The 94th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, rose in support of the governors of the party, and unanimously adopted the report of the National Convention Zoning Committee (NCZC), chaired by the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, which last week, zoned the national chairmanship of the party to the north.

By implications and standard practice in the PDP, the development might have further brightened the possibility of a southern presidential candidate, being the fallout of other zoning options that could be open to the party as it journeys to the 2023 elections.

The meeting also pulled a smart one, when it declined to consider a report by the Governor Bala Mohammed committee, which recommended throwing the presidential ticket open, but deferred the decision to yet another NEC meeting at a later date.

These, nonetheless, former Vice President and presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has lent support to the idea of open presidential ticket, insisting that the people should be allowed to decide who their presidential choice would be.
This is as the meeting of the Northern PDP stakeholders and their elected governors, last night, failed to reach an agreement on the micro-zoning of the office of the national chairman, because everyone wanted to take their chances at the opportunity.

In a related development, the suspended national chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus, said he was in court to stop an alleged blackmail, planned hijack, and plot to destroy PDP. His case is currently at the Court of Appeal.

Briefing newsmen after the NEC meeting, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the report of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi committee was unanimously adopted.
Ologbondiyan maintained that the zoning committee was given the mandate to zone national offices to be contested by all PDP members at the party’s National Convention scheduled for October 30 and 31.
Though the decision was unanimous, it was gathered that Senator Abdul Ningi from Bauchi State and Shuiabu Oyedokun from Osun State spoke briefly against the zoning of the party’s leadership offices.

But Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde was said to have quickly countered Oyedokun, stating that anyone from the South-west, who spoke against the zoning arrangement was speaking for himself.
Another NEC member told THISDAY that most of the party’s stakeholders from the North could not present any strong opposition to the zoning, because some of them had started seeing themselves as national chairmanship candidates.

The NEC meeting mandated the stakeholders to meet at the zonal level and share the offices allocated to them and thereafter inform the party of the decisions reached.
But on the zoning of the presidential ticket, Ologbondiyan said the report was referred to another NEC meeting, where it would be decided.

Another source at the meeting said although the northern PDP members wanted to initiate a discussion around the Bala Mohammed committee report, knowing full well it would lead to discussing the presidential ticket, the meeting immediately shut it down and insisted it should be moved to the next NEC.

The NEC meeting had a large attendance.
Meanwhile, Secondus, in a statement by his media aide, Ike Abonye, claimed his legal effort was to stop the hijack of the party. He alleged that he had been the subject of blackmail since the onset of the plan to hijack the soul of PDP by one of the governors.

The statement said, “First was the baseless lies that Prince Secondus as National Chairman was not meeting up with his obligations at his ward level in Rivers State. It was based on such ridiculous lies that they approached the court to get the purported interim order. After the interim order based on such frivolous story, the said governor and his errand boys went ahead to get the court ruling against Prince Secondus.

“For being so treated and victimised without any justification whatsoever after almost four years of selfless service to the party, Prince Secondus is left with no option but to fight for his fundamental rights by approaching the court to seek redress and correct the blackmail and concoctions.
“Notwithstanding the frivolous nature of the allegations, Secondus on his own as a strong believer in the rule of law decided to respect the court by staying away while seeking the necessary right that should correct the judicial ambush against him and the party.

“While awaiting the outcome of the case presently at the Court of Appeal, the blackmail has continued unabated with fabrications and all kinds of laughable lies to the fact that Prince Secondus is romancing with the opposition.”

The statement said Secondus had maintained a clean record in the party from his days as State Chairman, National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Chairman, to National Chairman in December 2017.
Speaking earlier at the 94th NEC meeting, Atiku said fairness should decide the party’s presidential candidate. He stated, “The Peoples Democratic Party has the right to determine its rules on how the party should be governed. The people of Nigeria also have the right to determine who governs them. Where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria.”

