April 7, 2022

2023: Anger as PDP throws presidential ticket open


PDP and its colour flags

*We didn’t throw ticket open —Ortom

*Why contest was thrown open —Zoning C’ttee member

*I hope PDP understands its implications —Ohuabunwa

*S-East youths vow to mobilise against PDP if…

*How Obasanjo sowed the seed of zoning crisis —PDP Source

*4 aspirants meet in Rivers, advocate the unity of purpose

*I’m not desperate to be President—Peter Obi

*Saraki-led reconciliation c’ttee seeks credible officials for primaries

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Dirisu Yakubu, Omeiza Ajayi, Egufe Yafugborhi,  Peter Duru, Steve Oko,  Emmanuel Iheaka & Ikechukwu Odu, LAGOS

Angry reactions, yesterday, greeted the recommendations of the zoning committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, throwing the party’s 2023 presidential ticket open to all parts of the country.

A presidential aspirant, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said he hoped the party understood the implications of throwing the race for its presidential ticket open as a coalition of youth groups in the South-East vowed to mobilise against the PDP if it denies the zone the presidential slot.

This came as Chairman of the Zoning Committee and governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, said he did not say the committee recommended jettisoning zoning while speaking to newsmen yesterday.

However, a member of the zoning committee told Vanguard that the committee recommended throwing the presidential race open and urged the party to take critical steps to calm frayed nerves in order to avert implosion.

Vanguard gathered that the committee has submitted its report to the National Working Committee, NWC, which will, in turn, submit it to the National Executive Committee, NEC, for deliberation and ratification this week.

Meanwhile, some of the presidential aspirants are working towards producing a consensus candidate. Four aspirants from the North, including Senator Bukola Saraki, Governors Aminu Tambuwal, and Bala Mohammed; and Dr Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, are leading the push for a consensus and have been crisscrossing the country.

A similar move has also been initiated in the South, with Akwa Ibom’s Udom Emmanuel, who has declared his intention to vie for the presidency, and Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, saying it is doable, just as former Anambra State governor and 2019 vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr Peter Obi, said he was not desperate to be President of Nigeria but to see a country working for the good of all.

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We didn’t throw race open — Ortom

Benue State Governor and Chairman, Zoning Committee of the PDP, Samuel Ortom, yesterday faulted media reports that his committee has thrown open the race for the presidential ticket of the party.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, the governor who bared his mind while appearing on the ‘Morning Show’ on Arise TV, insisted that his committee was quoted out of context.

The governor wondered why those who were not part of the meeting of the committee would want to force words into it’s mouth.

“So I want to clear the insinuation that the zoning committee has thrown open the presidential ticket. I did inform the media yesterday (Tuesday) that the committee had adopted a unanimous position to be presented to the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party.

“Where did I say the committee has thrown open the presidential ticket? The committee will present the report to NEC. It is NEC that has the final authority on the zoning of positions.

“As far as the committee was concerned, there were arguments that the presidential ticket should go to the South. Some said it should go to the Northern part of the country. There were others who were of the opinion that it should be thrown open to allow the best candidate who will be able to deliver good governance and make Nigerians feel like human beings again, contest.

“As the chairman of the committee, I did not say it has been thrown up. So it is very wrong for anyone to insinuate that we have thrown the presidential ticket open. I am still repeating that, whatever we did, we have submitted our report to NEC.

So it is wrong for the media to come out with a position despite the fact that they were not members of the committee.

“So it is wrong completely. I did not say that. And like I said, NEC is the final authority on deciding where the position will be zoned to.”

Why contest was thrown open —C’ttee member

However, a member of the zoning committee told Vanguard why the ticket was thrown open.

Urging the party to avert implosion by taking urgent steps to calm frayed nerves, the source said: “It is like we have kicked the can down the road.

“The major clause was whether there was zoning or not in our party’s constitution but thank God we have confirmed and agreed that it is there. The issue of timing by the aspirants, that they have spent their money, did we ask them to go and spend their money?

‘’Why did they not wait for the party? It was a little pacifying for some people but the big problem is that I can see the time bomb ahead and it may cause an implosion.

“At least, to calm all nerves, we decided to allow an open contest but I don’t know what will happen at the NEC meeting. We have met and submitted our report; it is left for the NEC to take it up from there.”

Angry reactions in S’East

Reacting to media reports that the 37-man zoning committee of the party had recommended an open presidential ticket against zoning, Mazi Sam Ohuabu-nwa said the National Executive Council of the party will still have to approve the report of the committee before it would become binding.

