PDP, Ndigbo, and 2023 Presidency Zoning

0

By Law Mefor

Gabriel Suswan, Senator representing Benue North-East Senatorial District recently told a national newspaper that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would still zone the office of the President to the North in 2023. Hear him: “Of course, the PDP will maintain zoning. We have not realised it, so the zoning still remains in the North in the PDP. In PDP, we zoned the Presidency to the North and have we realised it? No. So, the zoning still remains in the North for 2023.”

Much as we are aware that the PDP hasn’t adopted any official zoning formula yet, it is instructive that the senator was not circumspect. He spoke like a prophet with an air of finality. And his words, as a founding member of the PDP, a former two-term governor and now a Senator, carry a lot of wait. Besides, PDP is a party that thrives on cliques; and it has often blundered from misfortune to misfortune due to bad choices imposed on it by such cliques or cabals.

Recall the imposition of Ali Modu Sheriff on the Party by just two governors of the PDP and how the Party was plagued and nearly wrecked by crisis for two years until the Abubakar Maikarfi/Ben Obi Committee and the likes of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and the governors rallied to rescue the party. These cliques are alive and well; and they are dragging and digging into the soul of the party, never giving a damn about the common interest or preponderances.

In 2011, despite PDP’s convention that the office of the President be rotated between North and South, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan went against the principle. In the heat of the bad feelings and controversies, grapevine has it that Jonathan eventually called a meeting of PDP and Northern leaders in the Villa where the South South Leader at the time, the now late General Samuel Ogbemudia, sought the understanding of party leaders, especially Northern political leaders concerning the peculiar circumstance that brought their son to power. Ogbemudia asked that their son be allowed to do one term and power would rotate to the North. Everybody was happy and clapped. Even at that, the 2011 election turned into a festival of blood by the then candidate Mohammadu Buhari’s supporters. The rest, they say, is history.

Rather than rotate power to the North in 2015, a clique convinced Jonathan to run for another term and damn the consequences. This polarised the PDP at its 2013 mini convention as the North protested and felt so betrayed. Their political sagacity was called into play as they worked across political leanings to teach Jonathan and the PDP a lesson. The likes of Bola Ahmed Tinubu saw the gap and cashed in, teaming up with the North to form the mega coalition, which became the All Progressives Congress (APC).

It was so strange that the PDP believed they would retain the presidency in 2015 after its five governors, nearly two dozen senators and nearly a hundred members of House of Reps formed the New PDP (nPDP) broke away, becoming the fifth legacy political group to form the APC. Even the mere treachery that resulted in Chibuike Amaechi retaining the chairmanship of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum against the wishes of incumbent President Jonathan, was enough signal for the PDP to understand that there was fire on the mountain; yet they refused to smell the coffee.

Power, they say, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Impunity reigned supreme and to ensure that nobody contested with Jonathan, the PDP printed only one nomination form for the office of the president and handed it to Goodluck. But at the end of the day, PDP defeated PDP in the 2015 Presidential election in the sense that the ranks of the former opposition APC, was inspired and swelled by members of the PDP. It is no secret that Northern PDP chieftains worked for their regional candidate- Buhari. PDP literally scored an own goal, losing scandalously, but predictably.

Today, it appears history is about repeating itself. Otherwise, what is the rationale behind the claim that the PDP was bound to zone the President to the North in 2023? It is preposterous for Suswan to feign ignorance of the dynamics that informed the zoning of presidential ticket to the North in 2019. That decision was sequel to the recommendation of the Ekweremadu Committee (PDP Post-Election Review Committee), which unraveled the reasons behind PDP’s epic loss of power in 2015. It established that the North voted against PDP and Jonathan, not necessarily for Buhari.

The report there states in part: “Since the last President of PDP extraction came from the southern part of Nigeria, it is recommended that PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections should come from the northern part of the country. This is in accordance with the popular views and will also assuage any ill feelings in the North over any perceived breach of the Party’s zoning principle”.

It was also reasoned that President Buhari, who hails from the North, would have done only four years by 2019, hence it was in PDP’s interest to have a fellow northerner square up against him. The understanding was that against APC’s propaganda to Ndigbo that their party was South East’s shortest route to the presidency since Buhari would not be seeking reelection after a second term, PDP would also tell Ndigbo that its presidential candidate would only do one term. Again, the Ekweremadu Committee reasoned that a 2019 northern presidential ticket would help lure back northern political heavy weights like Bukola Saraki, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwakwanso, Aminu Tambuwal, Yakubu Dogara etc. that had left the party. And it worked.

Therefore, Suswan’s logic is warped and embarrassing to say the least, especially when he knows that the dynamics that informed the 2019 zoning have absolutely changed. Besides, Ekweremadu Committee was specific that its recommended zoning formula was for “the 2019 general elections”. What is difficult to understand here?

Let is be clear, power has resided in the North for two straight terms and has to move South, specifically to South East, in the spirit of rotation and zoning, which has been the practice since 1999. All the political parties ought to flow with this national understanding. PDP, APC, and other major parties cannot be moving North when power is supposed to be moving South if they hold the unity and continued corporate existence of this country dear to heart.

Besides, Suswan’s kite is so offensive for ignoring the monumental contributions of the South East to PDP’s electoral fortunes in four straight presidential elections. The South East has particularly stuck to the PDP in thick and thin and was the bastion of opposition and PDP’s revival since it lost power in 2015. So, what are we? Hewers of wood and fetchers of water?

Meanwhile, it is now easier to join the dots of what transpired in 2019. It was alleged at the time that the South East PDP overwhelmingly supported Atiku’s bid for the presidential ticket with an understanding on restructuring and presidential candidate of South East extraction in 2023. So, Suswan’s kite appears to confirm that lack of commitment to a single term and the fielding of a presidential candidate of South East extraction in 2023 was the reason the PDP and its presidential candidate sidelined the key national leaders of the party from the South East immediately after the Port Harcourt National Convention and Presidential Primaries. Sadly, Ndigbo were too obsessed with the possibility of a Vice President of South East extraction to pay attention.

PDP and Suswam should be forewarned that they are taking Igbo support for granted. And they must depart from this treacherous path or reap bountiful protest votes come 2023. The fact that Ndigbo dislike Buhari’s regime for its mistreatment of Ndigbo doesn’t mean we hate APC as a party. Ndigbo will follow en mass any credible alternative to realise their aspiration of leading the country since the end of the civil war. This aspiration is legitimate, logical, moral, and has gained reasonable national traction and acceptance.
–––Dr. Mefor writes from Abuja