December 30, 2019

2023: How PDP intends to checkmate APC

Terrorism: PDP flays APC's conspiracy of silence over Kankara abduction

North favoured to pick PDP ticket
To reconcile aggrieved members

By Dirisu Yakubu

With more than three years to the 2023 Presidential election, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is already putting its house in order in a bid to return to power at the centre, with moves to checkmate the All Progressives Congress, APC, ceding of its presidential slot to the South.

To make this dream come true, the party is back to the drawing board to address a knotty issue, namely zoning of its Presidential ticket.

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The PDP had in the past, been lauded for enshrining zoning of key offices in its constitution, with some commentators likening the initiative to the federal character principle that has become a somewhat affirmative action to give every part of the country a sense of belonging.

However, what started seamlessly soon hit the rocks following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua in 2010. His successor, Goodluck Jonathan’s failed bid for a second tenure in 2015 left the PDP with no choice but to return the ticket to the North in 2019.

Though, the party had a decent outing, its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar finished second behind President Muhammadu Buhari at the end of balloting. But with the All Progressives Congress, APC, now facing the prospect of picking its candidate from the South, PDP in the words of one of its chieftains must do the opposite to brighten its chances of taking over power at the centre.

Addressing journalists recently, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan stressed the significance of new reform initiatives to “further reposition our party for 2023,” but dismissed insinuations that the party had taken a position on zoning the highly competitive Presidential ticket to a particular zone.

“No, we have not taken a decision on where our Presidential candidate in 2023 will come from. What we are concerned about now are reforms to further reposition our party ahead of the 2023 elections,” the publicity scribe responded when asked if indeed the PDP had settled for the North again.

Game Plan

A few hours after Ologbondiyan dismissed speculations about zoning of the highest office, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, confided in Vanguard that only a party not serious about its ambition would wait for the raining day to make preparation for a shelter. According to him, the party “for strategic reasons,” is likely to settle for the North yet again, adding that it offers the once biggest party in Africa the easiest route to the centre “all things considered.”

He said: “I agree that a position has not been taken on this (zoning) but that is because doing so now is rather too early. But if you are asking me if the issue has been discussed, I will say yes. Is the APC not already discussing who will succeed President Buhari? So, why should there be a waiting on our part? The PDP is not a mushroom political party.”

According to him, the PDP cannot afford to play into the hands of the ruling party, adding “Should they zone their ticket to the South, we would have to do the opposite to brighten our chances of returning to power.”

In a separate interview with a chieftain of the ruling party recently, Jackson Ojo urged the PDP to consider the North because in his words, “The South does not have the number and the unity to produce the President in 2023. Another Northerner is likely to succeed President Buhari in 2023.”

Avoiding the mistakes of 2019

A source, who does not want his name in print, told Vanguard that though, the PDP had a decent showing in the 2019 election, the mistake of having too many  vie for the ticket robbed the party of a “common front” when it went into contest against the APC.

The source, a former minister, noted that though Atiku won squarely the Port Harcourt Presidential convention, “those who contested the ticket showed little hunger for the party and the candidate in the election.”

As a result, the leadership of the party, he said, had resolved to walk a different path in the next election cycle.

“It is a lot easier to say you conducted the most credible primaries in the political history of the country but is that enough? It is like a student praising himself for reading every readable material in preparation for examination but ended up failing to make the grade.

“So, the leadership of our party, by which I mean the National Working Committee, NWC, has resolved to talk to as many as possible those nursing Presidential ambition to learn from our mistake of 2019. Once we settle for a zone, let’s not have more than three aspirants.

“On paper that would be negating the spirit of democracy but election is not a classroom thing. The party must be pragmatic this time,” he added.

It will be recalled that a total of 12 aspirants, all from the North, contested the party’s sole ticket which was won by Atiku in Port Harcourt. Shortly after he was announced  winner, Atiku alongside the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus visited the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who had publicly supported Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, on a thank you mission.

Till date, the support of most of the aspirants for the party in the course of the election, have been repeatedly called into question. This is more so as virtually all the aspirants lost their polling booth to the APC, in a manner unprecedented in the nation’s electioneering history.

Reconciliation across board

One of the steps the party has agreed to immediately take is the reconciliation of its aggrieved members across board in states throughout the country “where there are issues.” The ex-minister cited the example of Ekiti and Bayelsa states where internally wranglings fueled by governors’ reluctance to give room for party supremacy cost the PDP dearly.

In his words, Secondus would need to ruffle some feathers in the interest of the party ahead of 2023. “Fayose (Ayodele) realized belatedly that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We lost Ekiti despite his (Fayose) popularity in the state. The same happened recently with Bayelsa where Governor Seriake Dickson ran a one-man show.

“This is not to say that elections in those states were clearly won but we should have taken care of some little details. Good enough, the leadership of the party has agreed to immediately commence a broad-based reconciliation effort to unite our people as quickly as possible where there are issues,” he added.

It is not yet clear how key political players of Southern extraction would react should the party pitches tent with the North in 2023 but there is a chance a common ground of mutual benefit can be reached especially if powerful individuals would let go of personal interest for the good of the party’s sole ambition to return to the centre.