By Deborah Onyofufeke
Former military governor of Ondo State and chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode George, has insisted that his party’s national chairman, Sen. Iyorchia Ayu must step down in the face of the emergence of Alhajji Atiku Abubakar as the party’s presidential candidate in 2023 general election.
George said his insistence was predicated on the fact that Ayu, who hails from the North cannot retain his position following the emergence of Atiku Abubakar, who he noted, is also from the North.
The politician,who said his call on Ayu to resign from his position was in line with the Constitution of the PDP as it relates to zoning of positions, asked the PDP chairman to hearken to popular demands of party faithful before election.
Speaking on Channel Television’s programme,”Politics Today”, Wednesday evening, Chief Bode George argued that the excuse by Ayu and some party faithful that Ayu would step down after election and if Atiku wins the presidential election, was not tenable.
He noted that the PDP founding fathers in their wisdom to ensure the unity of the country thus not giving room to the military to intervene anymore in the nation’s democratic process made room for zoning of positions which had since been maintained before now by the successive PDP-led federal administrations.
Noting that Ayu’s insistence to hold on to his office is one of the major issues in the party’s current internal crisis, he tasked the PDP chairman to step aside honourably so that the party can unite and move forward.
Hear him: “When the founding fathers designed this party, because remember, this is the first political party in this country that is not regional, that is not tribal. It bears the full colours of Nigeria, from the swampy forest, to the savanna region in the North. The founding fathers divided Nigeria into six geopolitical zones because in the first republic, the majority had their way, the minority had their say and the minorities were not just pure onlookers both North and south.
” That created a lot of friction. In 1998 when these founding fathers came together to say listen, how do we resolve this, how do we prevent this khaki boys, these military boys from ever coming back to government? They then decided that look, let us divide Nigeria into six geopolitical zones. This six geopolitical zones are not reflected in our national constitution but they created it for peace and they then went forward to say there would be six top positions in the land.
“The president, the vice president, the Senate President, the speaker, the Secretary to Government of the Federation, and the national chairman of the party. You know what that did, it then related to the party management, with the legislative arm and the executive arm.
“There was a synergy that every zone, will go home with one of these two position. If the president comes from the North, the vice-president will come from the South, the Senate president will come from the North, the speaker will come from the South. The secretary to the government will come from the North and the National chairman will come from the South. So three up, three down.
“After eight years, those positions in the North will come to the South and those positions in the South will go to the North. It created that sense of belonging, that sense of oneness, what you call inclusivity in our party.
“Nobody mentioned the issue of where the president should come from. It created so much mayhem and then we looked at it, and there was so some committees set up. Section 7, subsection 3 (f) of our current constitution affirms that zoning and rotation will remain sacrosanct in our party so, never in the history of this party, can a presidential candidate, or a president come from the same zone as the chairman of the party.
“So Ayu himself was assistant secretary to Jerry Gana, in the first committee set up to establish this party. So, he knows and all we are saying for the purpose of inclusivity, give us a position that we, in the south will take home and convince our people that yes, we are included.”
He asked: “They now have presidential candidate, what are we going to use to convince our people, the larger members of the society in the South, we have brought this back home?”
According to him, “You cannot tell us that until after election. You want to convince them, you must win their hearts. I told my brother that what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. Imagine if it is from this side (North) that it has happened, would they have accepted that? No! No individual can be higher and more committed to this nation than all of us together.”