SEVEN years out of power, leaders of the main opposition Peoples Democratic, PDP, appear desperate to return to the position they enjoyed at a stretch for 16 years.
Agreed that they must end “the bad dream of losing presidential polls twice to the All Progressives Congress, APC”, leaders of the PDP are however yet to agree on the best strategy to end APC’s reign.
That is one of the reasons the party seems to be in quandary on how to resolve the issue of where to zone its presidential ticket as the 2023 elections inch closer.
The PDP is weathering a storm over which political divide -North or South should produce its 2023 presidential standard bearer.
The party leaders and stakeholders are divided on the issue. Yet, time is running as the party has fixed May 28 for the national convention where the presidential candidate will emerge.
Recently, PDP held its national convention where Dr Iyorchia Ayu, a northerner emerged as national chairman.
The North’s production of the national chairman presupposes that the South will produce the presidential candidate in line with established PDP’s tradition.
Power sharing tradition!
However, the power sharing tradition may not stand in 2023 because of “the dire situation” the party is in.
Now, some northern and southern presidential aspirants are purchasing the expression of interest and nomination forms and have been touring the country consulting, lobbying and seeking for the support of critical stakeholders.
While the eight PDP governors from the South have joined their counterparts in the APC from the same region demanding that the presidential candidate come from the South, the five others from the North, and some other stakeholders want the position to be thrown open.
Zoning to the PDP is not a matter that can be treated with levity because it is enshrined in Article 7 of the party’s constitution where the party specifically states that it will adhere to the principle of zoning of elective offices among the various regions in the country.
Argument for zoning
Those clamouring for zoning argue that after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari from the North-West, the next President of Nigeria should come from one of the three zones in the South.
Those in this group also argue that the PDP today has its safe states in the South-South and South- East and that it is only good for the PDP to reward any of the two zones with its 2023 presidential ticket.
However, stakeholders against zoning are arguing that the party should refrain from zoning to allow the best candidate to emerge. To them, what the party needs now is a solid candidate who can win the election and defeat the APC, not a regional candidate.
They urge that the party should first win the 2023 general elections before thinking of zoning key positions.
They further extended their argument to the fact that the last president produced by the party is a southerner and that between 1999 and 2023, the presidency would have stayed in the South for 14 years and in the North for 10 years, meaning that if the next President comes from the North, the region will still be doing catch up with the South.
However, the pro-South advocate countered that Nigeria did not start in 1999 and that between 1960 when the country gained independence and now, the North has produced leaders for more than 40 of the 61 post-independence years.
In the PDP, they also argued that the last presidential candidate came from the North (Atiku Abubakar) but the party lost. The PDP also lost in 2015 when it fielded a southerner (President Goodluck Jonathan), which was the first time an incumbent president lost an election in Nigeria.
However, after reviewing the arguments, political analysts believe that the PDP must be careful not to fall into the subterfuge game allegedly being planned for it by the ruling party.
Now, the PDP appears ahead of the APC with regards to preparations for the 2023 general polls.
While the ruling party at press time was still struggling to elect members of its national working committee, the PDP, last October, held a peaceful convention to elect its leadership.
Thus, some analysts said the APC will do anything to promote crisis in the PDP.
On this score, they claimed that APC governors and leaders are the ones leading the clamour and campaign for southern presidency. Among the 17 southern governors championing the shift of presidential powers to the South, eight are from the APC.
With a claim of an unwritten agreement among founders of the APC in 2013 that the South-West which aligned with the North-West to win the 2015 elections for Buhari will produce his successor in 2023, tendencies in APC favour the ticket going to the South.
Thus, APC leaders in the South seem to be clamouring more for Southern presidency.
A top northern PDP leader said “the APC plot is to lure the PDP to also go the route of the South so that it will not have any advantage over the ruling party in the next presidential election.
The APC has spent the last seven years grooming people from the South to contest the 2023 presidential polls. Therefore a southern presidency is an APC plot to lure PDP and the rest of the opposition to a region where it presently enjoys comparative advantage.”
The northern PDP leader argued that in 2015 when the APC should have allowed then President Jonathan, a southerner to complete his term or pick a southerner to contest against him, it went to the North to select a presidential candidate to exploit the advantage over the then ruling party.
Now, the APC is afraid the PDP might do the same and go to the North where it may have more support in 2023 and currently has leading candidates who can defeat the ruling party.
It is for these reasons that the PDP must be careful not to make the political pitfall being designed and dug by the APC for it. The PDP leaders should rather open their eyes wide and make decisions that are in their best interest.
There is a need to decide on the candidate that is capable, competent, compassionate, courageous, and solid who can deliver on the promises of creating a functional country.”
Faced with this dilemma, some analysts have argued that not zoning the presidential ticket could be the best option for the PDP to carry all tendencies along and ensuring that the best candidate emerges from any part of the country.