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ZONING RUFFLES FEATHERS

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ONYEKACHI EZE reports on the controversy over the ratification of the zoning of the national chairmanship position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the North-East by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
It is trying times for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) even though the party’s National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, insists that the decision to zone the national chairmanship position to the North-East was a unanimous decision by members of the party’s highest decision making organ – National Executive Committee (NEC). An indication that the decision will ruffle feathers in the party was the poor attendance during the party’s NEC meeting last Thursday. Some of the NEC members who attended the meeting were not comfortable with the recommendations of the Governor Emmanuel Udom-led committee on the zoning of national offices.
The NEC hall, which is usually filled to the brim during its meetings, was scanty, and from the speech of the Acting Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, it was obvious that the zoning committee’s report did not pass through the various organs of the party before the final debate by NEC.
According to Senator Jibrin, “the exclusion of the BoT is not deliberate and I appeal to all members of the BoT that they should not take offence that there was no any meeting of the BoT. We will have another meeting after this (NEC) one. “We are very aware of various meetings everywhere. I have decided that I will not attend any meeting apart from the properly organised meetings because we have to be very careful with the way we hold meetings these days.”
Since the report of the committee leaked to the public, there have been meetings by aggrieved members of the party on the next step to take. Some party members even threatened to leave PDP in protest over the retention of the national chairmanship position in the North-East.
Among those who are likely to dump the former ruling party is Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Abudullahi Jalo. The party’s deputy spokesperson, who is from Gombe State in the North- East, said he would leave the party on moral ground.
According to him, “there was a unanimous decision to zone the chairmanship to the South-West due to the fact that the North has produced about nine PDP national chairmen from the time of Solomon Lar up to the period of Ali Modu Sheriff.
The North is interested in the presidential ticket, not the national chairman.” Though Jalo’s position cannot be dismissed, some members of the party are of the view that he may be voicing his anger due to the fact that the zoning arrangement may disqualify his governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, from realising his presidential ambition. According to the report adopted by the NEC, the national chairmanship position goes to North-East, the deputy to South- South while the South-West still retains the position of the national secretary.
The position of deputy national secretary, which was in South- East, now goes to North Central, while the nation legal adviser has been zoned to the North-West. The deputy national legal adviser is now in the South-South. The position of national treasurer was also zoned to the South- South, while the deputy goes to North West.
The office of national financial secretary is now in the North Central as against South- West, while the South East will produce the deputy. The national woman leader will now come from North-West as against South-East, while the South-South will produce the deputy.
For the office of national auditor and deputy, the PDP NEC agreed that they should go to South-West and North-East, respectively. The South-East will however produce the national organizing secretary and national youth leader.
The deputy national organizing secretary and deputy youth leader will come from North Central and North-West, respectively. The national publicity secretary will come from South-West, while the deputy will come from North Central. While some analysts have described PDP’s distribution of its national offices as a fair deal, the grouse of most party stakeholders, especially those from the South-West, is the failure of the party to rotate the national chairmanship position of the party.
Dr. Doyin Okupe, a former Senior Special Assistant, Public Communications to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, noted that out of 11 PDP chairmen in 18 years, only the Yoruba race have not been able to produce one. His words: “I want to state categorically here, without any fear of equivocation, that we, the Yoruba from the South-West, desire and demand the post of the national chairman at the next convention of the party. “In the interest of fairness, equity and justice, it is most compelling that the Yorubas of the South- West zone must be allowed to contest for this post at the coming national convention. Any attempt to do anything to the contrary, no matter the reason advanced cannot be acceptable.
“Failure for a Yoruba man to emerge as the national chairman can only mean two things. That there is a pervasive and concealed hatred for the South-West in the PDP or that the PDP has very little or no regard for Yoruba interest as was evinced by the obvious cheating of the South-West from the position of the Speaker in 2011, which was never rectified nor compensated for the whole of four years.
“The sad implication of the above is that, regrettably, many of us from the South-West may have to reconsider our membership of this great party, which we have helped to nurture and supported through thick and thin; a party we have loved almost more than our very existence, and the party we have served with all our natural endowment, in victory and defeat. If there exist any conscience, anywhere in this party, let that conscience speak now and stop the new and alien conscienceless power currently holding sway within the party hierarchy.” Interestingly, it was a group from the South- West that first called for the retention of the national chairmanship position in the North.
The group led by the senator representing Ogun East in the National Assembly, Senator Buruji Kashamu, while on courtesy visit to Sheriff on March 21, said the position of national chairman should not be zoned to the South.
The group was of the opinion that PDP will be branded a regional party if the chairmanship goes to the South. “Out of the five states in the South-East, the PDP has three governors; we have five governors out of the six states in the South- South; in the South- West, we have two governors. In the whole of the North, we have only two governors. We need to strengthen the North, if not, the PDP will be branded as a regional party if we go ahead to pick the national chairman from the South,” the group argued. But former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, who faulted the position of the Buruji group, said the stand was disgraceful to the zone.
