Who picks PDP’s ticket in 2019?

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Hamza Idris & Saawua Terzungwe

Af­ter its dis­mal out­ing in the last gen­eral elec­tion, the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) has gone back to the draw­ing board and zoned its 2019 pres­i­den­tial ticket to the North. Our cor­re­spon­dents ex­am­ine the party’s chances, and ac­tors that may shape the race.

Since its birth in the build up to re­turn of democ­racy in Nige­ria in 1999, the out­burst by an av­er­age loy­al­ist of the PDP was that their party will reign for 60 years or more.

How­ever, 16 years af­ter, the PDP suf­fered a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat at the March/April gen­eral elec­tions by the then op­po­si­tion All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC).

How­ever, af­ter se­ries of blame games, meet­ings, map­pings and graph­ing, the PDP has de­cided to zone its 2019 pres­i­den­tial ticket to the north­ern part of the coun­try.

The ra­tio­nale for the zon­ing, Daily Trust learnt, was se­quel to public out­cry by top party lead­ers and mem­bers, who were wor­ried that the PDP was grad­u­ally los­ing steam and go­ing into ex­tinc­tion, hav­ing breached the in­ter­nal power ro­ta­tion pact be­tween the North and the South.

Top party lead­ers like act­ing chair­man of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Haliru Bello, had de­cried that the death of zon­ing in 2011 led to the de­feat of the PDP in the last gen­eral elec­tions.

He ar­gued that the is­sue was more com­pounded with the adop­tion of for­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan as the sole pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the party in 2015.

Bello at­trib­uted the rapid de­cline in the for­tunes of the party to the ab­ro­ga­tion of its pol­icy of ro­ta­tion and zon­ing in 2011, lament­ing that this aber­ra­tion se­verely un­der­mined the prin­ci­ple of jus­tice and eq­uity on which the party was founded in 1998.

He added that the ‘shame­ful’ de­feat in the last Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was the sad price the party had to pay for jet­ti­son­ing its pol­icy of ro­ta­tion and zon­ing.

“When in 2011, the party aban­doned its zon­ing for­mula, the party dealt it­self a ma­jor blow be­cause that ac­tion served the first no­tice that it had dis­con­nected with the masses. So, we must go back to the cul­ture of zon­ing and ro­ta­tion of of­fices,” he said.

Sim­i­larly, PDP vice chair­man for South-South, Dr. Cairo Ojoug­boh, re­cently elu­ci­dated that the party suf­fered de­feat in the last elec­tions be­cause it breached the power shift pact be­tween the North and the South.

Ac­cord­ing to Ojoug­boh, there was an agree­ment within the party that the PDP would field its 2015 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date from the North.

“Jonathan him­self said he would do only four years. Emirs, lead­ers and stake­hold­ers in the coun­try ac­cepted that Jonathan would do only four years so that the power can shift to the North. When time came, a lot of macabre dances started; peo­ple started putting pres­sure here and there, en­cour­ag­ing Jonathan to con­test.

“Un­for­tu­nately, Jonathan didn’t have the nerves to say ‘no, I will keep to my agree­ment’. So Jonathan con­test­ing meant that zon­ing for­mula agree­ment had been breached. The North didn’t take it kindly; they said no, this is not what we agreed,” Ojoug­boh said.

PDP act­ing na­tional chair­man Prince Uche Se­con­dus had also said be­cause the PDP had breached the zon­ing ar­range­ment and was de­feated at the polls, there was need to zone the pres­i­den­tial ticket to the North in 2019, in or­der for the party to bounce back.

Speak­ing at the PDP na­tional sec­re­tar­iat re­cently, when the PDP post-elec­tion re­view com­mit­tee led by Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent Ike Ek­w­ere­madu sub­mit­ted its re­port, Se­con­dus said the Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee (NWC) had zoned the PDP pres­i­den­tial ticket for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions to the North.

The PDP chief said that the party would not make ‘mis­takes’ like it did in the past, stress­ing that for the party to move for­ward, it must obey the zon­ing sys­tem and con­sti­tu­tion con­sid­er­ing that it was re-po­si­tion­ing to take over the pres­i­den­tial seat from the rul­ing APC in 2019.

“In mov­ing our party for­ward, we must obey zon­ing and con­sti­tu­tion. The NWC agreed that the PDP pres­i­den­tial can­di­date must come from the North in 2019, in line with the vi­sion of our found­ing fathers,” he said.

His­tor­i­cally, in 1999, Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo con­tested along­side Al­haji Atiku Abubakar, and won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on the plat­form of the PDP.

And in 2003, he sought re-elec­tion and was given the man­date by Nige­ri­ans in another gen­eral elec­tion. In 2007, when his ten­ure ex­pired, Al­haji Umaru Musa Yar’adua con­tested along­side Good­luck Jonathan and won on the same plat­form.

Un­for­tu­nately, Yar’adua took ill and died in 2010, paving the way for Jonathan to be­come act­ing pres­i­dent un­til 2011, when he con­tested and won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in a joint ticket with Arch Na­madi Sambo.

