Presidency and PDP’s zoning dilemma

By Terese Tse

A committee set up by the PDP to review the 2019 general elections has recommended that merit, rather than zoning, be considered to allow all aspirants from all parts of the country to contest for the 2023 presidential ticket of the opposition party.

The committee had submitted report to the national leadership of the party, recently. It said though many people think special consideration should be given to the North East and South East geo-political zones for the sake of fairness and equity; merit, rather than such considerations should be adopted in the choice of the party’s presidential flag bearer.

The committee headed by the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed has other members as the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, former Senator, Stella Omu and Emmanuel Agbo, as Secretary.

“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 flag bearer of the party for the 2023 elections,” Mr Mohammed had said.

Receiving the report of the committee, the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus had said the party would set up an implementation committee soon.

“Relying on the recommendations of this report, the NWC will work with think tank(s), consultants and all critical stakeholders of our great party to enhance the new PDP narratives that will help address the yawning absence of leadership in the country. We will continue to build the party along the line of the recommendations with a view to cultivating a wide support base with utmost urgency towards 2023,” Mr Secondus said.

With these assertions, reactions started trailing. And from all indications, the PDP has presented a dummy for the next presidential election to Nigerians. It appeared the party leadership was ahead of the report and only flew a kite to test the depth of the will of the South East.

As it seems, Nigeria has two principal regions – North and South. The North has East and West, same as the South. It therefore beat imagination how North East would be mentioned in the zoning that is for the South.

Of course, many understand that the issue of succession which has dominated the political sphere, the sustained agitation for restructuring and the long standing distrust for the South Eastern people in their quest for one and a greater Nigeria remains doubtful, and is being perceived to be the precipice for the conspiracy to jettison the PDP zoning, midway.

However, in a multi party state like Nigeria, analysts say the East may continue to explore options and PDP must be aware of this. The South East have all along defiled the desire for one and stronger Nigeria. The elements of disintegration of the country have been Igbo’s agitation since the civil war.

Indeed, the PDP committee’s proposal for no zoning has elicited a lot of reactions. But there is fear among party members on the way and manner the party wishes to prosecute the 2023 elections.

While the committee’s proposal is creating tension, the party said it had not yet decided on the zone that would produce its candidate for the 2023 presidential election.

PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated that the party had not adopted any of the recommendations of the Bala Mohammed-led Committee, including that of zoning the presidential ticket.

“Due to enquiries from our members and the general public, it has become imperative to clarify that PDP is yet to adopt any of the recommendations proposed by the Bala Mohammed’s Committee on the Review of the 2019 Elections.

“As such, it will be incongruous for anyone to assert that any decision had been taken by PDP on the zoning of the presidential ticket ahead of the 2023 general elections. Members and supporters are enjoined to note that the party is yet to take any decision on the proposals presented by the committee,” Ologbondiyan stated.

Commenting on the situation, a member of the PDP and Senior Special Assistant on liaison to Governor Samuel Ortom, Hon. Baba Acka, described the decision of no zoning as a good one and a right step in the right direction. He however advised that, it should be adopted even at the state levels.

“For me, governance can come from any zone. Where you come from shouldn’t be the most important parameter, what should be more important is your competence and ability to take the development from where it is right now to the pinnacle. Governance should be giving on the basis of merit; a person who is competent to do the job, an experienced technocrat, a detribalised and fair minded citizen. South West, North Central, South South, North East, and South East at the national level and Zone A or B at the state level should no more be the determining factor.

“We admit that there must have been strong arguments and consultations to this effect, but personal individual interests cannot override the collective decision of the party. We should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced personalities in every part of the country. Moreover, the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing a leader with 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  institutionalizing a merit based leadership recruitment process for the country,” Acka said.

Also reacting, the deputy chairman, Gwer Local Government and chairman of Forum of vice chairmen, Benue state chapter, Hon. Austine Nemba said, the decision of the People’s Democratic Party to throw the 2023 presidential ticket open is not in the best interest of the party and Nigeria as, according to him, it will distort the zoning arrangement that has been in practice since the return of democracy in 1999.

“Although the idea of zoning elective positions in a multi ethnic and religious country like Nigeria may have its own demerits. It has given opportunity to the less populated geopolitical zones to produce the number one citizen of this country. To me, that alone is enough reason why zoning should be maintained. If not for zoning, a state like Bayelsa which is even the least in terms of population and size in the South-South wouldn’t have produced a president. I wish the PDP should reverse that decision and consider the option of zoning to enable other disadvantaged zones like the North Central, South East to benefit from the presidency come 2023 and beyond.

“Benue people are practicing democrats who believe in zoning principle. There is a popular adage of “eat and give your fellow brother.” Zoning system is the best answer for the state because you will find a credible candidate in every zone of the state. We have heavily trained people who have all the credentials to serve the state in whatever capacity,” Nemba stated.

Former chairman of Ukum Local Government, Barrister Teryima Nguher has posited that throwing the presidential ticket open to all is not a healthy decision and cannot stand the taste of time.

“This is obviously a selfish decision taking by a group of persons belonging to the same political faction that usually select candidates and so if this kind of decision is implemented, it will invariably retain the number one seat to the North giving the greater number of votes they had. This is targeted at given special consideration to some few selected candidates to the detriment of fairness and equity.

“So to me, this decision should be reversed else, it will threaten the life of the party as a good number of members would defect to other political parties that will adopt zoning in the choice of the presidential flag bearer.

“But it is a good development at the level of the state. Let it be an open field for everybody to contest so that the popular candidate with substance carries the day. If it is adopted at the state level, merits and experience will certainly become determining factors in choosing who governs the state.

“This will spur aspirants to contest on the basis of merit and where one comes from would cease to be the most important parameter. Such that a detribalised and fair minded Benue citizen who is competent to do the job is giving the mandate for good governance and pragmatism,” he opined.

At the moment, it is enough to watch how the game will go. Some see the PDP on the precipice of confusion as adopting the system would certainly cause splinters and defections. Canceling it too, many have said will likely produce a weak presidential candidate.

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