The seeming unity among Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders before and after its convention last October may hit the rock with the tense struggle for the 2023 presidential ticket.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike yesterday insisted that it was the turn of the South to provide the party’s standard-bearer in the election.
Last week, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed said the party would field a candidate from the North in 2023 because the president produced by the PDP – Goodluck Jonathan – was a Southerner.
Governor Mohammed noted that rotation of presidential office is for the All Progressives Congress (APC) because President Muhammadu Buhari is a northerner.
Besides Governor Mohammed, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, all from the North, have indicated interest to contest for President on PDP platform.
Wike, speaking to PDP stakeholders at the Government House in Port Harcourt yesterday, warned against undermining the interest of the South whenever the opposition party decides the choice of its presidential standard-bearer.
Also, Ijaw Leader Chief Edwin Clark said zoning was required for peace and national unity.
The elder statesman wrote an open letter to Atiku, Saraki and other aspirants from the North, warning that the retention of the ticket in the region may be a recipe for chaos.
Southern governors, last year, voted for rotation of the presidential seat to the South.
Wike said: “Please, discountenance anything you’re seeing and hearing; all those social media posts. The South will make a statement very soon. It is not about you’ll be vice president to this or that.”
He added: “Nigerians will know that we are not joking. People take the South for granted, saying that they are not together. No problems. If we didn’t know yesterday, today, we know.
“We are assets. We are not a liability. When we say we are going to support the party, we support the party with everything we have. We are not in America where you do television campaigns.
“When we come out, we will choke them. They know it. So, everybody should relax, let the south do their homework and then they’ll make a proper statement.”
He said those planning to use money to overwhelm the internal democracy and buy off the ticket would be disappointed.
He said: “What is necessary is how the party must be cohesive, to make sure that the party gets it right.”
He criticised PDP Chieftain Dr. Raymond Dokpesi who is rooting for Atiku, saying: “With all due respect. If we follow the kind of statement that Dokpesi is making every day, by now, the party would have been destroyed. But, we say no.”
The governor said those calling for the PDP to jettison zoning of elective offices were doing that for selfish and personal interests that do not reflect the true spirit of federalism.
He added: “I stand on Southern Governors Forum decision on zoning. I was at the meeting where it was decided that zoning should come to the South and we took that decision together. I cannot go against that stand.”
According to him, it will be unfair for the presidential ticket to go to the North as the zone had produced the party chairman in the person of Senator Iyorcha Ayu.
He said: “The people in the South are of the view that power should come to the zone in 2023.”
Clark maintained that zoning remained the best antidote to breakup.
The former National Commissioner went down memory lane to remind them that the principle of rotation dates back to the pre-independence era.
He therefore appealed to the PDP chieftains from the North who had indicated interest to run for the coveted seat to allow the principle of justice to reign
Clark said: “It will be disastrous to suppress the rights of other Nigerians without regard for justice, equity and fair play.”
He added that any attempt to use the force of power, population, religion and ethnicity will not do the nation unity any good.
“In 1999, the zoning pattern was also observed, more so, the country wanted to compensate the Yorubas because of the June 12 incident.
“That was how Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, from the South, contested the elections with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the north as his running mate under the PDP.
“Chief Olu Falae, also from Southern Nigeria, also contested with Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi from the north, as his running mate under the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
“Zoning was sustained at the end of Chief Obasanjo’s tenure of eight years, giving the Presidency to the North in 2007, whereby Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Governor of Katsina State, Northern Nigeria, became the presidential candidate of the PDP and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from Bayelsa State, Southern Nigeria, became his running mate.
“It is instructive that the nation’s two main parties, the APC and the PDP, have been religiously following the zoning and rotation system between the north and the South. By 2023, the North would have ruled for another eight years.
“It is, therefore, rational and right, to insist that the Presidency should rotate to the south. It does not matter whether the presidency has been produced from the APC or the PDP since 2015.
“To which sub-region the presidency should be further zoned to in the south, is a different matter entirely. At the appropriate time, we will decide as to which area, section or region of the three regions of Southeast, Southsouth and Southwest, should have it.”
He further argued that when it comes to which region has had the most opportunity, the North “has had the Presidency for about 45 years of our nation’s history as an independent country, including both civilian and military regimes.
“The 17 Governors of southern Nigeria both of the APC and the PDP, under the leadership of Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, Governor of Ondo State, resolved at a meeting in Asaba, Delta State, that the Presidency should rotate to the South in 2023, in keeping with the tradition of zoning.
“The South and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, under my leadership, has held two important meetings to support the resolution of the 17 Governors of the Southern Nigeria, that presidency of the country, should rotate to the south.”
Source:- The Nation