By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
As the 2023 general election draws closer, our reporter, Lateef Ibrahim in this report, examines the key issues that will sharpen the direction the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will go.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, like any other political party, sure knows how sensitive, delicate and fragile the issue of zoning is or can be.
The issue becomes more politically volatile when it has to do with or concerns the zoning of the nation’s highest political office, the presidency. The main opposition party, without any doubt, is not strange to zoning and its arrangement.
Ahead of the 1999 general elections, the party, which was reputed and acclaimed as the largest in the black sub-saharan Africa, decided to zone its presidential ticket to the South-West geo-political zone of the country. Following the decision, a former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, retired, emerged its candidate and ultimately went ahead to win the 1999 presidential election. After his first term in office in 2003, Obasanjo also contested for the second term in office and won.
After eight years of the presidency residing in the South, the PDP’s ticket was, logically and in the interest of equity, fairness and justice, zoned to the Northern part.
This led to the emergence of a two-term Governor of Katsina State and erstwhile Chemistry lecturer in Ahmadu Bello University, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as President until his demise in office in the year 2010. His deputy, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan thus stepped into the saddle and held sway until loosing the 2015 presidential election to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and another former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, rtd.
Ahead of the 2019 general election, the PDP presidential ticket went back to the North, with former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar clinching the ticket. He however lost the election to President Buhari.
After the PDP lost power at the centre, after 16 years on throne, the Prince Uche Secondus-led party set up the
2019 Elections Review Committee, headed by the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed with other top chieftains of the party as members.
The committee, which submitted its report recently, recommended, among others, that every Nigerian, from every part of the country, should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate, through a credible primary election; as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process.
Although, the Committee, acknowledged that many people are of the opinion that, for fairness and equity, the North East and South East geo-political zones, that have had the shortest stints at the Presidency, should be given special consideration, in choosing the presidential flagbearer of the party, for the 2023 elections, it however pointed out that the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing the leader, with the attributes to disentangle the country from the present quagmire.
The choice of the party’s presidential candidate, the committee further suggested, should be done through a credible primary election; as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process for the country.
In the words of the Chairman of the committee, “In line with certain unwritten conventions of the nation’s history, many people think that, for fairness and equity, the North-East and South-East geo-political zones that have had the shortest stints at the Presidency, should be given special consideration, in choosing the presidential flagbearer of the party, for the 2023 elections.
“While we admit that this is a strong argument, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country.
“Moreover, the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing the leader, with the attributes to disentangle the country from the present quagmire.
“Therefore, we think that every Nigerian, from every part of the country, should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate, through a credible primary election; as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process, for the country”, he said.
However, the national leadership of the PDP has clarified that it is yet to adopt any position on zoning ahead of the 2023 Presidential elections.
The clarification came on the heels of the various interpretations being given to the Governor Bala Mohammed-led committee in different quarters.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja, explained that it has not taken any decision on any of the recommendations proposed by the Senator Bala Mohammed-led PDP Committee on the Review of the 2019 Elections.
According to the statement, “The PDP immensely appreciates the overwhelming interest by majority of Nigerians in the PDP as their national rallying point to elect a pan-Nigeria, unifying and people-oriented leadership that would rescue our nation from misrule, come 2023.
“Our party notes that such unprecedented public interest and confidence in the PDP is responsible for the widespread discussions and enquiries on the recommendations of the Committee on the Review of the 2019 Elections”, it said.
The PDP assured that the
recommendations of the committee will be subjected to its democratic process by relevant organs of the party and consultation across all national interests.
So far, among those believed to be nursing the ambition of flying the ticket of the PDP ahead of the 2023 general election are former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Sokoto State Governor and Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. The name of Alhaji Sule Lamido, a former Minister and two-term Governor of Jigawa is also being mentioned.
It is however not yet known who and who are interested in the same ticket from the Southern part of the country.
The statement, few days ago by Prince Secondus that the party will accord priority to the issues concerning youths in elective positions as the 2023 general elections draw nearer, has seemingly pointed to the direction the party may be heading to.
Political pundits are already suggesting that Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who is 55 years now and will be 57 years then, may likely have an edge over Atiku Abubakar, who 74 years now and will be 76 in 2023. Lamido is 72 years old now.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Secondus, while speaking at the party’s National, Zonal and States Youth Leaders Conference in Abuja last week, said, “We are going to give preferential treatment to the youths especially the youths that will be seeking for elective offices.
“Most of the youths cannot afford cost of forms especially for presidential election. We will attend to them, give them preferential treatment by the grace of God. They are very important to us”, he said.
The PDP National Chairman emphasized that the future leaders of the country, who are the youths, need to take over, adding that it is important for the youths to rise and proffer solution on the way forward knowing that the APC has failed.
Will the 2013 presidential ticket of the PDP be zoned to the North, South or be thrown open to all, with merit being the primary consideration? Time will certainly tell.