Facts emerged on Friday that governors on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party are gearing up for a meeting on Wednesday to deliberate on wide-ranging issues including the 2023 presidency and other related matters.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that the decision was taken after Thursday’s inconclusive meeting of the party’s Zoning Committee for National Offices headed by the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
It was learnt that the dispositions by many members of the party’s southern and northern caucuses at Thursday’s meeting held at the Government House Enugu favoured the retention of the chairmanship to the South thereby obviously nudging the North to latch on to the presidential slot in 2023. This, it was gathered, convinced some members that the party would need to clearly strategise ahead of its October 30-31 national convention in preparation for the 2023 general elections.
Six thousand delegates across 36 states and 774 Local Government Areas are to partake in the convention.
The South-West PDP has not produced the party’s national chairman since the establishment of the party in 1998. A PDP group, Alliance for PDP South-West, has listed 11 aspirants from the zone for the position and the list included a former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; ex-Ondo State PDP governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) and ex-governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, among others.
A source at the Enugu meeting said a former President of the Senate, Iyorchia Ayu, during his speech, harped on the need to be careful in decision-making and collate contributions from key stakeholders for the committee to make robust decisions regarding its mandate.
The source said, “His submissions were pungent and it showed that the party governors’ inputs to the overall decision of the committee were necessary hence the need for a meeting a day before the zoning committee’s meeting in Abuja to deliberate on some key decisions. The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, who is the committee’s deputy chairman; Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Mahdi Aliyu; former president of the Senate, Pius Anyim and ex-governors of Ekiti (Ayodele Fayose), Niger (Aliyu Babangida), Sokoto (Attahiru Bafarawa), Adamawa (Boni Haruna) and Jigawa (Sule Lamido) attended the meeting including many other influential party members.’’
Though the venue of the meeting where the governors would meet had yet to be made public, one of our correspondents gathered that it would be communicated to members in no time for them to gather their positions ahead of time.
However, Ugwuanyi told journalists after the Enugu meeting that it was fruitful and was adjourned to conclude next week.
Ugwuanyi said, “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. In this deliberate search for national officers of our party that will help PDP to achieve the lofty ideals and goals of our founding fathers.’’
Why northern caucus insisted on producing next president
Though official decision on zoning the party’s presidential and vice-presidential positions will come to the fore after the October 30-31 national convention of the party, another source at the meeting who spoke with one of our correspondents noted that some members of the northern caucus unofficially based their preference for the presidency on the fact that the North had only produced the party’s presidential candidate once. That once was said to be in 2007.
The source added, “It was explained that the last northern president in the PDP was the late Umaru Yar’Ádua who became president in 2007. He died in 2010 and his tenure was completed by Goodluck Jonathan, who later contested and ran a four-year term. But the opposition noted that when any political party produces the president, the president automatically takes the slot of that zone. The meeting favoured that what is in the North should move to the South and what is in the South should move to the North. The party will not want to flout its own constitution. There are two governors in the North, for now, who are interested in contesting the presidency. But how we handle the zoning will determine the party’s future.’’
The two governors, it was further gathered, are those of Sokoto State (Aminu Tambuwal) and Bauchi State (Bala Mohammed).
NEC to ratify zoning c’ttee decision
Meanwhile, the governors are expected to jointly present their decisions on the zoning formula to the next meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee.
The NEC meeting, which is the highest organ of the party after its national convention, may hold before the end of the week.
A source close to the highest ruling organ of the party said, “The party’s timetable shows that the NEC meeting should come up next week, either on Thursday or Friday. Unless something happens, the meeting should then. Or, just let me say we are going to meet very soon on the matter. The NEC will ratify the decisions reached by both the governors’ forum and the zoning committee.”
Moral burden on PDP southern govs
Meanwhile, investigations by one of our correspondents showed that some of the PDP governors from the southern part of the country are in dilemma over the zoning of political offices in the party.
Their dilemma, it was gathered, was borne out of the decision reached by the governors from the southern part of the country that the next president should come from the region.
The governors, irrespective of political affiliations, had at their last two meetings, insisted that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigeria in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness.
The governors, who met on the platform of Southern Governors Forum, were elected on the platform of the PDP, All Progressives Congress and the All Progressives Grand Alliance. They had met in Delta and Enugu states.
