There is growing disquiet in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over what method to adopt in choosing the party’s presidential flag bearer for the 2023 election.
Aspirants demanding for zoning of the presidential ticket have clashed with those seeking the adoption of one of the contenders as the consensus candidate.
The two groups have intensified consultations during the week, selling their preferred options to the various power blocks and stakeholders.
This is deepening divisions as the contenders continue to intensify lobbying to win converts to their sides.
Desperate to gain enough grounds, the aspirants have extended lobbying to the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), the National Assembly caucus, Ex- Ministers, and Party Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.
At the forefront of the consensus, option is four aspirants of northern extraction who, apparently, hope to get one of them adopted as the candidate.
Aspirants in the consensus group are former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed; and former banker, Alhaji Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.
Those demanding the zoning of the ticket are mainly aspirants from the Southeast.
They are former Senate President, Pius Anyim; former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi; an Industrialist, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; and a United States based medical doctor, Nwachukwu Anakwenze.
In various engagements with stakeholders, the consensus group, led by Saraki, has continued to hinge their preference on the need to enthrone unity in the party.
However, there has been growing insinuations that the group might be pursuing a Northern agenda, based on the ethnic origin of its members.
But Saraki, who dismissed the insinuations, clarified that all the aspirants in the race at the point the group was formed were all from the North.
According to him, the group will be expanded to accommodate aspirants from other zones. The group has focused consultations primarily on PDP governors.
There was a mild drama when the four-member consensus group paid a visit to the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Tuesday.
After a meeting with the Governor, Saraki had announced to reporters that Ugwuanyi had given his support to the consensus option.
Responding to Saraki’s assertion, Ugwuanyi clarified that he would welcome consensus only if it’s based on justice equity and fairness.
“I welcome consensus based on justice, equity and fairness”, Ugwuanyi said. When asked if he was making inference to zoning with his demand for justice, equity, and fairness, Ugwuanyi retorted: “if that is what you think it is, so be it”.
Ugwuanyi was among the six PDP governors who insisted on zoning of the PDP presidential ticket at a meeting in Abuja last Friday.
Despite Saraki’s explanations the division between proponents of consensus and those campaigning for zoning has given ethnic colouration to the contest.
The Southeast aspirants, mindful of their obvious disadvantage position in terms of delegate numbers, are fighting to have the ticket zoned to their region.
On the other hand, aspirants from the North, including the four pushing for consensus, are scrambling individually to grab the ticket.
They have been taking turns to meet with members of the BoT, National Assembly caucus, former cabinet Ministers and the leadership of the party.
Those that have met with these groups include Saraki, Tambuwal, Mohammed, Anyim, Obi, Governor Wike, Governor Udom Emmanuel, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar among others.
Wike, during a meeting with the National Assembly caucus last week, had promised to foot litigation bills for every member that might have legal challenges with their elections.
He told the lawmakers that he will engage the services of no fewer than 15 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to handle legal services for those of them that support his aspiration.
On his part, Anyim, who met with the PDP leadership on Wednesday shortly after he submitted his nomination documents, complained of unfair treatment of the Southeast and charged the party leadership to address the situation.
But PDP chair, Ayu, had urged Anyim to intensify consultations among the various party stakeholders across the six geopolitical zones.
The party chair clarified that he and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC), which he leads, are only umpires in the nomination process.
He urged Anyim and other aspirants to focus their consultations on those that will be delegates at the presidential primary.