* Ugwuanyi’s zoning c’ttee begins sitting today
Party to inaugurate convention committee tomorrow
By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
As the 44-member zoning committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwanyi of Enugu State begins sitting today, leaders of the party in the South-West have intensified their bid to produce the next national chairman of the party.
PDP leaders in the six South-West states, Vanguard gathered, have sent a strong message to the leadership of the party on the need to zone the national chairmanship to the zone in the October 31 national convention.
Since the inception of the party in 1998, the South-West has not produced the national chairman. The highest it has gone is deputy national chairman, until last week when it produced acting national chairman following the suspension of Prince Uche Secondus.
As it is, the Ugwuanyi committee, which was inaugurated on September 9 with Zamfara State Deputy Governor, Mohammed Mahdi, as secretary has a tough nut to crack over whether the chairman should come from the North or South.
The decision has implications on where the next presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 election will come from.
The South-West PDP leaders are arguing that the chairmanship should be specifically zoned to their zone 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 one PDP governor, senators and members of the House of Representatives from four of its six states – Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
The leadership of the PDP, on September 9 appointed Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri as chairman of the party’s convention organizing committee with Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde as secretary.
Bayelsa state governor, Duoye Diri was appointed deputy chairman of the convention planning committee while his Benue state counterpart, Samuel Ortom is the deputy chairman of the zoning committee.
North primed to produce PDP presidential candidate
As the Ugwuanyi-led committee begins its tough task, there are indications that a northerner may fly the PDP’s presidential flag in 2023.
Reason: Most of those posturing to grab the ticket is 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 produces 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; 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.
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.
Currently, those considered to be eyeing the presidency on the banner of the PDP include 2019 Vice Presidential Candidate and immediate past Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi; Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia).
Others are former Vice President and 2019 Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Kwara State Governor and Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki; former House Representatives Speaker and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed; and former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Government Relations, Tanimu Turaki.
If the zoning committee zones the chairmanship to the South-West, the southern presidential hopefuls 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, Bala Mohammed, and 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 had 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 unfinished business in Bauchi State, where he is serving his first term as governor and is expected to go for a 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 are easily one of the youngest presidential aspirants on the 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 voter’s 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 one 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.