by a tiny margin.
“Atiku won in Adamawa by less than 20,000 votes. Go to Sokoto, what was the voting difference? We lost in Kwara. Let us look at the figures. Who is the person that can win?” he asked.
The ex-governor also rejected the appeal for a consensus candidacy which is being championed by former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Bauchi Governor, Bala Mohammed.
He argued that consensus was a dubious form of primary as evidenced by the All Progressives Congress’ national convention of last month.
Fayose said having purchased the form, he would never step down, adding that all those who were interested in the Presidency should be ready to slug it out on the field.
“I saw the pictures on TV and the people going around for consensus. Who will step down for whom? You ask me to step down? I won’t step down.
“They said they want all of us to come to a consensus. I don’t know about them but I have taken the form. I am not going to step down. Who knows who Nigerians want to vote for? I will go to that election. Anywhere they talk about consensus, it is undemocratic,” the ex-governor said
Earlier on Wednesday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and some presidential PDP aspirants met privately in Port Harcourt.
Those at the meeting according to a statement by Wike’s spokesman, Kelvin Ebiri, were Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed; Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki; and a former Managing Director of FSB International Bank, Dr Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.
Governor Wike while speaking to journalists after the meeting said their interest was to ensure that there was unity in the party.
Wike also expressed their interest in making Nigerians happy by developing a formidable strategy that would enable the PDP coast to victory in the 2023 presidential election.
“Our interest is the unity of the party. Our interest is to make Nigerians happy by making sure that by 2023, PDP takes over the reins of government because Nigerians are patiently waiting. And I can assure you that we are going to work as a team to make Nigerians happy,” the statement reads.
On his part, the leader of the delegation, Senator Saraki, said their discussion was on identifying the best available way in ensuring that there was unity within the party and among the various presidential aspirants.
Saraki stated, “We are here to have a discussion and we just finished talking about the best way for us to reunite our party, bring unity among all those who are aspiring to lead this country under PDP.
“We all realise the importance of this and PDP is the only option ready to redirect this country in the right direction and bring progress and provide a better future for our people.
“We have been to some of the other states and today we are here with the Governor of Rivers State, a key stakeholder of this party to discuss frankly. He has given us his views and made some suggestions and we will continue to work with that as we move away from here. But the key thing is unity, the key thing is to put the country first and put the party first.”
Wike, who has also purchased the Presidential form of the PDP, insisted earlier in the week that he would not be stepping down even as he maintained that the ticket of the party be zoned to the South.
In a related development, Benue State Governor and Chairman, Zoning Committee of the PDP, Samuel Ortom, has dispelled reports that his committee had jettisoned zoning and thrown open the race for the presidential ticket of the party.
Ortom, who said this on the ‘Morning Show’ programme on Arise TV on Wednesday, wondered why those who were not part of the meeting of the committee would want to “force words into the committee’s mouth.
PDP never barred any zone from contesting since 1998 – Okowa
Meanwhile, the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has stated that no zone has been barred from contesting the presidency on the platform of the PDP.
Okowa, who spoke through his Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, stated this at a media briefing on Wednesday in Asaba.
He said, “ The PDP never barred any zone from contesting the presidency. From 1998 to date, every zone has been contesting election for the presidency.
“No time PDP closed doors of contesting against any zone. The Governor Samuel Ortom-led committee on zoning has concluded its report. And the report will be scrutinised before adoption.”
I’m desperate for better Nigeria, not to be president – Obi
Meanwhile, a PDP presidential aspirant, Mr Peter Obi, on Wednesday in Abuja, said he was not desperate to become the next president.
Obi said this when he returned filled copies of his expression of interest and nominations forms to the PDP Secretariat in Abuja ahead of the April 8 deadline for the submission/sale of forms.
The former Anambra State governor said, “Our country is now going through a difficult time. I am not desperate to be a president; I am desperate to see a better Nigeria.”
Adopting zoning now undemocratic, it will shut out the best – Adamawa PDP chair
The PDP Chairman in Adamawa State, Tahir Shehu, in a chat with The PUNCH, said zoning was undemocratic and shuts out the best.
He stated, “I believe it is a process where the best will be disenfranchised from being elected to serve his people. So the PDP should not give priority to the issue of zoning rather it should give priority to who will win election.
“If the PDP insists on zoning now, it will be late because it has allowed other people to go round the country canvassing votes only at the last minute to say it is resorting to zoning. It is is undemocratic.”