PDP restoration: Why Southwest is vulnerable
If indeed the voice of an elder is the voice of wisdom, then the leaders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should listen to former President Goodluck Jonathan. The immediate past president had recently warned the party that failed to return to him to office for a second term that a wrong choice of national chairman could dispose the party to final destruction.
Speaking with the benefit of hindsight, Jonathan noted that PDP needs a very courageous and vocal person to be the chairman, stressing that the positions of national chairman and that of publicity secretary are very delicate offices the party cannot afford to trifle with.
Based on what transpired before and during the 2015 election, Jonathan’s observations spoke volumes about the lack of quality personnel in the two offices, which opened up the former ruling party to ridicule and eventual demolition by the then opposition.
Jonathan saw it all, but seemed helpless, especially when five state governors and other notable members of the party decided to pitch tent with members of an inchoate opposition platform to wreak havoc on the party’s image and future.
Prior to that defining moment in anti-party behaviour, some influential members, notably second term governors, who were at a loss on what would become of their political future in the party, had complained vehemently against the then national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
And as a band of internal opponents was raised, the national publicity secretary was found as leader of the insurrection against Tukur. When eventually the then President was convinced or corralled to support the Tukur must go campaign, it was an erstwhile bold former chairman of African Business Round Table that turned jelly, sprawling on the floor as he begged the confounded President not to allow him to be disgraced out of office.
Opinions are divided that what developed into a life-threatening PDP malaise begun immediately Tukur was shown the way out of Wadata Plaza. As the hawks succeeded in removing once again, a power welding national chairman, the search for a replacement took the backchannel approach and enthroned an unwilling Walin Bauchi.
Thorn between showing deference to those who recommended and enthroned him and doing what is proper and for the overall interest of the party, Adamu Mu’azu, came in as national chairman, when the conspiracy to torpedo the PDP winning vessel was already sealed.
It was therefore not surprising that during the electioneering, the only dramatic gesture from the former Bauchi State governor was tapping the then President to round off his speech at a Presidential rally in Lagos.
When therefore the same forces that saw to the removal of Tukur swooped on Mu’azu, it was obvious that the office of national chairman of PDP was set to simulate a musical chair. To all intents and purposes, Mu’azu represented the last functional national chairman of PDP, because with the trauma and confusion that trailed the party’s defeat in 2015, the centre refused to hold. It could therefore be based on what started happening to the party thereafter that inspired Jonathan, to hand down the warning.
War In The West
Recently Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, convened a meeting of PDP stakeholders in Lagos, in an effort to streamline the search for the ideal national chairman from the zone.
Apart from being the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum and leader of Southwest caucus, by virtue of being the only governor of the party from the zone, Fayose could be said to lack the impartiality expected to host that meeting.
He was a visible member of those who wanted a new Turk altogether for the office. Alongside other governors, they had wanted former governorship candidate in Lagos, Jimi Agbaje. No one can tell if Fayose has repented of that lust.
A further threat to Southwest could be better understood when viewed against the background of recent seriousness shown by Chief Raymond Dokpesi for the PDP chairmanship post. Another challenge is the refusal of the party to micro-zone the chairmanship seat to Southwest.
Former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, had disclosed that right from 1999 the Southwest operates a zoning arrangement for national appointments. George noted that going by that internal arrangement; only Ogun and Lagos are available to show interest in the chairmanship position.
After the recent meeting between the NCC and aspirants, the national leadership of the party tried to scale up the scheme started by Fayose to adopt a consensus candidate by initiating a conversation to ensure a rancor free convention.
However, although the eight aspirants did not seem inclined towards the consensus option, they pledged to support whoever emerges at the end of a credible process. But of the eight, Chief Olabode George, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and Prince Uche Secondus only Dokpesi and Secondus are from the South/South.
Only Secondus and Dokpesi know what point they want to make by contesting against the Southwest, when their zone has just served the party at the level of the Presidency. Chief George disclosed that even though the issue of consensus did not arise at the gathering, the meeting took place in an atmosphere of conviviality.
While explaining that all the contestants agreed to a peaceful contest, the former deputy national chairman said the aspirants have committed to supporting whomever among them that eventually wins.
Caretaker chairman, Makarfi, used the meeting to drive home the fact that key decisions and resolutions would be reached on the convention and other pressing issues regarding the unity and progress of the PDP.
He declared that the decision to zone was that of the national convention, stressing that pressure on him to micro-zone was coming from some persons and interest groups desirous of gaining undue advantage.
Since the ultimate decision lies with the party faithful, the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, enjoined all hands to be on deck to ensure that credible candidates emerge from the convention to lead the party.
Perhaps in a bid to demonstrate the anticipated amity among the chairmanship contestants, Dokpesi showed up at the opening of campaign office of George in Abuja. The rival chairmanship aspirant said: “My presence here is to give full solidarity to Olabode George. We agreed that the chairmanship contest should be a family affair. He is a team player, very courageous. In 2019, we cannot succeed without the support of Bode George or any of the other aspirants.”
George, who was being associated with a possible endorsement as consensus candidate of the Southwest, remarked: “I am not going to be an overlord. Somebody must emerge and whoever emerges through a normal process, we will support him. We need a captain, a man who knows the written and unwritten laws of the party.”
Former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel is a late entrant to the PDP chairmanship race. Prior to the failed Port Harcourt convention, only Chief Bode George, Jimi Agbaje and Prof. Tunde Adeniran, were the known names from the Southwest.
But for his brief romance with Action Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), Chief Dokpesi, was also angling to become the next PDP national chairman. Although analysts contend that Dokpesi’s claim is accentuated by the lack of a sure bet consensus from Southwest, the quest by any aspirant from South/South should be seen from the prism of former President Jonathan’s warning.
The convention will therefore show whether indeed internal democracy has returned to PDP or the party is still afflicted with imposition and impunity. Anything short of transparent election of the next national chairman would stunt the ability of PDP to bounce back as Nigeria’s major national party.
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