By Dirisu Yakubu
For 16 years, it ruled the roost across many layers of governments in the land. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, since its formation in 1998 until it lost power at the centre in 2015 produced Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’ Adua (of blessed memory) and Goodluck Jonathan in that order.
For more than one and half decade (1999-2015), it produced the highest numbers of federal lawmakers in the Nigeria’s bicameral legislature.
With its loss of the Presidential election in 2015, the party also lost a good number of states to the then newly formed All Progressives Congress, APC, which had the fortune of producing Muhammadu Buhari as President after three failed attempts on the platforms of different political parties.
The woes that befell it quickly culminated in the constitution of a caretaker committee headed by Ahmed Makarfi, former Kaduna state governor and senator of the Federal Republic.
In 2017, the Makarfi-led committee conducted an elective convention which produced Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman, with the Rivers state-born politician wasting no time in hitting the ground running, pushing through a litany of reforms to reposition the party ahead in preparation for future elections.
Three years in the saddle, Secondus’ stewardship is hardly up for debate considering where the party was when he took over and where it is today.
Reconciliation of aggrieved members
Aware of the importance of numbers in the game of politics, Secondus constituted a national reconciliation committee to reach out to all aggrieved members of the party who left for the APC for one reason or the other.
Chaired by the then governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dickson, the committee reached out to members of the party, some of whom were at the time elective office holders in the APC.
Consequently, three governors namely-Aminu Tambuwal, Abdulfatai Ahmed and Samuel Ortom of Sokoto, Kwara and Benue states respectively returned into the party’s fold amidst excitement and jubilation.
That was not all! Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the then Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara quit the APC for the party on which platform they won elections in the past.
The defection of these political A-listers was to sow a seed of discord between prominent members of the APC and erstwhile national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, with the former blaming his leadership style for the defection of the leaders.
Synergy with NASS caucuses
The National Working Committee of the PDP led by Secondus in the past three years formed a working relationship with federal lawmakers elected on the party’s platform. This way, the PDP had a big voice in matters of national importance, making it possible to influence decision making at the highest level.
No imposition of candidates
For the NWC, imposition of candidates and undue interference in the determination of who flies the party’s ticket was one reason the PDP became notorious for impunity before the ascension of the Secondus-led EXCO.
Thus, from the get-go, the former PDP national organizing secretary reminded anyone seeking election on the party’s platform not to seek any help from any member of the NWC.
“Go to the grassroots and talk to your people. Don’t come to Wadata (PDP headquarters) because we have nothing to give you here,” he warned those aspiring to one office or the other, in preparation for the 2019 general elections.
The end of impunity, to say the least, brought about a party many later turned to in hope of fulfilling their political aspirations.
The PDP which suddenly found itself as an opposition party in 2015 has since morphed into a stronger political platform, and consolidating ahead of 2023.
Today and under the leadership of Prince Secondus, the party has the entire six states in the South-South (Edo, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa) in its kitty.
In the South-East, it controls Ebonyi, Enugu, and Abia states. Sokoto and Zamfara states (North-West) as well as the North-Eastern states of Taraba, Adamawa and Bauchi are all PDP-controlled.
The PDP controls Oyo and Benue states in the South-West and North-Central geo-political zones respectively to bring to 16, the total number of states under its grip.
It is to the credit of the Prince Uche Secondus-led NWC that the rancour which hitherto characterised selection of candidates in the party in the past has become history. Many political pundits predicted implosion of the party few weeks to its Presidential primaries in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.
With such political heavyweights as Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, David Mark, Ahmed Makarfi, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Sule Lamido and others all in the race for the sole ticket; not a few predicted the mother of all crisis to envelope the party in the Garden City.
This was not to be as all aspirants hailed the process as transparent and resolved to work with Atiku who picked the ticket with a landslide victory. Since then, the party has been conducting primaries at various levels transparently and credibly.
Devolution of Powers to state chapters
State chapters now empowered to run their affairs in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution have build on this trust to make the party stronger in their respective domains.
Wadata has played less hosting responsibilities because Secondus devolved powers to the state chapters, making frequent visits to the headquarters unnecessary.
What is the implication of these giant strides for the party ahead of the 2023 general elections?
Senator Walid Jibrin, chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, told this correspondent that the PDP is on its way to gaining more states and ultimately, the centre.
“After our victory In Edo state, PDP now controls 16 states while APC controls 19. This is therefore a good sign that PDP is on its way to control over 90 per cent of the states in Nigeria.
“The current insecurity challenges in Nigeria is a matter of concern for all as Nigerians live in serious fear but PDP will solve this problem when it assumes power again.
“To regain power, the party is reaching out to all persons across states of the federation that may still have one problem or the other with the PDP because the door of reconciliation is open to all.
“The BoT will work with all organs of the party including the National Executive Committee, NEC, PDP Governors Forum and others to make this party the choice platform of Nigerians because the PDP is committed to bringing back good governance in 2023,” he assured.
Also speaking, deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi urged all organs of the party to join hands with the NWC to return the PDP to power.
“Nigerians are fully aware that propaganda will not solve our problems. Those in charge of our affairs today have nothing to offer. With 16 states in the bag and with more to come before 2023, there is no doubt that the PDP will form the next government.
“All hands must be on deck to pilot the affairs of this party in preparation to taking over the reins of government in 2023. It is time to rescue Nigeria from bad governance and the PDP is ready,” he said.
Just how ready the party is remains to be seen in the months ahead, particularly with the Ondo and Anambra governorship elections the next on INEC’s timetable.