From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri, Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu, Chinelo Obogo, Sunday Ani and Chukwudi Nweje
Indications emerged, last night that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has resolved to jettison zoning in deciding the nomination of its presidential candidate for the 2023 poll.
The 37-man zoning committee headed by Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, took the decision at a meeting held at the Benue State Government Lodge in Abuja.
Multiple sources privy to discussion at the meeting said the committee resolved: “(1)Zoning, as in our party constitution, is affirmed; (2) In spite of (1) above, ticket is thrown open this time around due to exigency of time. Our party is encouraged to always make the issue of zoning very clear at least six months before sales of forms. Our party should commend the efforts of some our contestants on the issue of consensus candidacy; the efforts should be seen to a peaceful and logical conclusion.”
Zoning has been causing ripples in the party since March 2021 when the committee on the review of the 2019 general elections headed by Bauchi State Governor recommended that it should be thrown open to all qualified aspirants. The PDP NEC at a meeting last Month set up a 37-man committee to resolve the issue.
Ortom, who refused to take questions nor disclose resolution of the panel said all members of the committee were unanimous in their decision.
“We’ve unanimously adopted a position that will be sent to the NEC of our party that appointed us. The good news for our teeming supporters of the PDP and Nigerians is that we have resolved and everyone of us, the 37 members unanimously adopted the position that we are going to present to NEC.”
As members of the committee emerged from the meeting, many of them from the South wore long faces while their counterparts from the North beamed with smiles.
With the decision of the panel to throw the contest open, the coast is now clear for all the presidential aspirants, who have obtained the PDP nomination forms to contest in the presidential primary scheduled for May 28 and 29.
However, it was not certain as at press time when the party’s NEC would meet to consider the report of the committee.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) was yet to receive the report. He explained that immediately it does, machinery would be put in place to convene NEC meeting to ratify report.
Those who have obtained nomination forms include Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation( SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim. Others are former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi; former senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki; Oliver Diana Teriela; Nwachukwu Anakwenze; Ovation Publisher, Dele Mohammed, Sam Ohuabunwa and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.
•We’ll not relent
Ohanaeze Ndigbo has said it was not dampened by the decision to throw it open as it was hopeful a Southeasterner would clinch it at the end.
The Publicity Secretary, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said Ohanaeze would continue to lobby the party.
“They said they are throwing it open but we cannot stop lobbying them to see how they will understand that it is the turn of the Igbo. Even when APC is talking about South, we cannot stop in our efforts to continue to talk to their hearts to understand, it is a struggle that will continue. It is not a struggle you embark on and stop, it has a ripple effect now and after, so we have to be consistent in it. Even after the election, the struggle will continue that this is Igbo position.”
“We are still lobbying, we are still speaking to Nigerians trying to convince them on the need for us to have an Igbo as President for peace and unity of the country, because when there is no peace and unity there can’t be progress, there can’t be what you call development. Sustainable national development cannot come when you don’t have peace and unity and the bases of that that peace and unity is equity, fairness and justice. When you have justice, then you have peace and unity and sustainable development is a product of peace and unity, that is what we are saying.”
•We’ll campaign against northern candidate –MBF
Middle Belt Forum (MBF) vowed to campaign against against any political party that fields a northerner as its presidential candidate.
Its President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said they have principles and would always stand by them regardless of who is involved. He said the country has had a president from the North for eight years and it was only fair that power should return to the Southern part of the country.
“We have been very consistent in our clamour for a president from the South and we have not changed our stance. President Muhammadu Buhari is from the north and he has ruled for eight years, so, this time around, the presidency should go to the South.
“I want to make it clear that the Middle Belt Forum has resolved to campaign against any political party that elects a presidential candidate from the north to contest the 2023 election. We will campaign against such a person and that is our final decision.”
•You’ve buried your votes – Southern youths
The Southern Nigeria Ethnic Youth Leaders Assembly (SNEYLA) said the decision would cost the party votes in the South East and South South.
The group gave PDP seven days to reconsider ceding PDP presidential tickets to South East or be ready to bear the grevious consequences of such injustice and marginalisation against Southeasteners.
According to a statement by its National President, Felix Worlu: “PDP has murdered sleep and they wouldn’t sleep again in Southern Nigeria until the party is finally buried. There’s no reason any PDP office/flag from ward level to state will be in the Southern Nigeria if they dare to deny a southeastern PDP president ticket.
“By throwing PDP president ticket open, PDP has murdered justice, fairness and equity. Therefore, Southern Nigeria Ethnic Youth Leaders Assembly Shall apply every political means both conventional and unconventional to send a signal to PDP from the day of primary if they deny South East presidential Aspirants ticket…PDP by their actions want to destroy Nigeria Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe built and the Nigeria General Yakubu Gowon fought for in 1967/70.”
•Decision unfortunate, shameful –Kokori
Former secretary general of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Union (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, described the decision as unfortunate and shameful.
“I think it will be a shame if the southern governors don’t unite against this decision. You see, I don’t want a situation where a northern Muslim would be contesting against a southern Christian because Nigeria is in a bad shape and people will think it is a war situation. We are not yet ripe for that kind of arrangement considering our multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual differences.
“So, it is unfortunate that the PDP has to go that way to shortchange the southerners who have been their main source of support for years. The southern people have virtually given more than 90 percent support to the PDP at every election year. So, it is for the southern PDP members to look at it critically and know what to do. But, I think they are being marginalised and if they don’t know that they are being marginalised, then it is unfortunate for them,” he said.
•Decision self-destruct – Uwazurike
Former President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike said the move was not only a betrayal of the established norm, but a clear indication that the party was working to destroy itself.
“What the PDP did is a betrayal. It was the same thing they did in 2015 when they worked against former President Goodluck Jonathan. If they want to do the same thing in 2023 by not zoning the presidential ticket to the South, we shall see how the votes will go.”
•Ilemona, Afegbua clash
A PDP member from the North Central, Ilemona Onoja, said the decision would enable the party to present the most competent candidate who can win election for the party.
However, former commissioner in Edo State, Kassim Afegbua said if the party has decided to go against zoning which is in its constitution, it equally has to remove zoning from its constitution to avoid litigation in future.
“Out of 62 years since independence, the north has ruled for 48 years while the south has only ruled for 14 years, so where is the equity, justice and fairness that some people are talking about,” he argued.