PDP and imperative of a successful convention

Ahmed Makarfi


That the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost last Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State is no longer news. The shocking aspect of the loss, even though many were not actually expecting an outright win, was the abysmal performance of the party, which came a distant third with only about 17 per cent of the total votes cast.

Parading one of the best candidates of the contest in Oseloka Obaze who had the backing of Peter Obi, a former governor and strong political personality, the party was expected to make some appreciable impact in the election that many had expected would prepare the leading opposition platform to further strengthen its resolve for active participation in the country’s political turf.

Although given the circumstances of the election, an outright win by the PDP may have been a tall dream, the performance of the party was a disappointment to those who expected the party to make a strong statement with the poll.Going into an election with a divided house where leading aspirants like Ifeanyi Uba, Senator Stella Oduah and other leaders publicly worked against the party’s interest, showed that the PDP has not corrected some of the flaws, like imposition of candidates and inability to resolve internal crisis, that cost it the presidential election in 2015.

It is a known fact that Obaze’s emergence and insinuations that Obi, who like the former were members of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), had taken over the party without recourse to the traditional members, were major factors that worked against the success of the PDP as the duo became almost the only faces of the party during the campaigns.

However, all is not lost as the party has a timely opportunity to reposition itself and play the role of a vibrant opposition with the capacity to win future elections in the forthcoming December 9 National Convention where a new leadership is expected to emerge. This would entail organizing a free and fair convention to produce an effective and committed leadership and have the mechanism and the political will to handle post-convention issues satisfactorily.

Until the Supreme Court judgment of July 12 that recognised the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led Caretaker Committee as the authentic national leadership of the PDP, Nigeria was already tilting towards a one-party state as opposition politicians were joining the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in droves. The tide however changed with the verdict that also rekindled hopes of a vibrant opposition.

Having crossed the hurdles of the excruciating 2015 defeat and the resulting leadership crisis, next month’s convention is another challenge, especially the contentious issues around the position of the national chairmanship, which the Senator Ike Ekweremadu Committee had zoned to the southern part of the country.
   
But developments within the party since the race for the position commenced have left much to be desired about its seriousness to use the opportunity to reposition and strengthen the platform.
   
For example, the Southwest and the South- South zones, which have insisted on occupying the post, are yet to reach a consensus in less than 20 days to the convention. This has continued to generate heat and also portrayed the party as being unserious, despite the goodwill awaiting it from those that are disenchanted with the ruling APC. 
   
Coming to the basics, the Southwest, which hinged its claim on producing the chairman on the ground that it is the only area yet to produce it since 1999, has not even been able to reach a consensus. This is not only putting pressure on the chances of the party but also discouraging many Nigerians and fringe political parties who may desire to identify with it ahead of 2019 elections.  One of the developments that have continued to depress the PDP is the alleged scheming of Governors Nyesome Wike of Rivers State and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti who were being accused of attempts to hijack the leadership of the party.

Some stakeholders in the Southwest who believe that with time, the zone would address its internal challenges and reach a consensus on who to present, are already pointing accusing fingers at Wike for allegedly scheming to shortchange it at the convention by surreptitiously encouraging one time acting National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus from the South-South zone to emerge.
   
Another headache for the Southwest is Fayose, who against the party’s approved zoning formula launched his presidential campaign for 2019 not minding that his yet unrealised ambition could close the lid on the zone’s desire to produce the National Chairman.  
 
Political observers are however of the view that Fayose and Wike’s agenda was aimed at depriving the Southwest of the opportunity of producing the National Chairman to pave the way for Secondus, who is believed to be sponsored by the Rivers governor and also enable the Ekiti governor negotiate as running mate to whoever the North will present in 2019. The calculation may be right because of talks that Ekweremadu, who is currently the Deputy Senate President, may want to use the Southeast slot to negotiate for Senate presidency if PDP wins the 2019 elections.
   
But other observers are uncomfortable because of the fact that the Southeast governors seem not too keen in expressing ambition for any position in the ongoing calculations raising the poser, ‘Could there be an underground plan, most importantly considering Buhari’s recent visit to part of the area, to abandon PDP and join APC?” So far, top contenders for the chairmanship position are mainly from the Southwest and two, Secondus and Chief Raymond Dokpesi, are from the South-South. From the Southwest, there is former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George from Lagos, governorship candidate of Lagos PDP in 2015, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran (Ekiti), former Minister of Sports, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja (Oyo), former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and former governor of Oyo, Alhaji Rasheed Ladoja.
 
Series of meetings that have been held to get a consensus candidate between the two zones are yet to yield positive results while the ones organised among the Southwest aspirants have continued to meet dead ends.One of the aspirants who craved anonymity told The Guardian that there were actually no meetings to adopt a consensus candidate from the zones adding that before any consensus candidate can emerge, one of the two contending regions may have to drop its ambition “and there is nothing in that direction.”

The source explained that the opposition against the Southwest arose because of the zone’s persistent divided house and parochial interests of some of its major stakeholders, which he said are not too pronounced in the South-South zone.
 
The Guardian gathered that Wike and those thinking alike may be right in having the feelings that if the slot is conceded to the Southwest, those that will eventually lose out may angrily leave the party or decide to play the spoiler’s game. This has always been the challenge with the zone when it comes to politics.
 
But such argument was dismissed on the premise that the Southwest is not the only zone with differences among its members and in any case, if the zone is deprived of the opportunity now, what is the party going to concede to it since the North will take the presidency and the Southeast is most likely to go for Vice President.
   
According to the source, “One of the anger of the Southwest against erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan was that under his government, no crucial position was given to it.” He also explained that if truly the PDP is looking for spread votes across the country in 2019, it is only logical to concede the chairmanship to the Southwest because it is almost certain the party would get block votes from the South-South and the Southeast and the only way it can penetrate the zone is to give it what it is clamouring for.
 
The source said, “For now, the South-South is the cash cow of the PDP and someone like Wike may collaborate with his colleague governors in the area to buy majority of the delegates that will come to the convention and determine who they vote for. If development goes along this perception, there is no way any of the Southwest aspirants can win.” 
  
From The Guardian investigation, what is likely to happen in the next few days as the convention gets nearer, is that many of the aspirants would drop their ambition and leave the race for two or three forerunners that will go into the contest.
   
There are feelers however that Chief George and Prof. Adeniran may not likely relinquish their chairmanship aspirations while Daniel, Agbaje and Adedoja may concede to persuasion if the need arises in the interest of the party.

It was disclosed that consensus may not likely work out and if at all, not in the Southwest where someone like George considers himself as the most consistent and experienced party man and Prof. Adeniran believes his integrity is second to none among the contestants. 

Already expectations that the PDP may get its act together is giving the ruling party sleepless nights as the government’s spokesman and Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has been persistently appealing to Nigerians not to return the former ruling party into power in 2019.

 
In about three recent press conferences addressed by Mohammed, his message was that Nigerians should not return PDP, a message that must have been informed by the fear that Nigerians may seek alternative platform since the APC has not been able to organise itself properly in both party and government administrations.
 
And as another sign of apprehension, President Buhari who has not visited the Southeast since he assumed office in the last two and half years, visited the area few days ago perhaps as part of the party’s efforts to have an inroad into an area where the opposition to his government is most fierce.
 
Analysts believe that if the crucial PDP convention sails right, the party might eventually become a safe haven for majority of APC members who are disgruntled about the ruling party’s share of internal crisis. 
 



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