Who picks PDP’s ticket in 2019?
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