As the committee set up by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on zoning prepares to submit its recommendation this week, there are indications that the Samuel Ortom-led committee has resolved to advise the various organs of the party, particularly the National Executive Committee, NEC, to throw open the Presidential race.
The controversy on whether to zone or not was first mooted when, few months after the party lost the 2019 presidential election, then Uche-Secondus-led National Working Committee set up a panel chaired by the governor of Bauchi State, Sen. Bala Mohammed to review what went wrong and advise the party on the way forward. Although that committee recommended that the ticket be thrown open, powerful chieftains of the PDP from the South, particularly Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, have been clamouring for the zoning of the ticket to the South.
Subsequently, a 37-man committee was set up last month to come up with an acceptable position that would keep the party and its bigwigs united regardless of its stand on zoning.
A member of the committee from the South-South geopolitical zone told Sunday Vanguard that given the situation “the PDP finds itself today,” it makes more sense to throw the race open to all eligible Nigerians who are members of the party.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, said: “It is very easy to make the zoning argument. I am from the South-South and if we come down South in search of our flag bearer, my area will be up for the contest but let’s not forget that today, the PDP is an opposition party. It was easier to zone then as a ruling party. We made mistake in 2019 by excluding the South from the contest.
“What we must do this time is to broaden the process by which our candidate will emerge. With due respect to our Southern leaders who are insisting zoning must be done; nobody can foreclose the possibility of a Southern candidate emerging. Let us stop talking as if with Northerners in the race, our people don’t stand a chance. This is not true.
“As a party desirous of returning to power at the centre next year, let us think of giving every section of this country a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. Sell forms to anyone with interest and the money to obtain them. After that, these aspirants should then take their messages to every part of the country in preparation for the convention. Whoever wins becomes our flag bearer. To the best of my knowledge, this is the message the committee has for the party.”
Unlike aspirants of northern extraction who are talking about the possibility of producing a consensus candidate, their southern counterparts are going about individual aspirations with no thought for a common front, at least as at the time of filing this report.
It would be recalled that former Senate President Bukola Saraki is leading the consensus talk among northern presidential hopeful ahead of May 28/29 primaries
Having met with Bala Mohammed and Aminu Tambuwal, governors of Bauchi and Sokoto states respectively, all three, last week, met with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who was the party’s flag bearer in 2019. It is not clear if the quartet is planning to reach out to foremost banker and economist, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, who, last week, joined the race.
The odds thus far are said to be favouring Saraki whose independent mindset is endearing him to prominent Nigerians of southern origin.
As it were, former Senate President Pius Anyim; Governors Wike (Rivers), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi; ace publisher, Dele Momodu; business tycoon, Sam Ohuabunwa; medical doctor turned politician, Nwachukwu Anakwenze; and Diana Oliver are yet to find a common ground ahead of the convention. Momodu has specifically urged all aspirants to quit the race for him, citing his “quality education” and business acumen as edges he has over the rest in the pack.