AT the end, after sailing through a very ferocious and turbulent political tide, the People Democratic Party, PDP, had a successful electable national convention in December 2017. The Convention needs to be seen as a great achievement, against the background of the rough road the PDP travelled after the 2015 General election.
The PDP, then ruling Party which paraded itself as the largest political party in Africa, lost the 2015 General Election, “against the run of play”, as Segun Adeniyi [Editorial Board Chairman of Thisday Newspaper and an outstanding author] puts it. Being the “largest political party in Africa”, as it claimed, the PDP’s fall [loss] at the election became like the “dance of death” by a falling elephant in the forest – huge and catastrophic in nature.
It was, therefore, not expected that the PDP would be able to rise to its feet, within two years of such terrific fall, through the democratic route of National Convention. That it was able to achieve this in December, 2017, within a pace of two years, must be commended for a reason.
Besides the “unexpected fall” [as PDP leadership and its members were the only ones that did not know that losing the 2015 election was inevitable], the presence of Ali Modu Sheriff in the party did not give hope for PDP’s “resurrection from the valley of fall”. Yes, his [Ali Sheriff] presence which was made possible by a comprehensive political miscalculation and blunder of President Goodluck Jonathan; then leader of the PDP, in the name of strengthening the party, became a colossal disaster and liability on the PDP until the Supreme Court came to its rescue. This victory of “outliving” Ali Modu Sheriff [the spoiler] by the PDP must also be given a place of recognition.
Another thing we need to consider in order to appreciate the success of the PDP’s convention is to look at the All Progressive Congress, APC; a political party that came to power on the slogan of “Change”, and its inability to conduct National Convention almost three years into domination of the political arena, despite the fact that its [APC] constitution explicitly mandated such. It is only when one identifies failing students in a particular class that calibre of those [students] passing in the same class can be appreciated.
It is for these reasons and many others that PDP’s rise from the debris of political fall, through the conduct of an electable National Convention, brought hope for survival of democracy in Nigeria because of the role a viral, vocal and strong opposition [political party] plays in strengthening democratic structure in society. An APC domination of the political terrain in Nigeria without a proportionate and solid opposition would have remained a permanent national disaster.
One more important thing that makes evaluation of the PDP Convention a worthwhile exercise is the fact of role-function its success has in shaping the Nigerian political terrain in 2018 and 2019; the year of another General Election. There is going to be major political re-alignment, not only in the PDP but most urgently in the ruling Political Party, APC, though the later may not admit this. It is for these reasons that we should now evaluate the calculus of that Convention since politics, by my personal interpretation, is a game of “manipulation and permutation”.
The most important elective offices of the PDP convention, ditto most conventions, were that of the Presidential candidate and National Chairman, though other offices, with all due respects, are also very important. Deliberately, the PDP zoned the presidency to the North [for the purpose of splitting the Northern votes against Buhari’s popularity should he decides to contest in 2019] and the Chairmanship to the South as that would balance the North/South issue. One outstanding thing about the zoning is that the defunct National Caretaker Committee, led by Ahmed Makarfi, did not restrict the position of the Chairmanship to the South/West in any public declaration though it would have preferred that.
While the South/West battled itself in producing the Chairman, it failed and this is for two major reasons. One, one of the PDP Governors; Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, having positioned himself as a Vice-Presidential material to whoever emerges as the Presidential candidate from the North, worked assiduously against the emergence of a South/West Chairman for the Party. For this reason, Fayose found a willing partner, in prosecution of his ambitious agenda, in the person of his Rivers State counterpart – Governor Nyesom Wike. The later knew how important his second tenure as governor meant for him and ipso facto, would rather have a Chairman “he could call his own” for achieving the second tenure ambition.
Another factor responsible for the South/West losing out on the Chairmanship race was what most notable personae dramatis of PDP from the South considered the overbearing posture of Olabode George, “lased with a sort of arrogance”. These people came to the conclusion that he (George] has not really proved to be of any electoral asset. They recalled that given all the backing he received from the Federal Government of Obasanjo for eight years, he could not deliver Lagos to PDP. Clever Governor Fayose played smart on both factors in fathoming the convention the way it went.
The last of the calculation for today would be the anticipated benefits accruable to Ahmed Makarfi in the coming days. Yes, a Northern presidential candidate is a must for the PDP in 2019, but can emergence of Makarfi [that is if he makes it that far as presidential candidate for PDP] really stand the test of denting Muhammadu Buhari for votes in Northern Nigeria of today? It is my opinion that Makarfi; a two-time Governor of Kaduna State, who made it to the Senate through the instrumentality of “just leaving office as governor”, to become a Senator – a position he could not hold when he attempted second return to the Senate, may not be a man of glory for PDP in 2019. Too many people in Kaduna State hold strong views that “he hasn’t got that stamina to become a Northern President” if PDP fields him in 2019.
How far the PDP would go in checkmating the APC for the presidency’s slot in 2019, may still be “a long walk to freedom”, in the words of the great Madiba – Nelson Rolihlahia Mandela.
Mr.Godwin Etakibuebu, a veteran journalist, wrote from Lagos.