The main opposition Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) could be set to lose a major voting block from South East Nigeria following its controversial decision to forgo its power rotation principle in favour of having an open contest for its presidential ticket.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, the apex socio-cultural organisation from the region, yesterday described the decision of the PDP to throw up the party’s presidential ticket open as the height of deceit and dishonesty to the Igbo, saying people from the zone would look elsewhere on election day rather than stick with the PDP which it had supported faithfully in general elections for 23 years.
Since the return of civil rule in 1999, the PDP has won massively in the South East especially during presidential elections.
In a statement signed by the secretary general of the group, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, and made available to LEADERSHIP Friday, the group said that the decision shows that the healing process after the civil war that ended 52 years ago was still on.
He said that any day an Igbo man is sworn in as the president of Nigeria from any of the seven Igbo speaking states including Anioma (in Delta) and Ikwerre (in Rivers) states will be the official end of civil war in Nigeria, and fulfillment of the reconciliation process of the 3Rs.
Mazi Isiguzoro insisted that following the decision of the PDP to jettison the party’s constitution of zoning for an open ticket, it shows that the South East and the Igbo will boycott voting for PDP, or boycott the 2023 elections entirely if an aspirant from the region is not the party’s candidate as the presidential poll.
“South East will boycott voting for PDP or boycott the 2023 elections if the intentions where the inclusion of Northern aspirants in the contest is to give them leverage over Southern aspirants since a northerner is the PDP national chairman and also PDP convention chairman.
“We are convinced that PDP primaries will not be transparent and we will reject the outcome if Igbo are sliced in the process. There will be options for consideration if Igbo fails in PDP; we will never accept the vice presidential slot,” adding that the electorate in the region could boycott the vote on election day.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that PDP had in its constitution a zoning formula and power rotation principle between the North and South. In the 2019 election, the party zoned its presidential ticket to the North and Southern aspirants were stopped from contesting, with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar beating Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal to the ticket. Atiku was to lose to Muhammadu Buhari in the general election.
In the build up to 2023, Southern governors and other leaders had been demanding that the next president should come from the South after the eight-year tenure of Buhari.
Particularly, leaders from the South East geo-political region have been clamouring for the two main political parties, especially the PDP, to zone its presidential ticket to the them on the basis of fairness, justice and equity. They point out that both the South West and South-South zones had produced the president in Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, while the South East had not held the presidency at all.
Their call for power to be zoned to the South East had also been echoed by cultural leaders in the South West, South-South and Middle Belt, and by Nigerian elder statesmen like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Olu Falae, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Bode George, among others.
South-South Leaders Kick, Say Party Has Dug Its Grave
Also expressing angst against the opposition party’s decision to throw away its zoning principle, another Southern regional cultural group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), yesterday said by the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP to throw open the contest of its 2023 presidential ticket, the party had dug its own grave.
It described as “preposterous and illogical” the opinion that the PDP was not obligated to zone its presidential ticket for the 2023 election, saying that it expects the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to take advantage of the indiscretion of the PDP to consolidate itself as a truly nationalistic party.
PANDEF, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday by its national publicity secretary, Ken Robinson, expressed regret that the PDP was a party whose constitution is committed to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principles of equity, justice and fairness, but had chosen now to go against that same principle now the South should have its turn to produce the candidate of the party.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that PANDEF has been calling for power shift to the South East geopolitical zone.
The statement reads in part: “Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has described as unfortunate the decision of the National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to uphold the Governor Ortom Committee’s recommendation to throw open the contest for the party’s 2023 presidential ticket. What a shame!
“By this decision, the PDP has simply dug its own grave. Sadly, this is a party whose constitution unequivocally commits to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principles of equity, justice and fairness.
“The opinion that the PDP is not obligated to zone its presidential ticket for the 2023 election is preposterous and illogical, likewise the implied consideration that it’s only a northern candidate that can secure victory for the party in the 2023 presidential election,” it said.
PANDEF reminded PDP that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan are not northerners, yet they both won presidential elections for the PDP in 1999, 2003, and 2011.
“It bears stating that the presidency is not the presidency of a party; it is the presidency of Nigeria,” it said, adding that it expects the APC to capitalise on PDP’s rashness in the coming general elections.
