The North and the South East geo-political zones are poised to vie for the 2023 presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as party leaders from the South West zone are pushing for the national chairmanship of the party.
The committee has Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom as deputy chairman and Zamfara State Deputy Governor Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed as secretary.
Constituted by the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) at its September 9 meeting, the Ugwuanyi committee was specifically set up to zone National Working Committee (NWC) offices.
Having fixed the convention for October 30 in Abuja, the NEC also appointed Adamawa State Governor Adamu Fintiri, as chairman of the convention planning committee, with Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri as deputy chairman and Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde as secretary.
LEADERSHIP checks revealed that the PDP is inclined to retain its practice of North/South arrangement for presidency and national chairmanship positions, and, so far, most party members linked with a contest for the presidency are from the North even though some party leaders are sympathetic to the South East zone getting the ticket.
Some party chieftains speculated to be interested in the presidency are former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; former Senate president Abubakar Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State governor and chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido.
Former Anambra State governor and PDP vice presidential candidate in the last general election, Peter Obi, is also eyeing the party’s presidential ticket.
Southern governors had, in their maiden meeting, demanded that the presidency return to the South in 2023 after the two terms of President Muhammadu Buhari in line with the rotational principle.
On the other hand, only members from the South West and South South have been linked to the contest for the national chairmanship seat so far.
The contenders are former national secretary of PDP, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and former governorship aspirant in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede.
Others are former deputy national chairman, Chief Olabode George; national vice chairman (South South), Dan Orbih; former governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke and former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.
However, a party source told LEADERSHIP that PDP leaders in the six states in South West are lobbying the leadership of the party on the need for the zone to produce the next national chairman in the forthcoming national convention.
The source, a former ranking federal lawmaker and top party chieftain, said, “The 44-member zoning committee led by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State begins sitting from Thursday and is faced with the difficult choice of whether chairman should come from North or South, a decision that will also have implications on where the next presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 election will come from.
“The South West PDP leaders believe the chairmanship should be specifically zoned to the South West to compensate for the 2017 situation in which it was unjustly denied the slot after the post had been zoned to it.
“They also mentioned that the denial of the zone the post of chairman in 2017 led to the dwindling fortunes of the PDP in the zone as demonstrated by the 2017 poll results.
“The South West PDP leaders noted that apart from Anambra where a gubernatorial election will hold in November, the zone has two governorship polls pending in Ekiti and Osun states before the 2023 general elections, and having the national chairmanship slot will help seal victory in the two states, thereby shoring up the chances of the party in the 2023 general elections.”
He said the South West leaders noted that the zone boasts of a united rank more than at any other time in the recent past, adding that if given the chance, it will produce a viable, strong and popular consensus candidate capable of uniting the party and leading it to victory in 2023.
On his part, a former director of communications under President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Jackson Ude, said most PDP leaders are resolved to retain the presidential ticket in the North while the chairmanship goes to the South.
He said, “The zoning, from my discussions with party leaders, would keep the presidential ticket in the North and the chairmanship in the South West.
“It is what would guarantee victory for the party at the national level. We are all working towards that arrangement to ensure we field the best candidates,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that whoever emerges national chairman in the October convention might not take up the office until in December when the tenure of the suspended national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, expires.
This, according to party insiders, is in order to avoid any legal crisis that may arise since Secondus’ tenure is legitimately due to expire on December 9.
Secondus had file a suit at the Appeal Court, seeking to vacate a Rivers State High Court injunction stopping him from parading himself as national chairman of the party.
The embattled PDP chairman was stopped from presiding over party meetings following court orders, leaving his deputy, Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, to preside over the meetings, including crucial NEC meetings which kick-started the processes for the forthcoming national convention.
The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, had spearheaded Secondus’ sack as chairman after the political allies from the same state fell out.