Intrigues, wits on display as PDP picks new officers
• Makarfi fights allegations of “hidden agenda”
Ahead of the December, 2017 elective national convention of the People Democratic Party (PDP) through which it intends to pick its next national officers, series of high level intrigues, wit games and political machinations, strategies and counter strategies are now rampant in the major opposition party.
Members of the party from the Southwest geo-political zone are now at a cross road reaching a decision on who becomes their candidate, having been assured, through a delicate gentleman agreement with other zones across the country, that the zone would produce the next national chairman.But the multiplicity of candidates as well as the volume of discordant tunes from the Southwest caucus of the PDP is enough signals that the unity of the party is being threatened once again.
Similarly, the politics of who gets the party’s ticket to contest the 2019 presidential election is already threatening the soul of the PDP as most contenders and potential contenders have perfected strategies to get sway issues in their favour.
Not even members of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee is spared from the plotting and strategies to get political advantage in the build up to the 2019 election.
Over ten contenders have so far emerged for the position of the party’s national chairman which election promises to be very exciting. They include former PDP Deputy national chairman, Chief Olabode George, Jimi Agbaje, candidate of the party in the last governorship election in Lagos State, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Aviation Minister and Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Education Minister.
Others are former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, a former university lecturer Professor Taoheed Adedoja and the owner of DAAR Communication, Raymond Dokpesi. It is not yet confirmed whether former Ondo governor, Olusegun Mimiko will throw his hat into the ring as being speculated.
But the gentleman agreement within Southern leaders of the PDP in which the chairmanship position was reserved for the Southwest appears to be shaking at the moment although almost all the contenders are from the zone.
Apart from Dokpesi who had always stood against the agreement, a development that may lead to the emergence of new contenders is brewing. If a concrete arrangement is not sealed to guarantee the interest of party leaders in other zones particularly in the South-South where the bulk of the party’s funding comes from, the chairmanship contest may just be thrown open.
For instance, former acting chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, who is a very close ally of Rivers State governor, Nyesome Wike, is in the cards as a possible joker.Meanwhile, in the heat of the suspicion and distrust that reign among the top echelons of the party, Makarfi himself has been caught in the web. Does he really nurse a presidential ambition particularly regarding the 2019 elections? This is among the questions not only begging for answers but also one around which the much-required unity in the party revolves.
Recently some financiers of the party were said to have developed cold feet on matters concerning its funding because of several issues bordering on the direction of events in the party.
Without missing words, Makarfi, just within few weeks of taking charge as the real chairman of the party particularly after the July 12, 2017 Supreme Court Judgment which sacked Ali Modu Sheriff, has been preaching party supremacy and the need to handle affairs in a manner that will give a level playing ground to everybody.
This is a topic which party financiers consider as suggestive of a hidden agenda by the caretaker committee members some of whom are already locked in battle with the state governors currently perceived as the defacto owners of the party.
For instance, Dayo Adeyeye, a member of the caretaker committee in charge of media and publicity is already at war with his Ekiti governor, Ayo Fayose over who gets the party’s governorship ticket in the state for an election that comes up next year.Fayose, in a remark while openly declaring his presidential ambition in Abuja penultimate Thursday, hinted of a possible plan by a member of the caretaker committee to seek election as president.
He said, “I challenge all those in the National Working Committee nursing presidential ambition to come out in the open. We are not going to allow people to come and just take advantage of what we have sweated for.”
And against allegations that the National Caretaker Committee might give its blessing to a particular aspirant, Makarfi has been trying to give assurances to party stakeholders that its elective convention would be transparent and fair.
Taking the opportunity of a courtesy visit to him by a delegation of former National Working Committee of the party, Makarfi said that though there would always be attempt by some people to be “crowned,” the party leadership would not do such a thing.
According to him, “When we were in the Supreme Court, we were in the `intensive care unit.’ When they bring you out of the unit, they put you under observation before they take you to a general ward. So now, we are in a general observation, that is the convention, and after that, the nomination processes for the elections will be the finals.
