There were indications that the Peoples Democratic Party’s 37-man panel on zoning has opted to throw the presidential ticket for the 2023 race open.
The implication is that if the recommendation is approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC), all zones will be free to bid for the ticket.
It will be the first time since 1999 that the PDP will not zone its presidential ticket to either the South or the North.
According to a top source, the zoning of the presidential ticket was difficult for Ortom’s panel to decide because the party commenced the sale of nomination forms before setting up a zoning committee.
This made it tricky for the committee to be decisive on which zone will produce the presidential candidate.
A top source said: “Ortom’s committee has recommended that the presidential ticket should be thrown open because its hands were tied and it could not abort an exercise which was already midway.
“We knew this will be the outcome. The committee was dead on arrival because the party was already selling nomination forms before setting up the committee. Presidential aspirants from the North and South had already obtained forms.
“It has legal implications if you ask aspirants who have bought forms to step down or forego their rights to contest.
“The panel has shifted the final decision on its report to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party which may meet before the Easter break. As you know, NEC itself is divided.”
The camps of ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Governor Bala Mohammed were upbeat.
“Following the development from Ortom’s committee, Northern presidential aspirants were in a frenzy because it has brightened their chances of contesting the presidential primaries.
“If the Northern aspirants can agree on a consensus candidate among themselves, the nominee will now slug it out with the presidential aspirants from the South.
“Otherwise, all the presidential aspirants will go to the National Convention to struggle for PDP Presidential ticket.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the shuttle to Minna by Governor Nyesom Wike and three others did not achieve much because ex-President Ibrahim Babangida and a former Head of State, Gen. Abubakar Abulsalami were non-committal on the demand of the governors to support power shift to the South.
Another top source added: “The two former leaders avoided making a commitment to the governors. All they preached was about the need for peace, one Nigeria and the best for this country.
“The governors were a bit withdrawn that there was no categorical statement on whether power should remain in the North or shift to the South.
“They had gone to Minna with high expectations but the shuttle actually backfired.”
Other governors in the delegation were Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu).
Saraki’s pro-consensus group visits Makinde, Udom
The pro-consensus aspirants yesterday received the endorsement of Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde.
Makinde expressed his readiness to work hand-in-hand with the advocates of consensus in a bid to put in place internally mechanisms that would clear doubts and confusion about the option.
The endorsement came during a private meeting of the team, led by Ex-Senate President and former Governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki to Makinde at the Oyo State Government House, Agodi, Ibadan.
In the team were Governor Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Bala Muhammed (Bauchi) and Muhammed Ayatudeen.
The aspirants said they were on the visit to canvass the support of Makinde whom they described as a key stakeholder in the party, adding that they were ready to forgo their individual ambitions and support a consensus candidate in the interest of Nigeria.
Saraki, who said consensus was used to elect the party leaders at its last convention, explained that the option is not for any particular region, North or South, but for the PDP. He said anyone who wins the party ticket cannot address, fix and rebuild the country by himself but would need the support of everybody.
Saraki said: “We are here, the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed; Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; Alhaji Muhammad Hayatudeen and my humble self, this afternoon to meet the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, a key stakeholder of our party.
“We have been going around, we who have indicated our interest to run for the positions of the President of this country under our great party. As a key stakeholder of our party, we need to come and brief him (Makinde) on what we meant by this idea of consensus arrangement that we are trying to put together.
“We have looked at the country today, the hardship our people are going through, with the issue of insecurity and it is clear that it is only our party, the PDP, that can provide that brighter future for this country.
“But, in doing that, we ourselves as a party must be ready for government in 2023 and that fact includes uniting ourselves and being focused. Is not about our individual difference, it is the interest of Nigerians that matters.
“We all of course have shown individual interest to be the President but we have decided in our meetings that we are ready to subject ourselves to a consensus arrangement.
“That consensus arrangement is not just one for a part of the country either North or South, no, it is a consensus arrangement for the PDP because even whoever wins this ticket cannot address, fix and rebuild this country by himself.
“He needs the support of everybody and we want that foundation to start from that process and that is why we are all here.”
Makinde, who thanked the visitors, noted that the consensus being canvassed was successfully adopted at the last convention and could also be used to choose the presidential flag bearer for the 2023 election.
Makinde said: “I want to thank my senior colleagues for this visit and meeting.
“We have discussed behind closed doors and yes, the consensus arrangement we are trying to put together, we have done it at the last convention of our party, it was the first time that PDP was able to achieve bringing in a national chairman for the party through a consensus arrangement.
“So, we believe we can do it and we also believe that Nigerians will take this party seriously when they know that we are all working together to give to them a President through a process that has everybody’s buy-in, the stakeholders with no rancour.
“So, I promised my elder brothers that we will work hand-in-hand, work together to ensure that this consensus is successful.
