By Ibrahim Siraj
There are indications that Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), would zone its presidential ticket to the Southern part of the country. This follows the decision of the party to zone the national chairmanship seat to the North ahead of its national convention coming up later this month.
Although the party is yet to formally decide on the zone that will produce its flagbearer in the 2023 presidential election, the latest decision provides some clue because, based on convention, the party has never zoned the two coveted offices to the same region.
Announcing the decision Thursday, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, who is also the Chairman of the party’s zoning committee, said the decision was arrived at at the end of his committee’s meeting.
He said his committee was not mandated to zone the presidential ticket. According to him, “The mandate of the committee does not include zoning of the president, vice president and other executive and legislative offices of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The decision of the party to zone the offices, the Governor adds, “is in line with the constitution of the party on zoning and rotation of party and national offices in the interest of justice, equity and fairness”.
By implication, the decision by PDP to push the national chairmanship seat to the North is likely to dash the hope of politicians eyeing the party’s presidential ticket from the North. Going by tradition, it is almost impossible for the party’s national chairman and presidential candidate to come from one zone.
Prominent among those affected by the party’s decision are former vice president Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor of Sokoto State Aminu Tambuwal and former Kano State Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso. These four politicians are among many others of Northern extraction who dominated the party’s presidential convention in 2019, with Atiku Abubakar eventually emerging as the winner. However, Mr Atiku was defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling APC to win reelection.
Atiku unperturbed – Campaign Group
Speaking to The Daily Reality on the development, Alhaji Abdullahi Abdulkarim Gama, leader of Atiku Arewa Reporters, a campaign group rooting for the candidature of the former vice president, said his principal remains unperturbed. He said as far as they are concerned, the decision of the zoning committee is not final and only reflects the position of PDP governors. Moreso, he said, the Governor Ahmad Fintiri-led Convention committee is yet to conclude its assignment and submit its report regarding the party’s convention. He maintained that scheming for the party’s presidential ticket would continue until the last minute.
Situation sceptical yet no cause for alarm – Kwankwasiyya leader
On his part, Dr Aliyu Isa Aliyu, a leading Kwankwasiyya member in Kano, warned that the situation remains sceptical even though no cause for alarm as far as Kwankwaso’s presidential ambition is concerned given that the party has not formally taken a final position on the matter. He cited a situation in 2007 wherein late President YarAdua emerged as PDP’s presidential candidate and went ahead to win the presidency even though the national chairman at the time, Col Ahmadu Ali (Rtd), was also a Northerner. Col. Ali was replaced in 2008 by Chief Vincent Ogbulafor following the zoning of the position to the South.
Agitation for power rotation not in the interest of Nigerian masses – Don
PDP’s decisions came when the North and the South are deeply entangled in a heated agitation for power rotation. The Southern governors have, on several occasions, made it utterly clear that power must shift to their region, and the North must shelve any thought of retaining the presidency beyond 2023. This position was, however, countered by Northern governors who consider it as “foolish”, “unconstitutional”, and “undemocratic” any attempt to dictate to the North who to vote for as president.
At the end of the governors’ meeting earlier this week which other leaders from the region also attended, the governors advised their Southern counterparts to explore dialogue and compromise as against confrontation and undemocratic tendencies if they are really interested in securing the support of the North for power to shift to the South.
As the political tug of war between the North and the South continues over the zone that produces the next president, a university don has warned that the rotational presidency is undemocratic and thus has no place in Nigeria’s Constitution. Answering enquiry from TDR, Dr Riyauddeen Zubairu Maitama of the Department of Political Science, Bayero Univerisity, Kano, explains that although so much importance has been attached to the issue of power rotation, what should be more significant for the citizens is justice and development. Of utmost importance to Nigerians, he said, is choosing a leader who will tackle corruption, poverty and widespread insecurity irrespective of the political party or the region such a leader comes from.
Dr Riyauddeen further lamented how politicians from both divides are becoming more preoccupied with zoning and power rotation at the expense of the welfare of the Nigerian masses who voted for them. He described the agitation for secession championed by the likes of Sunday Igboho as Southern Nigeria’s gimmick to harass the North and to exact political concession ahead of the presidential election.
Crucial months ahead
With less than a year and a half to Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election, the next few months will be crucial as zoning, and other issues are expected to dominate the discourse on the political scene. While the major political parties continue to gear up for their separate national conventions to choose national officers, Nigerians will continue to observe with keen interest how political events will unfold in search of President Buhari’s successor in 2023. The pertinent question for now is: can zoning succeed in ultimately sealing the fate of those presidential hopefuls from the North, or would they be able to come up with something dramatic to turn things around? Only time will tell!