Says it hasn’t zoned presidential ticket to North
Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal, others lead race for ticket
By Clifford Ndujihe
AS the presidential ticket of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, appears headed for the North as was witnessed in 2019, the party has denied ceding the slot to the North.
With northern politicians such as former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President Bukola Saraki; and former House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, leading the quest for the PDP presidential ticket, and southern politicians angling for the national chairmanship, the question of the presidential ticket going to the North was not in serious dispute.
However, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, told Vanguard that the party is yet to take a stand and will start deliberating on the issue, next week.
Asked if the party had secretly zoned the presidential ticket to the North and short-changed the South especially the South-East, Ologbondiyan said: “No, we have not zoned it to the North. The party has not reached that stage.
“We are going to have the National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting on September 9. At that NEC we will compose a committee on the zoning of party offices. That is when the party will discuss zoning.
“The issue of zoning the presidency has not come up at all. Ours is a structural party. We take issues one after the other.
“The decision on zoning of party offices will be without prejudices to the zoning of the presidency.”
North primed to produce PDP presidential candidate
In spite of Ologbondiyan’s clarification, a northerner is likely to fly PDP’s presidential flag in 2023.
Why? Most of those posturing to grab the ticket are from the North just as the bulk of the national chairmanship candidates come from the South.
Going by the party’s tradition, no region holds the presidential ticket and party chairmanship at the same time. If the North produced the chairman, the presidential flag goes to the South and vice versa. This has been the tradition since 1999.
Incidentally, most of those being tipped to succeed Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman hail from the South. They include former National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George; two-time Lagos Governorship Candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; and former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke among others.
Although there are counter moves to get a northerner to succeed Secondus, which will pave the way for the South to produce the presidential candidate, some top party leaders argue that the PDP stands a better chance of winning the 2023 presidential poll with a northern candidate.
This is premised on the ground that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years will pick a southerner as its presidential standard-bearer. Therefore, they contend that going to the North will give the PDP an advantage over the APC the way it did for APC in 2015.
Also, the party leaders further argue that since the last President produced by the PDP (Dr. Goodluck Jonathan) comes from the South, going by the zoning arrangement, the PDP should go to the North for its 2023 presidential flagbearer.
If the zoning committee that will be raised on September 9 flies with these arguments, southern presidential hopefuls in the PDP such as former Governor of Anambra State and 2019 Vice Presidential Candidate, Mr Peter Obi; Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; amd Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa among others, would be out of the race except as running mate.
Conversely, the coast would be clear for the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, and former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Government Relations, Tanimu Turaki, to pick the PDP presidential ticket.
Among the lot, Atiku, 74, is the oldest. By 2023, he would be 76 and it would be 30 years he started angling to be president having sought the seat in 1993 on the banner of the Social Democratic Party, SDP and lost to the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He was vice president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. His attempt to succeed Obasanjo on the banner of the Action Congress, AC, in 2007 did not click.
Ever since, he has contested for the seat in every electoral circle and flew the PDP flag in 2019, losing to President Buhari.
Some party leaders consider him as one of the weakest among the five on account of age and past attempts and many of them also believe he abandoned the party immediately after he lost the 2019 election, travelled abroad and did not attend the court sessions during the hearing of the presidential election petitions filed on his loss of the election both at the tribunal and appellate courts.
However, Atiku, who has declared his intentions to run has assured the party that he would not abandon the party, if given the opportunity again.
At 63, the former journalist, Senator and Minister of the FCT is qualified for the top job. Whether or not his fellow governors will support him is a big question. He is considered to have an unfinished business in Bauchi State, where he is serving his first term as governor and is expected to go for second term and work to strengthen PDP in his state and the entire North-East zone.
With Turaki still weighing his options, the race for the PDP presidential ticket may pan out as a straight battle between Saraki and Tambuwal, who share many things in common. They are young, intelligent, hugely trained and made their marks as leaders of the Legislature.
At 55, the Sokoto-born lawyer and politician is easily one of the youngest presidential aspirants on ground.
Currently serving his second term as governor of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal, who is the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, offered robust leadership as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He hails from the North-West zone, which is Nigeria’s voters warehouse, which may count in PDP’s favour if he is chosen.
A medical doctor before veering into administration and politics, Saraki, 58, was a two-term governor of Kwara State. He was at a point the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum.
He went to the Senate and later became Senate President during which the Senate rendered robust services to deepen Nigeria’s democracy.
Saraki has also been eyeing the Presidency since 2011.
Hailing from the North-Central, his supporters said Saraki has the competence, capability, capacity, and courage to turn things around for the PDP. Will he pick the party’s ticket to actualise his quest in 2023? Only time will tell.
With a good candidate from the North, some PDP leaders boasted that the PDP stands a good chance of winning in 2023 because of the alleged poor performance of the ruling APC in the last six years.