Some Nigerian governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have embarked on fresh moves to zone the presidential ticket of the party in the 2023 general election to the South, in line with the position of the 17 southern governors that power should shift to the South in 2023, THISDAY has learnt.
Also, in a first major endorsement for power shift by a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has expressed support for the emergence of a president from the southern part of the country, insisting that the All Progressives Congress (APC) agreed after merger to rotate presidency between North and the South.
This development is coming as the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu has enjoined Nigerians not to be hopeful of any meaningful change from the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration in 2022, saying the ruling party is bent on bringing more hardship to Nigerians.
THISDAY gathered that as part of the strategic consultations to realise this aspiration, some PDP governors had met with one of their colleagues in the North-east to help mount pressure on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to accept the position of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party.
A source close to the governors and who is also privy to the new permutations in the main opposition party told THISDAY off-record that the incumbent chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin would be rounding off his tenure before the 2023 general election.
The PDP had zoned its national chairmanship ticket to the North, raising hopes that the presidential candidate would emerge from thesouthern part of the country.
But the body language of Atiku and some other chieftains of the party from the North has revealed that they are nursing the ambition to contest the position.
However, the source told THISDAY that the PDP governors were working to prevail on Atiku to drop his ambition and allow power to shift to the South for the sake of justice and fairness.
While acknowledging that Atiku is eminently qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election, the source added that the clamour for power shift and the issue of age could work against the former vice president.
“Atiku will be almost 77 years by 2023 as he is currently 75 years and that Nigerians may not accept such an old presidential candidate in view of the present circumstances of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“PDP gave Atiku the ticket in 2019 and may not be in a position to take the same gamble again.
“The governors are thinking of allowing the former vice president to settle for the office of the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT),” he explained.
With the popular agitation for power shift, the source further explained that the two leading political parties – PDP and APC may ensure the repeat of what happened in 1999 where the PDP and the then All Peoples Party (APP) produced two presidential candidates -Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae from the South, to pacify the South-west over the annulment of the 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.
According to the source, a repeat of the 1999 configuration would promote equity and fairness as well as address the agitation against marginalisation.
He noted that if power shifts to the South, the odds would favour the South-east geopolitical zone.
He explained that the PDP stakeholders were buying into the sentiments of ensuring equity and fairness to push for the emergence of the party’s presidential candidate from the South.
According to him, it is feared that if the PDP goes ahead to produce a presidential candidate outside of the southern states and the APC eventually ensures that it picks its presidential candidate from the south, the main opposition party will lose sympathy as many Nigerians will support APC to ensure the emergence of a president of southern extraction by 2023.
“In whatever that we are doing, the continued unity of Nigeria should be taken into consideration. We are all aware of what happened in 1999 when the issue of June 12 threatened the nation.
“What is happening now is more than the June 12 agitation because of the nepotism of the present administration. There must be a Nigeria before we talk of the 2023 general election. There must be unity before everything and everybody must reason on how best to assuage the heightened tension in the country. It will not be business as usual. We must make compromises,” the source further explained.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige, has expressed support for the emergence of a president from the southern part of the country in 2023.
Ngige who is a chieftain of the ruling APC, disclosed that the APC agreed after merger to rotate the presidency, stressing that that zoning and rotation of power create stability, unity, equity and progress of the country.
According to him, rotation engenders confidence and patriotism and ensures that no one ethnic group or section of the country dominates the other.
The former Anambra State governor faulted those saying that no such convention exists.
He particularly berated the opposition PDP for waiting for APC to choose a southern presidential candidate, so that it can pick its candidate from the North in clear breach of the rotation convention and even against the rotation principle enshrined in the PDP constitution.
“Their top apparatchik thinks they are smart. They want to play a fast one. They are waiting for APC to go to South. Their calculation is that when that happens, they will go to the North. Number one, that will be an act in bad faith because it will mean that they have taken the people in the South-south and South-east that have all along supported PDP 90 per cent in all the elections, for a ride.
“The PDP will be shocked the way the South-east, the South-south and other minorities, and in fact, Nigerians as a whole will revolt. I was a founding member of the PDP. I was in its National Executive Committee as the Assistant National Secretary, South-east and served in many strategic standing committees. I was elected governor on the platform of the PDP. I know that the constitution of the PDP is clear on rotation of power and zoning of offices between the North and South.
“So, if they are waiting for our great party the APC to choose a southern candidate so they can quickly turn and present a northern candidate at a point the dominant mood in the country is for power to shift to the South, then, they are deceiving themselves. Nigerians will shock them.”
A statement by the minister’s media office in Abuja quoted Ngige as having made the assertions while answering questions from journalists at his country home in Alor, Idemili South LGA of Anambra State.
Ngige insisted that an unwritten agreement exists among politicians and political parties that rotation of offices should take place, adding that it was written down as a constitutional provision in the case of PDP.
Ngige noted that the issue of the rotation of the prime offices in the land is not expressly written in the constitution of APC, but insisted that the ruling party had agreed to rotate presidency after its merger.
“I was the secretary at our first convention and I took all the minutes. We had an agreement that our flag-bearer would come from the North and after North, it would go down to the South. So, those who are talking today were not there when this agreement was made. But was it written down and signed by politicians from both sides? No. But we had minutes of the meeting. They are there. It was agreed that there would be a movement between North and South.
“As we were doing the convention and filling in offices, we narrowed down our candidates to about two or three. But, among the candidates, General Buhari was topping. All of us from the ACN caucus had agreed that he was our candidate. CPC had agreed that he would be their candidate. ANPP was split into two. So, when we went to the presidential convention, he emerged with a wide margin. That is the truth of the matter,” Ngige explained.
He also argued that power rotation is contained in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
He said: “First, Section 14 (3) of the constitution is clear on the composition of government at the national, states and even local government level, in such a way that there should be no actual or perceptions of domination by any single tribe or group of persons from one ethnic nationality so as to engender confidence and patriotism,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the PDP, Ayu has alleged that the ruling APC is bent on making lives nasty, brutish and short for Nigerians in 2022.
Ayu, who stated this in a New Year message to Nigerians, however, promised that the reign of the APC was about to give way to a creditable government that would work in the interest of all.
He said: “Do not expect anything better from the APC in 2022? They will still make your life nasty, brutish and short.
“The good news is that all bad things come to an end. The hell that is APC will surely come to an end,” he said.
Ayu stressed that to oust the ruling party, Nigerians of eligible age should register and vote in the 2023 general election to herald a new dawn.
“Go out and register. Get your voters’ cards, mobilise and get this evil out of your lives. This is why 2022 is such an important year of hope for all Nigerians.
“On behalf of the PDP, I wish you a hopeful New Year, a year that we all begin the journey for the liberation and rebuilding of Nigeria. So, help us God,” he added.