From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja and Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the North have stepped up efforts to produce a consensus chairmanship candidate ahead of the October 30 national convention.
The zoning committee headed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State had zoned the position to the North.
In the aftermath of the zoning, the Northern leaders have held series of meeting on how to harmonise their positions and present a consensus candidate.
After one of its meetings, the three geo-political zones in the North – North East, North Central and North West were requested to present their choice candidates for the chairmanship seat.
The northern PDP leaders, including governors and other party bigwigs were locked in a crucial meeting in Abuja at the time of filing this report, to chose a consensus candidate.
The North Central had in a meeting at the Benue State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja on Tuesday night adopted former Senate president,Iyorchia Ayu.
Governor Samuel Ortom said Ayu would be presented to the larger Northern caucus of the PDP at a meeting in Abuja last night.
“I think that by the grace of God they will also accept him,” the Benue governor stated.
Similarly, the North West PDP, at a meeting, in Abuja, last night, adopted former governor of Kastina State, Ibrahim Shema, as its consensus candidate.
The Northern caucus is expected to pick either Ayu, Shema and whoever the North East will present.
However, former national chairman of the party, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, has said aspirants from North Central would vie for the 2023 presidential ticket notwithstanding the arrangement that gave the nod to the zone to produce the next national chairman.
Baraje, in a statement, noted that the zone would follow to the letter the earlier declaration of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that zoning of party offices would not affect who flies the party flags for various elective offices.
He advised that the PDP should sustain its tradition of justice, equity and fairness by ensuring that the zone, which has not produced a substantive national chairman in the North is allowed to present a candidate capable of leading the party to victory in the next election.
He added that the North Central has produced five national chairmen in the 23-year history of the PDP while the North East has produced two. The North West has produced only one interim chairman and a caretaker chairman.
“From late Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbeh, Ahmadu Alli, Barnabas Gemade, and myself, all of us from North Central have led the party at different times. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Alhaji Adamu Muazu from North East have emerged as national chairman while Dr. Haliru Bello spent only one year as acting chairman with Ahmed Makarfi serving as caretaker chairman. With this history, in the spirit of fairness and equity, the North West is most suitable to produce the next chairman.
“We have noted that some leaders outside the North Central zone are scheming and exerting a lot of energy to push the national chairmanship position to the North Central zone to ensure that the post is not in their zone. If the chairman eventually comes from the North Central, it is just an extra for us. Presidential aspirants from the zones will still vie for the post.
“Let it be noted that it is our position in the North Central that we stand by the earlier announcement by the party leadership that the presidential ticket will be free for all qualified aspirants to seek. We believe the party should respect its publicly declared position.
“It is not in the interest of the party for leaders to impose their will on the people. Leaders must consult widely and ensure that their decisions reflect the will and aspiration of the people on any issue. The issue of how we source the leadership of our party and who flies the flag of the party in the general election should reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people. Leaders must act in the best interest of the party and the nation. Anything short of that is courting needless crisis,” Baraje stated.