•NWC offices may be swapped across zones, states
•C’ttee to debate alleged marginalisation of some states in NWC
•Southern leaders divided over Northern Presidency
•Why S-West should produce next chairman
•Atiku, Tambuwal back South to produce chairman
By Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson & Dirisu Yakubu
PALPABLE tension has gripped the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as members of its zoning committee begins deliberation on zoning the party’s National Working Committee, NWC offices across the six geo-political zones.
Chaired by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, the 44-member committee is expected to give direction to the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Vanguard reports that party leaders and stakeholders had in the past three weeks been pushing various arguments in a bid to get the nod of the committee to produce one leader or the other for the party in the new NWC.
Before the committee for deliberation are 18 NWC offices as party leaders made up of 13 governors, national caucus, National Executive Committee, NEC, and Board of Trustees, BoT, members have all decided to part way with the current leadership of the party at the October 31 national elective convention.
A member of the committee, who does not want his name in print, told Vanguard that the committee is considering swapping the offices such that positions currently occupied by northerners would go the way of southerners in the new NWC.
The committee is also considering retaining the offices in their current zones with a slight alteration that would make states not represented in the current NWC to have a representation in the post- Secondus leadership.
He said: “There are many options before the committee. One is to take the offices being held by northerners to the South and vice versa. Another is to let the current arrangement subsists but with little alteration. Positions in the North-Central, for example, can be rotated among the states that make up the zone to pave way for states hitherto not represented to have a voice in the new leadership.”
Throwing more light on this development, he added: “Let me give an instance with the North-Central. The zone currently has the National Publicity Secretary, National Financial Secretary and National Vice Chairman (North-Central) occupied by Kogi, Niger and Plateau states respectively. This time, states such as Benue, Nasarawa and Kwara may produce these officers. This is to give all states in that zone a sense of belonging.”
Vanguard gathered that this is not unconnected with moves by governors elected on the platform of the party to block any chance of current NWC members from having a seat in the new leadership of the party.
Meanwhile, leaders of the party from the southern part of the country are divided over having the 2023 presidential ticket zoned to the North. While some are in support others including southern governors want the South to produce President Buhari’s successor.
The argument of those in support of the North is that with the South having produced Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan who cumulatively governed the country for about 14 years, it would be a disservice to deny the North of the ticket in 2023.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal are pushing for a chairman of Southern extraction. This according to multiple sources is to pave way for the North to produce the Presidential candidate in 2023 like it did in 2019. Atiku and Tambuwal are again in the running for the party’s sole Presidential ticket.
Why tension reign
As the Ugwuanyi committee meets, the tension building in the party is said to be triggered by two major considerations, which a source said were not issues “to be overlooked.”
“First is the push by the Southern Governors Forum that President Buhari’s successor must come from the Southern part of the country. The PDP may opt for a new zoning arrangement is former President Goodluck Jonathan wraps up his deal with the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC any moment from now.’’
A former member of the NWC told newsmen that “the insistence of the PDP to pick its national chairman from the South while looking in the direction of the North for the presidential candidate appears to be waning by the day as a result of national pulse.
“Our initial plan was to pick the national chairman from the South-West so that our candidate can come from the North. But with the way things are going, we are on the edge of being shut out of relevance if we insist on that. Even the PDP governors appear to be developing clay foot on their preferred northern aspirants because they have jointly taken a position on the matter.
“The argument has been that our parry is different from the APC and that we can pick from the North but with the way the Southern Governors are pushing, the Committee on zoning is also considering a lot about the push.
“Remember that the chairman of the zoning committee is the governor of Enugu State who hosted the last Southern Governors Forum meeting.
“From all indications, the governors of the South are determined, irrespective of party lines, to ensure the candidates of major parties are from the South. Do we overlook it? No.
“Apart from that, the ruling party is already thinking along that line by wooing the former president, and we know they are already putting finishing touches to their talks, they will conclude very very soon and we are aware that at least two more PDP governors are heading the APC way ahead of Jonathan.
