There is a high possibility that the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might pick its presidential candidate for the 2023 general election from the North, as stakeholders are set to zone the chairmanship position of the party to the South in a matter of weeks.
This, however, appears contrary to the survey by the THISDAY Economic Intelligence Group (EIG), which gleaned from the field that the decision could cost PDP the elections in practically all the southern states, the presidency and governorship inclusive.
Findings also revealed that the PDP might not make any appreciable gains in the north and Middlebelt states either, as the All Progressives Congress (APC), is still likely to sweep the north even with a Southern candidate.
One key reality of the current state of play is that the PDP is still vulnerable in many northern states, including the ones it currently controls and the ones it doesn’t. The party might, however, lose states like Taraba, Benue and be unable to win back Plateau, if it decided to zone the presidency to the north.
At the centre of the war of attrition over the chairmanship of the party lies the desperate permutations of where the party zones its presidential ticket to. The Southerners, who want Secondus out, want him out to pave the way for a replacement from the north, while the northern group led by Atiku and co, wants him to either stay or be replaced by another southerner to solidify their push for the presidential ticket to be zoned to the north.
In the south, the particularly vulnerable key states that the PDP is likely to lose are Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Oyo, if the ruling APC played smart by zoning its presidential ticket to the South. Such a move, findings showed, could give the APC a sweeping momentum in the countdown to the 2023 elections that would see it maintaining its hold on power.
According to the THISDAY EIG survey, “If the PDP zones the Presidency to the North, they are likely to lose all their current Southern states, essentially, because of the mood in the South that Nigeria’s Presidency should rotate between the North and the South.
“Most Southerners believe that, for equity, balance, cohesion, security and stability of the union, the next president should come from the Southern part of Nigeria, after Buhari would have completed eight years in 2023. To propose otherwise is almost an anathema among the political class and even among the average southerner.
“It is that mood of the southern people that was reflected when 17 southern governors met and asked that the president should go to the South. Right now, Southern leaders are so united that they don’t want to be divided on the issue and don’t mind where in the south the president comes from – whether from the South-east, South-south or South-west.
“They are of the view that it is in the collective interest of the entire south to produce the next president. They believe all southern people should be entitled to run and whoever gets the ticket from the region would be accepted.
“This is actually the undercurrent in the crisis over Uche Secondus’ chairmanship in PDP, which has pitted Governor Nyesom Wike against Secondus, with many southern governors silently supporting Wike’s position, believing that if Secondus retains the chairmanship of the party after the convention, the Presidency would automatically go to the North, which they don’t want. Wike’s attempt to force Secondus out is supported by most of the southern PDP governors, albeit quietly.”
The survey further gathered that “many of them (governors) are looking to people like Makarfi as a possible chairman of the party after Secondus.
However, to counter them, the northern group with presidential bid led by a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; for President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Muhammed, supported tacitly by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former Kano State governor, want the South to produce the next PDP chairman, even after Secondus, so that the presidency could be in the North.”
To achieve this, the northern group has engaged individuals, like the Chairman of Daar Communications, Dr Raymond Dokpesi, and others, who are also seeking to be vice president, from the South, to start speaking in support of the northern PDP members’ agenda.
From the analysis of the survey, if the trajectory of the country was reviewed from 1960, the North has produced more presidents, and in the 1999 Constitution, there is an agreement that for the survival of the country, power must rotate between North and South.
It was based on these undercurrents, that the THISDAY EIG carried out a survey, as it has always done since 1999, where it noticed that in each of the PDP states in the South, PDP was likely to lose the governorship with a northern presidency, given the overwhelming move in the South for a president from the region.
That momentum, from all indications, might therefore lead to the loss of states likes Cross River (the governor has already defected), Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Abia, Enugu and Oyo.
Currently, there would not be an election in Edo next year. However, Obaseki, although a PDP governor, the survey showed, is a firm believer in the southern presidency.
The southern governors believe that for the survival of the PDP post-2023, power has to move down South.
According to the survey, the factors in each of the critical southern states, with seeming PDP influence, painted scenarios peculiar to them.
