PDP: Hard Task For Secondus Over Zoning

Permutations on the zoning of the next presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has raised conflicting interests over the re-election ambition of Uche Secondus, the party’s National Chairman, reports ‘DARE ODUFOWOKAN, Assistant Editor


Although the 2023 Presidential Election is still a couple of years away, zoning of party offices and which part of the country should produce the next presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are already influencing the interests of various stakeholders as they debate the fate of Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) after the expiration of the current tenure.

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The NWC, which is rounding up its first term in office, is currently seeking the support of party leaders and chieftains as the Rivers-born politician hopes to be given another term in office as the National Chairman of the opposition party. Many of his colleagues in the committee are also desirous of remaining in their respective offices beyond 2021.

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But moves by some groups and individuals within the party, agitating for the zoning of the presidential ticket of the PDP to the southern part of the country, may adversely affect the hope of the National Chairman to retain his office. Findings by The Nation revealed that aside from wanting Secondus to publicly declare his stand on the zoning debate, some of the pro-zoning agitators within the party are also willing to allow a northerner take up the position of National Chairman so as to ensure a southerner emerges the presidential candidate in 2023.

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Aside opposition to his return by pro zoning agitators within the party, The Nation also gathered that Secondus may not have the support of some other party leaders who see him as a clog in the wheel of the success of their preferred presidential candidates. Sources said such opposition to Secondus’ second term may not be unconnected with allegations in some quarters that he favoured, and still favours, the political camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar more than other blocs within the party.

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During the week, some stakeholders from the Southwest zone of the country openly angled for the North to produce a replacement for Secondus at the expiration of his current tenure in December. Some northern party chieftains being fingered for the prime position include former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, and Senator Suleiman Nazif, who is currently the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the PDP, among others. Nazif hails from Bauchi State, one of the strongholds of the PDP in the North.

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A group of PDP chieftains in the Southwest, led by former state secretary of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) in Lagos State, Chief Adedamola Damazio, and Hon. Sikirulai Adejare from Osun State, has announced their readiness to support a northerner for the position of National Chairman of the party. The PDP Revival Movement (PDPRM), as the group named itself, according to its leaders, is mainly interested in seeing a southerner emerge as the presidential candidate of the party in 2023. “To return to winning ways, PDP must return to its initial principles,” Adejare told The Nation on Thursday in Lagos.

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Recently, former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, said the PDP had zoned its 2023 presidential ticket to the North. The former governor, The Nation gathered, may have spoken the minds of some party leaders said to be working round the clock for their preferred northern presidential candidates in spite of argument in many quarters that it is the turn of the South to produce the next PDP presidential flag-bearer, going by the unwritten rotation principle of the foremost opposition party.

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Not long after Suswan’s statement, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State confirmed the fears of pro-zoning agitators within the PDP when he said the focus of the party in the 2023 presidential elections should be winning and not zoning. “As an opposition party, we look at all variables. What will make us win the election is first. That is what is important to us. Forget about other parties. We look at all variables and our own concern is how do we win, how do we get back power. So, it is not one factor that will influence decisions. So, many variables will come into play. So, it will be wrong for me as an opposition person to say this must be done now. No, I will not do that,” he said.

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Tough task for Secondus

At a press conference in Lagos last Thursday, the PDP chieftains dissociated themselves from an alleged plot by some prominent leaders and governors of the party to produce a northerner as the presidential candidate of the party in 2023. The group described as obnoxious and objectionable the plot by some party leaders and elders, who are allegedly working hard to ensure that the party’s next presidential candidate is another northerner. According to the PDPRM, “producing another northerner as the PDP presidential candidate in 2023 would foul run the ideals of the founding fathers of the party.”

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The group, which vowed to resist all attempts to deprive the South of its chance to produce the next president of the country on the platform of the PDP, declared that the plot is contrary to the agreed arrangement of the party, which they said remained unchanged. “We must not do anything that will deny a section of the country a sense of belonging. Also, we must not rob our party of the opportunity to win the next presidential election by shunning the gentleman’s agreement known to all. The plot to jettison zoning will fail,” the group said.

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In a release signed by Damazio and Adejare, the group urged party leaders to prepare the ground for the emergence of a southern presidential candidate in 2023 by ensuring that a northerner replaces Secondus in December when his current term will end. While appreciating the contributions of the PDP National Chairman since taking office, the group urged him to sacrifice any personal ambition in the collective interest of the southern region of the country and the party.

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“As we move nearer to the end of the tenure of the current NWC of our great party, our group is showing keen interest in the position of the National Chairman. After extensive deliberations, it was resolved that in the spirit of fairness, equity, giving every geo-political zone a sense of participation and inclusion in the affairs of the PDP and the country, as it was designed, implemented and handed down to us by the founding fathers of the party; we strongly support the northern zones of the country to produce the next Chairman of the party.

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“This is not to say other geo-political zones lack qualified candidates for the plum job. As a matter of fact, the current National Chairman of the party has done a good job of repositioning the party after the unfortunate events that led to the defeats suffered by the PDP in 2015. While we appreciate him, we urge him to remember that the party is greater and more important than any individual or group. We call on him to sacrifice any personal ambition in the collective interest of the southern region of the country and the party,” the group said.

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Speaking further, PDPRM explained that it will be difficult for the southern zone to be demanding for the presidential ticket of the PDP while still holding on to the national chairmanship position, either with Secondus or any other southerner in office. “And we make bold to say that keeping Secondus in office is one of the ploys of those working against zoning to deny the South the presidential ticket in 2023. Therefore, we are calling on him to forget about seeking another term in office beyond 2021.”

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Opposition mounts

Amidst indications that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the party’s candidate in 2023, and current governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, among other northern aspirants, are gearing up to seek the party’s presidential ticket, multiple party sources told The Nation that more pro-zoning party leaders and chieftains in the southern part of the country are daily buying into the idea of sacrificing Secondus in order for the zone to have a better chance of producing the party’s presidential candidate in 2023.

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“Recently in Ondo State, a southern PDP governor expressed his readiness to back a northerner for the national chairmanship if he is assured that will make the emergence of a southern presidential candidate easier. Also, a group of party elders met in Abeokuta, Ogun State recently to deliberate on alleged plots by some of our governors to support northern aspirants again in 2023 and it was resolved that the best way to tell them the South will not agree to such arrangement is to return the national chairmanship to the North as soon as possible.

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“We are saying these because some of our leaders, even here in the South, are working for northern presidential aspirants for reasons we cannot understand. Zoning is an unwritten arrangement in PDP and it must not be jettisoned. If the PDP is serious about winning in 2023, then the party must do the right thing. Even APC will not make the mistake of fielding a northerner. The North, after eight years of Buhari, cannot aim to produce another president,” our source, a member of the National Assembly said.

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A prominent party leader from Kano also spoke on the opposition to Secondus’ ambition by some leaders who feel he wouldn’t be a good arbiter come 2023, given his rumoured alliance with the Atiku camp. “For many of our elders and other stakeholders who do not wish to see PDP return to the inglorious days of internal crisis, this issue is already a matter of serious concern.

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But sources within the camp of the PDP National Chairman are debunking claims that opposition is mounting against his re-election.

The Nation also gathered that Secondus still enjoys the backing of some other party chieftains, which include the camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who want him to lead the party to the next elections.

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[The Nation]

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