From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Ahead of the December 9 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), tension is mounting in the opposition party.
Party chieftains across the country are threatening fire and brimstone over the micro-zoning of party offices by the various chapters of the PDP across the six geo-political zones in the country, and the refusal of the party leadership to micro-zone the national chairmanship of the opposition party.
There are 12 key seats for grabs at the national convention of the party holding in Abuja this Saturday. In line with its zoning principle, the party divided the positions between the northern and southern parts of the country.
Among the positions zoned to the north include: Deputy National chairman (2), National Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Women leader, National Financial Secretary and National Auditor.
On the other hand, the south is expected to produce the National chairman, Deputy National chairman (1), National Organising Secretary, National Youth Leader and National Legal Adviser.
Similarly, the party also zoned the positions of Deputy National Treasurer, Deputy National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Youth Leader, Deputy National Legal adviser and Deputy National Secretary to the north.
While the positions of Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Deputy National Woman leader, Deputy National Auditor and Deputy National Financial Secretary were ceded to the south.
Interestingly the north and south have zoned the offices allotted to them to geo-political zones, which also further shared the positions among the states. But the chairmanship position was not micro-zoned.
In the north, the positions of Deputy National Chairman(2), National Secretary And National Publicity Secretary were zoned to the north east, north west and north central respectively .
In the same vein leaders of the party in the South have zoned the positions of National Organising Secretary, National Legal adviser and National Treasurer to the south east, south south and south west respectively. The south east is also expected to produce the National Youth leader.
But the party leadership has come under intense pressure to micro-zone the chairmanship seat to one of the geo-political zone in the south, particularly the south west. Party stalwarts from the zone are angry with the PDP National Caretaker Committee for not micro-zoning the chairmanship to their area.
Proponents for the micro-zoning of the chairmanship to the south west say anything short of that would be a recipe for crisis in the party .
For former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, the PDP leadership must of necessity micro- zone the chairmanship position to South West. Adeniran, who is one of the six chairmanship aspirants from the South West insisted that anything short of that would spell doom for the party.
Adeniran, who spoke through Director General of his Campaign organisation, Shehu Gabam, said “the chairmanship of PDP must go to the south west. Anyone who under-estimates the South west, is doing so at his own peril. By consensus, this chairmanship must go to the South west. Whoever emerges so be it.”
Apart from Adeniran, other leaders of the party from the south west are also pushing for the position to be ceded to their zone.
After a recent meeting of the South West PDP leaders in Ibadan, they called on the party to stick to an earlier decision, purportedly reached at the botched elective convention of the party in Port Harcourt, in May 21, ceding the party chairmanship to their zone in the forth coming convention.
However, a national chairmanship aspirant, Prince Uche Secondus, said there was never time the position was micro -zoned to any geo-political zones.
Secondus, who hails from the south south, explained that it was only in the botched May 21, 2016 Port Harcourt convention that the chairmanship was micro-zoned.
He added “there was no time in this coming convention that the office (national chairmanship) was micro-zoned. The office of national chairman is zoned to 17 southern states of the federation. The same way the presidential ticket of the party is zoned to the 19 states in the north, including the FCT. Let’s not dwell on misinterpretation; aspirants know this, unless they want to be mischievous”.
Ironically, the argument whether or not to micro-zone the position has polarised the northern caucus of the party. While the northern PDP Elders and Forum expressed open support for the micro-zoning of the chairmanship seat to South West, another interest group, the PDP Young Northern Politicians of Like Minds said it stands with position of the party leadership that chairmanship seat is open to all the 17 states in Southern Nigeria.
After its meeting last Friday in Abuja, the PDP Northern Elders and Leaders Forum issued a communique micro-zoning the chairmanship position to the south west.
The communique jointly signed by former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and former speaker, Benue House of Assembly, Mrs Margret Ichen, directed Northern delegates to the convention to vote for only chairmanship aspirants from the south west.
“After extensive deliberations, it was resolved that, in the spirit of fairness, equity, carrying every part of the country along, giving every geo-political zone a sense of participation and inclusion in the affairs of the PDP, we strongly support the quest of the south west geo-political zone to produce the next National Chairman of the party.
“ …we urge delegates from all the northern states to abide by this decision and vote for only aspirants from the south west geo-political zone in the forthcoming national convention in the best interest of the party….” the forum said.