Atiku, Anyim, Obi, Ohuabunwa, Emmanuel Intensify Consultations
The PDP aspirants have continued their campaigns across the country, seeking to woo party delegates to vote for them in the coming party primary.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday met with former military president General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida for a closed-door meeting.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that Atiku arrived at the hilltop residence of the former Nigeria leader at about 1pm and held a private meeting with him up until about 3pm before proceeding to address Niger State delegates at the PDP secretariat in Minna, the state capital.
Atiku was accompanied to IBB’s house by a former governor of Niger State, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu, media mogul Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Senator Dino Melaye and some PDP executives of the state led by the chairman, Tanko Beji.
While details of his discussion with IBB were not disclosed, it was learnt that, as usual, the former Nigeria leader gave his blessing and wished him well in his bid to pick the PDP ticket.
Last month, Babangida’s house was the cradle in the search for consensus candidate of the northern PDP aspirants championed by former Senate President Bukola Saraki, and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Zamfara State and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, a renowned economist.
They had excluded the former vice president in the plans, saying they would relate to him whatever they arrive at.
The move, however, failed to produce a consensus aspirant from the north and all four aspirants are now in the race for the party’s presidential ticket.
Babangida had earlier spoken about his preference for a Nigerian president in his 60s with a wide range of contacts in Nigeria.
At the PDP secretariat the former vice president said he was very appreciative of the support Niger State had given him in his previous bids to be president of Nigeria. Atiku said that if the party unites and works collectively, the party will defeat the ruling APC in 2023.
Another PDP leading aspirant, former Anambra State governor Peter Obi visited Sokoto State yesterday to meet with party delegates in the zone.
Also, former Senate president and secretary to government of the federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, met with former National Working Committee (NWC) members of the PDP in Abuja.
He canvassed the support of the former party national executives, assuring them that he will better the fortunes of the country if he gets the party’s ticket and wins the election.
Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, who is also vying for the PDP presidential ticket, told party stakeholders yesterday in Abuja that if the party decided to go for the consensus option, he was confident they would choose him due to his solid track records.
On his part, renowned industrialist, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, who also met with members of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) in Abuja yesterday, lamented the poor quality of leadership in virtually every sector in the country which had attracted negative perception of Nigeria by Nigerians across the country.
Ohuabunwa added that Nigeria was not irredeemable provided the right leadership was put in place. He also called for a better utilisation of public resources to create wealth and solve the problems of unemployment, poverty and insecurity.
Ohuabunwa said the party had a bright chance of winning the next election but warned that Nigerians do not like the idea of recycling leaders. On zoning, the presidential aspirant insisted that there is the need to ensure equity, fairness and justice in all the party’s and country’s systems.
I will be a bridge between North and South, Saraki declares
Former Senate President Bukola Saraki has stated that if elected president in 2023, he will be a president for all, saying he represents a Nigerian identity that is truly diverse, inclusive, and truly Nigerian.
Saraki made this comment yesterday in Abuja during a media session with the title, “Why I Am Running for President,” organised by Saraki Support Group.
He noted that he will be the bridge between the young and the old, the private sector and the public sector.
“I will be the bridge between Muslims and Christians. I will be the bridge between the North and the South because I am the Nigerian for all Nigerians,” he added.
Although he acknowledged the great efforts of all past leaders over the years, he, however, said as long as there is a child in Nigeria that cannot read or write, then the job is not done.
“And it is for this one child that I want to run for president because I will ensure that the law on compulsory basic education is enforced and the quality of teaching improves in all public schools,” he said.
Acknowledging that the nation had experienced setbacks in the last couple of years that no one could have imagined a decade ago, he, however, said 2023 presents a great moment of decision for Nigerians.
“2023 presents the moment to choose hope over hopelessness; the moment to choose peace and security over fear and terror; the moment to choose unity and inclusion over division and exclusion; the moment that we draw a bold line in the sands of history and say, ‘no more’ and then move ahead as one people, as one nation towards our God-assigned destiny as the greatest black nation on the face of the earth,” he said.
On his part, the chairman, Saraki Campaign Council, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, described the immediate-past Senate President as “a real change maker”, saying if elected president in 2023, he would restore stability in Nigeria.
Apart from serving as Senate president in the first term of the Buhari administration, Saraki was governor of Kwara State for eight years from 2003 to 2011