“So, we are already looking very seriously at the possible implications of fielding a northerner; and in a matter of days, we will come out clearly to unveil a fresh plan in respect of the zoning issue. It has to be revisited and we are thinking along that way now,” he said.
One of the governorship aspirants in the last election in Ondo State told Vanguard: “Everything is still in the realm of speculation. When we get to the river we will cross it. Don’t worry where our Presidential candidate will come from.
“What is certain is that he or she would be a Nigerian and all that matters is that we wrestle power from the ruling party which has taken us backward within the last six years.’’
However, Senator Nicholas Tofowomo, PDP, Ondo South, said: “My party is yet to zone the presidential ticket to any zone. As soon as it is decided it will be binding on me to support that candidate not minding where he comes from within the geopolitical zones.’’
Why S-West should produce next chairman
Meantime, South-West PDP leaders have intensified lobbying for the chairmanship slot to be zoned to the the South-West to compensate for the 2017 ‘’short-change’’ when ‘’it was unjustly denied the slot after the post had been zoned to it.’’
According to them, ‘’robbing’’ the South-West of the PDP chairmanship in 2017 partly led to the dwindling electoral fortunes of the PDP in the zone in the 2019 and other polls.
They added that apart from Anambra where a governorship election will be held on November 6, 2021, the South-West has two governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun states in 2022 and having the national chairmanship slot will help seal victory in the two states, thereby boosting the chances of the PDP in the 2023 general elections.
The leaders assured they would produce a viable, strong and popular consensus candidate capable of uniting the party and leading it to victory in 2023, if the national chairmanship was zoned to South-West, which currently has has one PDP governor, senators and members of the House of Representatives from four of its six states – Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
Currently, most of those being tipped to succeed Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman hail from the South, especially South-West. They include former National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George; immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose; two- time Lagos Governorship Candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; and former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke among others.
Implications for zoning
With Southern Governors (both APC and PDP) insisting that the South should produce the president in 2023, where will the Ugwuanyi committee zone the PDP national chairmanship slot? Will it go to the North or South?
Where the chairmanship is zoned has implications for the zoning of the presidential ticket.
Going by the party’s tradition, no region holds the presidential ticket and party chairmanship at the same time. If the North produces the chairman, the presidential flag goes to the South and vice versa. This has been the tradition since 1999.
Giving the stance of Southern governors forum, which Ugwuanyi is a member, will his committee zone the chairmanship to the South? If yes, can the South hold the chairmanship and presidential ticket at the same time? These are questions that will be answered by time.
Ex-PDP NWC members seek competent chairman, scribe
Meanwhile, the forum of former PDP NWC members, has called on the party to seek a leader who is competent and independent-minded for the office of the PDP national chairman and national secretary.
In a statement signed by former PDP Woman leader and ex-Aviation Minister, Kema Chikwe, the forum called on leaders of the party across all layers to work relentlessly for a smooth, free and credible convention in the interest of the party.
“The national convention must be free, fair, transparent and credible to eliminate avoidable frictions in the party.
“We charge the BoT, the PDP Governors’ Forum, the national caucus and all other organs of the party to ensure that the candidates to be put forward for the position of national chairman and national secretary must be credible and independent-minded persons, capable of commanding the respect of all organs and tiers of the PDP, as well as the attention of Nigerians across board, including other political parties and the international community.
“The national chairman and the national secretary should also be individuals who posses the strength of character needed to resist interferences by contending interests and insist on strict adherence to our party constitution.
“Either the national chairman or the national secretary must be a person who have cognate experience in party administration with the requisite institutional memory needed to stabilize the party within the short time available before the general elections.
“More opportunities should be given to women and youth in the new NWC. The women play critical role in stabilizing the party and control a very effective constituency; while the youths introduce vibrancy in the positions they hold. Besides, the party needs to groom the younger generation for seamless succession,” the statement read in part.