The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday rejected suggestions that it had zoned its 2023 presidential ticket to the North, as it sought to calm the nerves of agitated members across the nation.
The party disowned the Friday statement credited to the immediate past governor of Niger State, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, that the North would produce the PDP flag bearer in the election.
Despite the PDP disclaimer, misgivings persisted in the six geo-political zones on which part of the country would get the ticket: North or South.
The party had earlier indicated that the ticket would be thrown open for aspirants from all parts of the country to contest.
The Nation also gathered that the ranks of the governors elected on the platform of the PDP may have been seriously divided following allegations and counter allegations over alleged moves to force the new leadership of the party to endorse the zoning of the presidential ticket to the north as part of the strategy to win the next presidential election.
Party sources said consultations and horse-trading on the ticket were increasing by the day.
A PDP senator from the Southeast told The Nation that some chieftains of the party from the zone, during the yuletide break, had cause to confront PDP governors in the zone over indications that the party might zone its presidential ticket to the north.
The lawmaker said the issue was generating concerns across the zone.
“During the Christmas break, following widespread indications that our party may be preparing to endorse the zoning of the presidential ticket to the north on the assumption that only a northern candidate can defeat the APC in 2023, myself and some other chieftains from Igboland met with some of our governors to seek their opinion on the matter,” he said.
“It may interest you to know that majority of them claimed ignorance of the development and recalled that the decision of the PDP is to leave the contest for the ticket open for all comers.
“But they promised to investigate the rumour and ensure nothing of such happens. All through the festive period, we were consulting and holding meetings on the worrisome development.”
Party sources added that the claim by former Governor Aliyu that the party has decided on a presidential candidate from the North has further created rumpus within the opposition party.
The Nation gathered that Aliyu’s statement is being interpreted as a revelation of a plot by some individuals and groups within the PDP ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
Aliyu had said that the PDP had agreed to pick its candidate for the 2023 presidential race from one of the zones in the north.
He spoke when the Atiku Support Organisation visited him in Minna.
“In our zoning agreement, we have agreed to re-zone the North as requested by others but we have agreed written openly as a result of what has happened that any candidate from any part of the country can now contest this election,” he said.
Jolted by the tension sparked within the party by the ex-governor’s statement, the PDP, through its National Publicity Secretary Debo Ologunagba, said there was nothing of the sort.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP emphatically and unequivocally states that it has not zoned it presidential ticket to any part of the country,” Ologunagba said in a statement.
He added: “The PDP is a political party founded on democratic principles and every action of the party, including zoning, is based on extensive consultations, discussions and consideration of all the issues as well as the various tendencies and interests across the nation, with the main objective of ensuring that the unity, peaceful co-existence and development of our nation are reinforced and promoted.
“The PDP, therefore, urges Nigerians, our teeming members and supporters to completely disregard the unfounded zoning claims as being peddled. Our Party also cautions those behind the claims to desist forthwith.”
Aspirants intensify lobbying
With the parties expected to pick their presidential flag bearers before the end of this year, aspirants in the PDP are intensifying their lobbying across the zones.
Most of the aspirants, for now, are from the North.
They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal; Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed; and a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The most visible aspirant from the South is former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa and a former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi are believed to be positioning themselves for the vice presidential slot.
While the presidential aspirants have been wheeling their campaign through proxies, those interested in the vice presidential ticket have been blowing the trumpets for their preferred candidates among the presidential aspirants.
Wike had, a few days ago, showered encomiums on Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State when he paid a visit to Bauchi to witness the commissioning of projects by his counterpart there.
Wike was quoted to have said that the PDP would stand a better chance in the election should Bala Mohammed get the ticket.
So while the party appears to be in a state of inertia after the October 30 national convention, those scheming for the party’s tickets are not leaving anything to chance.
The aspirants have always cloaked their consultations with “project commissioning” and “project inspection” tours to their targeted designations.
Also recently, Tambuwal played host to Okowa in Sokoto State. Although Okowa’s visit to Tambuwal was ostensibly for project inspection and commissioning, the politics behind the visit did not escape the attention of key stakeholders.
Also, there are strong indications that governors elected on the platform of the PDP, having taken full control of the PDP after the October convention, are scheming to pick the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates from their ranks.
There have been growing insinuations in party circles that there are top level discussions among the party’s 13 governors on the possibility of picking two of them; one from the north and the other from the south for the joint presidential race.
The permutations currently gaining ground are Tambuwal/Okowa ticket and Mohammed/Wike ticket. Although consultations are still ongoing among the governors and other stakeholders, the names of the Sokoto and Delta governors have continued to dominate discussions.
Last week, some PDP stakeholders in the South-East met in Enugu where they endorsed the presidential ambition of Anyim.
Reliable sources confided in our correspondent that the event was part of the zone’s way of impressing it on the party’s leadership that it is not backing out of the race.
Political leaders from across the zone, who attended the event, in a 10-point resolution signed by Senator Theodore Orji, former governor of Abia State who also chaired the session, and Chief Duru-Iheoma (SAN) former chairman of PDP in Imo State, said they endorsed Anyim because he has a record of unblemished service as President of the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The stakeholders came from Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states