1999: PDP Zoned To South (Southwest most preferred)
At the formation of PDP in 1998, Chief (Dr) Alex Ekweme, a former Vice President in the second republic, was seen as the frontline candidate to clinch the presidential nomination of PDP in the January 1999 election. Though the party ceded the ticket to the south, majority of its leaders preferred a candidate from the southwest in order to appease the Yoruba nation for the injustice meted on late Chief MKO Abiola, and this decision threw up Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from Ogun state as candidate.
2003: PDP’s Ticket Was Thrown Open
Contrary to popular saying, the 2003 presidential candidatcy of PDP was neither zoned to the Southwest nor any part of the south. In fact, the ticket was contested by President Olusegun Obasanjo from the Southwest, Chief Alexander Ekweme from the Southeast, Chief Barnabas Gemade from the Northcentral (Benue state) and the late Abubakar Rimi from Kano state of Northwest. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the northeast (Adamawa) was almost a contestants until an appeal to him against such by President Obasanjo, who at that time was his deputy.
2007: PDP Zoned Ticket To North
Penultimate to the primary election of December 2006 to pick the Presidential candidate of PDP, stakeholders in the party across the country entered into gentleman agreement for power rotation to the north in 2007 after Obasanjo’s second term. The party further “zoned” the Presidential ticket to the north. That decision buried the Presidential ambitions of frontline Southerners such as Governors Peter Odili (Rivers), Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu), Donald Duke (Cross river) and Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom). Governor Umaru Musa Yar’adua of Katsina state backed by President Obasanjo and PDP Governors, had no major opposition. Although Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha from Imo state contested at the primary, a former National Security Adviser, Alhaji Aliyu Gusau, was the main opponent of Yar’adua, who won with ease.
2011: No Zoning Was Announced, Ticket Thrown Open
Although President Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded Musa Yar’adua upon his demise, was interested in the Presidential ticket of PDP, the party did not make any pronouncement to zone its ticket to the South.
Instead, interested aspirants like Governor Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Gen Ibrahim Babangida (Niger), General Aliyu Gusau (Zamfara), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (Adamawa), Mrs Sarah Jubril and President Goodluck Jonathan (Bayelsa), were playing their cards to outsmart each other.
Penultimate to that primary, a powerful northern group, Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, led by Mallam Adamu Ciroma, brought the 4 leading northern candidates, namely; Alhaji Abubakar, General Gusau, General Babangida and Governor Saraki, together and made them understand the need to put up a consensus northern candidate to challenge President Jonathan for the PDP ticket at the primary. The group which set up a committee to screen all 4 northern aspirants, eventually named Alhaji Abubakar as the northern consensus candidate for the PDP. The committee’s decision was welcomed by Generals Ibrahim Babangida, General Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki; backed Atiku Abubakar into the PDP primary.
The Primary election was eventually contested by President Goodluck Jonathan (Bayelsa/Southsouth), Alhaji Abubakar (Adamawa/Northeast) and Sarah Jubril (also from the north). President Jonathan won the primary election by wide margin despite the political schemings.
2015: PDP Zoned To South (Southsouth)
The primary election of December 2014 to determine the candidate of the party in 2015 was only the third time the party will microzone its ticket to a particular zone when it adopted President Goodluck Jonathan (Southsouth) as consensus candidate, and precluded every other aspirants from obtaining nomination form nor contesting.
2019: PDP Zoned Ticket To North
Prior to the October 2018 Presidential election that threw up Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of PDP for the 2019 contest, the party announced zoning of the office to aspirants from the north, and precluded the south from seeking its ticket. In line with that, all the aspirants for the ticket of the party were northerners. They include, Senator Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Senator Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna), Senator Datti Baba Ahmed (Kaduna), Former Governor Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto) and eventual winner Atiku Abubakar (Adamawa).
From the above, it is clear that the four times PDP zoned its presidential ticket, it was two apiece for the south (1999 and 2015) and north (2007 and 2019). The tickets of 2003, which was won by President Olusegun Obasanjo (from Ogun) was contested by two southerners (Obasanjo and Ekweme) and two northerners (Barnabas Gemade and Aliyu Gusau). In similar fashion, the 2011 nomination that was won by President Jonathan was contested by two northerners (Atiku Abubakar and Sarah Jubril) and one southerner (Goodluck Jonathan).
Therefore, as we prepare for the 2023 election, what is expected of the PDP is either to return the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket to the south OR leave it an open contest among interested aspirants.