Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is in Maiduguri now addresing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates from Borno and Yobe ahead of the party presidential primaries. Atiku has declared his interest to run for the president of the country in 2019. He said majority of people in both Borno and Yobe were in…
By the end of the two-day national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which starts tomorrow, Nigerians would know the shape of things to come regarding the 2019 elections. They would know whether to condition their minds for a one-party state, where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would hold sway and stand like a political collosus in the country or whether there would be a second force, which could serve as an alternative source of political power. They would know if the PDP has learnt any lesson from its past mistakes and is, therefore, ready to conduct its affairs without crisis.
Yes, at the end of the national convention, holding in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, the PDP would be electing its national chairman and other party leaders. It is an epic political gathering, where the PDP would chart a new course for its redemption, if the party gets it right, or damnation, if it fails to put its acts together. It is a make-or-break political event, which would determine the future of the PDP and, perhaps, redefine the political architecture of the country. Therefore, Nigerians, both politicians and the apolitical, other political parties, Africa and the world are waiting to see how the PDP, as a political party, and its members, as politicians, would handle this.
In the election for the national chairman, the PDP has to make a choice among the aspirants, who, I must say, have all it takes to run the party, in their own rights. The party’s delegates would choose from the following: Uche Secondus, former deputy national chairman of the party, who also acted as national chairman sometime ago; Chief Bode George, former deputy chairman of the party; Chief Gbenga Daniel, ex-Ogun State governor; Prof. Tunde Adeniran, former education minister and diplomat; Chief Rashid ladoja, former Oyo State governor; Mr. Jimi Agbaje, ex-PDP governorship aspirant in Lagos State and Chief Raymond Dokpesi, chairman of DAAR Communications, operators of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower Radio – all faithful party members. Already, sparks are flying and tension rising, as the aspirants and their supporters/backers campaign and lobby. In its wisdom, the PDP zoned the post of national chairman to the South, which means that party members from South East, South South and South West are eligible to contest for the position. In the race, however, there are only aspirants from South South and South West. Nobody from the South East showed interest.
It is interesting that the PDP, as a political party, knows what is at stake in this national convention. That the PDP thought it wise to have the aspirants sign an undertaking to not only accept the outcome of the convention but also support whoever emerges as the national chairman is an indication that it knows that crisis would not do the party any good. This is “good thinking.” However, the reality is that signing an undertaking is not a guarantee that the aspirants would keep the covenants therein. What is important is for the aspirants and their supporters to put the PDP first, while their individual ambitions and aspirations come second. It is when there is a political party that there will be the post of national chairman. Therefore, the onus is on the aspirants and, indeed, all members of the PDP to resolve that the national convention would not be a basis for another round of crises in the party. One person would emerge as national chairman, but the PDP should be the ultimate winner. This can only happen if the aspirants and party members resolve that whoever wins the contest would get the support of all. There should be no court case and no muscle-flexing thereafter.
I have been curious over PDP’s decision to zone the post of national chairman to the South, instead of a particular geopolitical zone in the South. No doubt, the party knows what it wants. And since the party has been consistent with this position, it is left for the aspirants, from the South South and South West, to accept the reality. When the leadership takes a decision, which is ratified by the general body, it is binding on all. One understands the sentiment by the South West that it has not produced the national chairman of the PDP before. By the same token, the South South has not also produced the national chairman of the PDP. However, the two geopolitical zones had produced the President of Nigeria on the platform of the PDP, whereas the South East and North Central, which produced past national chairmen, are yet to produce the country’s president on PDP’s or any other platform. Come to thionk of it, it is shocking that the South West cannot settle for a consensus candidate, but would rather fight individually, instead of as one body, presenting one candidate from the avalanche of aspirants. Whatever happens, the aspirants should, therefore, campaign and lobby the delegates to win their votes and forget about a special zoning.
To be sure, on the shoulders of the delegates to the PDP national convention lie the responsibility to pick a versatile, industrious, less controversial and unifying personality as national chairman, bearing in mind that this person would steer the ship of PDP to a major political battle next year. In the main, the PDP, at this national convention, should decide whether it wants to consolidate on the zone(s) where its prospects are higher or venture into another zone, which is hoping that such position, as national chairman, would woo its people to the party. Whichever one the delegates choose, the PDP should come out of it without rancour. The PDP should resolve that never should it relapse to the Modu Sheriff era, with its fatalities. To say the least, the crisis that rocked the PDP, with Sheriff at the centre, should not be allowed to recur. If it does, the party is doomed forever.
Nigerians are waiting for the outcome of the national convention of the PDP as if it is a presidential election. At a time when many are disillusioned and disappointed with the conduct of the APC, Nigerians are looking up to the PDP for succour at this point in time. The PDP may have been demonised as a party of corrupt politicians. The party may been presented as having produced governments that did not meet the aspirations of Nigerians. However, one thing that is clear is that there are Nigerians who believe that good or bad leadership has nothing to do with political parties, but with the people in power. They know that the problem with Nigeria is not political parties, but leaders. They know that Nigeria’s backwardness came about because those elected to offices or who took power by force failed to deliver the goods. This holds true. This is why, despite the so-called puritanistic mission or vision of the APC, there are still governors elected on its platform who have failed woefully in government. And there are governors elected on the platform of the PDP, the supposed corrupt and disappointing party and other political parties, who have done exceptionally well in government.
Therefore, the bottom line is that the PDP is the alternate power base. This explains why former Vice President Atiku Abubakar could return to the party, after hibernating with other political parties. I guess the former Vice President now knows that his sojourn in the APC was a bad political move ab nitio. All the things he thought were wrong in the PDP manifested in the APC, which, in any case, is the other side of the coin. He should have known. Indeed, sometimes one wonders how politicians make their calculations. Atiku wanted to be President in 2011 and 2015. Not happy that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan got the ticket of the PDP, he defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and APC, where he also failed to get the presidential ticket. If Jonathan had won the 2015 election, by 2019 the North would produce the candidate, as has been zoned now. And Atiku, had he stayed, would have been in a better standing for the contest.
Atiku rebelled against the PDP. He left and worked against the party. The PDP lost power. Atiku helped the APC to win. Now, he is back to fight for the presidential ticket of the PDP, which is now an opposition party. The question is: What has the former Vice President gained?
Post-national convention, the PDP should zone the remaining elective political offices, like Vice President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Since it has already conceded the position of President to the North, which is the right thing, the PDP could consider this zoning formula: South East (vice president); South South/South West, depending on who emerges the national chairman (Senate President); North Central (Speaker, House of Representatives) and South South/South West (party’s national chairman). By so doing, about 83.3 per cent of the country, in the geopolitical zones in the country, would have major political offices, in a PDP government, if it clinches the presidency in 2019.