The determination of the PDP to return to power may hit a number of roadblocks unless and until dexterity is deployed in the removal of these obstacles. As it were, the national leadership of the party must in the months ahead, come up with strategies aimed at building party cohesion given the proximity to the general elections, which going by the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are now less than a year away.
By Dirisu Yakubu
As events begin to unfold preparatory to the 2019 general elections; the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is leaving nothing to chance in its bid to swell its support base. From the get-go, the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Prince Uche Secondus kept faith with its promise to devolve powers to the grassroots as a way of engendering popular participation in the affairs of the party.
In the past few weeks, Secondus carried the new gospel of a re-branded PDP to many parts of the country arguing that as a party in the opposition; the old way of doing things must give way to the new, if only to reposition the party for the big test. As a result, many states with hitherto parallel leadership are beginning to see reason to come together and forge a common front ahead of the general elections.
Since its inauguration about two months ago, the new leadership of the party has been consistent in its criticisms of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, especially in its handling of the economy and the security situation in the country. So telling is the potency of PDP’s criticisms that times and again, spokespersons of the Buhari administration are left with no option but to react, sometimes, defensively. It is a strategy that seems to be working at least, in the interim.
Added to the vitriolic attack of the APC-led federal government by the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye; many are of the view that PDP only need to keep its eyes on the ball, without blinking to oust the ruling party. Melaye had taken his party to the cleaners at the maiden Daily Asset Newspaper award and lecture in Abuja saying, “The APC government has become Public Complaint Commission. I say this without fear or favour. We have more complains in the APC and even in the Presidency than service rendered. We cannot, as a people, continue like this. The President said few days ago we should all embrace peace but I want to say without fear or favour that there can be no peace without justice. There is hunger in the land, there is poverty in the land, and there is unemployment in the land. A lot of decision has not been taken; yet we say we want peace. The primary objective of government is the security and welfare of the people. There is no security, there is no welfare,” adding that “Nigeria is not only sick presently but equally suffers from a dreadful congenital abnormality.”
Given Melaye’s recent outing, not a few believe that more cracks are imminent in the fold of the ruling party; a development that would surely be good music in the ears of the opposition, particularly the PDP. The above narrative notwithstanding, it is still a long walk to Aso Rock for the once dominant party considering pending issues yet to be resolved. So, what ails the once ruling party at the moment?
Defection of some foundation members to rival SDP
Last week, some founding members of the PDP defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for reasons not unconnected with the outcome of the elective convention in December. Led by Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education and a leading chairmanship candidate at the December convention, the chieftains chose to part ways with the Secondus-led executive, insisting the soul of the party has been hijacked by privileged few, boasting of nothing but access to deep vault of cash.
“Asked why he didn’t give the PDP peace initiative a chance and let go, Adeniran retorted, saying: “Let go of corruption? Let go of impunity? Let go of irregularities or let go of the insult to my entire region? It was all over the news. You all heard it.”
Like Adeniran, Professor Jerry Gana, former Minister of Information has also left the PDP for the SDP in what appears a demonstration of solidarity with Adeniran. A source who pleaded anonymity told this medium that unless the NWC reaches out to all aggrieved members of the party; more defections could follow in the weeks ahead.
“These aggrieved leaders have not been pacified to stay and that is why they left. If the right thing is not done, more will go and this will be too bad for the party especially with the closeness to elections in 2019,” he said.
Aloofness of South West leaders
It is not clear if their grouse against the “Unity list” in the December 9/10, 2017 elective convention, has, in any way, been laid to rest but party leaders of South West extraction are yet to fully embrace the new NWC.
At the recently held 78th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, prominent South West leaders were absent, chief of which included Jimi Agbaje, Rashidi Ladoja and Taoheed Adedoja, all of whom are yet to openly pledge their support to the NWC. Is this an indication of a frosty relationship between the party’s national leadership and its South-West stalwarts? A minister in the first cabinet of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration (1999-2003) had this to say:
“We don’t need to be told that all is not well at the moment but I expect Secondus to make personal effort to reach out to these leaders. Their absence at NEC, the first after the convention speaks volume. I am worried,” he told this medium on Wednesday.
Adedoja’s Court case
In what appears a deadlock in the effort of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led reconciliation committee to broker a truce between the party and Professor Adedoja; the hope that the man would accept an out-of-court settlement now appears unlikely. Adedoja, one of the chairmanship candidates at the convention is enraged that the name on the ballot Taoheed Oladoja, was not his; insisting that the party deliberately omitted his name to prevent delegates loyal to his cause to vote for him.
Only a few weeks ago, supporters numbering over a hundred paid him a solidarity visit at his Ikolaba-Bodija, Ibadan residence urging him to go the whole hog with the case filed at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, protesting his deliberate omission from participating in the elective convention despite paying the stipulated N3 million to obtain the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms.
Adedoja, a Professor of Special Education and former Minister of Sports has not identified with the party since the outcome of the convention was announced on December 10, 2017, wherein he was credited with zero vote while Secondus, Adeniran and Raymond Dokpesi garnered 2, 000, 230 and 66 votes respectively.
The CNM conundrum
The Coalition of Nigeria Movement (CNM), a political movement launched in Abuja, the nation’s capital earlier in the year is a source of worry to PDP leaders, especially at the national level. Although not a political party, the membership of key PDP members in the coalition does not sit well with the party’s top hierarchy according to findings by this medium.
Donald Duke, former Cross River State governor and a chieftain of the PDP as well as Dr. Ahmadu Ali, the party’s former national chairman are all believed to be sympathetic to the ideological leanings of CNM whose patron, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, parted ways with the PDP a few years ago, citing its loss of vision and focus.
But while Secondus insists the party is now a repackaged platform with intent to “Return power to the people,” CNM is poised to chart a new direction, unless in the words of its key allies, “The opposition puts the nation first in its quest to wrestle power from the APC.
Since the June 2017 Supreme Court ruling affirming the chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic leadership of the party, loyalists of the former Acting national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff have maintained a somewhat lukewarm attitude to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. On this list are the lawmaker representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Senator Buruji Kashamu, Senator Hope Uzodinma (Imo West), Professor Wale Oladipo (former PDP national secretary) and Mr. Fatai Adeyanju, ex-national auditor of the party.
Although, yet to renounce their membership of the party, the aforementioned political stalwarts’ passivity in the affairs of the party must be worrisome to the PDP top hierarchy with less than a year to the 2019 general elections.