March 20, 2021
NEWSDAILYNIGERIA -The rumour has been around for some years now like a highly odoriferous fart that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wants to zone the 2023 presidential ticket to the North in clear breach of its Constitution, Manifesto, and convention. In my article entitled “PDP, Ndigbo, and 2023 Presidency Zoning” published in July 2020, I had reason to take on the former Governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswan when he told a national newspaper that the PDP would still zone the office of the President to the North in 2023. He said: “Of course, the PDP will maintain zoning. We have not realised it, so the zoning still remains in the North in the PDP. In PDP, we zoned the Presidency to the North and have we realised it? No. So, the zoning still remains in the North for 2023”. I raised the red flag, arguing that Suswan was flying a dangerous kite that would finally consume the PDP.
Also, one of the cardinal reasons advertised by Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State for leaving the PDP was his claim that the party had no good plans for the South East region come 2023. Not long ago, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State alleged that members of the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP were more interested in perpetuating themselves in office than ensuring victory for the party in 2023. For instance, Secondus, a southerner, only stands a chance of remaining in office if the party’s presidential ticket goes to the North. But does Secondus care? Was he not the Deputy Chairman in the Adamu Muazu-led NWC that led the PDP into the 2015 electoral disaster?
Meanwhile, all pretences were thrown to the wind recently when the Governor Bala Mohammed-led PDP Post-Election Review Panel submitted its report to the NWC. You needed to see the knowing smile, the scratch my back and I scratch your back smile, between Secondus and Mohammed as they grinned from ear to ear at the event. Apart from its shoddy and hollow work that spent precious time time on issues like restructuring, use of soldiers for elections, etc., which are outside the panel’s Terms of Reference or PDP’s control, the panel threw open PDP’s 2023 presidential ticket.
To rub salt into the injury, the Bala Committee predicated this wacky decision on the need to get the best hand to pilot Nigeria. Bala’s rambling presentation read in part: “In line with certain unwritten conventions of the nation’s history, many people think that for fairness and equity, the North-East and South-East geo-political zones that have had the shortest stints at the Presidency should be given special consideration in choosing the presidential flag bearer of the party for the 2023 election.
“While we admit that this is a strong argument, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country.
“Moreover, the exigencies of the moment demand that nothing should be compromised in choosing the leader with the attributes to disentangle the country from the present quagmire.
“Therefore, we think that every Nigerian from every part of the country should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate through a credible primary election, as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process for the country.”
This is not only a total insult to the people of the South East, it is also a total betrayal of the zoning principle that has been the hallmark of the PDP’s national politics since 1998 and more importantly a betrayal of people of the South East, who have given their all to the PDP since the inception of the current dispensation and are paying dearly for it under Mohammadu Buhari exclusionist presidency.
Is Bala, by any means, saying that there are no capable hands in the South East to “disentangle the country from the present quagmire?” What capable hands does the North have that the South East does not have more? Which development indices shows that Northen states are better governed than South East states? Again, rather than focusing on 1999 till date, Bala laboriously went as far as 1960 to find a way to accommodate the North East. But even at that, how could you reasonably put the North East, which led Nigeria for six years (1960 – 1966) under Sir Abubakakar Tafawa Balewa at per with the South East, which led for only six months (January 1966 – July 1966) under General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi? All this in Bala’s futile bid to protect his rumoured presidential ambition and that of the Dubai-dwelling Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who would only come when the food is ready, as he did ahead of 2019 elections.
But more importantly, were there no good hands in the South when the Ekweremadu-led PDP Post-Election Review Panel recommended as early as September 2015 that the PDP’s 2019 presidential ticket should go to the North? Ekweremadu panel report reads in part: “Since the last President of PDP extraction came from the southern part of Nigeria, it is recommended that PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections should come from the northern part of the country. This is in accordance with the popular views and will also assuage any ill feelings in the North over any perceived breach of the Party’s zoning principle”.
That singular decision was the elixir that rallied back to the PDP many northern political heavy weights like Bukola Saraki, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwakwanso, Aminu Tambuwal, Yakubu Dogara etc., who had left the party ahead of 2015 election. Conversely, Bala Panel’s ill-advised recommendation can only dissipate whatever is left of Southern, especially South East, sympathy for the PDP. It has only opened a floodgate of defections to the APC, turning the likes of Umahi to our Nostradamus.
The rotation and zoning principle was engrained into the PDP party’s Constitution in 2009. Article 7 (2) (c) of the PDP Constitution states: “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels”.
So, power has resided in the North for two straight terms and has to move South, specifically to South East, in the spirit of rotation and zoning, which has been the practice since 1999.
All the political parties ought to flow with this national understanding. PDP, APC, and other major parties cannot be moving North when power is supposed to be moving South if they hold the unity and continued corporate existence of this country dear to heart.
Therefore, there is no explanation for this roundly crazy and unjust move by the PDP, except that a onetime PDP Governor and now a Senator once mused that PDP is an acronym for ‘Papa Deceive Pikin’. But it still does not make the unfolding scenerio less reprehensible and less an affront to both the Constitution and manifesto of the party. Jettisoning the rotation principle midway and after it has benefitted at least four zones of the country and when it is the turn of the South East to benefit is tantamount to shifting the goalpost in the middle of a football match. This is intolerable and should have consequences.
This latest development confirms the allegation that Atiku fenced-off the South East PDP leaders immediately he got the presidential ticket at the Port Harcourt Convention in order not to concretise the return of power to the region in 2023 and in order not to properly define the deliverables of restructuring. Both were the major grounds they gave him a block vote to emerge PDP’s presidential ticket. Unfortunately, many of us Ndigbo were too emotional and obsessed with the possibility of a Vice President of South East extraction to pay attention to what the party leaders were saying. We forgot that from experience, including Yemi Osibanjo’s current experience, that the position of Vice President amounts to nothing under our Constitution.
Likewise, I pity a few Igbo leaders hobnobbing with Atiku et al in the hope of of getting a VP slot rather than condemning this atrocious recommendation. We know them, but I have bad news for them: at the rate PDP is going, Ndigbo will not even smell the VP slot.
However, while the PDP hide and seek game continues, it is imperative to remind the party that Ndigbo are not wedded to it for better for worse, for life. This time around, the party may leave the South East voters with no choice other than to try their luck elsewhere, win or lose. Moreso when Buhari, who is the major source of our indignation for the APC, will be on his way to Daura in 2023.
It is apt to conclude with the statement by a rankled Ohanaaeze Ndigbo expressing our collective anger and disappointment at PDP’s disrespect to Ndigbo: “The leadership of the PDP is advised to retract the comment made by Alh. Bala Mohammed and countermand the content of the obnoxious committee report in the interest of the party. Let it be known that Ndigbo do not wax so eloquent on political parties. The Igbo is bound to advertise the party that caters to the interest of our people. Other prominent APC chieftains are highly committed to the realisation of this project and we will be very delighted to work with them in the overall interest of Ndigbo.
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor is committed to a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction and there is no going back on it. It should be noted that the Igbo network transcends geographical space and the enormous Igbo goodwill and resources across the world will be mobilized to achieve this equity-inspired project. In the words of Obiozor, the Igbo are a confident set of people who do not hide their feelings easily no matter the consequences.
“If you deny the Igbo justice, be ready for righteous indignation, diminishing authority, denial of the legitimacy of governance and loyalty. The Igbo faith and confidence is based on what you deny the Igbo in the morning, they can give to themselves in the evening through hard work and perseverance. We are undaunted.”
A word is enough for the wise.
––Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist.