The zoning Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has scheduled a crucial meeting for next week to take decision on the zoning formula to adopt for party positions and political offices.
Those familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the 44-member committee headed by the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, will meet on 22 and 23 September to zone party offices at the national level.
The committee will also deliberate on whether the presidential ticket of the party should be zoned to the North or the South.
Other offices to be zoned are vice president, president of the Senate, speaker of the House of Representatives, deputy president of the Senate, deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The committee was set up by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party during its meeting in Abuja on 9 September.
Some members of the committee, which has Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State as deputy chairman, are the deputy governor of Zamfara State, Aliyu Mohammed, who will serve as secretary and two former Senate Presidents, Pius Anyim and David Mark.
Former governors Babangida Aliyu, (Niger); Ayo Fayose (Ekiti); Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto); and Sule Lamido (Jigawa) are also members of the zoning committee.
The battle for the zoning of the presidential ticket and the national chairmanship seat has been one of the major reasons for the recent leadership crisis in the main opposition party.
The current zoning formula in the party ceded the chairmanship of the party to the south and the presidential ticket to the north.
In line with the formula, Uche Secondus from Rivers State (in the south), emerged the national chairman of the party in 2017.
Those who contested for the position alongside Mr Secondus, namely Tunde Adeniran, Raymond Dokpesi and Taoheed Adedoja, also hailed from the southern part of the country.
Other offices in the NWC were also zoned.
With the national chairman emerging from the south, the presidential candidate in the 2019 election was automatically picked from the north
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State in the north-east zone flew the party’s flag in that election although he eventually lost the contest to President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ahead of the 2023 election, the party has returned to the drawing board to review its zoning formula. This was also buoyed by the leadership crisis rocking the party with some prominent members calling for Mr Secondus’ exit even though his tenure officially ends in December.
With the PDP national convention set for 30 and 31 October to elect new members of the NWC to replace the Secondus-led NWC, there are moves to alter the existing zoning formula.
It was learnt that some of the party’s chieftains are already engaged in serious lobbying on the issue of zoning.
Sources said the intense politicking over the zoning formula is largely guided by the individual ambitions of some prominent members of the party.
While some are in favour of the current formula to have the party’s chairmanship seat retained in the south so that the presidential candidate will emerge from the north, others are not.
Those who favour the status quo are reportedly making moves to drag a former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, into the chairmanship race since Mr Secondus may not seek reelection.
Others party chieftains have, however, narrowed the choice to Mr Mark. The former Senate President is from Benue in the north central zone.
Those opposed to this arrangement are however arguing if that is allowed, the agitation for a southern president to take over from Mr Buhari as being canvassed by governors from that region, may not happen.
For them, since Mr Buhari, who is from the north is rounding off his second term in 2023, the presidency should go to the south especially because the APC to which he (Buhari) belongs, may likely pick its flag bearer from the south.
Regardless, this newspaper gathered that some northern PDP members, including former Vice President Atiku and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State are already positioning themselves to run for the highest political office in the land. Consequently they are reportedly pushing for a southern national chairman.
PDP South United for southern president
There has been a more united call for the presidential ticket to be shifted to the South not only in the PDP but also within the ruling APC.
The Southern Governors Forum, made up of both governors elected under the platforms of the two largest parties in the region, also recently met in Lagos and insisted that the presidency should go to the south. They reiterated the call during their meeting in Enugu last week.
As a result of this, members of both parties from the region are pushing for the party’s chairmanship ticket to be given to the north. This demand has somehow been stonewalled by northerners who are also strongly pushing for the party office to go to the south so that they can also hold on to the position of president.
Meanwhile, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, who is one of the three governors who recently defected from PDP to APC, criticised some governors of his former party, accusing them of being dishonest in their claim for desiring a 2023 Southern Presidential ticket.
“One or two governors that own PDP, their body language suggests that they are against zoning and I can tell you from reliable sources that they are thinking just for their own interest.
“The truth remains that a number of us – the Southern Governors – that were in that meeting; that did say that the Presidency must come to the South, especially PDP, are not being honest. Let’s see what they (PDP) come up with in their zoning in the next few weeks,” Mr Umahi had said as he challenged the main opposition party.
He said the dishonesty of some governors under the PDP may hamper their initial goal for a presidential ticket for the region.
The PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a counter statement issued on Saturday, described the Ebonyi governor as an attention seeker.
“The party said since Governor Umahi, out of his personal ambition, joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), while still sitting on the mandate of the PDP in Ebonyi state, he has become pathetically confused and disoriented, having realized that he joined a “one chance” bus, with strange and deceitful co-travelers.
“It is clear that Governor Umahi is now politically floating and seeks to use an unwarranted attack on governors elected on the platform of the PDP to actualize his desperation for public relevance,” Mr Ologbondiyan had reacted, leaving Mr Umahi challenge on zoning hanging.
However, against the backdrop of the ongoing internal crisis in the PDP, there is a high possibility that the scheduled meeting of the party’s 44-member zoning committee may not arrive at consensus decisions on zoning.
There are expectations that the committee may end up voting on the matter.
“The meeting may even end in a stalemate,” one influential party leader told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday night.
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