By Dirisu Yakubu
The largest opposition party in the land, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has not hidden its ambition to reclaim power particularly at the centre in the next election cycle.
With other opposition parties doing practically nothing but occasional passive interventions in the nation’s polity; the PDP has been left with the onerous task of speaking for vast majority of Nigerians disappointed with the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari in the past five and a half years.
Time and again, stalwarts of the party have had cause to urge Nigerians to give it another chance, stressing that the narrative which influenced the decision they made in 2015 to trust the All Progressives Congress, APC, has since turned out a scam. Among those who have stood up to be counted in this wise are Prince Uche Secondus, Kola Ologbondiyan, Aminu Tambuwal and Walid Jibrin, national chairman, national publicity secretary, Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum and Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, respectively.
The quartet by virtue of their positions have continued to call out President Buhari to match his promise to address the triple challenges of insecurity, economy and war against corruption, in line with his electioneering campaign of 2015 and again in 2019.
For a truth, the economy is in a dire straight as Nigerians battle to stay afloat amidst an inflation that is showing no sign of abating. Equally of telling impact is the spate of insecurity across the country as manifested in outright killings of innocent citizens and kidnapping for ransom of men, women and school children. In the past few weeks, about four schools spread across the North-West, North-East and North-Central geo-political zones were raided and children numbering hundreds taken away.
A few weeks ago, the first citizen heeded public outcry for the replacement of his service chiefs but that has done little to tame the bandits who continue to make videos of their nefarious activities, releasing same in an apparent taunting of the authorities.
In all this, the PDP is pleading for patience, saying come 2023, Nigerians, having witnessed the replication of Hobbessian’s brutish and nasty life under incumbent administration, would naturally gravitate toward a new party for direction. To actualise this lofty dream, the party appears to be matching words with actions, aware of the hurdles and barricades on the road to reckoning. How these challenges are addressed will determine what becomes of the party which in 2023 would have been in opposition for eight years. Thus far, the leadership of the party has received two important reports preparatory to the commencement of activities for the big test.
National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee
Charged with the responsibility of healing past wounds and bringing back old and new members into the party’s fold, the Senator Bukola Saraki-led committee has made a number of significant inroads since its inauguration by Mr. Secondus. In the past few weeks, it met with former Presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in a bid to get their buy-in, into the party’s reform efforts leading to 2023. It also met with former governors elected on the platform of the PDP, the party’s Board of Trustees, sitting members of the Assembly as well other organs. In all this, the message is the same: The PDP must be united and strong enough to stand a chance to uproot the APC from the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in the next election cycle.
Quick wins, gains
Thus far, the Saraki-led committee reconciliation effort has brought about an end to the hostility in the PDP Ogun state chapter, following the decision of the Ladi Adebutu and late Buruji Kashamu’s factions to bury the hatchet. With this feat, the party is now expected to forge a common front and work together as one in the furtherance of its purpose in future elections in that state.
For long, the controversy surrounding the leadership of its caucus in the House of Representatives exposed the PDP as a party with deep internal divisions and rifts. While the National Working Committee insisted on recognising Hon. Kingsley Chinda as its Minority Leader; a coup-like development threw up Ndudi Elumelu, which the Femi Gbajabiamila leadership duly accorded the honour. For months, the controversy lingered and Elumelu and his co-travellers were suspended. Following the intervention of the reconciliation committee, the crisis has been resolved with the NWC, finally recognising Elumelu as the Minority Leader of the law-making body.
South-West zonal crisis
The crisis rocking the South-West zonal chapter of the party is one that should be handled and resolved on time if the party must stand a chance of holding its own in a geo-political zone it once dominated for years. The crisis is more of an ego clash between former Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose and Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde.
While Governor Makinde sees himself as the undisputed king of the party in South-West, Fayose thinks his years in politics, culminating in being a governor at the same period as All Progressives Congress, APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, makes him the political boss of Makinde and not the other way round.
Addressing newsmen on the subject matter recently, Fayose asked: “Can Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu calls himself the leader of Asiwaju Tinubu? I respect Governor Makinde but to refer to him as my leader is not acceptable,” he said.
