GUEST COLUMNIST BY Adeniran Ogunsanya
In the month of May, 2022 former vice-president Atiku Abubakar from the North-East was elected the PDP presidential candidate for the 2023 general election polled 371 votes to defeat his closest rival, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike from the South-South who polled 237 votes. Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki from the North Central scored 70 votes to come a distant third.
The members of the G5 thereafter petitioned that the party presidential candidate and the National Chairman of the party should not come from the same Zone and demanded for the resignation of Iyorchia Ayu from the North Central geo-political Zone as Chairman of the Party, believing that the rotation and zoning policy of the party has been breached by Atiku Abubakar. They upheld it should rotate to the South after eight years of Buhari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
From the month of October 2010 to 2014, my traverse on the rotation and zoning policy of the PDP Constitution has taken me to meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Late Solomon Lar, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Late Mallam Adamu Ciroma who was then leader of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, Chief Bode George and lastly former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.
Article 7.3(C) of the PDP Constitution states, “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels”.
The Party Constitution established and recognized six geo-political zones namely, the North-West, North-East and North Central. The South West, South-South and South-East. Understanding the zoning policy, the rotation is on North and South basis. The zoning relates to the six geopolitical zones, one after the other premised on the principle of equity, justice and fairness.
At the 1999 general elections, Olusegun Obasanjo was PDP Presidential candidate. At the 2003 presidential election, again President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West was the party presidential candidate. At the 2007 presidential election, the party presidential candidate rotate to the North and President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from the North-West was elected President. At the 2011 presidential primary, the party presidential candidacy rotate to the South and Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South emerged the Party Presidential candidate. At the 2015 Presidential election, again President Goodluck Jonathan emerged as the Party Presidential Candidate. At the 2019 Presidential primary, the party presidential candidacy rotate to the North and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the North-East emerged as the Party Presidential candidate. And at the 2022 Party Presidential Primary, again Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the North-East emerged as the Party Presidential candidate for the 2023 general election. Henceforth in 2007, the party presidential must rotate to the South and Zone to the South-East and thereafter must rotate to the North and zone to the North-Central geo-political Zone. This is the spirit of the rotation and zoning policy of the PDP Constitution.
It is clear that the South-West had the Party Presidential candidate in 1999 and 2003 and the South-South in 2011 and 2015. A Party precedent had thereby been established and no breach of the rotation and zoning policy had been committed by the North-East under Atiku Abubakar being PDP Presidential candidate in 2019 and 2023.
If Nyseon Wike from the South-South had been elected Party Presidential candidate for the 2023 general election, there would have been a fundamental breach and destruction of the rotation and zoning policy because Wike’s South-South geo-political zone produced President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and 2015. The G5 erred in their decision in allowing all Southern candidates contest for the Party Presidential candidate whereas it was the turn of South-East candidates by virtue of the rotation and zoning policy and not South-South.
The rotation and zoning policy is strictly a PDP affair and has nothing to do with APC that presented a North-West President in 2015 and 2019 elections. If the APC had respected the rotation and zoning policy which they do not have in their party Constitution, they should not have presented President Buhari from the North-West after President Yar-Adua from the North-West was elected President in 2007.
The APC has done same again electing a South-West Presidential candidate after President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West was President from 1999 to 2007, whereas the North-East, North-Central and South-East has not yet produced a President.
The complaint of the G5 after Atiku Abubakar from the North-East was elected party Presidential candidate was that the National Chairman Iyorchia Ayu from the North-Central should resign on the premise that both Atiku and Ayu are from the North. There is no provision of the Party Constitution that stipulate that the Presidential candidate of the Party and National Chairman cannot or should not emerge from the same North or South region. There is therefore no legal or moral justification for this complaint. Atiku Abubakar has no powers whatsoever to remove or demand for the resignation of the National Chairman who was legally elected to serve a term in office in accordance with the provisions of the party Constitution not having been found guilty of any breach of the party Constitution. To the members of the G5 we ask and beg for an answer; where were they in 2010, June 17th when Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo from the South-East was elected the National Chairman of the Party at the time President Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South was President? For the leaders of the G5 who are members of the PDP to agree to support a presidential candidate not being a member of their party is nothing short of Political rascality within the border of political insanity.
•Adeniran Ogunsanya is a Legal Practitioner