There are strong indications that the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may convene a Mini National Convention to realign the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) positions between the North and South, following the emergence of former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
Atiku, who is from the North- East won the PDP’s presidential ticket on Saturday night after polling 371 votes to defeat his closest challenger, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who polled 237 votes, while a former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, scored 70 votes to place third.
With the outcome of the presidential primary going the way of Atiku, a northerner, the agitation by many gladiators from the southern part of the country that their region should produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, in line with the doctrine of zoning and power rotation between the North and the South as enshrined in the PDP constitution, is technically foreclosed.
Based on this, the North now holds the post of the National Chairman and the PDP’s ticket for the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
However, the party’s tradition does not allow the two positions to be held by the same region. The current power structure of the PDP shows that the positions of Board of Trustees (BoT), National Chairman, presidential candidate, Chairman of the Convention Committee are all in the North.
The PDP, which administered the country between 1999 and 2015, has a well-entrenched policy of power rotation and zoning, which under Section 7 (2) (c) of its constitution, states: “In pursuant of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of the party and public executive offices.”
The incumbent National Chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, who is from the North Central, assumed the position in October 2021, amidst outcry from leaders of the in South, who claimed that the region ought to produce the party’s chairman.
However, Ayu, who emerged as the consensus candidate of the North, stated before being elected that if PDP asked him to step aside when a northern presidential candidate emerges, he will give up his position to ensure geopolitical balancing in the party.
His words then: “If the PDP says I should step down after a presidential candidate emerges and happens to be from the North, I will be very glad to do so because what we want is to take over the government and run the government in the interest of Nigerians.
So, I’ll sacrifice anything to ensure that my party wins.” However, speaking with New Telegraph, a former zonal secretary of the PDP in the South-West, who pleaded for anonymity, raised the alarm that there are plans to keep both the chairmanship and presidential positions in the North till after the election. He warned that the move may be counter-productive for the party in the general election.
“I am aware that there was a meeting prior to the inauguration of Ayu and there was also a supposedly signed undertaken that his emergence will not preclude anybody from any of the three zones from contesting the 2023 presidency and that if the emergence of a presidential candidate tilts the scale in favour of any zone in the North, he will resign and allow the chairmanship position reverse to the South, ditto for other positions.
“With the emergence of Atiku, we expect a swift and clear action on this but we are hearing that there are surreptitious moves in some quarters to hold on to the positions till after the 2023 general election in March 2023. We won’t agree because this will be part of the referendum on our party as we go into the election,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the southern caucus may eventually settle for a former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, as its candidate, when the positions are eventually reversed. Mimiko re-joined the PDP in October 2021 after four governors of the party, led by its chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, visited him in his Ondo country home.
Fielding questions from New Telegraph, a former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, said the NWC party position must be reversed since the North has the presidential ticket as well.
He said PDP has a template of power-sharing among the various zones to ensure equity and fairness from the beginning, adding that Ayu is a founding member of the PDP and understands the party’s tradition and power equation system. George stated further that there is a tradition for the National Chairman of the party to be from the South when the president is from the North and vice versa.
“Dr. Ayu himself has said it before that he will quit if this current scenario comes up, otherwise, the party may be termed a northern PDP. This reversal must be done before the 2023 general election,” he said.
Efforts to speak with the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, proved abortive as calls made to his phone were not answered.