PDP and the Zoning Quandary

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Tony Amadi writes that the two leading Nigerian political parties are facing a problem decision, for the first time, with their option of zoning offices.

Observers of politics in Nigeria believe that the political party that comes up with the smartest zoning policy in the forthcoming Nigerian presidential elections will carry the day at the end of the ongoing strategic planning for the 2023 general election. The two leading parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are expected to provide the next president of the Federal Republic, but the majority of Nigerians would wish that the two were banished into political oblivion for their penchant for misrule and lacking ideas to move the country forward.

Never mind that Patito’s Gang (Pat Utomi, Jega and fellow egg-heads) want to set up a third force, it is still the two key parties of today’s Nigeria that will produce the next president. Therefore, we are unlikely to change the system in the next decade, the excessive corruption, the general bad governance, the nepotism and impunity of the ruling class will remain with us for some time to come.

As the political season gathers momentum for take-off, where the president of the next dispensation should come from is the problem bogging the leading politicians in the country. Two decades ago with former Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan in charge, zoning was a simple matter, so that where the president comes from the South, the party chairman comes from the North and vice versa. But with the arrival of the APC with its northern bent, and the almighty PDP brought down to earth from its powerful heights over 16 years, the zoning of the 2023 presidential election has become a problem, more for the PDP that has been languishing in opposition and needs federal power critically, the real problem is now at hand.

The biggest party in Africa now faces a veritable conundrum, how to position itself to win in 2023, while the APC, the ruling party is not worried wherever they end up in the zoning theatre. Despite widely believed poor performance of the APC in governance at the centre, more PDP senators and House of Representatives members are flooding into the APC at a very unimaginably high rate. The opposition had hoped that the APC would name their zoning plans first to enable it confirm its strategy, but the governing party seems very adept at tossing the opposition around.

To compound the PDP worries, its chairman Uche Secondus decided to choose this time to disrupt the party’s electoral plans by precipitating a leadership crisis at a very uncomfortable time in the run up to the 2023 election. Compared to the APC, the PDP should be credited with vast experience in election management and governance; generally. However, the problem of the PDP now calls for greater skill and political sagacity if the party is to surmount the enormity of the problem at hand.

The zoning committee which is concerned with the task of deciding which zone should produce which position from party offices to the presidency appear to have run into troubled waters. Headed by the usually staid governor of Enugu State but peopled by political gurus of the likes of three former senate presidents, Iyorchia Ayu, Pius Anyim and David Mark, the committee has the capacity to do a decent job. And apparently the Ugwuanyi zoning team delivered on its mandate when they resolved to have a northern party chairman and possibly by usual convention, a southern president. But note that in one of the rare interviews he had granted in the course of the assignment, the governor quipped that their mandate did not include zoning of the presidency.

READ ALSO: Al-Makura: Has Divulged His Intention To Contest APC National Chairmanship Position

And there lies the problem. The PDP will go into its national convention at the end of October where it must crack the knot of where its presidential candidate should come from. The PDP has a number of formidable northern contenders including the legendary Atiku Abubakar and the princely governor of Sokoto state Aminu Tambuwal, both with the capacity to upturn their opponents game plan and get their way. Former Senate President Abubakar Saraki is also said to be planning to run and his chances are as high as ever. There have been snide comments that if the APC goes South with their presidential zoning, the PDP would go North and pick up all the northern votes and win the presidency.

On the other hand, the APC is adept at using state power to full advantage. The ruling party is busy attracting all the dodgy politicians in the PDP to move over and get their dirty linen whitewashed. I was shocked to read the other day how a decamping PDP senator was boasting about the expected landslide in the Anambra elections by their candidate Senator Andy Uba even as a corruption court date awaits the senator this month. That is the level of impunity the ruling party politicians have attained lately. You can then imagine the motivation behind the belief that despite their growing misrule at the center, a senator facing corruption charges is so confident that their party would win a key state in the South-east. What a frightening prospect to face at this time of our political history.

I had a chance meeting with two of the three past senate presidents who were part of the Ugwuanyi Zoning Committee, both looking more refreshed than ever and basking in the belief that they would turn around the fortunes of their party. Many may have forgotten Senator Ayu’s tough stance in the past. He was the senate president when General Babangida was in charge and despite Babangida’s attempt to cut the senate down to size by setting out no-go areas for the legislature, Senate President Iyorchia Ayu stood his ground and dealt blow-by-blow with the tough military president. As reported in Chuba Okadigbo’s book ‘Transition to Transition’, Ayu challenged Babangida on that occasion that if he thought he was Maradona, he, Ayu was Pele.

Babangida never stepped into the National Assembly after that confrontation and I am told that Senator Ayu remains a persona non grata at the Babangida Minna Hilltop mansions.

Therefore, with Ayu and Anyim as well as David Mark in the zoning committee, what Chairman Ugwuanyi lacked in political rofo-rofo fight the strong men of the senate helped him to stand firm to give the southern presidency zoning some strong backing. However, I am not ruling out the fact that all is over with the entire zoning wahala for the PDP. The fact that Chairman Ugwuanyi has confessed that the presidency was outside their mandate, those from the North that are desperate for the presidency will still plunge into the presidential zoning fray and get their way. And the APC that is happy for the PDP to plunge in first is not certain of its own way out either. The grandees of the ruling APC are uncertain of zoning the presidency to the South, particularly because from their body language, they don’t really want the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to become president. Again, the APC may think that it did not win the past two elections because of zoning. The party may be happy to go North once again despite the obvious bad faith that decision will generate from all over the country if they don’t appease South-west voters for keeping them in charge for two terms.

It is clear now that the two leading Nigerian political parties are both facing a zoning conundrum because for the first time. They are not sure of how Nigerians will react in 2023. Majority of the voters wish both parties are dead and buried, but like the ongoing Corona virus pandemic, it hits everyone; white, black, PDP or APC. If the PDP manages to set the Presidency south bound, there are many already warming up for the titanic race. Governor Nyesom Wike is top on the list, his brother, Rotimi Amaechi is a certainty, Peter Obi who had come close to the vice presidential seat is also warming up. There is the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi who is said to have performed very well and staked everything to join the APC.

APC should be smart to call on Science and Technology Minister Ogbonnaya Onu to have a shot at the presidency because of his transparency and experience and tenacity with the North – All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and APC. I have not forgotten the Jagaban for his ability to produce winners like Fashola, Ambode and now Sanwo-Olu plus his brilliance in tax collection. The Jagaban problem may however be scuttled by Ekiti boy, Kayode Fayemi who is rounding up his stint as Governor of Ekiti just as the race for 2023 hits up.

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