2023 Presidency: Mass defection looms in South-East PDP

*Three governors in talk with APC

*As zone rejects VP slot

By Ezeocha Nzeh and Myke Uzendu

As the rumoured exit of the Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, continues to trouble the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), feelers emerged at the weekend that the party may witness mass exodus of its members from the South-East if it fails to accede its 2023 presidential ticket to the zone.

Already, this imminent loss is steadily transforming to big gains for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as it was learnt that three state governors of the PDP extraction from the South-East are already in deep talks with the APC national leadership for defection soon.

Also, several stakeholders of the APC, including a former governor of Imo state, Sen. Rochas Okorocha, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, and some northern political leaders have remained in the forefront of the clamour for a 2023 Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, which the APC is most likely to accede to.

Investigations by The AUTHORIY have revealed that aside Gov. Umahi, and the two other governors, several other PDP chieftains from the zone have commenced talk with the Gov. Mai Mala Buni-led National Caretaker Committee of the APC for possible defection to the ruling party ahead of the 2023 polls.

While the APC remained silent on the zoning of its presidential ticket, it had been under intense pressure to uphold its gentlemanly endorsed zoning arrangements.

Also, prominent political leaders from the South-East in a chat with The AUTHORITY on Sunday, threatened to dump the PDP with their state governors for the ruling APC, if the PDP leadership still continues to prevaricate on zoning its 2013 presidential ticket to the zone.

This has triggered an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the PDP now scheduled in Abuja wither on Wednesday and Thursday to sort out these and other issues.

Also, the planned defection of the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, has created uneasiness within the ranks of PDP, not just in the zone but nationally.

Since Gov. Umahi received the support of the apex Igbo socio- political group, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, that the PDP have failed to give the South-East opportunity to excel politically in its 16 years control of the country, Umahi became the beautiful bride.

He has consequently threatened to defect to the APC should his party, the PDP fail to make its position on the matter known almost immediately.

Expressing the vexing issue further, a former governor from the zone who preferred anonymity said that South-East had remained faithful to the PDP since 1998 despite how the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme was short-changed at the PDP Presidential Convention in Jos in 1999, adding that the zone has since been downgraded to being offered only the Vice-President slot despite their commitment and contributions to the PDP and the nation’s development.

He said: “If the PDP refuses to zone the 2023 Presidential ticket to the South-East, we will be left with no option than to leave the party.

“We are solidly behind the position of our brother, Engr. Dave Umahi. We have supported the party (PDP) and it will be unfortunate if the party decides to take our support for granted.

“We have also vowed that we are not going to accept Vice-Presidential ticket from the party and any son or daughter from the zone that accepts to be vice-president to anyone will be tagged an enemy of the zone.

“I can assure you that if the PDP refuses to zone its presidential ticket to the South-East and Governor Umahi leaves, other governors, members of the National Assembly and key stakeholders of the party from our zone will leave en-mass.

“From the signals we are getting, the APC appears to be ready to zone its presidential ticket to the South-East and we cannot leave such gesture and follow a party that doesn’t appreciate our loyalty.

“You know that the APC had promised to consider zoning its presidential candidate for 2023 to the South-East if President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected in 2019.

“You also know that the President is an upright man. We have the conviction that he will ensure that the APC cedes the position to the zone.

“Some people are already mobilizing for #EndVP protest in South-East and we are going to ensure that we make resources available to that effect. The country will not regret having a President of South East extraction come 2023.”

Aside from him, former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State had raised the alarm of pending mass defection against the PDP except the Prince Uche Secondus-led national leadership wakes up from slumber and do what is expected.

Already, President Buhari last week dispatched his Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, to hold talks with the political and cultural leadership of the South-East.

At the meeting which held at Government House, Enugu, issue of the 2023 presidential ticket was raised, aside issues of the poor and near absence of federal infrastructure in the zone.

Equally, all the Ministers and other top members of the APC from the zone were instructed to go home and discuss with their people over the weekend, which was carried out.

Informed sources at the APC told The AUTHORITY that “our party is positively disposed to handing over to a president of the APC extraction from the South-East. We are discussing with several PDP chieftains and we are sure what happened in 2015 will be a child’s play to what will happen at the PDP in the next couple of months.

“There will be mass defection of PDP members to the APC. Those we spoke to are favourably disposed to moving in to the APC”.

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