Chuks Okocha in Abuja
All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are playing hide and seek over the zoning of the 2023 presidency even as the South-east geo-political zone continues its agitation for the slot, particularly in the main opposition party, which has lost a governor to the ruling party over the issue.
Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi, had last week deserted the PDP for the APC, complaining that the former had treated the South-east shabbily despite its loyalty to the main opposition party.
But PDP chieftains, including Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, contended that Umahi left because of his presidential ambition, which he felt would be better realised in the APC.
THISDAY had also reported that three more PDP governors, including Prof. Ben Ayade (Cross River), Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Senator Bala Muhammed (Bauchi) are in transit to the APC also arising from 2023 presidential zoning permutation.
THISDAY, however, gathered at the weekend that none of the two leading parties would make public its zoning of the presidency until late in 2022, and PDP, in particular, a source close to the permutation, would wait for the APC to make a decision on the matter before it would decide on its own zoning.
“The PDP would not make a decision before the APC,” said the source, adding: “If the APC zones it to the South, the PDP might consider the South too, most likely the South-east.”
He added that there are agitations in the PDP to consider zoning the top position to the South-east or North.
Sources familiar with political permutations in the party in the wake of a series of meetings of its national organs, held between Thursday and the weekend after the defection of Umahi, confided in THISDAY that the opposition party will, however, tarry awhile in taking a final decision on zoning until it is sure where the presidential candidate of the APC will come from.
Umahi’s defection is already causing disquiet in both the PDP and APC as analysts project that the governor and his Yobe State counterpart, Mallam Mala Buni, who chairs the national caretaker committee of the APC may jointly run for the party’s ticket.
The PDP National Caucus, Board of Trustees (BoT) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) had met last week to fashion out a strategy to contain the fallout of Umahi’s defection.
The governor, citing alleged injustice and shabby treatment of the South-east by the PDP, had left the party with the state executive council members, lawmakers in the state House of Assembly and other political appointees.
But National Assembly lawmakers from the state distanced themselves from the governor’s defection and reaffirmed their commitment to the PDP.
However, the PDP denied Umahi’s allegations, saying it had adequately rewarded the South-east, a stronghold of the opposition party, for its loyalty, especially during its 16 years of being a ruling party.
It enumerated top political positions, including Senate presidency, deputy president of the Senate, deputy speaker, House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and party chairmanship as some of those conceded to the geo-political zone then.
In addition, the party dissolved the executive council of its Ebonyi State chapter and constituted a caretaker committee to run its affairs in the interim.
A source told THISDAY that some of the PDP chieftains at the three meetings believed that “if it is true that the APC has given its presidential ticket to the South-east, then, the main opposition party will equally choose its presidential flag bearer from the South-east.
“But, if the APC decides to pick its presidential candidate from the South-west, then the presidential candidate of the PDP will come from the North. I cannot say which part of the North; but this is the position in the PDP for now.”
THISDAY gathered that the PDP will not like to commit any political blunder for now as it is waiting for the APC national convention.
The outcome of the ruling party’s national convention will help guide the PDP to decide the choice of the zone that will produce its presidential candidate.