By Chioma Iruke and Grace Udofia
As Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) awaits the outcome of its National Working Committee (NWC) on Zoning, it has stated that it would not respond to the non-zoning resolution reached by the Northern Governors Forum in Kaduna on Monday.
The Party’s Spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan told The Heritage Times that it was not the duty of the party to respond to matters concerning Nigerian governors, as the matter is a battle between regional governors.
He however explained that that the Southern governors would meet later this week to come up with ideas that will best address the issues raised by the Northern governors forum.
Responding to questions by our reporter concerning the party’s policies on regional zoning, Ologbondiyan noted that a National Working Committee on zoning had been set up to make findings on the situation and until that was done, there would be no public reaction.
It would be recalled that on Monday, governors of the 19 states in the North opposed the call by their Southern counterparts that the Presidency should be zoned to the South in 2023.
This formed part of the resolutions reached on Monday when the governors held an emergency meeting with traditional rulers in the region at the Government House in Kaduna State.
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, read out the communique containing the resolutions on behalf of his colleagues.
According to the governors, zoning the office of the President as being agitated by Southern governors, is against the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
They stated that any President elected must meet the constitutional requirements which include scoring the majority votes, and polling at least 25 percent of the votes cast in two-thirds of the 36 states of the Federation.
Governor Lalong noted that although some Northern governors had endorsed power shift to the South, the regional governors collectively condemned such calls.
PDP ON ZONING
The PDP in article 7(C) of its own constitution, specifically states that it will adhere to the principle of zoning of elective offices between the various regions in Nigeria.
The article reads, “Adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of Party and Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”
With the Party being the main opposition in the country, there seems to be arguments and controversies concerning its zoning principle due to various factors.
In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as Nigeria’s President through the zoning formula, after which was late Umar Musa Yar’adua and then Goodluck Jonathan who later became the President.
The controversy surrounding the PDP zoning formula began in 2012 when the Presidential ticket was given to the then incumbent President Jonathan, as against a northern candidate to replace the dead one.
Although the late President Yar’adua, who hails from the North West managed to spend two years in charge before he was succeeded by a Southerner, from the South South extraction, a lot of controversies surrounded the party’s zoning system, but with the support of many Nigerians, Jonathan was given a fresh mandate in year 2010, therefore distorting the zoning arrangement.
However, many stalwarts in the party alleged that, it was based on arrangements of a single 4-year term, before power would be returned to the North to complete their own zoning formula term.
Unfortunately for the party, Jonathan insisted on another 4 years to complete his 8-year tenure which is recognized by the constitution.
This, however didn’t end well for him nor the party, as the party would lose its 16-year grip on Nigeria’s seat of power.
The PDP 2019 Post-Election Review Committee headed by Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, recently recommended that the PDP’s presidential ticket be thrown open to both the South and Northern political bigwigs.
The committee added that in the event that the party decided to take a different line of action, it should consider the North East and the South East for the ticket.
“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 standard bearer of the party, for the 2023 elections.
“However, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country. Moreover, the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing the leader with the 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 institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process for the country,” the report read in part.
Chairman of the Zoning Committee of the PDP and Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, clarified that the committee has no mandate to zone political offices such as President or Vice President, saying: “Our Committee is strictly limited to the PDP National Executive Offices to be contested at the 2021 PDP National Convention scheduled for the end of October, 2021. We have no mandate to zone political offices such as President or Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Vanguard had also reported that some members of the party that wants the chairmanship to be zoned to the South, had the upper hand in the deliberations of its Zoning Committee.
At the meeting attended by 25 Northern members and their 23 Southern colleagues, it was gathered that all the northerners voted for the chairmanship to be zoned to the South, as well as maintaining the status quo in terms of zoning of other NWC posts. They were joined by seven South-West members thereby reducing the votes of those who want the chairman to come from the North to 16 against the 32 that want the Status Quo to be maintained.
Sources said that South-West leaders, who voted alongside the North because their zone is bidding for the chairmanship, are Taofeek Arapaja, Mrs. Jumoke Akinjide, Mr. Ayo Fayose, Deji Doherty, Senator Hosea Agboola, Senator Duro Faseyi and Mrs Rita Orji (a PDP representative from Lagos).
“It was also decided that the party should suspend discussion on the issue of zoning of the presidential ticket as that is a bridge that will be crossed when the party gets there.
“However, the announcement of the decision of the Committee was deliberately delayed till another meeting scheduled for Thursday September 30, 2021 in Abuja,” the source added.