A member Board of Trustees (BoT) Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr Raymond Dokpesi has said for equity, fairness and justice, the party must zone its presidential ticket for the 2023 general elections to the North.
He also believed the ‘violation’ of the federal character principle by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government is responsible for the present state of the nation.
Therefore, Dokpesi believed “the person” that would right the alleged wrongs is from the North.
At its recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja, the PDP adopted the report of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwunayi-led zoning committee which amidst some protests, recommended the zoning of the party’s national chairmanship seat to the North.
Although the report was silent on the presidential ticket, stakeholders believed it simply implied the party’s presidential ticket is coming from the south.
And at the NEC meeting, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and the PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections, had told stakeholders that while the party has the right to determine its rules, Nigerians also have the right to elect whom their leader is.
The former VP’s statement, some analysts believe, is a subtle protest by northern stakeholders within the party who feel short-changed by the decision.
Notwithstanding the protest, the party at the end of the NEC meeting, said it stood by the Ugwuanyi committee report.
Dokpesi faults party
But faulting the party’s position, Dr. Dokpesi argued that with the south having 14 of the 16-year PDP rule, it would be unjust for the south to still take another short at the party’s presidential ticket.
Dokpesi, founder Ray Power and Daar Communications, stated this weekend at a media parley with some select journalists in Abuja as part of activities marking his 70th birthday anniversary coming up October 25.
Going memory lane, he said: “In 1998, when the People’s Democratic Party was being established, after the G-34 had confronted the military, elder statesmen who believed in one Nigeria and who went through the trauma of military rule. The constitution of the PDP states very clearly that there shall be rotation and zoning of offices, both for the party and political office. And I have remained very consistent in my argument since 1998.
“At the G-34 meeting, Alhaji Lawan Keita had moved that Alex Ekwueme should become the president. But Ekwueme said it is a group, not a political party, that when it transforms into a political party, you can canvass whether I can be president or not.
“When the party came into being, it was agreed by all, including all the northerners that because of the injustice done to the South West, they should be allowed to produce the president because agreement has been reached on zoning and rotation.
“Don’t forget that in 1995 draft constitution, it was envisaged that the 6 geo-political zones will have a turn of 5 years so that in 30 years, we will end the issue of zoning and would have been one united country. From there, we can start exploiting four-year rotation.
Continuing, the PDP BoT member said: “When Obasanjo came in, there was an expanded party caucus where it was canvassed that the PDP programmes could not be fully implemented within 3 years. Again, all the founding fathers, including Ekwueme, Ogbemudia and other big wigs of the party were present at the meeting. And again, it was the northern delegates who said they had no objection, they will exercise patience. We will allow Obasanjo to have another 4 years, but there should be a proviso that if you do 8 years, we will do 8 years. Let it be understood, that is the foundation and everybody said “yeah”.
“By that agreement, power was supposed to have rotated back to the north. But I was a member of the S/South Assembly; I led the delegation to say the S/South has not had any opportunity, that the S/South should be given. I travelled round, I did not fight, I did not shout, I did not quarrel, I did not carry gun, all I did was to engage the Nigerian public. By the time we got to the Convention, Obasanjo said ‘look Peter Odili, you have done very well, if we go into the conventions, you are going to win but we have an understanding with the north, please let the north be the president.’
“That is how Yar’Adua came in. Yar’Adua, unfortunately did not live long to see the 8 years. He did only two years, in fact, two and half years. I agitated at that time to continue with the principle already established, let us have the north complete the remaining term of four years, so that we can be done with the northern presidency, so that we can come back to the South.
“Some people in the S/South said no, it’s not possible. You cannot be so close to power and relinquish it. Crisis set in, so Jonathan (Goodluck, former president) did another 4 years. We came to 2015, the PDP had done 16 years in power, if you like, 14 years of the South, two years of the north. That is the situation up till today.”
“Now you say, you believe in justice, fairness and equity. The north has done 2 years, the South has done 14 years, is that balance? The APC came into being in 2014, they don’t have a history. Now, in 2015, when we fielded in PDP, Jonathan, the north had started clamouring, agitating, saying it is their turn. You have spent 14 years, so allow us to complete our 4 years and we said no, we were very smart, and that is what plunged the country into this crisis. That is why we are in problem.
“So, I am PDP, I am guided by the constitution of the PDP, which in its preamble said, for unity, for stability, for the growth of the country, we must rotate such that every part of the country will not be neglected. The APC, on its own, came in and also said, we are adopting zoning and rotation. And in their own situation, they chose to pick a northern candidate knowing full well that the agitation of the north. They fielded a northern candidate against us. I believe everyone here knows my position and what my comments were at that time.
“If in my own party I want to win an election, I cannot win an election when there is injustice, when there is unfairness. We are not guided by certain rules. In the PDP, all I am agitating for is that let us be fair and just. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of ourselves. Let us as one family, as the party started l, still remain one and in doing so, let us choose a candidate from the north. Some people have come to meet me to say, how can we allow them to do another 8 years again? I say, sorry, in 2019, we fielded a northern candidate recommended by Ike Ekweremadu report. But again, the PDP was outmanoeuvred.
“I didn’t agree that Atiku lost that election but INEC has said so, and as a citizen of Nigeria I must live by the rules. But I cannot as a PDP person go and adopt APC conditions and situations. So, for me very clearly, I want an undiluted, a properly organized party.
“It is the APC policy of lack of adherence to the federal character principles that has brought us to this level of suspicion in the country. And the person that can bring back that principle of fairness, justice is from the north. We Southerners had the opportunity to be in power and we threw it away, so we can now monopolise everything and that is what gave birth to APC. If we were fair, we were just, we were rational, we won’t have been in this problem.”