Any eligible member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can contest the party’s presidential primary after its National Executive Governor (NEC) decided not to zone the office ahead of the 2023 elections.
Announcing this following the conclusion of the NEC meeting on Wednesday, the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba said the NEC endorsed the recommendation of the zoning committee.
“After a very extensive deliberation NEC aligned with the recommendation of the PDP National Zoning Committee that the Presidential Election should now be left open. The party should also work towards consensus candidate where possible.
“NEC noted the recommendation of the zoning committee that, in the interest of justice and fair play, the party should take decision on zoning timeously so as to prevent complications to the process,” he said.
PDP set the tone by introducing zoning of political offices in order allow all the six geopolitical zones have representatives. At the onset of the Fourth Republic, for instance, the President was zoned to the Southwest with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerging and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the North East as the Vice President.
In spite of the frequent changes in the Office of the Senate President, the South East retained the position, while the North West also retained the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives even when the first beneficiary of that office was found to have a fake educational certificate and subsequently removed.
The South South zone produced the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, while the North Central filled the Office of the Deputy Senate President.
The PDP, which glamorised zoning as a way of ensuring a sense of belonging by all geographical areas of the country now has a second thinking.
Ologunagba further said the party would conduct of the Presidential primary (Special National Convention) to elect the party’s presidential candidate on Saturday 28th May and Sunday 29th May 2022 in Abuja.
The National Convention Organising Committee is headed by former Senate President David Mark, with Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as Deputy Chairman and former Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema as Secretary.
This announcement comes weeks after the zoning committee submitted its recommendations to the PDP NEC.
Headed by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, the 37-member committee was set up by the party in March and asked to make recommendations on a zoning formula for the various electoral offices ahead of next year’s polls.
Although some members of the panel hinted that it asked the party to throw open the presidential ticket, citing the exigency of time as its reason for doing so, Ortom, however, dismissed the media reports.
The party’s decision on zoning comes amid calls and expectations that it would zone the presidential ticket to the south – ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Already, the party’s presidential screening committee headed by Mark has conducted the exercise with 17 presidential aspirants who have purchased the nomination forms.
The discord in the party – in the past weeks – over zoning has been between two groups – the pro-zoning group, mostly made up of southern leaders who believe it is the turn for the region to produce the next president having had a northern President rule for the past eight years and the late Musa Yar’ Adua as the party’s last candidate.
The anti-zoning group is mostly northern leaders, who want the ticket thrown open because they believe they stand a chance of winning the primary and eventually the election.
They argued that in the last 16 year-rule of the PDP, two southern Presidents – Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, ruled for the most part.
Some members of the panel who support an open ticket have, however, argued that aspirants should be allowed to either test their strength and popularity at the party’s primary or adopt a consensus candidate.