Some governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have embarked on fresh move to zone the presidential ticket of the party in the 2023 general election to the South, in line with the position of the 17 southern governors that power should shift to the South in 2023, THISDAY has learnt.
Also, in a first major endorsement for power shift by a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has expressed support for the emergence of a president from the southern part of the country, insisting that the All Progressives Congress (APC) agreed after merger to rotate presidency between North and the South.
This development is coming as the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu has enjoined Nigerians not to be hopeful of any meaningful change from the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration in 2022, saying the ruling party is bent on bringing more hardship to Nigerians.
THISDAY gathered that as part of the strategic consultations to realise this aspiration, some PDP governors had met with one of their colleagues in the North-east to help mount pressure on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to accept the position of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party.
A source close to the governors and who is also privy to the new permutations in the main opposition party told THISDAY off-record that the incumbent chairman of the PDP BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin would be rounding off his tenure before the 2023 general election.
The PDP had zoned its national chairmanship ticket to the North, raising hopes that the presidential candidate would emerge from the southern part of the country.
But the body language of Atiku and some other chieftains of the party from the North has revealed that they are nursing the ambition to contest the position.
However, the source told THISDAY that the PDP governors were working to prevail on Atiku to drop his ambition and allow power to shift to the South for the sake of justice and fairness.
While acknowledging that Atiku is eminently qualified to contest the 2023 presidential election, the source added that the clamour for power shift and the issue of age could work against the former vice president.
“Atiku will be almost 77 years by 2023 as he is currently 75 years and that Nigerians may not accept such an old presidential candidate in view of the present circumstances of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“PDP gave Atiku the ticket in 2019 and may not be in a position to take the same gamble again.
“The governors are thinking of allowing the former vice president to settle for the office of the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT),” he explained.
With the popular agitation for power shift, the source further explained that the two leading political parties – PDP and APC may ensure the repeat of what happened in 1999 where the PDP and the then All Peoples Party (APP) produced two presidential candidates -Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae from the South, to pacify the South-west over the annulment of the 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.
According to the source, a repeat of the 1999 configuration would promote equity and fairness as well as address the agitation against marginalisation.
He noted that if power shifts to the South, the odds would favour the South-east geopolitical zone.
He explained that the PDP stakeholders were buying into the sentiments of ensuring equity and fairness to push for the emergence of the party’s presidential candidate from the South.
According to him, it is feared that if the PDP goes ahead to produce a presidential candidate outside of the southern states and the APC eventually ensures that it picks its presidential candidate from the south, the main opposition party will lose sympathy as many Nigerians will support APC to ensure the emergence of a president of southern extraction by 2023.
“In whatever that we are doing, the continued unity of Nigeria should be taken into consideration. We are all aware of what happened in 1999 when the issue of June 12 threatened the nation.
“What is happening now is more than the June 12 agitation because of the nepotism of the present administration. There must be a Nigeria before we talk of the 2023 general election. There must be unity before everything and everybody must reason on how best to assuage the heightened tension in the country. It will not be business as usual. We must make compromises,” the source further explained.