However, a highly-placed member of the party who does not want his name in print told Saturday Vanguard that Saraki and other members of the reconciliation committee has met with both leaders in a bid to resolving the stand-off.
He said, “The committee has met with them but the most important thing now is that they want to deal with issues concerning the state chapters first. Once that is done, they will move to the zonal level. I can assure you that both leaders have given us indication that the crisis would be over very soon.”
Bala Mohammed 2019 Election Review Committee
Empanelled to unravel the reasons the party fared the manner it did in the 2019 elections, the Bala Mohammed-led committee submitted its report to the National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee meeting a fortnight ago.
Governor Bala Mohammed in a no-holds- bar confession noted that never in his life as a public servant had he presided over a more challenging assignment. Combing the length and breadth of the country for input, the committee turned up volumes of reports complete with recommendations on how the PDP should approach the 2023 general elections particularly the Presidential poll.
Again, zoning resurfaces
In a bid to give every part of the country an opportunity to produce the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the PDP provides in Section 7 (2) (c) of its constitution, the rotation of the Presidency amongst the six geo-political zones.
In 2019, the party zoned its Presidential ticket to the North with a return to the south garnering momentum as soon as the elections were won and lost. Submitting the report recently, Bala Mohammed hinted of a general quest by Nigerians for the 2023 ticket to either go the way of the South-East or the North-East. He however hinted that it was the considered opinion of the committee for the ticket to be thrown open to all Nigerians regardless of geo-political bearing.
The development has led to tongues wagging even as notable politicians of South-Eastern extraction warned of dire consequences should the PDP looked beyond the region again. Not prepared to watch another crisis begin, the party quickly issued a statement, saying it was yet to take a position on the sensitive issue.
“The PDP assures that its decision on zoning will be the product of wide consultation, discussions and consensus building, taking into consideration the aggregate aspiration and hope of the generality of the Nigerian people,” the statement read in part.
It is not clear if the party will bow to pressure and micro-zone the ticket in a favour of a particular geo-political zone.
Tambuwal’s growing influence
As chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal has morphed into a potent opposition voice of sort, given his frequent jibe at the APC-led administration. Of significance impact is the manner he rallied PDP governors recently to pledge allegiance to the party; thus deflecting speculation of possible defection to the ruling party ahead of 2023.
The governor is always the first to issue statements warning of threat to undermine the nation’s democracy. In the past few months, he toured parts of the country, interfacing with past and present leaders in what is seen in some quarters as a preparation for another shot at the Presidency in the next election cycle. It is not clear yet if Tambuwal would throw his hat into the rig again as he did in 2019.
A pro-youth paradigm shift
Prince Secondus as part of his reform agenda came up with “Generation Next,” a leadership mentoring scheme geared towards producing the next generation of leaders. Last week at a youth summit of the party in Abuja, Secondus hinted of a deliberate move by the PDP to harness the creative energy of the youths in 2023 in both elective and appointive positions.
His words: “For us, we are going to give preferential treatment to youths, especially for those that will be seeking elective offices. We urge you to utilize your abundant energy very well. Don’t waste your time, and energy in all the other worldly things. You must come out now with your creative and innovative ideas on how to govern this country and how to move this country forward.
“Yes, the women have been agitating for 35 per cent for a long time and they have achieved that. The same thing will be applicable to the youths, in both elective and appointive position,” he said, adding that “the future leaders of this country need to take over.”
Although, the national chairman later clarified that both the old and the young would be catered for in the scheme of things; there are indications the party may prioritize fielding a young candidate in the next Presidential election; a development that would put paid to the ambition of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, ex-Kano State governor, Musa Kwankwaso, immediate past governor of Plateau state, Jonah Jang, erstwhile Senate President, David Mark, among others.
Women Action Committee
Aware of the critical role of women in political mobilization, the PDP recently inaugurated the Women Action Committee with a mandate to sensitize and rally support for the party in the 2023 polls. Chaired by Senator Biodun Olujimi, the committee is an indication of the party’s readiness to carry along all and sundry in the important task of unseating the ruling party.
The task before the party however is the manner it handles zoning to nip in the bud possible exit of members, some of who insist it is their turn to vie for the highest elective office in the land.