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Zoning Controversy Continues in PDP as Party’s Governors Meet on Wednesday

The controversy following the alleged zoning of the office of National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the South might have forced governors elected on the party’s platform to

The controversy following the alleged zoning of the office of National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the South might have forced governors elected on the party’s platform to schedule another meeting for today to address the outcome of last Thursday’s meeting of the PDP zoning committee.

The meeting is believed to have a two-fold agenda: the outcome of the zoning committee meeting and reports of the 15 sub-committees on the planned October 31 national convention of the party.

But given the turn of events, there were strong indications that PDP, in finding a middle ground, might be forced to adopt the Governor Bala Mohammed advisory, which advocated that the ticket be thrown open for everyone interested.

This is as the South-west zone of the party, led by Governor Seyi Makinde, has begun to lead the campaign machine of a former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, to emerge PDP chairman.

In another development, a pan-Yoruba political group, Odua Grassroots Alliance for Stronger Nigeria (OGANS), has asked all political parties to jettison the idea of zoning their presidential tickets because such calls are selfish and anachronistic in a modern system of governance, where the quest for excellence is the new normal.

At the zoning committee meeting last week, where members spoke on which zone, between the North and South, should produce the national chairman, 25 members allegedly spoke in favour of retaining the status quo, while others insisted on moving the office up North. But 23 members spoke against retaining the status quo.

The South-south geopolitical zone appeared still divided, as the state governors there were alleged to have rejected a plot to foist the Zonal National Chairman, Dan Orbih, as chairman.  Governors from the zone were said to be against the scheming to bring in Orbit, bearing in mind how the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, treated Uche Secondus. It was learnt that stakeholders from the state were spoiling for war, if at the end of the day, the zone eventually lost out to the South-west.

A source privy to the plots to scheme out Secondus was quoted as saying, “We keep silent not because we are a conquered people, but we shall ask the governor, Wike, a simple question, which is, what is the gain of the state, when we have thrown out Secondus? We are watching and waiting. There would be a time for reckoning and we will speak.

“However, we refuse to cave in because we are certain that all these shenanigans will not last because the judiciary will speak on this matter at the appropriate time.”

The source asked, “Are we sure that the national convention will take place as planned. The court has not spoken on this. There is still a suit at the Court of Appeal. We shall not lose sight of this.”

The source explained that it was in view of this that members of the zoning committee insisted that the office of the national chairman must remain in the South, as was the case in 2018.

Therefore, the decision to be announced in Abuja today may not be different from what was agreed in Enugu last week, even though a member of the committee said the “mock voting” of last week was actually a tie between the North and South.

It is against this background that Makinde has been going to his colleagues to try to persuade them to support the zoning of the chairmanship to the South and, particularly, the South-west.

On Sunday, for instance, Makinde was in Port Harcourt and Uyo to see Wike and hisAkwa Ibom State counterpart, Emmanuel  Udom.

Makinde was also in Asaba and Benin Monday to see Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, where he allegedly solicited support for Oyinlola.

It was learnt that the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi zoning committee had retained the pre-zoning arrangement of 2017 and as such, the decision to be announced in Abuja today may not differ from what was agreed in Enugu.

At the PDP governors meeting today, attempts would be made to douse and persuade the South to accept the outcome of the Ugwuanyi committee, which was alleged to have tacitly zoned the office of the national chairman and national secretary to South and North, respectively.

Another PDP source told THISDAY that the governors, on individual basis, had been consulting on how to ensure that the consequences were controlled.

A source said, “The worst case scenario is to throw open the contest for the presidential ticket of our party.  Remember that this is the position the committee led by the governor of Bauchi State recommended. 

“To avoid insinuations that the PDP is dominating the South, it is highly being suggested that all eligible members are free to contest for the presidential candidate.  It will be unfair to insinuate that the ticket is already reserved for the North.  We are working on the recommendation of the Bala Mohammed committee.” 

It would be recalled that the Bala Mohammed committee had recommended that the presidential ticket be thrown open. The committee anchored its position on the fact that across the land, Nigeria boasted good hands capable of bailing the country “out of her current quagmire.”

According to the report,  “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.”

It is generally believed that how PDP handles the presidential ticket controversy may determine its fate in the South during the elections.

Meanwhile, OGANS, in a statement by its president, Dr. Olawale Akanbi, from their Ibadan national office, stated that in the last few weeks, the protagonists and antagonists of zoning had dominated the political landscape with several variegated points of argument, which at best only exacerbated the ethnic divide across the land.

The group said the unfolding scenario was not good for national cohesion, because it only confirmed the ethnic chauvinism among the political class as they advanced and canvassed their various positions on the burning zoning topic.

“Anyway that you look at it, whether from the northern Arewa standpoint or South-south or South-east or the Oduduwa region, what is manifestly clear is that it is the ethnic campaigners that are promoting the zoning hysteria once again as 2023 presidential election is around the corner.

“If one cares to illuminate himself/herself on the presidential zoning controversy, the idea has neither been popular nor adhered to by the modern subscribers of the issue. It is only by taking a dip into history that one realises the extent to which some ethnic politicians have consciously thought to promote and accept certain undemocratic, illogical and ill-disposed notions in power sharing.”

The group, stated, “We are looking for the best material for the position of the president, who can rally the whole nation together, instead of a president produced under the weak premise of zoning and who undoubtedly will pander to ethnic ideals over national values.”

Chuks Okocha in Abuja