Ahead of its Presidential primary election fixed for May 28, fresh crisis looms for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as governors from the South have insisted that the Presidential ticket for the 2023 election must not be an open contest.
This position has pitched them against two of their Northern colleagues in the persons of Aminu Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed, governors of Sokoto and Bauchi states; former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; Ex-Senate President, Bukola Saraki and banker-turned politician, Muhammed Hayatu-Deen, all of whom have since joined the Presidential race on the platform of the PDP.
Rising from a meeting which held at the Akwa Ibom state Governor’s lodge late Friday night, the governors insisted that the PDP, “a party founded on the principle of equity,” must be fair to the South by zoning its Presidential ticket to the South as it did in 2019 when the contest was solely a Northern affair.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Abia state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu dismissed the argument that zoning will put the party in a weak position in its quest to wrestle power from the APC in 2023.
He said: “We have watched with keen interest the developments in our party especially concerning zoning.
“Our position is that first, we are committed to the unity of our party and we have worked hard to make sure that this party remains a strong and viable vehicle to rescue Nigeria come 2023.
“Be that as it may, we want to draw your attention to the fact that we have agreed as Southern governors in Lagos and also in Delta that this party has to respect the zoning principle as enshrined in our constitution, and to that effect, we feel that the best thing to do is zone the Presidency to the South, and we stand on that position.
“We have not seen any reason to change our position, because the party was founded on the basis of equity and justice. And we also think that equity and justice are important pillars that will ultimately stabilize our politics towards our journey in rescuing Nigeria.
On the argument that nomination forms had already been sold to aspirants from the North, Ikpeazu noted that not being able to stand firm with the truth is the reason the country is in a huge mess today.
According to him, “if you want to take a position of policy, you don’t look at problems on their face and take decision . You take a decision and remain firm on that decision. We think what this country is lacking today is our inability to dispense equity and justice. It may be difficult, it may be a bitter pill to swallow but we need to stand with the truth,” he added.
At the meeting were Governors Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Seyi Makinde of Oyo state.
Others include Duoye Diri and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Bayelsa and Enugu states respectively.
Obaseki, Okowa absent
Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki and his Delta state counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa were notable absentees when Southern governors converge to take a position on zoning Friday night.
Neither Obaseki nor Okowa sent a representative to the meeting.
Saraki, Tambuwal, others bent on consensus
Meanwhile, Saraki, Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed and Hayatu-Deen have not given up hope on the possibility of presenting a consensus candidate at the PDP primary election. While their Southern counterparts were at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s lodge for a meeting, the four pro consensus advocates met at an undisclosed locations discussing strategy on how they can clinch the ticket ahead of the polls.
This quartet continues to insist that broadening the process of picking the standard flag bearer by opening up the race to all zones is the surest way of picking the right candidate for the PDP.
A source privy to the consensus arrangement told Vanguard that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not very keen on the issue, as he believes the four are working to dim his chances ahead of the primaries.
“Yes, Saraki did say the consensus talks did not exclude Atiku, the former Vice President knows there is no way they will be fair to him. He knows they are the first to point out his age as reason he should stay away from the contest. So, the man is going about his aspiration completely different from what Saraki and co are working at,” he said.