He spoke on how PDP had managed the question of zoning, saying, “I can cite examples, neither will it be the solution. There is no such thing: he is a president from southern Nigeria, or a president from northern Nigeria. There is only one, a president from Nigeria, for Nigeria and by Nigerians.”
Continuing, Atiku said, “Talking about inclusions, I would like to see a new National Working Committee of our great party that has sizable numbers of our youths and woman. The decision of NEC today will either see PDP into the villa in 2023 or not. Since inception, this party has faced serious challenges, and has risen above sentiments to solve those challenges and move forward.”

The former vice president narrated, “Now, let me come to historical events, which I said I was going to cite. Those of us who served in the constitutional conference, which drafted the current constitution of Nigeria, should remember that after we finished drafting the constitution, we all met as members of the constitutional conference and resolved to correct the injustice that was done to a particular part of this country.

“And we said, in whichever party you found yourself, your presidential candidate must come from the South-west, because Abiola had won election, it was annulled. Not only was he annulled he was killed.
“So, we all agreed as members, and we went out of the constitutional conference and we formed our parties: those of us who formed PDP from PDP; those who formed AD from AD
“At the end of the day, two parties emerged. PDP picked General Obasanjo and AD picked Olu Falae. All of these showed you that Nigerians have a sense of fairness. Professor Jerry Gana, is that not what happened? More or less?

“Distinguished members of NEC, in 2003, all the PDP governors met at the villa and said they were not going to support President Obasanjo for a second term, that I should run. I now referred them to the resolution of NEC, where NEC decided that power should remain in the South-west for eight years. How do you now want me to go against the resolution of NEC? And I turned it down. And we moved on.

“So, this country has a sense of fairness. This country has a sense of justice. This country has a sense of equity. Therefore, this thing that is inbuilt in our party, we should be able to use it, to imbibe it to make sure today’s deliberations are in the best interest of our party, in the best interest of Nigeria, which will ultimately give us the victory that we asked for, to go back to the villa.”

Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, said the recent political reports and speculations on the PDP had generated widespread public debate regarding the direction of the party ahead of the national convention and the 2023 general election. He explained that such public interest in activities of the PDP strongly pointed to the huge confidence Nigerians reposed in the party.
Elumelu lamented the current security and economic challenges faced by the country under the All Progressives Party (APC).

Interestingly, a meeting of the Northern PDP stakeholders, held last night, has thrown up another challenge over its national chairmanship, with many of their major players already showing interest in the office.

The meeting held at the Bauchi State governor’s lodge, Abuja, saw the northern stakeholders reject the proposals by the governors of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed; Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, that the North Central zone should swap offices with those in the South-south zone.

After the stakeholders had rejected the swapping of the offices between the North Central and South-south, the meeting decided that what position to micro-zone to which state should be among the 19 northern states.

“There was a disagreement. They tried to zone it to the North Central, which was rejected by the committee. So, what they did was that the 19 states and the FCT nominated one person each into a committee.

“The committee is to sit down with the governors to review individuals, who would show interest in positions zoned to the north so as to decide, who among them is the most suitable for the positions, so as to back the person,” a source, who attended the meeting said.

As a result, the meeting gave all persons from the north till this morning (Friday) to decide and indicate to the group what post he or she sought to vie for.
Already, four persons have indicated interest in the job. While two were from the North East, the other two were from the North West.

From North West were a former Governor of Kaduna State, who also served as PDP Caretaker National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and the former Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, who was deputy national chairman of party.

However, from the North East were the incumbent PDP Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Suleiman Nazif and former Governor of Gombe State, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo. There is also talk of a a former President of the Senate, David Mark indicating interest in the top job of the party. But this is unconfirmed. Mark hails from North Central.

In another breath, a statement by the Chairman, Electoral Sub-Committee and Governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, has scheduled a meeting of all sub-committee members for this weekend.
“In preparation for the 2021 National Convention of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), all members of the Electoral Sub-Committee are invited to a meeting scheduled to hold as follows: Saturday the 9th of October, 2021. The venue is NEC Hall of the PDP National Secretariat, Wadata Plaza and the time is 11.AM prompt.”

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