•Stakeholders raise concerns over Bala Mohammed committee report
A fresh crisis is brewing within the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the decision of the leadership of the party to zone the National Chairman position to the North without clarifying whether the 2023 presidential ticket of the party would be zoned to the South or thrown open.
At its 94th NEC meeting held in Abuja during the week, the party adopted the zoning of its national chairman position to the North, upholding the recommendations of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led zoning committee.
However, it did not foreclose that the much-coveted 2023 presidency would be zoned to the South as the party announced that a separate National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting will be convened at a later date to discuss the report of the Governor Bala Mohammed-led committee which had earlier recommended that the Presidency be thrown open to all the six geopolitical zones of the country.
Leaders and chieftains of the PDP in the southern zones are now at loggerheads over the developments.
Highly placed sources confided in our correspondent that aside from a serious struggle among leaders of the party in the south over which zone should get what from the National Working Committee (NWC) positions ceded to the region in the zoning arrangement adopted by the NEC, there is a sharp disagreement amongst stakeholders of the party in the south over whether the region should go to the convention that will elect new party leaders without the topical issue of zoning the presidential ticket being addressed the same way the matter of where the next national chairman should come from was laid to rest.
With the National Chairman position going to the North, all other NWC positions currently in the South will also be ceded to the North while all the positions currently occupied by northerners can only be contested for by southerners at the next convention.
Thus, 11 NWC positions will be coming to the South. They are Deputy National Chairman (South), National Secretary, Woman Leader, Publicity Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Financial Secretary, Auditor, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy Legal Adviser, Deputy Youth Leader and Deputy Organising Secretary.
Another source, who preferred anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, said there is currently a tussle among leaders of the three zones in the region on how the positions of Deputy National Chairman (South) and National Secretary should be zoned.
The Nation also gathered that interest groups within the party in the South are also scheming to corner some of the positions for themselves ahead of the national convention.
“It would have been quite easy to micro-zone the positions, but I can tell you that with zonal interests and group interests currently clashing across the south, tension is in the air and a crisis appears imminent over the positions,” our source said.
It was gathered that while a group of Southwest PDP stakeholders loyal to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State are angling for the zone to get the National Secretary position along with a couple of other positions, another group within the zone, said to be working to ensure that Elder Yemi Akinwonmi retains his place in the NWC, are negotiating for the position of Deputy National Chairman and any other positions as may be deemed fit for the Southwest.
This group reportedly enjoys the support of ex-governor Ayo Fayose and Hon. Ladi Adebutu. By convention, the Southwest can only get one of the two positions.
Similarly, checks by The Nation revealed that Governor Nyesom Wike and other leaders of the PDP in the South-South have their eyes on the position of the National Secretary and have told other leaders of the party from the two other zones in the region to cede the position to the South-South.
But it was gathered that a group of powerful chieftains of the party from within and outside the South are backing former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, for the same position. Oyinlola is from the Southwest.
“The South-South wants the National Secretary post, and many stakeholders in the South feel it is not a bad idea owing to the fact that the zone will be losing the national chairmanship position.
“But with another powerful bloc within the party backing Oyinlola for the position, it has become difficult for leaders of the party in the South to agree on where the position should go.
“As at last Friday, not much progress had been made on the micro-zoning of the positions largely because agreements could not be reached on the two topical positions of Deputy National Chairman (South) and National Secretary,” a source added.
It was gathered that the Makinde group may have Eyitayo Jegede from Ondo State in mind for the position of National Secretary, while some sources claimed that Governors Wike and Governor Godwin Obaseki are allegedly not on the same page over the former’s choice of candidate for the position of National Secretary. Details of their disagreement were still sketchy at press time.
The Nation also gathered that leaders of the three zones of Southwest, South-South and Southeast are at loggerheads on how to share the two positions.
“Given the strategic places of the two positions in the NWC, all the three zones are claiming entitlement to one of Deputy National Chairman (South) and National Secretary. And since it is impossible for three people to stand in twos, the disagreement may linger.
“And some party leaders like Governor Makinde are saying the PDP’s silence on where the presidential ticket will go is contributing to the difficulty in deciding how the positions should be micro-zoned.
“If there is a categorical position on the presidential ticket, the zone getting it can easily be asked to forget any of the two key positions in contention.
“But with everybody scared that the recommendation of the Governor Bala Mohammed committee may still be adopted by the NEC, it is difficult to persuade any of the zones to let go anything as the south attempts to micro-zone the NWC positions in its kitty.
“Recall that the NEC specifically concluded to convene at a later date to discuss the report of the Governor Bala Mohammed-led committee that had earlier recommended that the Presidency be thrown open to all the six geopolitical zones of the country,” our source explained.
Our correspondent also learnt during the week that a group of southern governors and party leaders may have also resolved to push for a resolution of the presidential ticket zoning controversy before the PDP national convention.
According to feelers from the Southern PDP Governors’ Forum, the party leaders are worried about the possibility of the ticket being thrown open for all contenders after the North would have pocketed the national chairmanship position.
This possibility is fueled by the resuscitation of the Bala Mohammed committee report during the last NEC meeting of the party, our correspondent gathered.
“It may not be right to say the issues surrounding the zoning of the NWC positions have been concluded. This is because following the importance accorded the Bala Mohammed committee report during our NEC meeting, leaders of the PDP in the South are asking questions about what the future holds for the region in the party.
“What happens if the North gets the national chairmanship of the party now and the presidential ticket is thrown open for all comers? What happens if a northerner wins the presidential ticket again? What effect will that have on the party’s chances at the 2023 elections?
“These are questions we want answers for before the convention,” a source said.
But a former governor from the South dismissed calls that the zoning of the presidential ticket must be resolved before the convention, urging members of the party to allow for genuine healing going forward.
