Sunday, March 27, 2022

Analysis: Options open to PDP on zoning

It is obvious that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in dilemma over the principle of zoning ahead of its presidential convention. The debate on whether its presidential ticket should go to the North or the South is trailing its presidential hopefuls as they crisscross the country to lobby party faithful.

Beyond the setting up of a 37-member committee to suggest how to disentangle the party from the quagmire is the yawning gulf arising from the controversy. Yet, time is running as the PDP has fixed May 28 for a convention where the presidential candidate will emerge. It should be noted that shortly after the PDP announced the cost of nomination and expression of interest forms, some northern and southern candidates began to buy the forms.
Meanwhile, the seriousness of the zoning conundrum is underscored by the fact that while the eight PDP governors from the South joined their counterparts in the party from the same region to persistently demand that the presidential candidate come from their area, the five others from the North, as well as other stakeholders from their area want the position to be open to all and sundry. Thus, the issue deserves a critical and decisive action, as the principle is captured in Article 7 of PDP Constitution, where the PDP states that the party will adhere to the principle of elective offices among the various regions in the country.
To some interested groups involved in the power shift debate, after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari from the North-West, his successor should come from one of the three zones in the South: South-West, South-South or the South-East. They also contend that since the PDP currently has its safe states in the South-South and South-East, it is only wise for it to compensate the zone with the presidential ticket.
However, other stakeholders in the party are of the view that the PDP should set aside zoning to allow the best candidate to emerge, since its goal is to win the 2023 election. The advocates of this proposition believe that what the party needs is a solid candidate who can win the election and defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC), not a regional candidate. According to them, the party should first win the 2023 general election before thinking of zoning key positions. They further extended their argument to the fact that the last president produced by the party is a southerner and that between 1999 and 2023, the presidency would have stayed in the South for 14 years and in the North for just 10 years, meaning that if the next president comes from the North, the region will still be doing catch up with the South.
However, the pro-South advocates countered that Nigeria did not start in 1999 and that between 1960 when the country gained independence and now, the North has produced leaders far more than 40 of the 61 post-independence years. After reviewing the arguments of all the sides, observers believe the PDP needs to be circumspect in taking a final decision because of the complexity of the issue at stake. This, they said, is important to guard against what they regarded as the ploy of the ruling party. They averred that the APC may want to exploit the situation because, while it is embroiled in a crisis of confidence in the bid to elect a substantive national leadership, the opposition party had a seamless process that threw up a new leadership since October 2021.
The APC governors and leaders are among the chief promoters of power shift to the South in the next dispensation. This is evident in the fact that out of the 17 southern governors leading the crusade, nine were elected on the APC platform. They further argued that the ruling party was formed on the basis that the South-West which teamed up with the North-West to win the 2015 election for Buhari will produce his successor in 2023. It is no surprise, according to them, that APC leaders in the South are in the forefront of the campaign for power shift in 2023. Those who belong to this school of thought say the overall plan is to bait the PDP to toe the same line so as to deny it of the apparent opportunity to return to power, while the APC has spent the last seven years priming potential presidential materials in its midst, who will latch onto its comparative advantage on the altar of zoning.
Another school of thought is that whereas the APC picked its standard-bearer in 2015 from the North, instead of allowing a former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner to complete his term or pick a southerner to contest against him, in the opinion of observers, the party may have become jittery that the PDP might apply the same strategy and logic, and go to the North where it has more support and where it has leading candidates who can win the next elections.

In the words of an observer, “It is for these reasons that the PDP must be careful not to be ensnared by the antics of the APC. The PDP leaders should rather open their eyes wide and make decisions that are in their best interest. The party should avoid following the crowd and adopting a strategy that will fail the party. The PDP, as an opposition party, must take whatever measure is needed to defeat the ruling party.”
As the presidential convention approaches, another pundits said Nigeria needs men with vision and pedigree to guarantee a new lease of life in the next political dispensation. Accordingly, they canvassed for a presidential candidate that is capable, competent, compassionate, courageous and solid who can deliver on the promises of heralding a new Nigeria. “The PDP should consider the interest of Nigeria and that of the party in making the decision. Therefore, leaving the decision open is the best option for PDP. It means the party can search for its candidate from all districts, all cities, all states, all regions and across the country,” he said. 

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