A member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, yesterday said if the party had stuck religiously to the principle of zoning as entrenched in its Constitution, its 2023 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, would not have become its flag bearer.
George, a former military governor of Ondo State, who spoke on Arise News, said the former vice president was allowed to contest, and eventually won the presidential ticket based on an in-house agreement that opposed the provision of the party’s constitution.
He said, “On the issue of constitutionality, I referred you to the fact that our party’s constitution explicitly states and I quote: ‘there will be zoning and rotation of elective offices and party offices’ and if we had stuck rigidly to that, there was no chance for Atiku to have emerged as the presidential candidate.”
George also lambasted those faulting the calls for the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
There are growing calls among the PDP stalwarts spearheaded by Wike, asking Ayu to step down from the position to allow peace and stability in the party.
The former Ondo State military administrator had during a recent press conference in Lagos called for Ayu’s resignation while making a case for the position to be filled by a southerner.
Defending his call for Ayu’s resignation yesterday on Arise News, George said it was surprising that some party members were advocating for the anti-Ayu group to respect the constitutional provision that supports a new chairman to emerge from the same zone as Ayu even if he (Ayu) resigns.
The elder statesman explained that if the party members could abandon the constitution and allow all zones to contest, when in fairness, the presidency should have been zoned to another region aside from the North, then the same can apply to Ayu’s situation for another chairman to come from the South.
He said: “So, when it suits you, you can refer to the constitution and when it doesn’t suit you, you can back away from the constitution. If we all on moral suasion purpose, and during a family discussion we agreed that look, people have been canvassing, spending money and going round from the last six months and since there was no definitive selection or zoning of whether it should come from the North, South, West or East, let us allow this to go now, the same principle is what will happen for Ayu.
“If we could accept the issue (sideline constitution provision) for a presidential candidate to come from any zone, which is against what is in our constitution, then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. On this premise (Ayu’s resignation), we can do that again. Allow us for this period to do that because no matter what happens, at the end of the election, whether we win or we don’t win, there will be a convention to revisit the whole thing about these positions.
“They (those backing Ayu’s chairmanship) are making it look as if it is rigidity. We bent the constitution based on moral suasion purposes, justice, and equity to allow all the zones to contest and now when the same issue comes up to allow the south to produce the national chairman, they are now saying no, it will go against the constitution.
“It is true it will go against the constitution. But they forget there was a provision for the zoning of the presidential candidate in the constitution too but we abandoned that for unity and peace, we allowed everyone to contest and if we were able to do that at that time, what is different now?”
George also went down memory lane on the history of the PDP regarding power rotation: “I’m looking at the thought processes of the founding fathers of our party. They gathered in 1998 and intentionally looked at the problems that have beset this nation called Nigeria. They came out with a suggested solution that we should divide Nigeria into six geo-political zones because in the First Republic, they had the majority tribes and their way and their say. Minority tribes were just on-lookers; same in the North and same in the South.
“That created that friction that led us to all kinds coups and counter coups and the civil war and the incursion of the military into government It took all those into consideration and came up with this solution that said ‘look, let us divide Nigeria into six geo-political zones’ and there are also six top positions in this country.
“The positions are: the presidency, the vice presidency, the Senate presidency, the Speakership, Secretary to Government and the National Chairman of the party.”
He said there are six zones and six positions and that each zone would have one of these six top positions.
“In other words, you have removed the friction, the anger in people that ‘are we just mere onlookers in the management of our country’ and that after every eight years, all the three positions in the North will come down to the South and the three positions in the South will go to the North.
“If you look at it, number one is the presidency, number six is the chairman of the party and so number one and number six cannot be from the same zone for balancing act. The party is woven into the executive, the legislative arm and the party. It was a brilliant concept and that was what gave us the opportunity to stabilise the country for almost 16 years.
“Here we are again going into it and some people said there was no need for zoning anymore and that shocked me. In fact, the need to have zoning is more important now than in 1999. Maybe some of these people don’t understand the concept that led to the thought processes of our founding fathers.”