The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will have to conduct another national convention if the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 general election emerges from the North, Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, has said.
The party zoned its national chairmanship position to the Northern part of the country at its national convention last month at Eagles Square, Abuja. At the end of the exercise, Iyorchia Ayu, a former Senate President, was elected as the new national chairman.
Though not yet formally announced, the party, led by its governors, has agreed to throw the presidential ticket open in order to allow all intending aspirants from the North and Southern parts of the country to participate in the presidential primary.
It was also gathered that as part of the deal reached before his emergence as national chairman, Ayu agreed to step down from his position if the presidential candidate emerges from the North, as the presidential candidate and national chairman cannot come from the same zone.
The earlier belief was that if Ayu steps down, the Deputy National Chairman (South) will assume office as the party’s helmsman.
Many believe it was why the position was hotly contested for between Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Osun State governor and Taofeek Arapaja, former deputy governor of Oyo State, who eventually won the election.
However, speaking exclusively with Daily Independent, George, who kicked against throwing the presidential ticket open, said the South should produce the party’s flagbearer since the North already has national chairman.
He said the party will have to conduct another convention to rezone all the positions if a Northerner wins the presidential ticket.
He said, “Once the presidential candidate emerges from the North, we will have to go back to another convention to rezone all those positions. The positions that were in the South before the convention are now all in the North and all the positions in the North are now in the South. The chairmanship and the presidency cannot come from the same zone. We will have to do another convention where all those positions that are already in the North will come down to the South and vice versa.”
When reminded that Ayu already signed an undertaking to step down if the presidential candidate emerges from the North, George said, “If he steps down, then we go to convention and elect a new chairman.
Ayu is a thoroughbred member of the party. He knows the culture, norms and procedure in the party. He is well groomed and has a robust character. He will be truthful and honest. That is why he said if the presidential candidate comes from the North, he will have to resign.
“We don’t handpick national chairmen. They are elected at convention. So, if the presidential candidate emerges from the North, vice president will come from the South, Senate President will come from the North, Speaker will come from the South, SGF will come from the North and the national chairman will come from the South. These are serious positions and must be contested for and elected through a national convention.”
On the belief by some that the deputy national chairman (South) automatically takes over as national chairman if Ayu steps down, George said only a convention can produce a national chairman as anyone who takes over without being properly elected at a convention will not be recognized and all his actions will be deemed illegal.
“For those saying the second in command to Ayu takes over if he resigns, that is a load of trash. You just can’t emerge because it will affect us legally. You have to be elected by a convention, not through wuru wuru or fraudulent means. That can never happen. Anybody appointed or elected without a national convention is a 419. He has no status whatsoever. If he signs any letter and sends to INEC, they will reject and say they don’t recognize him and that is dangerous.
“So, if anybody is thinking in that line, they don’t understand the workings of the party. We will go back to the national convention and these people will emerge through that process. Otherwise, asking another person to take over without being elected is completely illegal.”
Also speaking on claims that the governors have totally taken over full control of the party, George admitted that there was a leadership vacuum in the party since there was no presidential candidate yet and the governors had to step in in order to stabilize the party.
It is true. It looks like the governors have a role to play and I plead that they themselves must be fair, just and equitable. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. There can’t be a vacuum at the leadership. The leadership usually should be whoever had won the presidential ticket and until another fellow comes out, he remains the leader of the party. There was a vacuum, the presidential candidate was not available and the governors took over the management.
“Yes, there is the PDP Governors’ Forum but the way it is going, we need to be fair, honest and be genuine to ourselves. That is the only thing that can save our party now”.
When contacted, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party’s Publicity Secretary, said there are many issues on the table concerning the issue of zoning of the presidential ticket but added that “no concrete decision has been taken yet.”
Also speaking, Diran Odeyemi, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, said the PDP will look at the legal implications of the circumstances and do what conforms with the constitution of the Federal Republic.
“The party will look into legal implications of the circumstances, ensure whatever we do conforms to Nigeria’s constitution and electoral laws. Above all we shall know how to cross the bridge when we get there.”