By Law Mefor
The crisis and haemorrhage rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South East in particular and across the nation, did not come to many as a surprise. There is nothing happening to the party in that region that I did not predict in my tribute to former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on his 60th birthday earlier this month of May. It wasn’t even difficult to predict either. The PDP lost its soul long ago and behaves like a man destined for doom, who arrogantly takes the wrong step at every corner and arrogates to himself the power of invincibility while walking to his own damnation.
In that piece, I highlighted how the PDP was consistently trumping its own constitution, guidelines, and relevant laws of the country in its determined bid to undo not only the South-East presidential aspiration, but also to undermine, embarrass, and edge out some of its notable leaders, who had shown unmatched loyalty to the party in its most trying times. Consequently, I warned against the way PDP’s National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, had wilfully mortgaged the party to the demi-gods called governors and how he was aiding and abetting the irresponsibility and pervasion of democracy and PDP’s constitution and guidelines in the processes leading up to the PDP primaries.
I expressed particular displeasure at how Ayu was overseeing a clearly rigged three-man ad-hoc delegates election at the wards, which compilation had no semblance of democracy. In most cases, such as in the case of Enugu State which was reportedly compiled in a hotel adjacent the Government House, people just sat somewhere and compiled names.
I forewarned PDP this way: “Lastly, let it be on record: the PDP national leadership encouraging irresponsibility and irrationality going on in Enugu State and the South East is taking too much for granted. That you have thrown the presidential race open has already left the people of the South-East deeply hurt. Any attempt to manipulate the governorship ticket to an unpopular candidate anointed by any governor in the South-East amounts to taking too much for granted. And as one has often warned on matters like this, there will be consequences and by then, it will be too late”.
But did Ayu-led National Working Committee of the party pay any heed? Did the greedy power mongers called PDP governors pay any heed? No! What of the PDP elders? There is virtually none left unmuzzled by interests and patronage. When you’re at the dinning table, you must observe table manners.
Consequently, in the absence of statutory delegates due to the non-signing of the Electoral Act amendment, the governors weaponised the fraudulent delegates lists at the kangaroo primaries to impose their lackeys, yes-men, and accomplices
on the party in the House of Assembly, National Assembly, and Governorship primary elections. They are also poised to repeat the same in the presidential primary.
In Anambra, to underline the fact that the Igbo have never been in PDP’s equation going into the 2023 presidential race, Ayu and his puppeteers ensured that the leading aspirant from South-East and about the most popular aspirant in PDP nationally, Peter Obi, was schemed out of the National Delegates from his state. The entire 21 National Delegates from the 21 local governments of Anambra were fraudulently handed over to someone that would execute the bidding of PDP’s dollar-blinded masters against the aspirations of the South-East region.
In Enugu State, Ekweremadu, who literally took bullets for the PDP after the 2015 election even when he had everything to gain by defecting, was thoroughly mistreated. As a principled politician and man of conscience, Ekweremadu must have reckoned after his reemergence that as the only PDP political office holder at the federal level after the 2015 tsunami, he was the beacon of hope for the party faithful.
Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu left the country as Chairman of the PDP immediately after the 2015 election before he eventually defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) alongside former governor Mallam Isah Yuguda; former Secretary to Federal Government, Yayale Ahmed; and former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Senator Babayo Gamawa in January 2019. Countless others who benefitted so much from PDP’s 16-year rule dumped the party and fled. Some PDP governors, including governor of Ekweremadu’s home state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, disappeared from the scene – never attending PDP functions, never attending National Executive Committee meetings, never seen at PDP Governors Forum’s meetings, and never speaking up in defence of the party, masses or democracy. Some governors eventually defected. But Ekweremadu stood strong.
When some PDP governors like Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose imposed Ali Modu Sheriff as Muazu’s successor against all voices of reason in the party, including that of Ekweremadu, it was still this same Ekweremadu that joined forces with the likes of Senator Ahmed Maikarfi, etc. to rescue the party from Sheriff’s stranglehold.
