South-east and South-south leaders on Friday rejected the report of a committee set up by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which recommended the scrapping of its zoning policy.
The PDP Committee on the Review of the 2019 General Election, headed by the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, had recommended that the party should allow all aspirants from all parts of the country to contest for its 2023 presidential ticket.
But reacting to the recommendation yesterday the leaders, who spoke to THISDAY dismissed it as a hatchet job, accusing the PDP leadership of selling out to the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, and former President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, both of who they claimed are eyeing the top job in 2023.
Incidentally, Atiku has launched a campaign for electronic registration of his supporters and support groups, creating a portal for interested faithful to login.
“We understand their game,” a party chieftain from the South-east, said last night, adding: “The party leaders are pandering to the wishes of Atiku and Saraki.”
Most vocal in the opposition to the Mohammed panel’s proposition were the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and its counterpart, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chiedozie Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze said it remained irrevocably committed to the emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction by 2023.
Ohanaeze said some highly placed Nigerians who have benefited so much from the unity of the country would be inclined to decisions and actions that will further inflame the passions of the patient but aggrieved part of the country.
It said: “For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerians agreed on the rotation of the presidency between the North and the South, in which case it is the turn of the South after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“For clarity purposes, both the South-west and the South-south had both taken their turns in the persons of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan respectively.
“It is rather very unpatriotic and a trifle on the sensibilities of the Igbo for the committee to even suggest the rotation of the presidency to the North-east in the first instance and open to every part of Nigeria as a major slight.”
Ohanaeze said it was disturbing that all the indignities, perceived and real, that the South-east suffers in the current dispensation are the outcome of the Igbo support to the PDP since 1999.
“It is on record that in 1999, the Igbo were in hock with the PDP through which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged the President of Nigeria; same in 2003 and the subsequent elections in Nigeria.
“On the other hand, the Igbo had invested much political capital in the PDP only to be betrayed by its apparent lack of principles. The leadership of the PDP is advised to retract the comment made by Mohammed and countermand the content of the obnoxious committee report in the interest of the party,” Ohanaeze said.
The group argued that the Igbo is bound to advertise the party that caters to the interest of her people, adding that it is instructive that Senator Ali Ndume, a chieftain of the All Peoples Congress (APC) is among the prominent Northerners that canvassed for zoning the Nigerian presidency to the South-east for 2023 presidential election.
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation said their prominent APC chieftains are highly committed to the realisation of this project.
PANDEF too condemned in strong terms the recommendation by the PDP committee.
The forum in a reaction by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, described the recommendation as irrational and inconsistent with extant provisions of the PDP Constitution on zoning between the North and South.
Robinson, who spoke with THISDAY yesterday, stressed that the position of PANDEF “is that a northern president is to complete eight years by 2023, so the presidency must, therefore, rotate to the South in 2023.”
According to him, it is absurd for anyone to imagine that the North would retain the presidency as nature abhors injustice, adding that the sun does not rise in the east and set in the east.
He posited that the PDP will be better for it if it discards of the committee’s report “and work towards ensuring that its 2023 presidential candidate is from the South, whether the person emerges from the South-south, South-east or South-west is a different matter entirely.”
The forum warned that it will be suicidal for any of the registered political parties to field any northern candidate for the 2023 presidential race.
“The PDP and indeed any other political party, need not be told that It would be a suicidal adventure for it to toy with the idea of presenting a northern presidential flag bearer in 2023,” it said.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu