By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
Atiku Abubakar has the PDP ticket He stole the show. The margin of victory shut some mouths and left others agape. It left no room for further contests. In the parlance of the NPN politicians of the old, it was a ‘moon slide’ victory. Those who had called the shots in PDP in the last few months were left to lick their wounds. Some of them ran away before the convention ended. Others sat, visibly punch-drunk and swallowed everything. Atiku abubakar has work to do.
Governor Fayose shoots from the hip. He has let the cat out of the bag. He never contains his pains. He has threatened to quit the party. He gave Atiku’s emergence as his reason for his proposed defection. He made sure we understood him. He was speaking for many others who are presently hiding behind political correctness. He could be bluffing. Politicians sometimes seek better bargains by throwing public tantrums. But Atiku must now know that his first battle is to soothe frayed nerves and mend a cracking party. Neither Atiku nor the party can afford to suffer further losses and defections.
But mending the party won’t be easy. Atiku’s emergence directly threatens the grip of the Rivers state governor and his allies on the the party. Fayose alluded to that fact. Wike wanted Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto to lead the party. Tambuwal must have been deemed more innocent and perhaps more sell-able. But perhaps Wike and his man also viewed Tambuwal as more pliable, more amenable to control, and perhaps less ambitious. Wike, Fayose and a few others had once installed a certain Sherrif to be the chairman of the party. They burnt their fingers. Sheriff developed other ideas that where not compatible with the designs of his hirers. They nearly shredded the party while trying to wrench it from him. Wike then looked homewards, and picked Secondus. And it all looked tranquil, until now. Atiku Abubakar must listen carefully to Fayose. Fayose labeled Atiku’s emergence as the work of lily-livered traitors. He called them—“men who suddenly became women.”
On the eve of the elections, Gov Wike had issued threats and talked about moles seeking to snatch the party. Atiku, who was the main opponent to his preferred candidate, was naturally one of the suspects. We dismissed Wike’s tirade as innocuous campaign banter. But Fayose’s post convention outburst has confirmed that indeed, Atiku was one of those referred to as moles. That degree of suspicion existing at the centre of the PDP is unhealthy. Atiku Abubakar has a lot of internal work to do.
But it wont be easy. An inevitable power tussle has started. Atiku cannot be an innocent peacemaker. Atiku will set up campaign structures. He has a deep pocket. The PDP has no governors in 2/3 of states. In these states Atiku’s campaign organization will seize party strictures. Atiku will not rely on the governors to finance his election. His stature, his financial muscle, his independence would ensure his dominance of the party. Atiku is a founding father of the PDP. His sense of entitlement to the leadership of the party is strong. Atiku’s grip will be firm. And that wasn’t the script written by those who have steered the party in the last three years. Atiku has work to do. He has to calm tempers without conceding the ground needed to transform the party.
The party has drifted. For three years, the leaders of the party fanned embers of division in the nation wherever they could be found. They celebrated when ethnic tensions rose. They played cynical opposition politics that cared not about national unity. Some of the vocal leaders of the PDP sought to retain their hold on a particular section of the country by openly demonizing a particular ethnic group in the name of politics. Rather than proffer solutions to national problems they gloated and reveled in tabloid sensationalism. Atiku must calm tempers. But he must not strike bargains that will limit his ability to steer the party to higher moral grounds. He must promote national unity
Atiku must rebuild the party. He must infuse it with a new sense of patriotism. He must seek to retain the party’s hold on the southeast and SouthSouth zones. But he can’t sit and watch those leaders who threw dangerous red meat to those bases to continue with such political brinkmanship. The PDP leaders from the north had kept quiet and allowed political opportunists reduce the PDP to a sectional party. Atiku must retake and reform the PDP first.
But he cannot do it by allowing vuvuzelas of hate that demonized certain ethnic groups hang around the altar of the PDP. And he cannot do it by pretending that no damage had been done to the soul of the PDP by these charlatans. He must distance himself from political pyromaniacs who threw around incendiary conspiracy theories in their desperate quest for political fame.
The PDP needs a total break from its recent past. Atiku must look beyond 2019. The country needs two or more national parties. Fortunately, Atiku would have to sell the party to the North and Hausa-Fulani now. So he must repair the damage many loose canons have wrecked on the party to stand a good chance in 2019. The only way to placate certain sections in the north while retaining the bases in the south is by preaching healing and national unity. The PDP must promote ethical politicking. Atiku must stand strongly for objectivity, truth and equity.
Atiku must win the battles within, first.