Immediate past National Secretary, Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ben Obi, has dismissed as unnecessary the brewing tussle for the vice presidential slot of the party, saying the position had been zoned to the South-East.
The zoning of VP slot to the South-East, according to Obi, is one of the recommendations of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu’s committee, which had been adopted by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party.
After losing the 2015 presidential election to the All Progressives Congress, APC, the first time an incumbent party was losing a presidential election in Nigeria, the PDP raised the Ekweremadu committee, which was handed a nine-point terms of reference, the sum of which was to find out what went wrong and to chart a trajectory for the restoration of the fortunes of the party.
Speaking on the issue in a telephone chat with Vanguard, Tuesday, Senator Obi said: ”After the 2015 election, the party set up the Ekweremadu Committee. The Committee recommended that the party should zone the Presidency to the North and the Vice Presidency to the South-East. The National Working Committee, NWC, endorsed the recommendations of the committee.”
Following Sunday’s emergence of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential candidate of the PDP, there had been a rat race of sort between the South-East and South-West geo-political zones to produce his running mate.
Some names mentioned in connection with the vice Presidency position include former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi; Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Osita Chidoka, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, and Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, among others.
Why Atiku must pick vice from S/W – PDP chieftain
A chieftain of the PDP from the South-West, who preferred anonymity, advised Atiku to pick his running mate from the South-West or perish the thought of securing the support of the zone at the 2019 poll.
The PDP chieftain, who was a member of the convention planning committee, said the advice became necessary, in view of the “ill treatment” meted out to the zone by the party in recent times.
According to him, the entire PDP family is ready to work tirelessly for the victory of the party, adding, however, that equity must not again be glossed over in picking the running mate on the party’s presidential ballot.
Bemoaning what he described as “the denial of the South-West the ”national chairmanship of our party,” in the December 2017 convention, he said the zone should not be looked over again in the choice of a running mate.
He said: “Now that we have a candidate to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, we must be fair to the South-West which has been taken for granted in the scheme of things for quite a while now. Anything short of the Vice Presidency slot will not be acceptable to our people.
“Last year, a lot of intrigues played out at our convention and we were denied the opportunity to produce the chairman. A prominent Nigerian and one of our leaders, Bode George backed out of the race and a few others who couldn’t comprehend what was going on left for other parties.
“But we stayed on and were able to prevail on our people to have faith in the party. Now that the convention has come and gone, I advise our candidate to pick his running mate from the South-West to win majority of our people’s votes.”
Tough decision awaits Atiku, PDP
Indeed, the PDP hierarchy will have a tough task picking a running mate given the ongoing tussle, the massive support the party enjoys in the South-East and the threat the South-West constitutes with a serving vice president from the zone, who is standing for a re-election. The party leadership and Atiku, according to reports will meet on the issue today.
Apart from zoning the Presidency to the North, other recommendations of the Ekweremadu Committee include zoning the national chairmanship to the South, and strict application of the zoning principle at all levels.
While presenting the report on September 30, 2015, Ekweremadu had said: “It is also recommended to the party to strictly apply the zoning principle at all levels.
”In particular, since the last President of PDP extraction came from the southern part of Nigeria, it is recommended that PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections should come from the northern part of the country.
”This is in accordance with the popular views expressed in the submissions to the Committee. This will also assuage any ill feelings in the North over any perceived breach of the party’s zoning principle.”
While adopting the report of the committee on October 15, 2015, the NWC said it would implement the recommendations.
National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, while receiving the report, said: “The NWC had agreed that for us to move this party forward, we must obey our constitution; we must follow our rule and the principle of zoning, which is very important. Therefore, we agree with the committee absolutely that the presidential candidate of our party in 2019 will come from the North.’’
Secondus promised that the NWC would implement the recommendations of the committee’s report to the latter, without any fear, for the survival of the party.
“The NWC will commence the implementation of this report by passing it through all consultative and decision making organs of the party up to the National Executive Committee, NEC, and the National Convention Committee. “Equally, you can be assured that those of us in the NWC will put in place machinery to review and implement recommendations that are very urgent.’’ he added.