The two camps of the leading presidential aspirants were said to be “uncomfortable” with the candidacy of ex-President of the Senate, Senator David Mark.
Following the stalemate on micro-zoning in the North on Thursday night, the Northern PDP caucus meeting decided to set up a 20-man search and screening committee.
The panel, headed by Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, is to recommend three best candidates to the National Executive Committee of PDP to pick its next national chairman from.
A member each of the panel was nominated from the 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
According to the zoning formula for offices devised by the Ugwuanyi committee, the North is expected to fill the following offices: National Chairman; Deputy National Chairman (North); Deputy National Secretary; Deputy Publicity Secretary; Deputy Financial Secretary; National Organising and Mobilization Secretary; National Legal Adviser; Youth Leader; Treasurer; Deputy Auditor; and others.
But the office of the national chairman has ignited fresh crisis in the Northern PDP caucus.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “At the meeting on Thursday night, there was a serious division on the micro-zoning of the national chairman to the North-Central.
“Some governors and leaders insisted that the office be thrown open to all the three geopolitical zones in the North.
“They queried the rationale behind ceding the office to only the North-Central, saying that all the zones in the North are entitled to aspire to it.
“The situation became compounded when some stakeholders in North-Central were opposed to the micro-zoning of the office to their zone.
“For those in Atiku and Saraki’s camps, they felt the micro-zoning of the office to North-Central might undermine their presidential aspiration. So, their supporters rejected concession to North-Central. We bowed to their superior arguments to give peace a chance.
“They claimed that the Ugwuanyi Committee was not specific on which of the three geopolitical zones in the North should produce the next chairman of PDP.”
A former governor, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “To douse the tension at the Northern PDP caucus session on Thursday night, we opted for fairness and equity by raising a 20-man committee, headed by Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, to search and screen the candidates interested in becoming PDP national chairman.
“The panel, comprising representatives from the 19 states in the North and the FCT, will recommend three best candidates whose names will be forwarded to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for a consensus choice ahead of the party’s National Convention.
“The committee will also recommend micro-zoning formula for other offices in a manner that all the three geopolitical zones and states in the North will get a fair deal.”
It was gathered that with the development, the race is open for ex-President of the Senate, Chief David Mark, ex-governors Ahmed Makarfi, Ibrahim Shema, Sule Lamido and Babangida Aliyu. Also in the race, according to a source close to the screening committee, are former Gombe State governor Ibrahim Dankwabo, former Kogi State governor Ibrahim Idris and a serving Deputy National Chairman (North), Suleiman Nazif.
Although a former President of the Senate, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana were said to be on the search list, the horse-trading was still in progress last night.
Of the candidates, the Southern PDP governors and leaders have endorsed Mark, who they think can preserve the unity of the party.
“I can tell you that the battle is between Mark and others. We are waiting for the report of the 20-man committee,” a NEC member said.
BoT chair calls for caution
The chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Senator Walid Jibrin, has however cautioned stakeholders against taking sides in the ongoing controversy over zoning of party offices.
Jibrin, who spoke in Abuja on Thursday on the sidelines of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, urged members of the BoT to remain neutral in the zoning controversy.
There are two categories of BoT members prescribed by the PDP constitution. There are life members among which are all past Presidents, former Vice Presidents, past Senate Presidents and their deputies, all past national secretaries of the PDP, all past governors and all former chairmen who are alive.
Past and serving chairmen and secretaries of the BoT are also live members.
Some PDP chieftains of northern extraction, including some governors who have been eying the party’s presidential ticket, have kicked against the zoning arrangement which they considered inimical to their presidential aspiration.