As the clamour for the emergence of a southerner as the president in 2023 continues to generate comments, there are indications that the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, may throw the contest open to all Nigerians, irrespective of their zone.
This comes days after southern state governors, on Monday, met in Lagos and agreed that the successor to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should come from the region.
The 17 southern governors in attendance, who belong to different political parties, also deliberated on insecurity, constitution amendment, the Petroleum Industry Bill and anti-open grazing law in all member-states.
Similarly, members of the House of Representatives from the southern part of Nigeria adopted the resolutions by the Southern Governors’ Forum on the issues, including the rotation of the presidency in 2023.
The lawmakers said members of the House from the 17 southern states “unanimously and unequivocally endorse the patriotic resolution of the SGF on the resolve that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the southern region.”
However, multiple sources among the members of the National Working Committee of the party told Saturday PUNCH that the decision to also zone would be left to the National Executive Committee of the party.
The sources also explained that it would be too early to arrive at which zone would produce the party’s presidential standard-bearer now, when the race had yet to be declared open.
However, they stated that it would be wrong for an opposition party to zone its tickets, saying the party would have to look at some variables and other strategies that could make it win the election in 2023.
They pointed out that, of the 16 years the PDP was in power, southerners were president for about 14 years.
One of the sources noted that the PDP had to take many things into consideration, the first being that the party was not in power. According to the PDP chieftain, the party must, therefore, think about many things before giving out its ticket for 2023.
The source said, “Recall that we (the PDP) were in power for 16 years. Out of that 16 years, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in power for eight years. He handed over to President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007. Unfortunately, the former governor of Katsina State died in May 2010.
“That was when his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, was sworn in as president. Jonathan was re-elected president and was in power till 2015 when he was defeated by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari. So, you will see that the PDP has produced more southerners as presidents.
“Let me also say that as sound as this argument is, it is not the final say because the NEC would have to decide. But the fact still remains that no political party would want to field a weak candidate against a strong opponent and no political party would also want to marginalise other areas and concentrate power at a particular area.”
The NWC member argued that no single zone could singlehandedly produce the president.
“The North needs the South and the South also needs the North. You need to recall the number of years President Buhari had contested the presidential election before the southerners, especially the South-West, embraced him in 2015 and gave him their votes,” the source said.
Another top source stated that the southern governors needed to have gone to their political parties to convince them of the need to zone the ticket to the southern part of the country, adding that their approach could be misinterpreted as ganging up against another zone.
“I think the governors in the South should sell their idea to their colleagues from the North, and then, we will take it up from there,” the source added.
It was learnt that apart from a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal had also indicated to his close friends his desire to run for the presidency in 2023.
Tambuwal, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, was among other aspirants that were defeated by Atiku at the PDP convention in 2018.
No southerner in the party has shown interest in the 2023 presidential race so far.
Our correspondents gathered that a former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, who was a running mate to Atiku in 2019, had yet to indicate if he would run for president in 2023.
It is also unclear whether the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, will be throwing his hat into the ring.
Wike was, however, a die-hard supporter of Tambuwal during the 2018 race for the presidential ticket of the PDP.
“It will be difficult for us to impose candidates on the southern part of the country, if there are no aspirants there who are willing to contest,” another source stated.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a telephone interview, said the party had yet to take a position on the issue of a possible southern presidential candidate in the 2023 election.
Ologbondiyan said, “Currently, the party has not yet taken a position. But the conversation has started with our leaders. Usually, that is how the conversation will start until it crystallises. As some of the leaders of the party are speaking, a discussion has been opened in the public space, but it is not yet before the party.”