Just one year after it lost power at the federal level, the struggle for the presidential ticket for the 2019 election has started causing problems within the ranks of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Facts have emerged that the current challenge being faced by the zoning committee of the PDP in preparation for the national convention of the party was a result of the clash of interest between two different camps in the northern part of the country with the 2019 presidential ticket of the party the main cause of the division.
The party which has been making efforts at rebuilding after it lost power in 2015 to the All Progressives Congress (APC) ran into another crisis when some stakeholders within the party rejected the zoning arrangement put together by the committee for the party convention headed by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State.
The committee, though, yet to announce officially to the party’s national caucus the proposed zoning arrangement for the convention of the party slated for May 21, it was, however, an open secret that the major offices were zoned to satisfy the interest of some serving National Working Committee (NWC) members.
The chairmanship was zoned to the North-East, secretary to South-West, deputy national chairman to the South-South, and national organizing secretary to the South East.
Since the zoning formula proposal became public knowledge, some stakeholders in the party have been threatening fire and brimstone.
Some amongst them have openly threatened to hold a parallel convention in Abuja if the decision to zone the chairmanship to the North East is not rescinded.
Attempts by the embattled zoning committee headed by Emmanuel to salvage the situation have not yielded fruits.
However, those fighting against the zoning of the chairmanship position are said to be doing the bidding of a governor in the North East who wants the slot taken away to North West or the South so as to brighten his own chances of clinching the party’s ticket for the 2019 presidential contest.
It was also gathered that the PDP governors who initially were united in their decision to make Ali Modu-Sheriff the national chairman of the party are now divided over the issue following the alleged interest of the said governor.
The governor is said to be scared of the rumoured interest of Modu-Sheriff in the presidential ticket of the party come 2019 which might become easy for him to clinch should he be made the party chairman now.
According to a party source, the enthronement of Modu-Sheriff as the party chairman would have handed almost all the party structures to him, coupled with the support he is enjoying from the governors who are still fighting tooth and nail to ensure he emerges as the party chairman come May 21.
In order to prevent such, the governor, it was said, moved and got some party members to his side, demanding the reversal of the zoning arrangements that seem to favour Modu-Sheriff.
The meeting of the zoning committee called last Tuesday to resolve the matter ended in stalemate as members of the committee were said to be divided on the best way to resolve the issue.
The meeting held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, was said to have almost degenerated into a shouting match as each camp held on to their point of view, refusing to shift ground.
According to a source present at the meeting, some members of the zoning committee who were averse initially to the zoning of the chairmanship seat to the North East virtually rubbed it in on others following the crisis generated by the zoning arrangements proposal.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who is an avowed supporter of Modu-Sheriff was absent at the meeting, even as it was alleged that he was the main brain behind the decision of the committee to give the chairmanship slot to the North East.
The committee meeting was, however, cut short when serving governors who are members of the committee abandoned the meeting and headed to the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge to hold a separate meeting.
Following the disagreement, the meeting was adjourned sine dine even as the date for the national convention rolls in gradually.
It would be recalled that the party recently accepted to adopt the recommendations of the Ike Ekweremadu’s committee which reviewed the reasons for the failure of the party at the last election.
The committee proposed, among other things, the return of the party’s presidential ticket to the North in 2019 and strict adherence to other party’s laid down rules on emergence of candidates for elections through a democratic process.
While the party seeks to rebuild ahead of 2019, some stakeholders were of the opinion that the party needs grassroots politician to lead the rebuilding process and take the party back to the Northern electorate whose rejection of the PDP in the last elections resulted in the loss of the presidential seat to the APC.
The idea of their candidate for the chairman, it was learnt, is someone with good financial strength and willingness to spend the money on rebuilding the party in preparation for 2019.
Modu-Sheriff is said to have been generally agreed upon as the man that fits the description given his deep pocket and his willingness to spend his personal fund to rebuild the PDP.
His large-heartedness was confirmed by a party chieftain who said Modu-Sheriff has been running the affairs of the party with virtually his personal money since he emerged as the party chairman in the last three months.
