By Tamunotonye Inioribo
In the coming days, the National Executive Committee, NEC, of Peoples Democratic Party, will be appoint a chairman and other members of the National Zoning Committee for various national offices in the party ahead of its October 30 and 31 National Convention.
The Zoning Committee is also expected to decide which region, between the north and south, should be given the right to produce the next National Chairman and Presidential Ticket of the party for the 2023 election. It is expected for one of the two regions to the National Chairman of the party while the other get the party’s presidential ticket for 2023 election; which means potentially producing the next President of Nigeria. This is because no region can get both simultaneously in substantive capacity.
While it is easier for the the party to decide the region to zone its chairmanship to, same cannot be said of its presidential ticket. This is because stakeholders from the two regions are making strong argument on why the party should zone the ticket to their region.
The Arguments of Northern Stakeholders
Northern stakeholders and aspirants of the party have argued that of the 16 years that PDP was in government, the south held sway for 13½ years through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (southwest) and Dr Goodluck Jonathan (southsouth), leaving the north, through the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua from northwest with only 2½ years.
They further argued that of the 6 candidates that the party sponsored in presidential election, the south enjoyed 4 through Obasanjo (1999 and 2003) and Jonathan (2011 and 2015), while the party only sponsored candidates of the north on two occasions through Yar’adua (northwest) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (northcentral).
Thirdly, the north argued that the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was not sponsored by the PDP but another party, and therefore his term in office should have no effect on the internal arrangement of PDP. They therefore demanded that the north, especially the zone within the northern region that is yet to enjoy democratic presidency in Nigeria be allowed to produce the party’s presidential candidate.
Argument of the south:
For the south, stakeholders and leaders of the party from the region argue that it would be immoral for the party to field a candidate as preferred to successor of Buhari, who is from the same region like him. They are of the opinion that the north, through the incumbent president, would have enjoyed uninterrupted eight years by May 2023, and it will not be fair to people of the south for his successor to be a kinsman of his from the north. In that note, they hold that the party zones his presidential ticket to the south.
More so, stakeholders from the southeast geopolitical zone have are of the position that the zone, being the only not to have produced the a presidential candidate of the party since 1999, should be given the right to produce the next president under the party’s platform. While stakeholders from the southsouth zone are of the argument that the zone was not able to complete two interrupted terms in office due to the loss of Dr Jonathan in 2015.
Argument of Southern Governors Forum
A couple of months ago, Governors of the Southern region under the auspices of Southern Governors Forum, issued a communique after a meeting that was held in Asaba, Delta state, demanded that the region is allowed to produce the next President of the country in 2023.
These Governors, who premised their argument on the need for equity, fairness and fair distribution of power, held that it would amount to immorality for the south to be denied the 2023 Presidency after the 8-year reign of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although the Southern Governors have strong argument, the defect in their call is that the presidential seat is a position to be contested for by interested political parties. Each of these parties are expected to make decisions on the zones of the candidates to sponsor based their individual political dynamics.
Being that the SGF is a forum of Governors of the South who are members of three different political parties, their body is unfit to dictate the direction of any of the political parties with respect to sponsoring candidates for election. Therefore, the SGF position for the south to produce the next president of Nigeria is advisory at best.
The Way Forward For PDP?
I am of the position that while the call for power shift to the south in 2023 as canvassed by stakeholders from the region is valid, the arguments by the northern stakeholders is equally valid within the context of the party.
If PDP zones its presidential ticket to the south, it will send signals to northern stakeholders and electorates that the party is a southern party, and this will alienate northern voters from the party.
If on the other hand the party zones its ticket to the north, voters from the south will accuse the party of pursuing sectional interest in quest for power. The party cannot afford to offend its southern voters, especially the its traditional stronghold; that is southsouth and southeast zones.
Therefore, the way forward for the party is not to zone its presidential ticket to any of the two regions. Instead, it should be left open for all interested aspirants irrespective of region they hail from. The aspirants should lobby stakeholders and delegates, and test their electoral strength at the Special National Convention to elect the party’s presidential candidate in 2022. All the party needs to do is to ensure a credible, transparent and acceptable electoral process before and during the primary election, and activate various mechanisms to ensure post-primary reconciliation process.
This is the only way out.
Tamunotonye “Tonyebarcanista” Inioribo is a public affairs commentator and member of Peoples Democratic Party.