Jonathan, Okowa Mentioned In PDP Presidential Prospects As South East Govs lose
President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State were at the weekend being mentioned in the new permutations for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP following the planned rezoning of party offices in the opposition party.
The new permutations followed the decision of the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi led zoning committee to rotate the office of National Chairman of the PDP to the North. Despite Governor Ugwuanyi’s claim that his committee’s mandate did not cover the zoning of the 2023 presidential ticket, multiple sources in the party told Saturday Vanguard that his assertion was just a matter of sophistry.
In that dimension and for the first time, political gladiators from the North were at the weekend sensitizing on the prospects of a Northern national chairman of the PDP. However, religion and ethnicity were surfacing to thwart the prospects of some of the leading northern PDP chieftains.
Among those being mentioned in political circles at the weekend were Senator Ahmed Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State, Senator David Mark, a former president of the Senate, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki a former minister in the Jonathan cabinet, Prof. Jerry Gana, a former minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, former Governor Sule Lamido and former Governor Babangida Aliyu.
However, the decision to rezone the office of the national chairman of the PDP to the North, and with it, the prospect of a Southern presidential candidate according to party sources has focused attention on the prospective presidential nominees with the Southern governors and former President Jonathan emerging as leading possibilities.
The emergence of Jonathan as a factor in the race is being drummed by some Northern political actors with mostly members of his last cabinet as champions. Turaki who served as his Special Duties minister and is presently chairman of the former ministers forum, one source told Saturday Vanguard yesterday, was in the driving seat of the Jonathan project.
Remarkably, Turaki is also being mentioned for the post of national chairman, but it was gathered that he was putting any national chairmanship aspiration secondary to the Jonathan project.
The Jonathan project is bound to upset the permutations of those who had been championing his possible defection to the All Progressives Congress, APC with the hope of realizing a re-election on the platform of the party that drove him from power six years ago.
However, the Jonathan PDP project, just as the Jonathan APC project, it was gathered is facing steep competition from Southern critics who say that it is a way of shortchanging the South’s expectation for an eight year presidential run.
Those against Jonathan in the South and a few including one Northern Middle-Belt political actor told Saturday Vanguard yesterday that some PDP stakeholders were also narrowing down on Governor Okowa.
Okowa’s ascendency was being weaved upon the team-building nature his candidacy could push following the near elimination of the two Igbo governors in the PDP.
Besides the claim that the PDP has become a minority in the Southeast, the two Igbo governors in the PDP, Ugwuanyi and Okeize Ikpeazu (Abia) were also being said to be surrounded with claims of loyalty to the party. Both governors have in the past been speculated as possible defectors to the APC.
“The Fulani will never allow an Igbo president of Nigeria at this time,” one Northern minority PDP chieftain privy to some of the undercurrents told Saturday Vanguard yesterday.
With the apparent determination to lock out the Southeast from the presidential contest, the focus it was gathered, was shifting towards the South-South with Governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State as possible offers.
However, canvassers of the Okowa proposal were pushing the claim that he is a bridge between the South-South and the Southeast given the fact that he is from the Delta Ibo speaking region of Delta State.
“It is something that is sellable for the PDP. He is deeply from the South-South and is one that will be acceptable to the Southeast,” the Northern minority PDP chieftain told Saturday Vanguard.
However, a source close to Governor Okowa laughed off the issue when contacted saying that it was not something that has crossed the governor’s mind.
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However, one political stakeholder in the PDP speaking on the evolving development yesterday said that Okowa who has been appreciated for his efforts in the past in conducing PDP conventions, notably, the 2018 convention, could run into difficulty from some of his colleagues.
“Okowa’s problem could come from some of his colleagues who could see him as a threat. Some governors also see Okowa as one who always plays down his political shrewdness.”
The factor of Okowa’s political sharpness was one factor that was helping to drum support for Jonathan as some of the outgoing governors believe that they could thrive better out of office with Jonathan as president even if it is for one term.
Meanwhile, religion was counting as a factor in the emerging contest for the national chairmanship of the PDP.
With the seeming decision to zone the presidential ticket to the South, party sources told Saturday Vanguard yesterday that Northern Christians in the chairmanship race could be wielded out as a way of carrying the Northern Muslims in the party along.
Besides, Prof. Jerry Gana who one source listed as a possible aspirant was also facing the challenge that he had only recently returned to the party after his earlier defection.
Former Governor Aliyu who was also being strongly mentioned in the emerging race was also being discounted on account of the internal divisions in the Niger State chapter of the PDP and the strong acrimony between him and some party chieftains who argue that he betrayed the party in the 2015 election.