His words: “When I read about some of our people from the South-West, who went to see the national chairman and said they didn’t want the party’s chairmanship to come to the South-West, my initial reaction was of anger. “When we started the journey to rebuild the PDP in the South- West, none of those people was a member. How can anybody in a family go out and wash your dirty linen in the market?
But I want to assure them that I have no lustre, it’s not a matter of life and death to come and serve. I was distressed with the news, it was a disgraceful position. “A lot of my friends from the North called and said that we heard some of your people are saying no to the chairmanship, but they said that they have accepted that the presidential candidate would come from the North and that is what they stand on.” Another chieftain of the PDP in the South-West and a member of the party’s BoT, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said: “We are preparing for the convention and we are also watching the antics of these elements, who are all out to distort the party, we can’t allow miscreants to run our party for us. The South-West will talk on our agenda at the convention.”
Despite the insistence of the George group that the South-West should produce the next national chairman of the PDP at the forthcoming convention, the Udom committee reasoned that the party needs to win back the confidence of the people of the North in view of the disenchantment in the region during the 2015 general elections. The party had earlier adopted the report of Senator Ike Ekweremadu- led Post Election Review Committee, which zoned the presidential ticket in 2019 to the North.
The implication of this is that both the presidency and national chairmanship position will remain in the region till 2020. But Jalo, the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, said he was told by a member of the BoT that North-East will be allowed to produce the national chairman while the presidential ticket in 2019 will go to the North-West. Already, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido has declared his intention to seek the party’s presidential ticket. Jigawa is in the North-West. But of all the zones in the North, PDP’s best outing in 2015 general elections was in the North-East, where it won two states – Gombe and Taraba.
Conversely, its worse outing was in North-West, where it was able to win only four House of Representatives and a state Assembly seats. Jalo, who is obviously campaigning for Governor Dankwambo, who will be completing his second term in office in 2019, to pick the presidential ticket, said the decision to zone the presidency to North-West was an unwise one since President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is from the zone.
“There is a sitting APC president from the North-West; that is Muhammadu Buhari. In the whole of zone, we have only one member of House of Assembly from Kaduna South, and four members of House of Representatives. How do you think a presidential ticket there can produce the expected result with Buhari as a sitting president?
“That is my calculation, I may be wrong. But had it been that the presidential ticket is taken to the North-East, we have two state governors – Gombe and Taraba. And other states (from the zone) that are not PDP might likely give PDP votes.
Then, you now go and get the votes from the South West, South East and South-South, in 2019,” he reasoned. Despite the reasons by the Udom committee to justify why it opted for the North-East for the PDP’s national chairmanship position, the general belief is that Sheriff lobbied for the position to be zoned to North-East in order to extend his tenure.
There is also the belief that despite the calculation that the North-West will produce the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 elections, Sheriff is equally interested in the presidency and he may likely resign as national chairman in 2018 to contest for it.
No doubt, Sheriff has the constitutional right to aspire for both the PDP national chairmanship and its presidential ticket, but George has a word of advice for him and the party’s leadership. He said: “Our National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has a very significant role to play in this crucial transitional process as we move towards our congresses and the national convention. His task is very daunting and challenging. I wish him God’s guidance as he manoeuvres carefully in re-establishing a solid foundation for our party.
I implore him to be faithful to his words and his promise in the processes of giving our party a new, strong and firm foundation. “I want to believe the chairman is an honourable man. He must honour his word to handover to an elected chairman at the national convention on May 21. This is the only way that he will be on the positive side of history.”
Okupe, who shares George’s view, in his reaction to the PDP’s NEC adoption of the Udom committee recommendations, said the party had “entered the road to perdition” with the decision. His words: “The PDP has now entered the road to perdition with the appointment of someone who’s only known public image is that he’s a Boko Haram sponsor. This is shameful, and I hope all Nigerians, especially loyal members of the party, reject this unfortunate development.” He added that the decision of the PDP’s NEC, is another slippery slope that the party is unlikely to escape.
“These leaders of the party in NEC decided to ignore the zoning arrangement of the party so that they could impose Sheriff on members; this is a very dangerous cliff that the PDP can never escape. It is over for the party.” But Governor Dankwambo, who spoke on behalf of the PDP Governors’ Forum after the NEC meeting pledged that the party will abide by the decision reached.
“As a party and democrats, we are bound to have disagreement and agreement on issues but once the party takes position, as party members and democrats, we are bound to follow the decision.” The assurance, notwithstanding, the question is: How many PDP members are going to abide by the NEC’s decision? (Culled from New Telegraph)

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