“I have also said that internally, we will ensure that people understand what we are trying to do and where there is any iota of doubt or confusion, we will put a mechanism in place that will get addressed almost immediately.”
The pro-consensus team also visited Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel at the Government House in Uyo.
Saraki lauded his patriotism and commitment to unity in the party and for championing the agenda of ‘One Nigeria’.
He said: “We’ve been going around the country and we are here to meet with Governor Udom Emmanuel as a key stakeholder, to brief him of our intention to find a way of uniting us and to put the country and the party first and to inform him of our intention to have a consensus arrangement, because that is what we believe will make the party stronger.”
It was gathered that the delegation would proceed to meet with Wike.
Emmanuel affirmed his support for the cause of “One Nigeria” and stressed the need to build a team of patriots to tackle the nation’s challenges on time.
According to him, the task of rescuing Nigeria was way beyond individualism and partisanship, adding that it required a team that can rescue and restore the country.
Emmanuel said: “This is the time we have to look inwards and reappraise, then look at certain things we must do and do it right, and timely.
“That’s why you see this calibre of people coming together trying to find a consensus and to find a common ground to say that we are all but one.
“We don’t have any other country to go to. That’s the whole essence of all the meetings.”
Wike: give me ticket, I will take power for you
However, Wike, who is on a mobilisation tour to some parts of the country, urged delegates and stakeholders not to waste their votes on aspirants that lack the capacity to win the presidential election.
Wike said he has the capacity and energy required to win, serve and salvage Nigeria as president in 2023.
The governor, according to a statement by his Special Media Assistant, Kelvin Ebiri, made the declaration yesterday in Gombe State during a meeting with stakeholders.
Wike was accompanied by Senator Mohammed Imam, Senator Olaka Nwogu and Senator Suleiman Nazif.
He said: “If you want PDP to win the election in 2023, I have made myself available. Give me the ticket, let me go and take the power for you. We are talking about who can take this power from APC. That person is me.”
Wike said people were free to visit Rivers to see what his administration had done out of love and passion for the upliftment of the socioeconomic status of the people.
He said: “We need to salvage this country. Let us not pretend about it. Insecurity does not know religion. Insecurity does not know ethnicity. Poverty does not know ethnicity. Poverty does not know religion.
“The people who come to kill us, do they look at who is a Christian? Do they look at who is a Moslem? Do they know who is Hausa-Fulani? Do they know who is Igbo? We are dying.
“So, it is not for sentiment. It is not for people to come and tell you, look, it must come from here, no, no. It is for those who have the capacity. If given the opportunity, I will replicate what I’ve done in Rivers State as President of Nigeria.”
The governor said the insistence of some public office holders to hire mercenaries to fight bandits and terrorists overrunning the country was worrisome.
Former Gombe State Governor, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, commended Wike for visiting the state to formally acquaint stakeholders with his presidential ambition.
Dankwambo, who acknowledged Wike’s excellent performance in office, assured him of support if he gets the presidential ticket.
Gombe PDP Chairman General Abnor Kwaskwabe (rtd) described Wike as a man of integrity, an impeccable leader, a bridge-builder, a unifier of men, and whose interest in politics is for the public good.
Anyim pledges service
Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, a presidential aspirant, has pledged to devout his time and energy to make the country great.
Anyim, also a former President of the Senate, said this when he received a youth group, led by Mr Anthony Chukwuemeka, in Abuja.
He said that he has received tremendous support from Nigerians since he joined the presidential race a few months ago.
“I pledge that when by the grace of God and the will of all Nigerians I am elected President, I will apply my whole time and energy to make Nigeria work for the good of all.”
Chukwuemeka said the gesture was in recognition of Anyim’s quest to make Nigeria greater.
He said the group believed that Anyim when elected President would transform Nigeria into a great country and make life better for the people, especially the youths.
Fayose withdraws from PDP zoning committee
Former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has withdrawn his membership in the PDP Zoning Committee.
Fayose stated this in a letter dated April 5 and addressed to Ortom.
Fayose cited his ambition to run for president in 2023 as the reason for his withdrawal.
“I write to formally appreciate the party and all members of this committee.
“I thank you all for your statesmanship, selflessness and sense of patriotism to our party and by extension our nation in the way you have all handled and comported yourselves so far in deliberations regarding this delicate and sensitive issue/assignment, the zoning of public offices, particularly that of the President.
“I pray the outcome will bring understanding, peace and stability to our party and our country at large.
“Having hinted during our last meeting of my intention to run for the office of the President in the coming primary election and by God’s grace; the general election, it will not be morally right to continue to participate in the zoning debate being an aspirant myself,” he said.
He added that his state had nominated Dr Gbenga Faseluka to replace him.