By Dirisu Yakubu
A fortnight after the successful conduct of its elective convention; the PDP is engulfed in fresh crises as disgruntled members, bent on having their way, stepped up to challenge the legitimacy of the newly-inaugurated leadership. Can the centre therefore hold for the major opposition party in the land in 2019?
As preparations intensify for the commencement of activities leading to the 2019 general elections; old and new political parties are leaving nothing to chance in a bid to swell their support base. Barely a fortnight ago, new political parties scaled through the registration hurdle, with some already using the power of the social media to woo prospective new members into their fold.
For the biggest opposition party in the land, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the supposedly-succession elective convention now appears to have returned to haunt the very soul of the party. Until this week, prominent members of the party have been basking in the euphoria of the convention outing given the manner of emergence of the members of the new National Working Committee (NWC). From the Chairman of the defunct National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi who superintended over the delegates’ election to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; the December 9/10 event was simply the best convention ever seen in the country in recent history.
These encomiums notwithstanding, there are more than enough reasons for the new leadership of the party to feel uncomfortable today, if recent events are anything to go by. First was the vote of no confidence passed on the new chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus by one of the chairmanship candidates and chieftain of the PDP, Professor Taoheed Adedoja. Addressing a mammoth crowd of journalists drawn from the print and electronic media, Adedoja while announcing his decision to head to court to seek redress over what he termed the “deliberate exclusion” of his name on the ballot paper, prayed the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to “Declare the election of the national chairman of the PDP held at the Eagles Square in Abuja on December 9, 2017, null and void.”
Justifying this decision, the Professor of Special Education called on the court to “Restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising Uche Secondus as the national chairman of PDP on the ground that the election where Secondus was declared national chairman of the PDP, unlawfully excluded me from the list of contestants for the position of national chairman of PDP which is a flagrant violation of the Electoral Act, the Constitution of the PDP, the guidelines for the conduct of PDP national convention and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
As it turned out, Adedoja’s briefing was potent enough to elicit the attention of top party functionaries who wasted no time in establishing a line of communication in a bid to pacify the aggrieved former Minister of Sports and Youth Development to opt for the internal dispute resolution mechanisms of the party. Barely a day after, Chairman, Post-Convention Reconciliation Committee and governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson said his committee would do everything possible to reach out to Adedoja, noting that “it is an issue we will handle as one united family.”
However, there is no indication yet that the Dickson Committee has made any inch of progress so far in its reconciliatory effort with Adedoja or any of the chairmanship candidates. And while it is not clear what the party intends to do to win back the confidence of these political heavyweights; the bigger issue of the disquiet among the PDP bigwigs of South- West extraction remains largely unaddressed.
On the eve of the convention, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike reportedly charged at the South-West questioning their contribution to the development and sustenance of the party; a remark that prompted Olabode George to back out of the race. For George, the people of the geo-political zone deserve some modicum of respect from Wike and others who may be thinking of the South-West in like manner. Till date, Wike is yet to offer a public apology; a development a leader of the party said may affect the fortunes of the party in the next general election.
A former Minister and member of the party told Vanguard in confidence that more people may follow Adebayo Alao Akala and Teslim Folarin, ex-Oyo State Governor and former Senate Leader out of the PDP, who decamped to the APC recently, if the South-West continues to be relegated by the powers that be in the party. According to him, “it appears the party is comfortable with its preparation for 2019 with little or no support from the zone”.
His words: “A serious party should have prevailed on Wike to tender an apology. He probably didn’t mean to ridicule the people of the South-West and in politics; you don’t talk the way you like all the time. The reconciliation committee headed by Governor Dickson is doing a good job but merely visiting the people is not what reconciliation is all about.”
And as the dust over the election of the chairman is yet to settle, another group, the Fresh PDP has announced itself as the authentic leadership of the party. Like Adedoja, the group, made up of some of the candidates that lost out of the elective convention has called on the public not to recognise the current NWC, labelling it as a product of illegality. While highlighting a legion of grouses against the Secondus-led executive, the splinter group vowed to inaugurate an “authentic NWC” and commence full computerization of party activities and financial transactions after the holidays.
What do all these portend for the party with barely a little over a year to the general election? The NWC has promised to reach out to all party members with Secondus insisting that only a united PDP can successfully oust the APC in 2019. But as things stand today, a huge cloud hovers the party’s dream to fight its battle as a united army and unless it succeeds in appeasing the disgruntled members, especially those who lost out in the recently concluded convention; the ruling APC will be having a good laugh heading to the political field in the next general election.