In Cross River, for instance, even though the governor has defected to the ruling APC, the state is predominantly PDP. But the governor, Professor Ben Ayade, the survey showed, would get momentum and defeat Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke – two former governors combined – if PDP chose a northern president and APC settled for a southern presidential candidate. This, the survey added, could make the governor take the state deeper into APC.
The Akwa Ibom situation is not quite different, according to the survey. While the governor, Udom Emmanuel, is by every measure considered to be doing well, a northern presidential candidate as the PDP standard-bearer, would be a hard sell for him and could lose the state to other forces, such as the current APC National Secretary, Senator James Akpanudoedehe, and the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who would use federal incumbency to sweep PDP away.
Rivers, a crucial PDP state, might easily slip the way of former Governor Chibuike Amaechi, who is currently the Minister of Transportation, and effectively dislodging Governor Nyesom Wike, should the party embrace a northern presidential candidate. The state is already 50-50 for both leading parties and the APC has federal might to its advantage.
Bayelsa State is even more vulnerable, because, despite the misgivings about the APC governorship candidate, David Lyon, who won by a majority of the public votes in the last election, the party still won. But the PDP only came in through the court. However, with the current Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and huge federal forces and privileges, APC would just replay the card it played the last time if the APC put forward a southern candidate and PDP went North.
From Delta’s axis, there’s no debating the fact that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is popular, especially, based on his performance record. But in the face of a southern candidate for APC and a northern candidate for PDP, his popularity would not save his party.
The party would most likely be swept out by the combined forces of the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, as well as others in the APC. With federal support, they would dislodge the PDP in Delta and sweep Okowa away, should the PDP present a northern president.
This scenario also applies to Oyo, being PDP’s only state in the South-west, where Governor Seyi Makinde, is surrounded by counterparts from the ruling party. In fact, the survey showed he is hugely disadvantaged.
The survey, nonetheless, from the permutations that came out during PDP’s 92nd National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting some weeks ago, there were indications that the party might actually zone its presidential ticket to the North and the office of the national chairman to the South.
As a result of this, the governors of the party from the North, believed to have presidential interest, have begun to jostle to ensure the emergence of a national chairman that would be disposed to their aspiration.
A former military governor of Lagos State and later civilian governor of Osun State, Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, for instance, is said to be the favourite of many of the bigwigs, should the incumbent, Secondus, decide not to re-contest in the October 30th and 31th national convention in Abuja.
Secondus, in a statement, had stated that his tenure as the national chairman would end on December 9 2021, because he was elected on December 9, 2017, and sworn in same day.
Regardless, the embattled national chairman had recently debunked rumours that he had resigned from his position.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Ike Abonyi, dismissed the report as untrue, but he contended that he was merely obeying an interim court order at the time.
He added that as a law-abiding citizen, who had been an adherent of the rule of law as a basis for democracy, he had to stay away as a form of respect for the courts.
The offices of the national chairman of the PDP and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) are guaranteed four-year term.
Officially, PDP is expected to submit the approved zoning of offices of the members of the NWC to the coming NEC meeting on September 9 2021, other stakeholders have been plotting to see that the NWC members elected were pliable to their aspiration.
In this regard, some stakeholders were believed to be working to ensure that the national chairmanship of the party was micro-zoned to the South-west, but a few others insisted that zoning it to the South-west might prove difficult, as it could amount to abridging the constitutional rights of Secondus to seek a constitutional re-election.
On his part, Dokpsei too has since debunked reports that he was in the chairmanship race. A statement from him claimed he wanted to keep his integrity and not soil or dent it.
Unfortunately, nobody from the South-east has indicated interest in the presidential run, not even a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, who was Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election.
However, from the North, the list has continued to increase. There are several posters at the party secretariat in Abuja announcing the aspirations of Tambuwal, Atiku, Mohammed, Kwankwaso, and a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido.
Ahead of the zoning for both the presidential ticket and office of the national chairman, the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Senator Waliid Jubrin, and Dokpesi have said the main opposition party stood a better chance in 2023 with a northern candidate.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja