2023: PDP youths threaten to back northern candidate if South-South govs fail to declare interest

•Consensus candidacy, good for PDP — Ishaku  

Why PDP needs Atiku now —Ekpotu, Ex A/Ibom dep gov  

Why PDP, APC shoul field southern candidates

Tasks before Ortom-led committee

By Dirisu Yakubu

AHEAD of the Presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on May 28 and 29, the Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee, NWC and other layers of the party’s leadership are finding it difficult to make things easier for the aspirants. 

So far, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar;  former Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governors Aminu Tambuwal; and Bala Mohammed of Sokoto and Bauchi states respectively; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim; and ace publisher, Dele Momodu, have obtained the N40m expression of interest and nomination forms. 

This is amid clamour for zoning the presidential ticket to the South or throwing it open.

Proponents of zoning insist that in 2019, there was an unanimous agreement  for the North to produce the presidential candidate of the party, a development that led to the party selling the nomination forms to only aspirants of northern extraction.

Thus, all 12 aspirants, who squared up for the ticket at the primaries held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, were northerners. 

Consequently, the likes of Governor Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) have been consistent in their call for a similar scenario now with the South as the beneficiary.

However, Ayu has not been able to take a categorical stand on whether the party would zone or throw the race open to all eligible contestants. 

Last week, Dele Momodu warned of the danger of shutting anyone out of the race in the name of zoning, noting N40m in any currency is a huge sum of money to be collected “for services not rendered.”

His words: “On the issue of zoning or no zoning, I believe that allowing all aspirants to buy their forms at N40 million suggests that the race is open to all, regardless of what part of Nigeria they come from. It is practically and legally impossible for a political party to disqualify an aspirant on account of zoning after collecting a whopping N40 million for services not rendered. I am therefore happy to join this race and I am expecting a level playing ground for all aspirants as repeatedly promised by our respectable and cerebral national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu,” he said.

In what appeared as a shot fired in the direction of Atiku Abubakar, who has been severally accused of turning his back against the party in its moment of crisis, Momodu commended PDP for standing up to be counted in rain and shine, adding that the South has done enough to preserve unity and cohesion within the party fold.

“I wish to humbly suggest to the formidable southern leaders not to panic about zoning at all. I love their resolve on insisting that power must shift to the south and the only assured way to achieve this is for all the southern regions to unite and reach out to their friends in other parts of the country. The unity of our country should be paramount, but it should be based on mutual respect. 

Our governors must be commended for the way they have invested in keeping our party alive and well at a time some of our leaders were nowhere to be found…

“The last elected president of PDP was a southerner, Dr Goodluck Jonathan while the last PDP candidate was a northerner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who I supported wholeheartedly and voluntarily. 

Also, the current serving President, General Muhammadu Buhari, against whom Alhaji Atiku contested, is of northern Fulani descent. Therefore, the two main political parties fielded northerners in 2019 and the heavens did not fall. The South supported the candidacy of one or the other northerner, without protest or complaint. I see no reason that that cannot be the case in respect of a decision by the two main parties to field southern candidates in the upcoming 2023 elections. Indeed, it is very right and sensible to do so in view of the serious agitations for a breakup of Nigeria into several nations,” he added.

Saraki’s case

One of the factors many Nigerians identified as a weakness in the aspiration of Bukola Saraki to lead Nigeria is his geographical bearing. Kwara, the home state of the medical doctor turned politician is tucked in the North-Central zone of the country, making him a northerner. However, Saraki speaks very little Hausa language and this linguistic challenge is seen as a barrier, politically. While his native Yoruba see him as a northerner, the North see him as not “northern” enough to bear the flag reserved for that zone.

Appearing before the House of Representatives caucus of the PDP in continuation of his ongoing consultation, last week, Saraki wooed the lawmakers with a smart delivery, saying: “By the bye-products of where I come from, a true reflection of the Nigerian, I can be that bridge between the northern part of this country and the southern part of this country. I believe also I can reach across the religious divide of Muslims and Christians.”

As the import of that statement was being digested, Saraki added: “I can reach across the most important divide between the private sector and the public sector because of my background. You need all these qualities to unite this country. And this is not by just a bypass, but also by where I come from and how I have lived my life.”

Gang up against Atiku?

Only recently, chairman, Technical Committee of the Atiku Support Group, Raymond Dokpesi alleged of gang up against the former Vice President without going into specifics. Last Tuesday, Saraki met with Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed with the sole agenda of coming up with a consensus candidate. Same has been interpreted as a gang up against Atiku given that he was not involved in the tripartite meeting; a charge dismissed by Saraki in a chat with newsmen in Abuja.