According to the governor, “there are many issues to be addressed and we cannot address them all at once. With the National Chairman zoned to the north, we all know the conventions in our party.
“If we start sounding like we are forcing other zones to agree with us, we may create more problems. But I will want us all to refrain from talking too much about our challenges.
“We must give hope to those following us. I think our governors understand this and will not heat up the polity unnecessarily.”
Zoning of PDP chair to North final, says Gov Fintiri
Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State declared yesterday that the decision to zone the chairmanship seat of the PDP to the North is final.
Fintiri, who stated this at the Abuja PDP national secretariat, said with last Thursday’s approval of the zoning arrangement by the NEC, the decision is binding on all stakeholders.
“The highest decision making organ of the party, which is the NEC, has taken a decision, and I think that decision is final. It is binding on all of us members, and we will abide by it. And that is what we are working on”, the governor said.
Fintiri, who is the chairman of the PDP National Convention Committee, added that the sale of nomination forms and screening of chairmanship aspirants would commence anytime soon, stressing that the October 30-31 convention date remained sacrosanct.
Continuing, the governor said: “The zoning committee has completed their job. We have revised our timetable, and we will start selling of (nomination) forms on Monday.
“The screening and appeal is expected to end on or before next week, by the revised timetable. They (aspirants) will be free to start campaigning across the country for us to have a convention on the 30th of October.
“The Electoral Committee has been sensitised. They will be trained at the most appropriate time for them to be abreast of their job, so that we can have the best convention that every Nigerian is waiting for, which will be the most democratic.
“We have come with all our members to brainstorm and for us to strategise and take better decision as to the preparation and arrangement that we need to deliver on the expectations of our teeming supporters and members across the country who have given us this assignment for the best way out.
“And we have put them at speed, also as to what is expected of them as their own assignments so that we can have the convention of our dreams, for us to prepare and get the All Progressives Congress (APC) out of government in 2023.
“The date of the convention still remains, which is the 30th and 31st of October. That has not changed and we don’t think there is any reason for it to be changed despite the fact that the Zoning Committee just concluded their job, which was only approved by NEC on Thursday.
“The venue has been secured; that is the Eagle Square. We have equally secured the Area 10 Parade Ground, which will serve the purpose of accreditation, and our delegates across the country are being sensitised.
“We expect that sale of forms will commence on Monday and we also expect that the screening committee should also commence and conclude their work on or before the end of next week, so that those who are vying will go about and do their campaign.
“We have received budgets from all the subcommittees and we are in the process of streamlining the budgets because there are areas that submissions are conflicting.
“We are all working to achieve one convention, which is the 2021 convention.
“As soon as we finished this meeting we shall approve the budgets based on the availability of funds. And early next week, precisely between Monday and Tuesday, some of the committees will start receiving their budget support so that they can start their work in earnest for us to have a successful convention.”
Corroborating Fintiri’s position on zoning, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, in a separate interview, said the PDP had moved beyond zoning of party offices and that any issues arising there from would be resolved amicably.
Bala said: “We have resolved the issue of zoning. The PDP is a mature party. We have always done our things with the experience we have garnered over the years and what we have been able to do for this country.
“We have learnt our mistakes. We are not going to play to the gallery the way and manner our detractors or our competitors want us to. We will always resolve our issues. So zoning is over. We have really gone over this issue. What we are looking forward to is the emergence of a National Chairman from the North, who will give us a leadership that we require to form a government in 2023”.
Asked if the party would consider consensus options, especially for the chairmanship position, Fintiri and Mohammed did not rule out the option, provided all the aspirants in the race agree on it.
Fintiri said: “I think it is too early for us to discus consensus at this stage, because this is a democratic party. It is open for contest, and if the issue of consensus arises, it is captured in our constitution.”
Bala Mohammed also said: “Consensus is normally a process of democratic consultation, because democracy is about consensus. Certainly, the electoral process can be reduced by having a converging point on an individual and that would have reduced the desperation issues within the party.
“I would say we should have a consensus candidate, but where we do not, we will not practice imposition.”
Northern coalition kicks against PDP’s zoning arrangement
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) yesterday frowned at the resolution taken at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) zoning the national chairman position to the North, describing it as a contradictory threat to the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.
Spokesperson of CNG, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, while responding to reporters’ questions in Kaduna, said it is contradictory and deceptive for the PDP NEC to leave the contest for the party’s presidential ticket open to all while restricting the national championship position to the North.
According to him, “it is as much an abuse of acceptable democratic process as it is contradictory, deceptive, ultra vires and alien to political party traditions everywhere.
“One fails to understand why the PDP would rather exclude the entire Southern Nigeria and deny them the right to vote and be voted for in a free and fair process for the highest position in the party and at the same time, allow open contest for the presidential ticket.
“This is only a veiled tactic to deceive the North into ultimately ceding the presidential slot, which must be rejected by insisting on an inclusive process for all party and offices in all the parties.
“It is unfortunate that the PDP after the humiliation of 2015 has still not learnt from lessons of history and is still bent on enforcing arbitrary, undemocratic practices that are harmful to internal party democracy and potentially threaten the consolidation of democracy in the country.
“We at the CNG are insisting on the emergence of a purposeful, credible, capable, and result-oriented leadership that would be achieved through a free, fair and inclusive process and not by deceit, blackmail, threat or grandstanding.
“We therefore reiterate our call for all the political parties to internal democratic processes to prevail in the selection of both party and elective positions freely and fairly without the need to disenfranchise any group of people or tribe for whatever intent and purpose.
“We therefore warm that any party that attempts to disenfranchise any group or section of the country stands to be roundly rejected by the North.”