Yet, once he declared his gubernatorial ambition, which he hinged on his belief that the best route to revival and development is to get the states working again, the gang up and hell were let loose on him by his governor and Wadata Plaza. Apart from attacks on his supporters, media reports were rife about how no single result sheet was seen in a y of the 260 wards during the ward congress and how the panel from Wadata plaza accepted a fraudulent list of delegates compiled days before the real exercise, while jettisoning the outcomes of the real exercise conducted at the designated venues. The three-man delegates list is now a subject of three litigations and Zamfara tsunami appears imminent.
In Abia, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who has stood up to be counted when it mattered for the PDP, was mistreated too. He has been a fearless thorn in the flesh of the ruling party. He has been vocal and helped to galvanise the opposition. Yet the party he sacrificed so much for refused to recognise his efforts.
In manipulating Abaribe and Ekweremadu out of contention in the PDP Abia and Enugu gubernatorial primaries, zoning was trumpeted. But why should you jettison zoning the centre and uphold it in states? Is that not approbating and reprobating at the same time?
In the case of Enugu, there were lucid arguments including a 2018 interview by ex-governor Sullivan Chime stating emphatically that there was zoning in Enugu. In any case, why not provide a level playing field and let the people decide?
The Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, has functioned so well as an opposition in parliament. He has shone like a million stars in projecting and protecting the PDP and masses interest in and outside parliament. He has fought for democracy, including the Electoral Act where he brilliantly ensured the stalemate that stalled the efforts to throw away the electronic transmission of results on that fateful 15th July 2021. That gave a leeway, which the Senate’s decision was overturned.
But today, the same party has connived with Governor Ugwuanyi to treat him like a nobody. From televised heavy shootings that lasted for hours at the Awgu venue of the Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency primary, to harassment and intimidation of his honourable person by thugs and agents of the state government, to the flawed and fraudulent delegates identification process that created way for the impersonation and flooding of the hall with unknown delegates, and to the outright rigging by imposing an already prepared result, the PDP did everything to ensure that he was humiliated. In backing out of the primary, he described the process as a comedy of errors.
As I write, another major presidential hopeful from South East, Senator Pius Anyim, has issued a statement complaining about PDP’s hide and seek game with Ebonyi delegates list.
I had earlier warned the PDP that when people have shown this level of fidelity to the party or grown to a certain level, the least you could do for them, is to ensure that the process is transparent so they can fail or succeed fairly. Yet, Ayu sold out to the governors to the extent that the likes of Obi, Ekweremadu, and Abaribe pulled out from the presidential and gubernatorial primaries. But Ayu and his puppeteers, the governors, forgot that whereas they could hijack the primaries and impose their minions, they would not be able to hijack the general election where the masses will speak loudly.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time the PDP is mistreating Ndigbo or those who had showed fidelity. After all, Chief Alex Ekwueme, who co-founded the PDP was thrown under the bus at PDP Jos 1999 convention. But to think that 23 years from that Jos convention, PDP will still mistreat a region that has given its all to the party since 1998 and held the bastion of opposition post 2015 as well as mistreat the likes of Obi, Abaribe, Ekweremadu etc. the same way it mistreated Ekwueme, sends cold shivers.
But the good thing is that Ndigbo are no longer taking it lying low. The result is the current profuse bleeding of the party in the region. Not only are bigwigs like Obi, Ekweremadu, Abaribe, etc. left or on their way out, the party has virtually lost whatever sentiments it enjoys in that region.
Instructively, I warned the PDP sometime in last year, that the Igbo wouldn’t blink an eye voting the APC or any other party for that matter if the injustice they were already cooking at the time was eventually served on Ndigbo. Therefore, I believe that the quite justifiable mass resignation by South-East PDP big wigs from the party are just a foretaste of things to come. It is a prelude to PDP’s Nunc Dimittis in the South-East, albeit one composed by the party itself. It is now too late to salvage the dying horse that is already flying its last kicks.
• Dr. Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought and writes from drlawmefor@franklinemmanuel30gmail-com