In a seven paragraph communiqué read by the chairman of Southern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, at the last meeting, the Forum also supported the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.
The communiqué, which was read by Akeredolu said the governors “reiterated their earlier position that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigeria in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.”
But one of the governors said, “We are clamouring for a southern governor at our enlarged meeting, now we are ceding the position of our flag bearer (candidate) to the North. Who will now take us seriously on other decisions reached at our meetings if we are seen as not able to enforce this simple one (of where our candidate should come from) within our party?
“We are actually in dilemma. We have actually not been able to identify those interested in running for the position of president from the southern part of the country from our party.
“Apart from that, only the late Yar’Adua had been the president produced by our party from the North. Baba Obasanjo is from the South just like Jonathan. So, what do we do? Southerners are the only one running to be the national chairman of the party now. You could see now why we are in dilemma and why we have a moral burden on the issue.
“I think we goofed in following the APC governors in this argument. This is because a party that is not in power should not be talking about rotation or following a pattern that would be in favour of the ruling party. Now, the APC could use this against us if we renege on the collective agreement.”
Party holds congresses in nine states today
Meanwhile, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde and aggrieved leaders of the PDP will today (Saturday), test their popularity within the state chapter of the party as members go to the polls to choose ward leaders.
The state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Akeem Olatunji, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan, on Friday, said the exercise would be held in each of the 351 wards across the 33 Local Government Areas of the state.
Olatunji said everything was set for the ward congress.
However, one of the aggrieved party leaders, Bisi Olopoeyan, said while it was true that the congress would hold on Saturday, he however said members of the committee saddled with the responsibility of conducting it had yet to be seen.
He threatened that his group could hold parallel congresses if any attempt was made to manipulate the process. Some aggrieved PDP leaders across the 33 local government areas of the state had on Monday, passed a vote of no confidence in Makinde.
The aggrieved politicians are some prominent PDP leaders in the state among who were a former Deputy Governor, Hazeem Gbolarumi; former Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mulikat Adeola- Akande; Olopoeyan; Nureni Akanbi; Femi Babalola among others.
The aggrieved party leaders who accused Makinde of sidelining those who helped him to win the 2019 election passed a vote of no confidence in him in a communiqué read by Michael Okunlade.
The communiqué read in part, “Members are urged to go to the congress venue on Saturday and conduct themselves in the most peaceful manner. The venue remains the wards’ meeting venues in each of the 351 wards in the state.
“If other members of the PDP turn up at the venue, they should jointly hold the congress together but nobody should engage in any form of hooliganism and brigandage. As members of the same party, we must relate as such.
“The meeting prays for a peaceful conduct of the PDP congress which is on Saturday, September 25 through October 16, 2021.
However, the state chapter of the party in a statement signed by Olatunji said, “Some of the members who claimed to be aggrieved are merely acting out their frustrations after their candidates in government were either redeployed due to incompetence or shown the exit door due to gross misconduct bordering on the challenge of integrity.”
State congresses are expected to also hold in Ebonyi, Lagos, Adamawa, Kebbi, Borno, Kogi, Osun, and Kwara states.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who confirmed the development on the telephone to Saturday PUNCH, in Abuja, on Friday, said, “For Kogi, it is held in wards and local governments, in only some wards are affected in Osun State. For the rest of the states, it’s the ward, Local Government Areas and the state.”
Saturday PUNCH reported that the National Working Committee of the party on July 8, 2021, approved the schedule for the activities of the 2021 congresses in the nine states.
The party’s spokesperson had observed that the approval was sequel to the expiration of the tenure of executives of the aforementioned states, in line with section 47(1) of the party’s constitution (as amended).
For Ebonyi, the State Executive Committee was dissolved following Governor Dave Umahi’s defection from the party to join the All Progressives Congress.
According to the timetable signed by the National Organising Secretary, Austin Akobundu, the party will embark on membership drive exercise from July 12 to August 2021 — this will be carried out by state chapters and the NWC.
The notice of the party’s congresses and the end of the tenure of executives of the affected nine state chapters took effect from July 12.
The party announced that the sale of nomination forms would take place from July 26 till August 27, 2021, while September 6, 2021, was the last day for submission of forms by all aspirants seeking to contest for state executive positions. Congresses for the election of ward executives and three ad-hoc delegates in the nine affected states will take place on September 25, 2021.