He, however, said that if the NEC, after due consideration, decides to adopt the recommendation, it should also prepare to contend with the reactions.

“I believe that the leadership of our great party understands the implications of that. PDP is not a one-man party. If in their wisdom they think it’s the right thing to do, then they should prepare for the reactions.”

Ohuabunwa, who said he expects the PDP to still adhere to zoning as contained in the party’s constitution, expressed optimism that the recommendation would not adversely affect his chances at the party’s primaries.

“I’m determined to run for the presidential ticket. I’m hoping I will win. I have all it takes to fix Nigeria and I’m prepared.”

It’ll be unfair to South-East’

In his reaction, immediate past Secretary to Abia State Government, SSG, Dr Eme Okoro, said PDP would be unfair to the South, particularly South-East if it throws its presidential ticket open.

The former SSG, who is a founding member of PDP, wondered why the party, which ceded its presidential ticket to the North in the 2019 election, could not do the same for the South in 2023.

He said PDP should maintain zoning which is part of the party’s constitution, warning against any conspiracy to scheme the South-East out of the power equilibrium of the country.

The former SSG said Nigeria should give the South-East a sense of belonging by allowing the zone to produce the next President in 2023 or allow the people to depart peacefully if Nigeria no longer needs them.

“Zoning will remain the grundnorm for the survival PDP. Power should be allowed to go to the South and the right zone, which is South-East.

“South-East should be given the opportunity to produce the person who will weld Nigeria together and move the country forward. But if they can’t tolerate us, then they should allow us to go. Are we slaves? There should be equity and fairness in this country.

On its part, the Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, the umbrella body of youth groups in the South-East, said PDP had shot itself in the foot.

COSEYL in a statement by its President-General, Goodluck Ibem, said the decision amounted to changing the goal post in the middle of the game.

“This decision by the party is a calculated attempt to throw to the wind the long years of loyalty of the people of the South-East who have only voted and worked tirelessly for the electoral successes and progress of the party since its inception in 1998. Ndigbo has been a great supporter of the PDP.

“We want to bring it to the knowledge of the PDP that, if they fail to zone the PDP Presidential ticket to South-East which is the only geopolitical zone that has not produced a Nigerian President, the party is bound to fail woefully in the zone.

“Before now, the party has promised to pacify the zone with the Presidential ticket for her long years of loyalty and dedication to the party, but this sudden change by the party to do the opposite of what was promised before now will be totally resisted by Ndigbo.

“As the powerhouse of Igbo youths saddled with the responsibility of defending the political interest of Ndigbo, we are putting the PDP on notice that if the party fails to zone the PDP ticket to South-East come 2023 Presidential elections, no Igbo man living anywhere in Nigeria will vote PDP.”

Zoning c’ttee’s report is not a closed issue, NEC’ll still deliberate on it  – Nwodo

Speaking on the zoning issue, former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, said that the PDP zoning Committee’s recommendation which threw the presidential slot open was not a closed issue.

The former governor of Enugu State insisted that the National Executive Council, NEC, of the party would deliberate on it before it is adopted as a working document for the party.

However, he added that the South-East stakeholders of PDP are working hard to ensure that one of the presidential aspirants from the zone emerges the presidential candidate.

“The truth of the matter is that the committee’s report is not a closed issue. First of all, we have to receive the report officially at NEC. NEC still has an opportunity to deliberate further before taking a decision. “South-East will still work hard towards the primary election to see if one of our aspirants would clinch the ticket. So, it is not over until it is over,” he said.

Leaking recommendations without PDP leadership discussing it is a political manoeuvre — Ahamba

In his reaction, renowned legal practitioner, Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, said making the recommendation of the PDP committee on the zoning of presidential ticket public without the leadership of the party discussing it, was a political manoeuvre to destroy the party in the South-East.

Ahamba insisted it is a mere recommendation and not the decision of the party.

“That is not a decision of the PDP; it is a decision of a committee. Until PDP makes a statement on that, I will not make a statement. That was a recommendation; somebody lifted it and started using it. I believe it was a political manoeuvre to destroy the South-East PDP.

“PDP has not met to discuss the recommendation. There is a difference between recommendation and decision,” he stated.

4 aspirants meet in Rivers, seek unity of purpose

Four aspirants seeking the PDP presidential ticket met in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday,  harping on unity of purpose to ensure the party returns to power.

The closed-door meeting hosted by Governor Nyesom Wike at the Government House, Port Harcourt, was attended by fellow presidential aspirants including Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and former Managing Director of FSB International Bank, Dr Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.

