PDP 2023 Presidential Zoning conundrum: Ayu’s burden of proof, By Musa A. Musa

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Dr Iyorchia Ayu, PDP National Chairman

The national Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu’s emergence as the leader of the opposition party in December 2021 is still a mystery to many albeit a subject of debate or controversy in some quarters .

This is because Ayu was not among the contenders in the build up to the race after the Uche Secondus led leadership was shown the way out. Besides, he was a returnee to the party having defected to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2007 and later to All Progressive Congress (APC) with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar . However, a twist of events and political maneuvering threw Ayu up as the National Chairman of the PDP.

Ayu is well schooled and has garnered more than enough experience in the art of politics in Nigeria. He was President of the Senate although unceremoniously removed in that short lived third republic .

The Ayu led National Working Committee (NWC) started well to rebrand the PDP with the “Rescue Nigeria” mantra. It seems to be gathering momentum. But ahead of the 2023 general elections, Ayu’s leadership credentials and sincerity is being put to test . He has started wobbling early in the day. If he does not retrace his steps and resolve to be fair and firm, Ayu may sink the smooth sailing boat of the PDP. The burden of proof in on Ayu.

For the record, the founding fathers of the PDP were conscious of the diversity and plurality of Nigeria. They took cognizance of the dominance of a some ethnic nationalities and the issues of the minority question. And so, in the PDP constitution as amended in 2017 , it recognized zoning or rotation of elective and appointive political offices . This is to ensure that all interests; majority or minority interests are accommodated so that no section of the country will feel excluded or marginalized in the scheme of things . This is what it should be for a National Party .
The PDP constitution in its preamble noted : “Conscious of the need to share and rotate key political offices among the diverse peoples of our country “.
And in its aims and objectives , (3) (C) , the PDP constitution clearly stated that “it shall adhere at all times to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness”.
But as the 2023 general elections approach, the Ayu leadership seems to be jettisoning the constitutional provision while some presidential and governorship aspirants are turning the logic upside down because it does not suite their ambitions now.
Presidential aspirants especially from the Northern axis; Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed and Hayatudeen Mohammed are in the forefront canvassing for a consensus candidate rather than adhering to the existing norm and principle of zoning or rotation.

Forefront presidential aspirants from the southern part of the country like Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike, Peter Obi, Anyim Pius Anyim, Udom Emmanuel are pushing that the existing arrangement between the North and South be respected for the 2023 presidential election. For them, the north had the slot in 2019 during which Atiku won the primaries held in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.

The southern block are of the contention that it was in recognition of the constitutional provision that southern politicians did not field any aspirant in 2019. All the contestants then ; Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal, David Mark, Jonah Jang, Sule Lamido, Musa Kwankwaso, Ahmed Makarfi, Saminu Turaki and Ibrahim Danjwambo, were all from the North.

The southern bloc thus expects a reciprocal approach in 2023 from their northern counterparts . This does not seem to be the prevailing situation in the PDP at the moment.

The Ayu led party has even gone ahead to set up 37 man Committee headed by Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom. The Committee has submitted its report but yet to be unveiled by the leadership. An issue already captured in the constitution does not need a committee to handle except there is an intention to amend the constitution. In this case, there is no agenda to amend the constitution .
The preponderance of opinion across the divide today Favours that the 2023 presidential ticket goes to the South. The ongoing twist to leave the race open has more than enough implications. First it would make the PDP constitution worth than worthless and it means the party has no rules, do’s and don’ts and without a working document . Secondly , which ever way , it goes now, what happens in the next phase of elections. The current twist is unnecessary and avoidable, except Ayu’s mission is to cripple the PDP.

Assuming for the purpose of argument, without admitting though, the party thinks a northern candidate will guarantee victory in 2023, the leadership can apply wisdom and appeal to the southern community to see reasons. Taking the southern bloc who are seen as the pillars of the party for granted may spell doom for the PDP.
Ayu , sure has a date with history. If he takes unwise decisions that may ridicule the party and its members, he will go into infamy as a man who did not see tomorrow. It is not late, he has a choice to do the needful and let the PDP win.

The PDP constitution is very clear and unambiguous. Rotation, Zoning is sacrosanct. It is the turn of the south for 2023. Anything to the contrary may have adverse consequences for the party . Let wise counsel prevail.

▪︎ Musa A. Musa wrote from Abuja.

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