The PDP while in power, mainly depended on financial assistance from the presidency and its numerous governors, a situation that has been reversed by the massive loss suffered at the 2015 elections.
Though, in properly returning to the zoning formula as enshrined in the party’s constitution, the position of the national chairman was supposed to go to the South, but some stakeholders from the South West as well as the South-South have said that the rebuilding process will only materialise if a Northerner who can win the confidence of his own people, and bring them back to the PDP is made the chairman of the party.
The chairman to emerge from the North, it was said, will be in power until sometime in 2018 to eventually step down when the nomination for 2019 elections is to commence, while a Southerner takes over and the presidential ticket is given to a Northerner as agreed.
With the assurance obtained that come what may, the party’s presidential candidate must be a Northerner in 2019, power brokers in the North East have commenced the move towards ensuring that one of their own emerges as the candidate of the party.
The late President Musa Yar’Adua who took over from ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was from Katsina, a state in the North West.
However, a source within the party said yesterday that the ambitious governor has been able to sell the idea to some stakeholders in the zone that the move to zone the party chairmanship to the North East is another attempt to take the presidential ticket of the PDP to the North West come 2019.
The story from the governor’s end, it was said, has engineered the demand for the re-zoning of the chairmanship seat to the North West geopolitical zone.
The governor was said to have capitalised on the initial rejection Modu-Sheriff suffered in his bid to becoming the chairman to drive the new opposition against his candidature.
As it is now, not a few important members of the party are openly rejecting the zoning of the chairmanship seat to North East.
Already, a sizeable number of PDP federal lawmakers are said to have threatened to move en masse to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) if the zoning arrangements stays and Modu-Sheriff returns to Wadata Plaza as national chairman after May 21.
The governor, it was said, has even won the support of some South West stakeholders who felt slighted for not being consulted before the decision was taken by the zone to openly reject the chairmanship seat.
The newly incorporated South West stakeholders into the governor’s presidential ambition project are now daily demanding for the proper zoning of the party chairmanship to the South West.
If the agenda of the governor is achieved, it will place him in a good standing to fairly contest the presidential ticket against anyone from the North-East, Modu-Sheriff included, rather than have a party chairman who will transmute to the party candidate at the expense of other contestants.
However, a party chieftain who spoke on condition of anonymity said the seeming crisis will soon be resolved and the zoning arrangements adopted as proposed by the Governor Udom-led committee.
“I consider it a selfish act for anyone who understands the challenges of our party to be doing this to us at this point in time. Every member of the party who genuinely want us to recover from our loss at the last elections should be pursuing a collective agenda that will be in the interest of our party, and not what he or she can benefit at the detriment of the party.
“We are aware of the move to truncate the ongoing reforms but like it’s always said, the minority will have their say, while the majority will have their way. The zoning committee I’m sure won’t capitulate. The North East will produce the chairman, and if God says it’s Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, so be it.
“It is a common knowledge among serious party members that we need someone who can rally the North East, in fact the entire North, back to the PDP. The people of the North East have for years complained of being marginalised in our party, and this opportunity that has presented itself will not be thrown away. The zone must definitely produce the national chairman of our party.
“For those who are fighting for 2019 even as we are just commencing the second quarter of 2016, I will advise them to tarry a bit. They are not God. Who knows who is going to be alive by 2019? It is sinful for anyone to think he can play God. The PDP is a dynamic party, we will resolve this matter in a matter of days and I can assure you that the will of the people shall prevail. 2019 is still far, too far for anyone to begin to think he’s certainly going to be the party’s presidential candidate.
“We must rebuild this party together, and thereafter, anyone can then aspire to become whatever he or she wishes. The North East should just allow us be. Who says the zone cannot get the chairmanship seat for now, and later produce the presidential candidate of the party if we get the right indication that such a candidate so proposed can win the presidential election come 2019? It’s possible, it’s do able,” the source said.
2019 ELECTION: PDP presidential ticket splits party leaders into different camps
Reviewed by Link Naija