By G9ija

Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s recent private visit to former President Olusegun Obasanjo has reignited subdued conversation about the future of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Sources disclosed that state governors elected on the party’s platform, particularly those expected to serve out their constitutionally stipulated two terms of office, are working underground to effect a change in the composition of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).

PDP leaders that spoke to reporters in confidence claimed that some second-term governors want a review of the membership of the NWC with a view to strategically positioning their loyalists preparatory to the next PDP convention.

“Part of the scheme is to ensure that the next national chairman comes from the Southwest to achieve a zonal balance and national spread in the membership of the NWC.

“The governors, who are working stealthily for the emergence of one of them as PDP presidential standard bearer in 2023, express the belief that with Prince Uche Secondus on the saddle as chairman, it would be near impossible to stop the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, from contesting,” the source stated.

It was therefore against that background that no sooner had the report of Governor Tambuwal’s visit to Obasanjo hit the social media than speculation became rife that the Sokoto governor had gone to seek Obasanjo’s assistance to dissuade his former deputy, Atiku, from seeking another shot at the presidency.

But reacting to the development, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, told The Guardian it was wrong to impute motives to Tambuwal’s visit on Obasanjo, stressing that the Sokoto State governor did not inform either the BoT or PDP NWC of his visit.

The BoT chairman disclosed that his board would soon meet to discuss issues surrounding the way forward for PDP, remarking that the BoT could not meet all this while due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Jibrin explained that Tambuwal’s positions as chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP GF), Deputy Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Sokoto State made it hard to pin his visit to Obasanjo on the issue of zoning of offices in PDP.

The BoT chairman said: “We were unable to meet because of this coronavirus pandemic, but anybody can meet with Obasanjo. The Sokoto State governor did not inform the BoT or the NWC; so, it is not proper to ascribe his visit to Obasanjo to an attempt to prevail on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar not to contest the 2023 presidential poll.

“Moreover, there are many others that could have ambition to contest, the situation in the party during the last convention might have changed, but until we meet and place all the variables on the table, nobody should speculate on what position PDP will take.”

While reiterating that PDP had begun talks on the issue of where the next chairman or presidential candidate would come from, Senator Jibrin noted that going by the conscience of the party, there was no way anybody would ask Secondus not to contest election.

He said the PDP would be guided in every decision by its constitution, alongside Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended, stressing: “The time has not come. I don’t know anything about Tambuwal’s visit to Obasanjo. We have not started discussion about the 2023 presidential slot, the national convention or zoning of the chairmanship.”

On the alleged plot by some PDP state governors to ensure someone from Southwest becomes the national chairman, he said anybody from anywhere could contest any position, adding that consideration would be based on the quality of the individual being presented and what he or she had to offer the country.

“We would look at the various issues to take our stand, politics is dynamic, as such, what obtained previously might no longer be tenable, but we would do everything according to the constitution of PDP and 1999 Constitution as amended.

“Secondus is a party man and the current chairman and head of NWC, his tenure has not ended, can you stop him from contesting any election? I am the chief of Fulani and can go to Obasanjo to discuss the issue of herdsmen across the country, so if I go to see him how can anyone say I went to see Obasanjo for issues pertaining to PDP?

“But like I said, until we meet and discuss the matters, it would not be proper to lump personal views and party’s stance together. With my position as chairman I have to take my time, I am not in love with these telephone and zoom conferences, we would soon sit together to discuss the issues. There are big halls in Port Harcourt, Umuahia and Ibadan,” he added.

In his response to reporters enquiries, Special Adviser to 2019 PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, Mazi Paul Ibe, declared that irrespective of what anybody thinks, Atiku is ahead of Tambuwal.

Contending that PDP had no issues regarding zoning, Ibe stated: “As things stand, PDP does not have a zoning problem. The burden is APC’s. Where APC is today was where PDP was in 2007.

“After eight years of Obasanjo (South), Yar’Adua (North) took over. But, following the death of Yar’Adua, the zoning arrangement was subsequently applied in breach with the advent of Jonathan (south).

“Another four years, at the least for the North will bring to near parity the issue of zoning between the North and South as conceived by the PDP in 1998. In the spirit of equity and fairness, which PDP had fulfilled in 2007, APC has to concede power to the south. That’s the party’s moral burden and we, the PDP, are not going to make it any easier for them.”

PDP is due to hold another national convention in one year, given that the current members of the NWC were elected into office in December 2017.