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From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Shortly, after his election as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last December, Prince Uche Secondus issued quit notice to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said the tenancy of the APC in the Presidential Villa would be brief, as the ruling party would not exceed May 2019 in government. In his inaugural address, Secondus said his major pre-occupation as leader of the major opposition party was to return PDP to power in 2019.
According to him, “it is crystal clear to all Nigerians that the APC is not a political party, but a body hurriedly assembled to seize power without a clear-cut plan for governance.” “Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party, that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019. By this, we serve them a quit notice.” While extending a hand of fellowship to aggrieved members, Secondus called “on all Nigerians, of all creed and class, to embrace this new PDP and join in this quest for a new Nigeria. Particularly, I reach out to our old members who for one reason or the other have left the party, to please come back ‘home.’”
As part of the efforts to present a united front in the next election, the current PDP leadership has intensified efforts to reach out to all aggrieved members of the party. In the aftermath of the keenly contested national convention, the PDP Reconciliation Committee embarked on a fence-mending exercise. The committee headed by the Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Dickson submitted its report to Secondus recently.
However, in spite of the efforts of the reconciliation committee to get every one to close rank, some prominent members of the PDP has defected from the party to other political platforms.
Among those who left the party in recent times are its former National Secretary, Prof Jerry Gana; former Minister of Education, Prof Tunde Adeniran. The duo, alongside their supporters have pitched their tent with the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Others who have left the party include former Osun State Deputy Governor, Iyiola Omisore, and Senator Hope Uzodimma. While Adeniran and others have left the opposition party to seek political relevance elsewhere, former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George, who had fallen out with the party prior to its last convention has returned fully into the fold. However, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Sunday Sun that it is immaterial whether or not Adeniran and others have joined other political parties.
“The must important thing is that there is a consensus by most Nigerians that President Muhahmmadu Buhari and the APC must be sent packing by next year,” he said.
According to him, “what is important; the only agenda is that the president cannot lead this nation in the next four years and should be voted out. Once you belong to this school of thought, once you are in tandem with this consensus, it doesn’t matter whether you are in party A or party B. At the appropriate time, there would be a coalition that will work together.” Ologbondiyan added that “one thing that you must agree with is that that there is an agreement among Nigerians today that President Muhammadu Buhari cannot take this nation anywhere in the next four years. And as such, there is a consensus among the majority of Nigerians that President Buhari must be sent packing in 2019. It doesn’t matter which opposition party, anybody, any Nigerian belongs to.”
Party’s search for allies
Regardless of the exit of some of its key members, the PDP is trudging on in its quest to rally round other opposition parties for the 2019 battle. The PDP national leadership and other leaders of the opposition party have repeatedly admitted that it can sack the ruling APC all by itself.
Consequently, the party has been making serious overtures to other opposition political parties to partner with it in next year’s general election. Also, the party is reaching out to aggrieved members of the ruling party, especially its former members who are now members of the APC. According to the Bayelsa governor, “the manifest destiny of the PDP is to lead a broad-based coalition to sack the APC and to achieve this, everybody is important and must be brought on board because the umbrella is large enough for all. “There is no party as democratic as the PDP in Nigeria, but I must concede that we are not where we should be, but by deepening internal democracy and returning the party to the Nigerian people, the party will regain its pride of place and wrest power from the APC.”
Shortly before its last national convention, the PDP recorded a big success in its bid to woo back some of its former members now in APC, as former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar returned to the opposition party. Former Chairman, PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed
Makarfi said Atiku’s return has opened the floodgate for other of its former members in other political parties, particularly the APC, to come back, noting that the opposition party is ready for their return.
The former vice president, who dumped the PDP in the run-up to the 2015 polls announced his return to the opposition party in early December 2017.
Speaking during a visit to the PDP National Secretariat, days after he rejoined the party, Atiku described the opposition party as the only political party in the country and urged other former members, who are currently in other political parties to return “home.”