Governor Wike, following the meeting, disclosed that attendees demonstrated interest in ensuring unity in the party and making Nigerians happy by driving a formidable strategy to bring about PDP victory in the 2023 presidential election.

“Our interest is the unity of the party, to make Nigerians happy, making sure that by 2023, PDP takes over the reins of government because Nigerians are patiently waiting. I can assure you we are going to work as a team to make Nigerians happy,” Wike summed.

Senator Saraki who led the delegation of aspirants to Port Harcourt said: “We are here to have a discussion and we just finished talking about the best way for us to reunite our party, bring unity among all those who are aspiring to lead this country under PDP.

“We have been to some of the other states and today we are here with Governor of Rivers State, a key stakeholder of this party to discuss frankly. He has given us his views and make some suggestions and we will continue to work with that as we move away from here. But the key thing is unity, the key thing is to put the country first and put the party first.”

I’m not desperate to be President —Peter Obi

Former Anambra State Governor and 2019 Vice Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Mr Peter Obi has said he is not desperate to be President of Nigeria but to see a country working for the good of all.

Obi disclosed this to newsmen in Abuja shortly after officially intimating the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, of his intention to vie for the Presidency in the 2023 election.

Obi, who also met with the PDP Caucus of the National Assembly where he pledged his commitment to continue to the country’s unity, said: “Our country is now going through a difficult time. I am not desperate to be a President; I am desperate to see a better Nigeria.”

On insinuation that he is actually fronting for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, with whom he ran on a joint ticket in 2019, Obi dismissed the same, noting that his background in the private and public sectors is enough to convince Nigerians of the kind of leader he is.

“You have to check my trajectory as a person, look at all the people that are contesting and view my background. You will probably see that I am the only person who has a very unique background.

“I am a businessman. I have chaired corporations in this country including the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC and so many quoted companies and I have been a governor. It is for you to go and check all those places and see what I was able to do and ask yourself who is the right person to take leadership of this country at this difficult time,” he added.

He decried the state of affairs in the country noting that in the past few years, Nigeria has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

“We have what we call natural security and artificial security. Natural security deals with job creation, you need to put food on people’s tables to ensure that they are not doing the wrong thing. If they don’t know where the next meal will come from, the tendency is that they will become a tool for anything.

“So we need to employ people. I know what to do in putting money into micro, small and medium scale enterprises. I have experimented with this in a small way people can see. Otherwise, how could a small state like Anambra end up on the day I was handing over not owing salary or pension?

No contractor who executed his job raised a certificate or supplied us with goods was being owed. I have N77bn which is over $500 million at that time in the bank. I know what we can effectively do to turn around the situation.’’

“We are now on top of the list of the most fragile states. We are now on top of the list of the most terrorized states sitting behind Yemen and Afghanistan. We are the capital of poverty in the world. We now have more people living in poverty than most big nations combined. We now have several millions of out-of-school children.

“We need to move the country from consumption to production. There is nothing to share again. We now need wealth creators, not wealth sharers. We have been sharing wealth for a long time, we need to start creating wealth,” he added.

How Obasanjo sowed the seed of zoning crisis –PDP Source

Indications emerged, yesterday, as to why the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Committee on Zoning, decided to throw its presidential contest open, with a committee member insisting that it was meant “to satisfy all sides of the push for and against zoning.”

Also, a leading member of the party traced the root of the zoning imbroglio to the 2007 imposition, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, of late President Umar Yar’Adua, against a contest that had primed the then Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili, as the front runner – Obasanjo stopped Odili from contesting the presidential primary in 2007.

A source, familiar with the workings of the party, told Vanguard that though the PDP has zoned in its constitution, “in the light of contemporary circumstances, the best thing for the PDP to do is throw the contest open for everybody.”

The source traced the genesis of the zoning crisis to how former President Olusegun Obasanjo foisted late Umaru Yar’Adua on the party, saying it destabilised the idea of democracy.

Multiple sources also told Vanguard that if the ticket had been zoned to a particular region this time, it will lead to an implosion in the party.

“If the presidency is zoned to the North, there will be grumblings in the South; the same thing will happen if it is zoned to the South.

But if they go to the field to contest, once a winner emerges in a democratic manner, it will be acceptable to everyone. It will be easier for everybody to come back if all the aspirants observe that the primary is free, fair and transparent.

“Based on institutional memory, the genesis of PDP’s problem started when Obasanjo foisted late Umaru Yar’Adua on everybody in the name of balancing and zoning.

