Kassim Afegbua, one of the former spokespersons of Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign, recently said , among other things that: “For me, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should quit his quest for presidency and support a Southern Nigerian candidate in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice, that will assuage the feelings of stakeholders from the Southern part of Nigeria. It will be against the run of play and natural justice for any aspirant of Northern extraction to show interest in the 2023 presidential election within the Peoples’ Democratic Party threshold.
It will offend national sentiments, emotions and logic for anyone from the North to show such interest given our diversities and heterogeneous political configurations. Given PDP’s doctrine of political power balancing and fairness, it will be against its own unwritten rule to cede the ticket to any Northern aspirant least of all Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
While it is undemocratic to ask a qualified Nigerian not to contest for Presidency, we agree substantially that Atiku Abubakar has had his time and opportunities. He was presented in 2018/2019 as the only one with the capacity, the financial muscle, the experience to beat President Buhari. He fluffed the chance given to him by PDP. Age is also not on his side on 2023. Nigerians have become weary of his perennial and perpetual candidature. It may be time for him to give a younger person a chance.
But we fundamentally disagree with Afegbua’s position that “It will be against the run of play and natural justice for any aspirànt of Northern extraction to show interest in the 2023 presidential election within the Peoples’ Democratic Party threshold.” Nothing can be further from the truth.
Politics in Nigeria under the 1999 Constitution is played by political Parties, not interest groups, geopolitical groups or even individuals. It is political parties that can field candidates. Nigeria as an entity cannot field a candidate. The North or South cannot field a candidate too.
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It is disingenuous for any one to mix up the fortunes and tactics of the political parties.
In the APC, President Buhari from the North is about to complete eight years, so it is perfectly normal for APC to look for a candidate from the Southern part of the country to fly its flag in 2023.
The matter is not the same in PDP , which is a distinct political party, governed by its rules and traditions. In PDP, under its constitution the principle of zoning and rotation is respected. President Obasanjo from the South held office as President for eight years. By an accident of history, President Goodluck Jonathan from the South has also held the office of President for six years. This is a cumulative period of 14 years that the Presidency of Nigeria under PDP has been domiciled in the South.
The Northern part of Nigeria has held the Presidency of Nigeria under PDP for less than three years, under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
So where is the justice, equity and fairness in the demand that the PDP should choose their presidential candidate from the South?
It makes no political sense and no amount of propaganda can change the facts. PDP is not APC. PDP members should not be confused with the politics of APC.
It should be noted that Obasanjo from the South contested against General Buhari from the North. Nobody mentioned that it was the turn of the North or South, because different parties are governed by their own interests. The PDP should be governed by permutations that will give it victory. A blanket ban on any region from contesting for presidency under PDP is manifestly and patently unreasonable, unjust, unfair and contrary to natural justice. It is wrong and will not fly in a democracy. As a matter of fact the North has better claims to the PDP ticket than the South in 2023.
We think that in the greater interest of the PDP we should abide by the earlier PDP National Executive Committee decision that threw open the presidential ticket of PDP to all zones. Let the best candidate that can win the election for the PDP and change the terrible mess APC has turned Nigeria into, to emerge.
•Hon (Engr) Muktar is a former Deputy Majority Whip, House of Representatives, and
Chairman PDP Justice & Equity Group.