However in a swift reaction, the PDP Northern Young politicians led by a former House of Representatives member, Sanni Kutigi denounced the elders.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, Kutigi, who was supported by former acting governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintri among other members of the group said the position of the PDP Northern Elders Forum was at variance with position of the entire northern caucus on the chairmanship of the party.
He added that since the southern caucus of the PDP has refused to micro-zone the chairmanship seat, it was not the business of the north to do it for them.
Besides, the former lawmaker, who said he participated in the meeting of Northern PDP Elders and Leaders Forum stated that the issue of micro-zoning the party chairmanship to any part of the country was never discussed.
On its part, the National Caretaker Committee has continued to maintain that the chairmanship seat is open for contest to the 17 southern state, arguing that asking it to micro-zone the position would amount to arrogating to it a power it does not have.
National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye told journalists recently that the caretaker committee was only complying with the decision of the party’s convention, which zoned positions between North and South.
He pointed out that “we however recognize that both North and South may politically micro zone positions to geo-political zones and the geo-political zones to states. The north micro-zoned and other zones are micro-zoning without recourse to PDP Headquarters.
“We also understand that the south of recent is doing so, but up to now have not been able to reach agreement on Chairmanship and Deputy Chairman. If this is not sorted out before the Convention, it means the matter can only be settled at the Convention.”
Interestingly, while proponents of the micro-zoning of the chairmanship position are angry with the party for its stance on the issue; contestants for other offices who feel short-changed by the micro-zoning in their areas are accusing the party leadership of impunity.
For instance in the north west, party chieftains are kicking against the micro-zoning of the positions of National Secretary and Woman leader .
An aspirant for the position of national secretary, Abubakar Mustapha would prefer that the position is thrown open to the seven states in the north west, just the same the chairmanship is open to all the states in Southern Nigeria.
He added “We have heard that there is no micro-zoning. The National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi repeatedly told Nigerians that there would be no micro-zoning. Unfortunately, what we are beginning to understand now is that non micro-zoning is only for the position of the National Chairman. But for other positions, they can do micro-zoning. So, we don’t understand it. If one position is not allowed to be micro-zoned, why should you then micro-zone other positions, which are even less in terms of protocol than the national chairman?”
Similarly, the decision of the north to micro-zone the position of the National Publicity Secretary to North Central has equally not gone down well with aspirants from other parts of the north.
A former commissioner in Taraba State, Emmanuel Bello, who was one of the earliest entrants into the contest for the office of National Publicity Secretary was forced to quit the contest, when party leaders insisted that the position has been micro-zoned.
Adeyeye said the party leadership is free from any sort of blame on the micro-zoning imbroglio. According to him, officially, the caretaker committee only recognises the zoning of positions between North and South by the party’s convention.
Analysts argue that micro-zoning of positions on its own is not all together bad as it gives room for all interest groups to be accommodated.
However, a school of thought say the problem is that often time, zoning a position to a particular state in a way is tantamount to zoning it to certain individuals, while others from the same areas who are not so favoured are technically shut out.
For instance, in the south east, the position of National Organising Secretary was micro-zoned to Abia State; where the party leaders there settled for a former PDP National Vice Chairman in the zone, Col Austin Akobundu (retd) as its choice, to the chagrin of other party stalwarts interested in the position.
Also, in Kogi State, where the National Publicity Secretary is micro-zoned, Daily Sun gathered that the position was allegedly ceded to a former governor of the state, who has in turn pencilled down one of his supporters to fill the slot.
An aspirant for the position of National Woman Leader, Dr Baraka Umar says though micro -zoning is intended to engender equity, it must not be at the expense of fairness.
“When it (micro-zoning) results to pinning down positions to names and states, I believe it is not good for the party,” Umar said.
But Adeyeye countered, saying as a measure to ensure that the convention is devoid of impunity, adding that the caretaker committee has opened the sale of nomination forms to all aspirants irrespective of the micro-zoning across the zones.
The import of the PDP spokesman’s stance, it was gathered, is that the micro-zoning does not preclude anyone from contesting for any position. However, that is easier said than done.
Both the party and the individual contestants know that with the brand of politics in this clime, it is foolhardy for any person to contest for a position for which party leaders have decided who gets it and where it should go to.
Interestingly, there are a lot of aspirants across the country that are ready to brave the odds and contest for positions of their choice at the PDP convention this Saturday, irrespective of the micro-zoning.