2023: Should PDP zone presidency to South?

Sani Danaudi Mohammed

Chapter VI, Part I, Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states that a person may be qualified for election of the office of the president if he or she is a citizen of Nigeria by birth, and has attained the age of 35, and a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party, has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

Zoning is a practice in Nigeria under which political parties agree to split their presidential and vice-presidential candidates between the North and South of the country and to alternate the home area of the president between the North and South.

The principle of zoning is designed to ensure that neither the North nor South is ever permanently excluded from power and that no one party is seen to only represent one part of the country. Zoning was first introduced in the Second Republic and since then it has become a phenomenon.

Zoning was introduced to give opportunity to every part of the country to produce either the president or vice-president after eight years rotational principle.

In 1979, when democracy was restored by the then head of state and President, Chief Olesegun Obasanjo, late President Shehu Shagari emerged under NPN from the North with late Alex Ekwueme from the South. It became more pronounced in the Fourth Republic after long military incursions, President Obasanjo came on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

This arrangement was truncated by Supreme Court judgement during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2011 when he contested against this principle.

The court held that zoning is silent in Nigerian constitution, noting it was a mere political party arrangement that lacks constitutional backing. Jonathan was vice-president to late Yar’adua who could not complete his tenure as he passed on.The northern PDP bloc broke out of the convention of PDP that produced Jonathan to recontest for another term. This, among other factors, played significant roles in sending the party to a premature political retirement after planning to rule for 60 years.

The coming together of some power blocs from the North and the South-west region gave rise to the current rulling All Progressives Congress in 2015. It is an unarguable discussion that the main reason PDP lost in that election was its inability to respect the zoning arrangement that produced Jonathan as vice-president in 2007. Jonathan in 2011 presidency got the endorsement of many power blocs including former President Obasanjo to allow minorities to occupy the nation’s highest political seat.

Zoning has resulted only in giving birth to regional, religious and ethnic democracy in Nigeria instead of achieving unity, fairness and justice. As the 2023 elections draw near, there seems to be realignments in the main opposition PDP, following the result from of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwanyi-led zoning committee for positions of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to be swapped between the North and South.

The zoning committee decision convention was ratified at last week Thursday’s NEC to the dismay of the party’s leading presidential aspirants, many of whom hail from the North.

The Supreme Court judgement that paved way for Jonathan to contest the 2011 presidency is still fresh in the minds of the leading political aspirants in the North coupled with the agitations that Jonathan completed the tenure of late Yar’adua and equally served the mandate of the North which is clearly against the zoning principle.

These are few reasons the northern PDP frontline presidential candidates feel they are eligible to contest in 2023 making reference to the 2011 scenerio. The northern bigwigs in the PDP converged on the Bauchi governor’s lodge in Abuja and agreed that the national chairman of the party should come from the North with a southern presidential candidate.

It is becoming more open that PDP are still in disarray with less than two years to the general elections in Nigeria. In the past one year, there have been strong speculations of the party planning to move the position of national chairman to the South-west, with political watchers assuming that there would be a replay of the party’s presidential primaries in 2018 that was won by Atiku Abubakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto came second whilee former Senate President Bukola Saraki coming third.

Atiku Abubakar is fingered by many political analysts as the only man left in PDP to lead the party to dislodge the rulling APC in 2023. This is may be attributed to his wealth of experience, knowledge and decades investment in the political structures of Nigeria.

He said, “Where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria neither will it be the solution. There’s no such thing as a president from Southern Nigeria or a president from Northern Nigeria. There’s only one, a president from Nigeria, for Nigeria and for Nigerians.”

Chief Raymond Dokpesi, a PDP Chieftain from the South, shared the thought of many that only Atiku can win the presidency for the main opposition party.

This attests to the fact that the northern PDP big wigs led by Alh. Atiku Abubakar have set up a committee to search for a northern presidential candidate for 2023 general elections. Thus the northern PDP bloc are not on the same page with their southern counterparts, and it seems they are more comfortable with the presidency than the party’s national chairman.

The rulling APC are equally battling to fix their internal crisis though on their part the tendency of the presidency shifting to the South is very high as most of the party big wigs in the North are jostling for the office of the vice-president. Even with the ongoing wrangling within the party, there are little or no protests regarding the South producing the presidential candidate.

The opposition PDP must adopt the APC strategy of 2015 by supporting a northern candidate than producing a southern candidate. The APC has more popular candidates to fieldfrom the South compared to the PDP unless former President Jonathan is coming back.

Danaudi, National President of Arewa Youths Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative, writes from Bauchi via [email protected]

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