As the 2023 presidential elections draw nearer, the South-east continues to lay claim on the presidency based on subsisting zoning arrangement. In this report, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU takes a look at the presidential aspirants from the region and their chances of clinching the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has produced three presidents who held sway for 16 years. They are former President Olusegun Obasanjo, 1999-2007; late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, 2007-2010, and former President Goodluck Jonathan, 2010-2015. The party, however, lost power to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections leading to the emergence of President Muhammdu Buhari who is in the twilight of his second term in office.
While Obasanjo and Jonathan, from the southern part of the country, were in charge as President for 14 years the PDP has had only one president from the North, late Yar’Adua, whose presidency lasted less than three years.
The PDP had since the return of democratic rule in 1999 maintained zoning of the presidency under a principle of rotation between North and South, however, the Former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu-led committee had thrown the party’s 2019 Presidential ticket open, however, all the 12 aspirants were from the North.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar subsequently contested as the party’s candidate in 2019.
As agitation for zoning the 2023 presidential ticket gathers momentum, many have argued that for national integration Nigeria’s next president should be from South.
Against this background South-east which is the only zone in the South yet to produce the nation’s president has been tipped in many quarters as the zone to produce the next president.
Jostle for ticket
Considering its stake in PDP this permutation and agitation for zoning the presidency to the South, and micro-zoning to the South-east appear to have significantly affected the number of presidential aspirants jostling for the PDP tickets ahead of the party’s primary election slated for May 28 and 29, 2022.
There six presidential PDP aspirants from the region: former Governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi; former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim; Cosmas Ndukwe; Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze; Sam Ohuabunwa; and Oliver Diana Teriela.
Pundits believe that among these PDP presidential aspirants from the South-east there are contenders and pretenders.
Obi, a major contender
Peter Obi, who was the 2019 PDP vice presidential candidate and two-term former Governor of Anambra state, is seen as standing tall among major presidential aspirants from the South-east and in the PDP in particular.
The 61-year-old graduate of philosophy is highly loved by a section of Nigerians, mostly members of the opposition party because of his sound economic acumen and the humble style of leadership he demonstrated in Anambra state.
Obi also attended the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, London School of Economics for a course in Financial Management and Business Policy, U.S. Kellogg Graduate School of Management and Oxford University in England and Cambridge University’s George Business School in Cambridge, England among others.
He became governor of Anambra state in 2006 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) after the Court of Appeal sacked Chris Ngige of the PDP. However, after his two terms of eight years as governor, he joined the PDP in 2014.
Some party faithful believe Obi has the energy, the understanding of Nigeria’s economy; experience needed to savage Nigeria and should be supported for the party’s ticket; however, others believe the economic guru does not have the political clout to win the PDP’s presidential ticket considering that he joined the party only eight years ago.
Similarly, some political pundits share the opinion it will be difficult for him to clinch the PDP’s ticket. According to these pundits, Obi does not have a say in the number of the delegates in his state, and zone and may not be willing to commit resources to the contest.
Speaking on his chances and that of aspirants from the South-east zone, Obi maintained the region must be allowed to produce the next president of the country.
He insisted that, for the sake of equity, justice and respect for the zone, a president of Igbo extraction must be allowed to rule the nation.
On what stands him out, he said: “You have to check my trajectory as a person, look at all the people that are contesting and view my background; you will probably see that I am the only person who has a very unique background.
“I am a businessman, I have chaired corporations in this country including Stock Exchange Commission (SEC) and so many quoted companies and I have been a governor. It is for you to go and check all those places and see what I have been able to do and ask yourself who is the right person to take leadership of this country at this difficult time.
“Our country is now going through a difficult time. I am not desperate to be a president; I am desperate to see a better Nigeria.”
Anyim in for the long haul
Like Obi, many political observers also believe the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, is not a pushover among aspirants from the South-east jostling for the PDP’s presidential ticket and in the party at large.
The 61-year-old trained lawyer has the energy, the Nigeria political experience and the structure to leverage on to achieve his ambition.
Unlike the governor of Anambra state, Anyim has more control of the party structure and the delegates in Ebonyi. This is because even before the defection of the Ebonyi state Governor, Davi Umahi, to the APC he was a rallying point for the party in the state.