Af­ter heated ar­gu­ment that Jonathan was only ex­e­cut­ing his first term in of­fice, and that he had the con­sti­tu­tional right to seek re-elec­tion, the for­mer pres­i­dent joined the race.

In a dra­matic twist, how­ever, Jonathan lost the elec­tion to Muham­madu Buhari.

Se­quel to this de­vel­op­ment, many Nige­ri­ans ex­pressed di­verse opin­ions as re­gards the pos­si­ble sur­vival of the PDP.

How­ever, af­ter con­sid­er­ing its mis­takes in the past and de­ter­min­ing to re­po­si­tion to bounce back in 2019, the zon­ing mantra is now in full force.

It is ar­gued that while the ticket is zoned to the North as a whole, the party must also look for a for­mi­da­ble can­di­date that would be saleable to the elec­torate.

While some pun­dits be­lieve that it is too early to men­tion those in­ter­ested in the race, Daily Trust gath­ered that con­tenders for the ticket are many.

One of them is Mal­lam Ibrahim Sheka­rau, the for­mer gover­nor of Kano State.

Since the de­feat of the PDP, Sheka­rau had been silent un­til last month when he opened up in Abuja af­ter he was ap­proached by jour­nal­ists on his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

“We have done our beats and we have taken a re­treat to plan ahead, and pre­pare for the next com­pe­ti­tion in which Nige­ri­ans will judge.

“PDP will bounce back, it is like a force but­ton which has given us the op­por­tu­nity to re­or­gan­ise for fu­ture elec­tions and get back our man­date.

“What is hap­pen­ing is a good de­vel­op­ment for democ­racy in the coun­try like in ad­vanced world where you have two strong par­ties com­pet­ing for space, and the elec­torates are al­ways there to judge when it comes to elec­tion time.

“I am con­fi­dent PDP will def­i­nitely weather the storm and take its right­ful po­si­tion,” he said.

Sources said Sheka­rau feels he has bet­ter prospect in the PDP, es­pe­cially if Pres­i­dent Buhari de­cides not to con­test for a sec­ond term in 2019.

Another con­tender, find­ings have shown, is Ah­madu Adamu Mu’azu.

Fillers said shortly af­ter his ouster as the PDP’s na­tional chair­man, Mu’azu, to­gether with some of his loy­al­ists, had de­cided to form a new party ahead of 2019.

“But they had a sec­ond thought and agreed to re­main and re­build the PDP which al­ready has struc­tures ev­ery­where,” one of the sources said.

“The ar­gu­ment is that they would cap­i­tal­ize on the short­com­ings of the APC and re-launch them­selves,” he added.

In­sid­ers say the PDP is also plot­ting to ca­jole for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar into its fold.

Seen as a strong pil­lar, Atiku, a found­ing mem­ber of the PDP, had left for the APC where he con­tested for the pres­i­den­tial ticket and lost to Buhari.

A source within the party said the PDP may likely field the for­mer vice pres­i­dent as its can­di­date for the elec­tions if he even­tu­ally re­turns to the party.

“I want to tell you that con­sul­ta­tions with Atiku over the is­sue have com­menced,” he said.

How­ever, sources close to Atiku said the for­mer vice pres­i­dent was not con­tem­plat­ing go­ing back to the PDP. In March, this year, Atiku had said that the APC is his fi­nal bus stop. “When I toured our coun­try, and lis­tened to the hopes, fears, and ex­pec­ta­tions of Nige­ri­ans from all walks of life, I said the APC is the fi­nal bus stop, and that it is the end of the line,” he said in a state­ment by his media of­fice.

PDP na­tional pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary, Olisa Me­tuh, had re­cently at a press con­fer­ence to mark the party’s 17th birth­day an­niver­sary, said that some PDP mem­bers left be­cause of com­pe­ti­tion and mis­takes made by the PDP lead­er­ship.

He ex­pressed op­ti­mism that they may re­turn when the anom­alies are rec­ti­fied.

Some of the chief­tains that dumped the party in­clude for­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo, Atiku, two for­mer na­tional chair­men of the party, Chief Barn­abas Ge­made and Audu Og­beh.

Se­nate Pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki, for­mer speak­ers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Aminu Bello Masari, Ghali Na’Abba, Aminu Waziri Tam­buwal; for­mer gover­nors Rabi’u Kwankwaso (Kano), Ro­timi Amaechi (Rivers), Rochas Oko­rocha (Imo), Aliyu Wa­makko (Sokoto) also left.

Oth­ers are Gover­nors Abul­la­teef Ahmed (Kwara), Nasir El-Rufa’i (Kaduna) Sen­a­tor Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), and his Benue State coun­ter­part Sa­muel Or­tom.

It is left to be seen how the north­ern politi­cians would slug it out to save the PDP.

For­mer vice pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar

Al­haji Adamu Muazu

Mal Ibrahim Sheka­rau

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