“It destabilised the idea of democracy.

“Peter Odili went around the country campaigning as did some other people only for Obasanjo to insist, on the day of the PDP convention, that Odili should not contest. That was the genesis of PDP’s problem and since then, a seed of discord was planted because some people did not like what happened.

“Even when Yar’Adua passed on and Jonathan took over, the grumblings that Yar’Adua was imposed on them continued.

“In 2011, some people said Jonathan should not contest but he contested and the 2011 contest was a carry-over from the angst of 2007 that Obasanjo started.

“Unfortunately for Jonathan, he could not manage the fall-out of the crisis which led to some governors walking out on him on the PDP convention ground in 2013”, the source said.

Another source, who faulted the argument of Aminu Tambuwal and Bukola Saraki on the zoning of the presidency, described it as self-serving.

‘Way to go for PDP’

“Yes, the PDP has zoning as part of its constitution, however, in the light of contemporary circumstances now, the best thing for them is to leave it open for everybody. Once the process is free and fair, whoever emerges will be seen as a credible candidate who has emerged from any part of the country but if they zone it to the North, southerners will be angry and if they zone it to the South, some northerners will feel indifferent when the time comes for the general campaign.

“And if you shut out the North, you are indirectly telling them that they do not matter. One thing is for the ticket to be gotten by someone, the other thing is for the person to win the general election which is the argument of Aminu Tambuwal and Bukola Saraki. Some people say that argument is self-serving because it pays them.

Yet, there are those saying to be fair to the north, the southerners have used PDP’s slot, Jonathan six years and Obasanjo had eight years which makes it 14 years. Yar’Adua only did two years.

“So, when they say 16 years of PDP, it is 14 years of southern presidency. So, those who are complaining also have a point about the North having it.

“In the light of what is happening now and to put the thing to rest, the ticket should be thrown open. It will be better to have internal wrangling that the presidential primary will resolve afterwards than to have a presidential primary that is peaceful but will have a crisis during the general campaign”, the party source said.

Saraki-led reconciliation c’ttee tasks party on credible primaries

Meanwhile, the Senator Bukola Saraki-led Reconciliation and Strategy Committee has called on the leadership of the party to carefully choose officials that will handle its primaries, to ensure that only credible persons are picked for the assignments.

The committee chaired was set up in 2020 with a mandate to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party who for one reason or the other left, and to devise winning strategies for the PDP ahead of the 2023 elections.

Submitting its report to the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, yesterday, Saraki expressed confidence in the ability of the PDP to bounce back to power but warned that the process and conduct of primaries should be rooted in credibility.

He said: “Mr Chairman, we need to point out that while so much has been done, there is still so much to do. Our party has recently commenced the journey towards electing candidates to contest on the party’s platform in the 2023 general elections at the presidential, gubernatorial, National Assembly, and state houses of assembly levels.

“We have discovered that the conduct of primaries to elect candidates to represent the party has been a source of great intra-party conflict and friction in the past, resulting in the PDP being severely weakened and hampering its chances of success in previous elections.

“We believe that you and other members of the NWC are men and women of great courage and integrity who have displayed a commitment to our great party, its ideals, and values. We want to advise that the party leadership should at all times, adhere to the principles of equity, justice, fairness, a good conscience, and inclusiveness.

“The leadership should always be transparent in taking decisions such that those not favoured by the decision can at least see that they have been given a fair hearing and those whose cases prevail can see that they won on merit, therefore having to be magnanimous in victory.

“We urge you, Mr Chairman, and other members of the NWC to ensure a thorough and extensive scrutiny process in the selection of the people who will be sent to conduct primary elections in the various states as we prepare for the 2023 elections. They must be people who will be fair to all and adhere strictly to democratic tenets. Sanctions should be meted out to those of them who by their actions create a crisis in any state,” the committee stated in its report.

Responding, the National Chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu thanked the committee and promised on behalf of the NWC to take a detailed look at it with a view to implementing some of the recommendations therein.

He said: “We have been anticipating the report and some of the issues raised are being addressed. We will go through the report meticulously and submit it to NEC. It will help us to strengthen the party,” stressing that it will be difficult to unite the party if the state chapters are not working together.

Soon, we will invite you to the commissioning of the Peoples Democratic Institute, which is going to help us in the coming campaigns

“Some of you are aspirants and if you win, you will be charged with further responsibility to solve some of the issues in the recommendations.”

Present at the event were members of the committee including former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, former Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, and former House of Representatives Leader, Mulikat Akande among others.

Vanguard News Nigeria