By Rawlings Okorie
THE People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has become the beautiful bride of Nigerian political class going by the gale of political defections by the crème of heavyweight political actors from the ruling All Progressive Congress , APC, into its fold unarguably due to the 2019 general election. Some of the political heavyweights who have defected from APC in the past few weeks into PDP include the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Speaker of House of Representatives and current Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambawal, former Governor of Kano State and Minister of Defence, Alhaji Rabiu Kwakwanso, the latest being the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara among others.
The political prognosis for the current defections and political jostling within the PDP point to the quest for the presidential ticket of the party for the 2019 presidential election which will be decided among the various contending interests during the upcoming National convention of the party. Going by the caliber of personalities involved, the party’s elders surely have a lot of work in their hands. Apart from these political heavyweights who have defected from APC, there are other credible and party loyalists such as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and two time Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido who did not leave to anywhere but have kept faith with the party even in the face of political intimidation from the ruling party.
For PDP to be in a vintage position to defeat the ruling party and install the next President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, it must choose a candidate who has grassroots support and core values as enshrined in the founding documents of the party which remains the guiding principle that helped in nurturing these men and women to withstand the political pressure from the ruling party to defect and join their fold.
This is not in any way to downplay or trivialise the commitment or political integrity of the recent defectors; after all, some of these men and women were founding members of PDP who helped its growth. In fact, these are men and women who at the risk of their political career and personal safety have not shied away from speaking truth to power. They have not kept quiet in the face of the seeming abuse of power by various agencies of government such as the EFCC and DSS that have been turned into a political tool by the ruling party against members of the opposition; thereby shedding their constitutional requirements of impartiality in the discharge of their responsibilities.
As PDP delegates gather at the upcoming National Convention to choose their Presidential flagbearer for the 2019 presidential election, we are not naïve to think that it is going to be easy to choose one candidate among the array of qualified personalities who given the right environment for a free and fair election will defeat the incumbent and offer better leadership alternative for Nigerians.
One of the core values party delegates must consider when they vote for the party’s Presidential flagbearer for the 2019 Presidential election should be commitment to party ideals and genuine party loyalty which are the founding fathers’ guiding principles at the formative years of the famed G-34 as expressed in the lives and sacrifices of party icons such as the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Chief Solomon Lar, among others.
It is noteworthy to observe that some of the candidates jostling for the Presidential ticket of PDP are embodiment of these values; and Alhaji Sule Lamido is one of such. The former two time Governor of Jigawa State is a special breed grounded in core values of PDP to which he has pitched his tent since its formation and remained till date. Lamido is one of the party’s presidential aspirants who declared his interest early publicly and has continued to crisscross the entire geopolitical zones to sell his candidacy. A man not given to much fanfare and public spectacle, he remains a very credible alternative to the incumbent.
A prominent indigene of Jigawa State, Dr. Jarimi Mustapha of the department of Education, University of Abuja and former adviser to former Minister of Education, Prof. (Mrs) Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i described him as a sharp thinker not given to self-praise but a firm believer in sacrifice, hard work and party loyalty. According to Dr. Mustapha, Sule Lamido’s developmental mind ensured that under his administration Jigawa State carved out of the old Kano State by the administration of Gen. Babangida in 1991 was transformed into a mega city within eight years. His tenure as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo remains one of the best as he will be remembered for leading the international community on the fight against human trafficking and anti- corruption in the African continent, a feat that earned him praise from his colleagues. Alhaji Lamido is also a bridge builder with friends across the entire geo-political zone and treats everyone as a family member. His intellectual articulation is the dream of most politicians even as he remains an interviewer’s delight.
Lamido’s commitment and party loyalty was on display for all to see after PDP went from a ruling party to opposition. While those presently jostling to be the party’s presidential flagbearer were busy defecting from the party for the fresh aroma of political offices, Sule Lamido was not one to be bother by momentary pleasure. As a man of honesty, sacrifice and loyalty, Lamido stayed true to the values of the party even in the face of APC’s onslaughts and political harassment using the EFCC.
Lamido’s story is akin to the biblical narrative of the prodigal son who tired of staying under the protection of his father asked to be given his own share of the family’s wealth. After being obliged, he wasted same in riotous living only to come back to his father in repentance asking for forgiveness. Expectedly, his father forgave him and threw a party to welcome him back into the family. But the elder son who has been dutiful and committed to the family business felt neglected and angered; but his father’s advice should be very instructive to all PDP delegates as they gear towards electing the party’s presidential flagbearer. The father of the prodigal son consoled the elder brother and assured him that there was no need to be jealous for celebrating the return of his younger brother who was lost but found, since the family possession belongs to him. In other words, no need to be angry but rejoice that your brother is back and alive but all the family possession belongs to you as a reward for your commitment, sacrifice and loyalty.
Lamido represents that elder son who irrespective of the political twists and turns coupled with harassment from the government of the day refused to abandon the family (PDP) business in search of personal benefits by defecting to APC. As PDP national convention gets close, party elders and delegates should take a cue from the father of the prodigal son by rewarding Sule Lamido’s commitment, sacrifice and loyalty. Failure to do so will be a miscarriage of justice.
* Mr. Okorie, a political analyst, wrote from Abuja.