Discordant tunes are growing in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the party’s 2023 presidential ticket as prominent members intensify consultations on which part of the country deserves to fly the party’s flag in that election.
The ticket was zoned to the north in 2019 with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerging as its candidate.
Party leaders, The Nation gathered, are coming under intense pressure from different parts of the country on the shape of the zoning formula for 2023.
The agitation revolved round whether the presidential ticket will be zoned to a particular section of the country or will be thrown open to aspirants from any part of the country.
More of the pressure is coming from party chieftains from the South.
Reliable party sources said a decision to insist on the zoning of the PDP presidential ticket to the south has already been taken by a group of party stakeholders from the region at a meeting held recently in Abuja.
According to sources, the meeting was called following concerns that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) under Prince Uche Secondus and the Board of Trustees (BoT) headed BY Senator Walid Jibrin appear to be less committed to the zoning principle of the party and may jettison it for 2023.
In attendance at the meeting were former governors, ex-ministers, top party officials including members of the NWC and the BoT.
The meeting, according to reliable sources, resolved to ensure that the opposition party presents a worthy candidate from the south in the 2023 elections to challenge the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
But this position is in contrast to agitations in other quarters within the party that the PDP presidential ticket be given to a candidate from the north or thrown open for all aspirants to contest.
The Nation gathered that most PDP governors from the south are in favour of the group’s moves and are supporting its activities.
“Majority of our federal legislators too are part of this,” one source said.
Prominent party leaders including Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, among many others, are said to be solidly in support of the move to ensure that the party leadership does not jettison the zoning arrangement that will see the PDP presidential ticket ceded to the south in 2023.
Some southern PDP leaders had met late last year to review statements credited to both Secondus and Jibrin, and resolved that a delegation of its members will meet with the national chairman and BoT chairman, as well as some identified stakeholders from the northern part of the country, to express their dissatisfaction with some of their utterances, and caution them against deviating from the zoning arrangement that the party has kept faith with since its creation in 1998.
Abuja, sources added, was designed to send a signal to the national leadership of the party that the south is not going to wait and “allow some people within and outside the party shortchange it by retaining the PDP ticket in the north come 2023.”
A member of the Board of Trustees of the party, from Osun State, confirmed that the meeting was held a few days ago as a follow up to two earlier parleys called by PDP leaders he described as “worried stakeholders”, to ensure that the party is not thrown into another avoidable crisis.
The highly placed source also said that the parley wanted the Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth to form a coalition that will be used to agitate for the zoning of the presidential ticket in 2023.
“We are responding to certain worrisome signs, emanating from the utterances and body languages of certain people within and outside our great party, as the 2023 presidential election draws nearer,” the source said.
He added: “that we are coming together to protect the zoning principle that has been the guiding spirit of the PDP is a fact.
“Secondly, since power is not served a la carte anywhere in the world, we will have ourselves to blame if we do nothing to show our dear friends and fellow party men from the three zones of the north that we are not going to agree to any arrangement that threatens our right to produce the next presidential candidate of our great party.
“When people jokingly tell you they will trample on your right, you need to frown and tell them you will resist any attempt to take away anything that rightfully belongs to you.”
Another source, who claimed to be part of the movement, said that at another of its meeting, the group decided that southern members of the party who worked with northern presidential aspirants during the last presidential election are to be approached formally and informed of the zoning arrangement in case they are planning to continue in their support for their northern aspirants.
“We have started doing this and that explains why some of them have even joined our ranks now. This is a collective struggle and I can tell you that at the end if this process, the south will be united in our quest for the PDP ticket,” he added.
The Nation gathered that the southern stakeholders are also considering a tour of the zones of the north to press home their demand for zoning.
“We are not just asking that the ticket be given to us; we are saying it is the right thing to do. Of course, we recognise the fact that we need the support of other zones to actualise this and we plan to go round soon to tell them the need for us all to avoid crisis by sticking to zoning. We expect them to see reason with us and stop fanning the embers of crisis with certain utterances,” another source said.
Last December, the PDP said it was yet to decide on the zone it would allot its 2023 presidential ticket.
The PDP national Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke on the issue at the time, described reports in a section of the media suggesting that the party would zone its presidential ticket to the south, as merely speculative.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our party is yet to discuss the 2023 presidential election, overtly or covertly, at any time whatsoever,” he said.
Speaking on the presidential ticket of the party recently, Senator Jibrin hinted that every interested and eligible member of the party from any part of the country, including the party’s candidate in the last election, Atiku Abubakar, is free to aspire on the platform of the party.
His words: “Atiku is a Nigerian. Has he really failed in that (2019) election? The case went from the tribunal to the Appeal Court and up to the Supreme Court. If Atiku wants, he has the right to do so and other people have the rights to do so.”
However, Iwuanyanwu wants the party to be categorical and announce the zoning of the 2023 ticket to the south.
He said: “We agreed politically that the presidency should rotate from north to south – that means eight years in the north and eight years in the south. The South-East has not tasted it since 1999 and everybody says it is only fair that power should come to the Southeast.
“I don’t think that any honest Nigerian will want the power to be retained in the north. I think equity, honesty, justice and fair play demands that it should come to the south and when it comes to the south it should come to the Southeast.”