Also, as a former President of the Senate and SGF, who has been in PDP all his political life, Anyim is believed to have friends who among them are party delegates from South-east, South-south, South-west and all the sub-regions in the North.
Political analysts have observed that Anyim appeared serious with his ambition, however, they have reservation that his ability to influence a few delegates may give him upper hand in the South-east, but may not guarantee the PDP ticket.
Speaking on his chances, Anyim said he was confident of winning the PDP ticket.
Others not running to win…
Aside from Obi and Anyim, Blueprint Weekend investigations revealed that the other aspirants may not be in the race to win the party’s ticket, but for other purposes.
A few are in the race to make a statement for the South-east, while others want to use the avenue to negotiate for themselves and the rest are in the race to negotiate for other aspirants that are not necessarily from the South-east.
South-east governor’s factor
Some governors from the South-east region have been identified as setback for the 2023 PDP presidential aspirants from the region. The Governors of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and his Abia state counterpart, Okezie Ikpeazu have respectively been accused of abandoning aspirants from the Igbo extraction to throw their weight behind candidates from another region.
A credible source, who is close to the party leadership in the zone, told Blueprint Weekend that, “The PDP Presidential aspirants from the South-east do not have the support of the governors of Enugu and Abia, because the governors don’t believe they have the capacity.
“Aside from this, these governors are also not convinced that an aspirant from South-east as PDP candidate can return the PDP to power in 2023.”
Similarly, another party helmsman, who did not want his name mentioned, also disclosed that, “Though the governors are agitating for the PDP to zone to South, they don’t want it zoned to the not South-east.
“It will be difficult for an aspirant from the South East to emerge the PDP Presidential candidate because they don’t have the support of the party’s governors from that zone.”
“Let me tell you, at their last meeting last week in Akwa Ibom House, Abuja, the six southern governors that met there agreed on a Southern Presidency but they also silently endorsed the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike for President.”
Zoning to the rescue?
Speaking on the chances of a South-east aspirant picking the party’s ticket, a political analyst Abdullahi Mohammed said the chances of PDP aspirants from the South-east picking the ticket was slim without zoning and support from stakeholders from other parts of Nigeria.
In a phone interview with Blueprint Weekend, Mohammed said: “For any presidential aspirant that wants to succeed, the aspirant will need the support of stakeholders from other zones.
“For these aspirants in the PDP, if it is zoned to South-east they stand a chance. Also, if the aspirants get overwhelming support from stakeholders of the party from other zones they stand a chance.
“Without zoning and support from other zones, their chances are slim. This is because the South-east comprises of five states and they have a few delegates so aspirants from this part of the country are already at a disadvantage.”
Aspirants seek support from other zones
The 2023 presidential hopefuls on the platform of the PDP from the south-east have asked members of the party from other regions to support a candidate from their zone.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the former senate president said they would work with party members from other regions to ensure that the PDP presidential ticket is zoned to the south-east in the interest of “fairness and equity”.
According to him, “It is our knowledge that more aspirants may have obtained forms under PDP. We hope that they will join us a little later.
“So in the interim, four of us that are presidential aspirants on that platform of our great party, the PDP, met this morning and resolved as follows:
“We have agreed to work together as a team. We will work together to ensure that a south-easterner emerges as the PDP flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
“We intend to consult with other zones on this issue and it is based on fairness and equity. In doing so, it is important to note that we have always supported other zones, and we now expect them to reciprocate.”
Anyim said the party’s constitution supports zoning, adding they will stick to their guns on the matter.
“In fact, in line with the PDP constitution, we believe that the PDP constitution favours what we are doing and we have to boldly step out with this decision,” he said.
‘President of Igbo extraction’ll end civil war syndrome’
Former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisah Metuh, has said zoning the party’s presidential ticket to the South-east will end the civil war syndrome.
Metuh, in a chat with journalists in Abuja, said the 2023 general election was critical to the PDP and Nigeria as a whole.
“I am for a Nigerian president from South-east, Igbo extraction but if we must be given it should be based on merit. Not just because of zoning. It should because Igbo can solve Nigeria’s problem. And it will end the civil war syndrome.”