A former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olabode George, on Friday, said that had the party stuck religiously to its principle of zoning, its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, wouldn’t have become its standard bearer.
He 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.
George, who is a former military governor of Ondo State, stated this while appearing on Arise TV, in response to those faulting the calls for the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
The PUNCH on May 28, 2022, reported that Atiku emerged as the PDP presidential candidate after polling 371 votes at the party’s presidential convention.
He defeated the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who scored 237 votes. Other aspirants with the number of votes polled include Bukola Saraki – 70; Sam Ohuanbunwa – 1; Anyim Pius Anyim – 14; Udom Emmanuel – 38 votes; Bala Mohammed – 20.
But there had been 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 PUNCH had on Thursday reported that Gorge during a press conference in Lagos called for Ayu’s removal while making a case for the position to be filled by a southerner.
But defending his call for Ayu’s resignation on Friday, George said it was surprising that some party members are 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 can 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, “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.
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 then, 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?”