He noted that “this party (PDP)is the only party in this country. Let me pay tribute to past leadership of this great party; wherever they may be and to call upon them to please return home as I have done. It is only by their returning home that we will build a stronger, more united party that can again return to government and continue to deliver the dividends of democracy.”
Makarfi, who is also a former governor of Kaduna State expressed hopes that Atiku’s return would be of immense benefit to the PDP, especially during the 2019 general election.
“You have returned in good time and you should continue to contribute in this reinvention, remodeling of our party so that come 2019, we can reclaim what we can claim is ours.
“…You will also help us reinvent the vehicle that will take us to Aso Rock in 2019, we are not just targeting Aso Rock, we are targeting the federal legislature, the state, both the executive and legislature. We are targeting the local governments. We want to sweep elections all across the country,” Markarfi told Atiku.
Sunday Sun reliably gathered that the leadership of the PDP is currently working round the clock to ensure that members of the party currently in the APC return to the opposition party.
Recall that in 2014 a group of aggrieved PDP members under the aegis of “nPDP”, had teamed up with other political parties to form the APC. It was these PDP members, which consisted of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara; former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; his predecessor, Senator Aliyu Wammakko; former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amechi; among others, who strengthened the hands of the ruling party in the last general election. However, recently the members of the nPDP alleged that they were being marginalised in the APC, with most of the members threatening to work against the party in the 2019 polls. Sources say the PDP is likely to exploit the difference between nPDP members and the leaders of the APC to its own advantage. Although leaders of nPDP has said now of its key members would not leave the APC, the PDP is optimistic that it would reap bountifully from the crisis brewing in the ruling party.
As part of its efforts to form a broad-based coalition against the ruling party in next year’s election, the PDP National Chairman, a fortnight ago, inaugurated a Contact Committee headed by former governor of Cross Rivers State, Liyel Imoke to drive its negotiations with other political parties and individuals interested in joining forces with the opposition party. Last weeks, indications emerged that some of the nPDP members are favourably disposed to returning to the PDP, if only the party would change its name.
The Imoke committee is said to be considering the demand for a change of name and may recommend the same to the party in its report. However, that demand seems to be dead on arrival as some leaders of the opposition party are already kicking against any move to change the name of the party. Among those opposed to the name change are former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope. In a recent interview, Babatope said the opposition party does not need to change its name because it wants to accommodate anybody. “I don’t believe in that idea. I don’t believe in the idea that the name of the party should be changed. I believe that we should maintain the name Peoples Democratic Party. Anybody who doesn’t want to join us with that name can find solace somewhere else,” the former minister said. A PDP leader in Adamawa State, Dr Umar Ardo agreed with him.
Ardo also said he has no objection to former members of the PDP returning or contesting elections on the party platform in 2019.
However, Ardo said that if such former PDP members insist on the change of the party’s name as a condition for their return, they should remain where they are.
According to him, “99 per cent of them were PDP people. Is it (Olusegun) Obasanjo, who became the president of this country for eight years or Bukola (Saraki), who was governor for eight years or is it (Rabiu) Kwankwaso or who? For the people to insists that PDP must change its name before they return, let them not return. PDP has a name. It has an image in this country that is positive. “I am not opposed to people like Kwankwaso, Bukola and others coming back to the PDP and getting nominations. What I am opposed to those people who have been PDP, who are now insisting that the name PDP is bad. They made it bad.” The PDP spokesman, who confirmed to Sunday Sun that some interest groups wishing to partner with the opposition party in the 2019 electoral contest asked for an “amendment or a restructuring” of the party’s name. He, however, explained that until the Imoke Committee reports back to the party in the next couple of days, the PDP cannot come up with a categorical statement on the issue.
“There is no issue of changing of name. Some of the people who want to engage the PDP are asking for an amendment or a restructuring of the name. But we have constituted a committee chaired by former Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State to engage such interest and until they make a return to the party, you cannot categorically say this is what they want us to do. “We are waiting for the contact and integration committee to make a return to the party. Once they make that return that you can know who and who are part of the coalition,” Ologbondiyan said.