Last weekend’s non-elective convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has redefined the shape and structure of the political space.
By Dirisu Yakubu
IT may have come and gone but memories of the Special Non-Elective National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party remain fresh in the reckoning of most Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. On the surface, the biggest outcome of the event was the four-month extended tenure granted the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the party led by Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi.
For those capable of reading the political temperature, the August 12 gathering of PDP faithful offered the once dominant party, the rare opportunity to put its house in order after losing the presidential and some governorship cum parliamentary elections in 2015. When on the eve of the convention, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the PDP National Publicity Secretary told newsmen that delegates from all 36 States of the federation as well as international observers were in town for the exercise; not a few thought there was a bit of hyperbolic optimism in that statement. But true to Adeyeye’s remark, the Eagles Square, venue of the convention was a sea of heads, all intent on seeing where the party is headed.
The crack in the PDP which culminated in the defection of members to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appeared to have healed, given the readiness of many aggrieved members to bury the hatchet, to move the party forward. For this and other related reasons, Chairman of the Convention Planning Committee and governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was confident enough to tell newsmen and indeed Nigerians that the PDP would in the next few weeks welcome back some high-profile defectors who left the party for one reason or the other.
“I believe that a lot of people who thought that the party was going to implode will realize that we are back and ready to offer what it takes to better the lives of Nigerians. Many of our members that left earlier due to one form of disagreement or the other will return to their party because the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) has constituted a Reconciliation Committee as well as a Contact and Mobilization Committee to reach out to them.
“From the way things are going presently in this country, I believe Nigerians will realise that PDP is the only alternative that can bring Nigeria out of her present economic challenges. We are expecting high profile defectors in the next three weeks or so,” Okowa had said while on the inspection of the Eagles Square preparatory to the convention.
Prior to the big event, two former governors of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja and Christopher Alao-Akala had all but returned to the party that gave them the big break. And with their supporters expected to follow suit in the weeks and months ahead, the APC faces a tough task to remain at the helms beyond 2019, not only in that state but in the entire South-West save for Lagos given the frictions rocking the party in Osun and Ogun States. Beside the two, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is expected to rejoin the party in the pursuance of his presidential ambition, having literally severed ties with the national leadership of the ruling party over ideological differences.
With additional four months in the kitty, the Makarfi-led NCC will no doubt redouble its effort in spearheading the membership drive, if only to boost the party’s chances in 2019 and beyond. At the moment, the ruling APC appears to be at crossroads, as national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun struggles to keep the house in order. Whether this is largely due to the ill-health of President Muhammadu Buhari or internal strife in the party is left to the immaginaiton.
APC’s deeply-fractured leadership has seen many of its hitherto supporters take to the media to voice out their misgivings on the party’s position on some key national issues in recent times. National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not hidden his disdain for Odigie-Oyegun; same way as Timi Frank, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, who not long ago questioned the competence of the former Edo State governor to steer the party to success in the future.
A fortnight ago, it was the turn of Atiku to castigate the ruling party for failing to keep to its promise of birthing a new culture of governance, describing it as “an act of betrayal” the failure of senators elected on the APC platform to vote in favour of devolution of powers to federating states.
According to him, the decision smacked of infidelity to electoral promises made by the party to curry the votes of electorate in the 2015 general elections even as he referred to the development as “a lost opportunity to honour one of the party’s election promises to bring about change by shifting power closer to the people in the remotest regions of our country.
“This blockage of the Bill (on devolution of powers to states) by an APC-led Senate majority is a betrayal of our party’s pre-election promises. It was an important vote and I’m shocked by some so-called progressives’ visceral and cynical opposition to restructuring,” Atiku had said. All these led to the famous statement made by Senator Makarfi at the recently-concluded Special Non-Elective Convention that “PDP is a political party, not an alliance.”
For those capable of reading between the lines, the punch was a good hit, which left observers reeling in prolonged laughter. The dissolution of executive committees in seven states was seen by many as a statement of intent by the PDP to restore order and calm across board.
Challenges and predicaments
Not only would the Lagos, Adamawa, Borno, Kebbi, Kwara, Osun and Ogun State chapters pledge allegiance to their respective caretaker committees henceforth following the dissolution, they’re expected to join the rebuilding process until an elective convention holds expectedly before the end of 2017.
Former President Jonathan, famed for his simplicity was a different political animal at the convention ground last Saturday. Driving home the faillures of the Buhari government in the sphere of economy, employment, monetary policy, agriculture to mention a few; he told party bigwigs, members, supporters and indeed Nigerians that though mistakes were made in the course of a 16-year stewardship; the PDP and not the APC, remains the party to take Nigeria out of her current challenges and predicaments.
That said, the PDP must learn to think differently and rightly this time by allowing internal democracy to prevail in the running of its affairs. Until this is strictly adhered to, the new song on the lips of the party leadership will not yield considerable mileage.
A non-elective convention it was; the PDP succeeded in sending a message ahead of time, to the electorate to prepare to experience life anew. “As a party, we will continue to work hard not to lose anybody, but we will work harder to bring in more members to the party,” Makarfi said.