George, Olafeso, Odeyemi Say Practice Not Strange
• Action Present Party As ‘Being Clever By Half’ – Afegbua
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has explained that its decision to allow aspirants contesting various positions in the 2023 general elections to buy nomination forms ahead of the determination of its zoning formula is in order.
Political analysts, particularly within the PDP, had expressed misgivings on steps being taken in determining the zoning formula for the presidency having allowed presidential aspirants to collect nomination forms when its committee on zoning is yet to be inaugurated.
But national publicity secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian declared that the PDP, being a party of due process, has always acted in full compliance with its guidelines, its constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to him, the fact that aspirants were collecting forms ahead of zoning is demonstration of PDP’s respect for the constitution in respect of the right of people to aspire.
“There is nothing wrong in what PDP has done. We set up a committee to determine the zoning arrangement and people are at the same time collecting nomination forms. People have their right to aspire to any position. We are not going to stop them!
“We also have our constitution and rules guiding actions in the party. At the end, we always encourage discussions among ourselves on the way forward. Whenever the zoning committee comes up with its report, we will subject it to our internal mechanism for resolving matters in a democracy. There is no cause for alarm,” Ologunagba stressed.
A former Commissioner in Edo State, Kassim Afegbua, however, contended that something was amiss with the party’s approach of selling forms to aspirants ahead of the determination of the zoning formula.
Afegbua believes that it amounts to “being clever by half” for the PDP, which gave its presidential ticket to the North in 2019, to begin to set up a committee to determine zoning in 2023.
“And even when that committee is yet to be properly set up, the party is selling forms to aspirants. It means that the outcome has be predetermined,” he submitted.
Afegbua also argued that setting up a 37-member committee on zoning with members drawn from all states of the Federation and the FCT meant that the North would be favoured because the region had more states.
However, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), Senator Abdul Ningi, said there was nothing wrong because the party couldn’t have precluded members from running for any position of their choice ahead of the zoning.
He said PDP has established the tradition of not being dogmatic about regionalism, adding that it was the reason most members supported Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 against Northern aspirants even when the zoning favoured the North.
In similar vein, former Deputy National Chairman, PDP, Chief Olabode George, erstwhile national vice chairman Southwest, Dr Eddy Olafeso and its former Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Prince Diran Odeyemi stressed that the setting up of the 37-man Committee does not prevent anyone from obtaining the presidential form.
They told The Guardian that this is not the first time anyone would obtain presidential form of PDP against the zoning pattern adopted by the party’s NEC, pointing out that similar scenario happened in 1998/1999, when Alhaji Abubakar Rimi from the North obtained form and contested the party’s presidential ticket with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In his reaction, George said the committee should go and brainstorm and look at ways the issue of zoning as established by the founding fathers of PDP in 1998 would play out now.
While he insisted that the zoning norm must be respected to give every zone the sense of belonging, George said the party has no right to stop anybody from obtaining form.
He, however, insisted that the zoning norm must be respected, saying, if the committee decided that for exigency sake the presidency should be thrown open, if it favours the North, the incumbent national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu must respect his earlier promise to step down.
Olafeso said that the circumstances at play in Nigerian politics now required that the PDP must be dynamic and flexible. “If they discovered that the presidential ticket will give the party an edge if it remains in the North, so be it. That is what is at play now.”
Odeyemi also justified the setting up of the committee to examine whether zoning is workable for PDP to win 2023 election.
He also said there is no cause to fear over the fact that some northerners have obtained form. He said, “Since the time, according to the Election Timetable, is against everybody, the wise thing to do for whoever wants to contest is to obtain form.
“What of if they didn’t obtain form and time is against them. By the time the committee comes up with its recommendation, it will be late to go back to obtain the form.”