As the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meets today to consider the report of the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led sub committee on zoning, controversy over the report has recorded some intriguing twists.
It emerged yesterday that political leaders from the North have taken different positions on zoning of the chairmanship position to the region.
Key leaders in the North Central zone, it was learnt, have joined the South in supporting the zoning arrangement. The development has drastically reduced opposition to the zoning formula.
Since last Thursday, when the zoning sub committee made its decision known, there have been serious realignment of positions for and against the zoning formula.
Leaders from the North West and parts of the North East, according to sources, have been the most vocal voices against it.
In the meeting of the PDP governors that preceded the announcement of the zoning, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who is the only PDP governor from North Central, was reported to have expressed his unflinching support for zoning of the chairmanship of the PDP to the North.
However, Governors Bala Mohammed of Bauchi and Darius Ishaku of Taraba were said to have advised against it but were eventually defeated.
The silence of Governors Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Adamawa and Sokoto States respectively had boosted support for the zoning formula.
A serving NEC member from the North told The Guardian that against media reports that the NEC meeting would be stormy and rancorous, the matter is already being resolved politically.
He disclosed that at the moment, the political rearrangements thrown up by the chairmanship position are being resolved across the zones.
“What is of concern at the moment is how the positions taken to particular regions are being politically shared among the zones in the two regions of North and South. That has nothing to do with the recommendation of the zoning committee.”
The initial misconception and misinterpretation about the committee’s position has now been properly addressed, as every party leader has been tasked to take the explanation to his zone to facilitate more awareness. So, I can tell you that we don’t expect a rancorous NEC meeting,” he stressed.
It was also learnt that contrary to speculations, the zoning of the chairmanship position would not play any role in the decision on which region will produce the next President and Vice President in 2023.
However, some leaders of the party in the North West and North East appeared unconvinced by the repeated explanations of the Ugwuanyi committee.
The Secretary of the Ugwuanyi committee and Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Mr. Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, who has been providing clarifications on the zoning of offices in the party, debunked speculations that the presidential ambition of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Atiku; Saraki, and a former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, had been foreclosed.
“After our meeting, some mischief-makers started spreading false stories that our committee has zoned the presidency to the South.
“This is not true. Our committee was mandated to decide those that would seek party positions. This does not include those who want to seek the positions of president, vice president, governors, and the like.
“Ab initio, it was made clear that our committee does not have the mandate on any other matter regarding zoning or otherwise, except that which regards the party at the federal level.”
Also, the NWC at its meeting last Monday received the committee’s report and resolved to present the same to the NEC today for consideration and adoption.
Meanwhile, former National Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, has cautioned members of the NEC to be guided by national interest and principles laid by its founding fathers, as they meet today to consider the report of the zoning committee.
He said whatever they decided at the meeting would either mar or strengthen the PDP.
George, who said the party is at crossroads, also advised its NEC members to shun personal and ethnic interests but take decisions that would make the party win future election. He noted that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has proved to Nigerians that it is incapable of solving various challenges facing the country.
The PDP leader, in a telephone chat with The Guardian, yesterday, said it was surprising that zoning, which was devised by the founding fathers of the party to give both majority and minority ethnic groups a sense of belonging, is becoming problematic for the party.
The former Military Administrator of Ondo State, who said he would not be able to attend the meeting noted: “As an elder of the party, I advice that all what we must do must be directed at elevating people from poverty. It is a break or make meeting tomorrow (today) but with the blessing of Almighty God, we will triumph.
“Let them honour the founding fathers of the party, who sacrificed everything including their personal ambition to form the party. They should know that PDP has a culture, we have a norm, we have a system and there are established ways of power rotation in the PDP.
“They should not allow emotion to guide them but should take this nation as an entity. Everything should not be skewed to a side; there should be equity and fairness. No section of the country can enslave another. Zoning is the central nerve system of the PDP.”
He added that Nigerians are waiting for the PDP to put its house in order and take over for the APC in 2023.
There are also indications that former Senate President David Mark might have rejected entreaties to vie for the national chairmanship of the party. This is against some media reports that the former lawmaker might have been chosen to lead the party.
A party source said some leaders of the party are already thinking in the direction of the North West, to present the candidate, as North Central and North East are still interested in the presidential ticket of the party, which is yet to be zoned to any region.
According to the source, “Both Haliru Bello and Makarfi who came from the North West served in acting capacities. Also, Mark and the North prefer a Northern Muslim so that the South can produce a Christian as National Secretary.
“Once you take a Northern Christian as chairman, then you have restricted the National Secretary, who must be a Muslim, to only one zone in the South because you can’t find such a strong member to occupy that position from South South and South East.
“Mark is not interested in chairmanship. He has said it that the North Central has produced five chairmen in the past – Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Ahmadu Alli, Baraje and Audu Ogbe.
“North East has only produced Bamanga Tukur while the South East has also produced Ogbulafor and Nwodo. North East has also produced Adamu Muazu. So, the Northern leaders are looking towards North West for the National chairmanship.”