“Those making such insinuations are mischievous who never see any good out of anything. We are not shutting anybody out. As we said, we are going to see him (Atiku). We are going to see other aspirants, the other aspirants in the party. This is not about shutting anybody out. It is about uniting everybody with the interests of this country. And you will see when we begin to move around, but we are not limited to anybody,” he said.

Why PDP needs Atiku now- Ekpotu, Ex A/Ibom dep gov

Meanwhile, former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Engineer Patrick Ekpotu, has said that in spite of the agitations in the PDP for the South to produce the president in 2023, political pragmatism dictates that the party needs the experience and reach of the  Atiku Abubakra, to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

The PDP, he said, needs a united front and a purpose-driven strategy anchored on honest practical and viable options before it, to meaningfully challenge for power in 2023.

He said that the current conversation about zoning, which according to him, is not totally a bad idea, was elicited by insensitive political leadership that has overtime foisted nepotism in every facet of the system, thereby hurting the sensibility of many and leading to unveiled disillusionment, mutual distrust and widespread anger across the nation.

This, according to him, is increasingly widening the chasm of disunity and unexpectedly forcing many into sectional, ethnic or religious enclaves and draining the oxygen of a dream nation that promote character, capacity and merit in leadership selection process, rather than parochialism.

In a statement, Ekpotu said this is not ordinary times, and the PDP and its faithful should appreciate this fact, and make informed decisions, devoid of regional, ethnic or religious sentiments, if the party is serious with its intent to take back power from the APC.

He said that Nigeria has never been this divided and almost in total ruination in all fronts since the return of democracy in 1999.

Ekpotu: “Nigeria is at cross roads and must make quick pragmatic decisions that would ensure the nation comes out of the dark valley it has found itself in recent years. And the PDP must have to lead this charge, as it apparently has the best chance more than ever before, in recent years of dethroning the ruling party.

“Nigeria deserves a new direction, re-jigged vision, rejuvenated vigour and an inspiring leadership, that would prioritize the peace, unity, progress and happiness of Nigerians. That, to me is the yearning of many people across board. But PDP must have to put its best foot forward in order to meet this overwhelming yearning of the people to sweep APC away from power come 2023.

“With no prejudice to the capacity of any other aspirants, or my own region, South-South, in PDP, to take a shot at the top job, Atiku’s political, administrative and human and resource management experiences, both in the public and private sector, present a visible edge that wouldn’t be easy to honestly gloss over.”

Consensus candidacy, good for PDP- Ishaku

However, Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku has thrown his weight behind a consensus PDP presidential candidate.

Ishaku made the pledge while playing host to the trio of Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed, who are contesting the Presidential ticket of the PDP.

He said: “This (consensus) is a wonderful golden initiative. PDP is known for being a family. we have shown Nigerians how to rule and manage their affairs and I think we should still be the leaders. I very happy with this visit. You have my 100 per cent support.

“I am sure my colleagues too will give you the same support and any right thinking person should be able to support this mission.

We only have to produce one person. Let’s walk together, hold our hands together and agree that this person should be our leader and then, will all fall in line.”

Responding on behalf of the aspirants, Dr Saraki said: “we all have our individual ambitions, we all are eminently qualified to lead this country but we all cannot lead the country at the same time. What is important now is to provide leadership and unity, close ranks because if we all go to the primary, you know the problems that it will create and we have agreed to work together and come up with a candidate.”

Tasks before Ortom-led committee

The appointment of Governor Samuel Ortom as chairman of the 37-man committee on zoning was announced last week by national chairman of PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu. The Benue State governor is expected to provide the needed leadership that would guide the brainstorming in coming up with an answer to the necessity or otherwise of zoning.

A member of the committee told Vanguard that “there is no way the committee would advise the party to cede its presidential ticket to any of the zones, given that forms are already being sold. The most likely counsel our panel would give is to encourage every member of our party with the requisite qualification and enablement to vie for the ticket. That would be in interest of democracy,” he added.

The big questions

How prepared is the South to rally support for a northern candidate in the event of the emergence of one on May 28 this year? Should the party think about winning first and power sharing later as Governor Tambuwal recently advocated? Won’t the South see itself as an appendage of the North if the ticket is thrown open? These are the questions the Ayu-led NWC would answer as skeletal preparations for the 2023 general election begin.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.