“If we get all these processes right, there is no reason why the PDP will not be in power at the centre in 2019. Together, I am confident we will get there. The fact that we stumbled here and there does not mean we don’t have the capacity to rise again.”
He however urged leaders at all levels in authority to be fair to all, stressing, “power is transient, it is like sleep, you wake up and it is no longer there. When you are in a position, be guided by a sense of fairness, justice and equity and you will be able to sleep well.
“You can’t satisfy everybody but if you are convinced and it is obvious that you gave your best, I tell you, you’ll remain standing and strong. That is what leadership at all levels is all about, whether it is political party leadership, legislative or executive. We should remember that one day, it can be us and at other times, it can be other people. Respect is reciprocal and it flows.”
THE Chairman’s headache is further worsened by his extension of the party’s reconciliation drive to non-members or those who had since defected to other political parties. Although many see the move as one that could attract more credible persons and boost the party’s chances in the 2019 election, other stakeholders, particularly some of those who fought on the side of Makarfi during the long drawn war with Sheriff, still believe that wooing outsiders amounts to encouraging anti-party activities and discouraging party loyalty.
A few have even gone to the extent of expressing the belief, albeit off record, that there might be a plot to prepare the ground for politicians currently outside the party.But Makarfi, while inaugurating the reconciliation committee which has Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwanbo and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyelsom Wike as co-chairmen, insisted that “The committee must reconcile and bring back to the fold those who held top political offices on PDP platform, be they President, Vice President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Governor or Deputy Governor since 1999 but are no longer in the party.
“You can even reconcile with those who have never been in the PDP and bring them back to the PDP. You must not close the doors against anybody coming into the PDP. We must create a level playing ground too.”
Top politician, Chief Tom Ikimi, who now presides over the party’s disciplinary committee, in supporting the move, said, “We will work closely with the reconciliation committee to ensure our members who left return. APC is now dying and is almost dead. I am aware that they were able to win because of our members they wooed.’’
But the suspicion of a hidden agenda is contributing to a growing sentiment against the party’s zoning formula as reflected in the statement of Fayose whose presidential ambition is seen as a direct attack on the party’s resolution to reserve the ticket for the Northern part of the country.The Ekiti governor argued that as a Nigerian, he had the constitutional right to aspire to the number one office particularly when nobody from the North, which the PDP has reserved it for, has come out.
According to him, “Despite the fact that the party has zoned the presidency to the North, it may interest you that no one has come out in this manner to show interest and our party should not wait or beg anyone to fly its flag. Do we now say that if no one comes out from the North, the party won’t have a candidate?”
Fayose said zoning formula produces incompetence because through zoning, political parties throws out considerations for merit and performance adding that his declaration against the zoning formula was in line with the party’s democratic disposition by which it had allowed other members to do so in the past.
“Going down memory lane, in 1999 and 2003, despite the fact that our party zoned the presidency to the South, the likes of Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of blessed memory and Chief Banabas Gemade contested the ticket,” he added.Apart from Fayose no other member had openly declared intention to seek the party’s ticket for the 2019 presidential election but former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, like many others, have been meeting individuals and groups within and outside the party to galvanise political support and favour for himself.
His latest outing was when last week, he met the forum of former presiding officers of House of Representatives during which Lamido did not fail to air his views on the issue of a restructuring that had taken the front burner in national discourse in recent times.
He said the agitation arose from the failure of government to sustain the unity of the nation stressing, “If you ask Nigerians today they have various views over this issue. To the man in South-South, it is about his own resources. He won’t share the same view with the man in Southeast. The guy in the Southwest who controls the economy has his own agenda. So also it is for the northerner who has a separate understanding of the issue.
“It is because government as an institution for all is missing. With due respect, where a government says it is there for those who gave it the votes, then those who didn’t give it the votes, what is their own fate? It means it is not their government.
“There is so much anger, so much mistrust. But by the time you get a government that is caring and loving, Nigerians will have that notion of self-esteem and they will be happy. Even the debate will be less emotional and people will look at the hardcore issues of the debate.”Analysts however believe that the way the party manages to fill both the elective posts and the list of candidates especially for 2019 poll, will go a long way to determine the fate of the party.
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