Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), ahead of its primaries, has decided to throw open its 2023 presidential ticket to all zones of the country. This was contrary to its earlier contemplation of zoning the ticket to the Southern part of the country.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba disclosed this at the end of the PDP’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Wednesday, 11th May 2022.
The decision to throw the ticket open, he stated, was in line with the recommendation made by the party’s zoning committee.
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He said, “After a very extensive deliberation, NEC aligned with the recommendation of the PDP National Zoning Committee that the Presidential Election should now be left open. The party should also work towards consensus candidate where possible.
“NEC noted the recommendation of the Zoning Committee that in the interest of justice and fair play, the Party should take decision on Zoning timeously so as to prevent complications to the process.”
Mr Ologunagba further disclosed the PDP would conduct the Presidential Primary, Special National Convention, to elect the party’s presidential candidate on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29, 2022 in Abuja.
According to the spokesperson, the National Convention Organizing Committee would be headed by former Senate President, David Mark, with the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as Deputy Chairman and erstwhile Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema as Secretary.
It’s noteworthy that the announcement came weeks after the zoning committee submitted its recommendations to the PDP NEC.
The 37-member committee, headed by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, was set up by the party in March, 2022 and asked to make recommendations on a zoning formula for the various electoral offices ahead of next year’s polls.
Though some members of the panel had earlier hinted that it asked the party to throw the presidential ticket open owing to exigency of time, Mr Ortom, however, dismissed the report.
The party’s decision on zoning comes amid calls and expectations that it would zone the presidential ticket to the South, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The party’s presidential screening committee headed by Mr Mark has already screened 17 presidential aspirants who had purchased and returned the nomination and expression of interest forms.
The discord in the party, in the past few weeks, over zoning has been between two groups: the pro-zoning group mostly made up of Southern leaders who believe it’s time for the South to produce the next president having had a Northern president ruled the country for the past eight years as well as the late Musa Yar’Adua as the party’s last candidate, who equally hailed from the North.
Also, the anti-zoning group, mostly comprised northern leaders, who want the ticket thrown open because they believe they stand a chance of winning the primaries and eventually the main election, and because in the last 16 year-rule of the PDP in the country, two Southern presidents – Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, ruled for the most part of it.
Some members of the panel who support an open ticket have, however, argued that aspirants ought to be allowed to either test their strength and popularity at the party’s primary or adopt a consensus candidate.
The eventual throwing of the PDP’s presidential ticket open to all zones across Nigeria is arguably a big challenge to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who has equally been perturbed over the calls for the party to zone its apex ticket to the South, particularly the South-East.
At this juncture, the APC would apparently be left with no choice than to also throw the party’s ticket open to every zone, because doing otherwise might give the PDP an advantage towards victory at the main polls.
This perhaps might be the reason behind the APC’s U-turn over zoning of the party’s ticket, having earlier decided to zone the ticket to the South. It could be it was waiting to observe the decision that would be made by the main opposition party, the PDP.