June 9, 2023

Atiku, PDP and the battle cry from Bauchi




Bauchi, the capital of the North-easterly state which goes by the same name, last weekend hosted critical stakeholders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The state is otherwise famous as host of the Yankari Game Reserve and National Park, a major national touristic asset which harbours some of the world’s rarest fauna.

Bauchi is also the primordial home of the armoured corps of the Nigerian Army, a critical fighting arm of the Nigerian military complex. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Nigeria’s military President from August 27,1985 to August 27, 1993, popularised the corps.

He belonged to that specialised strand of the defence forces, one of nearly two dozen corps and services of the army superstructure, but a very strategic one at that. They roll out those fearsome tanks with pointed metal nostrils, from their armoury, when the gravity of engagement in a conflict, demands such intervention. In street lingo, the armoured corps are called in, when jungle don mature. 

The event was a “Retreat for Members of the National Assembly Elected on the platform of the PDP”. This encompasses Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. It turned out to be the first time the PDP congregated after the general elections of February and March this year, commanding the attendance of the upper crust of the party’s leadership superstructure. The recent elections are believed to have been very largely flawed at various levels, and have spawned a litany of litigations at countrywide elections petitions tribunals.

The 2023 polls, in instances, have been described as the most opaque, most dubious and most contentious in the 24-year- old Fourth Republic. The theatrics which have been thrown up at the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal, PEPT, for instance, suggest that the feet of the proverbial corpse which was hurriedly interred, are sticking out of its shroud! Reports and filings by local and international observer groups have echoed popular convictions about the largely compromised polls.

Led by former Vice President and banner-bearer of the PDP at the presidential poll, Atiku Abubakar, the topmost stratum of the party on Saturday June 3, 2023, convened in Bauchi. Governor Bala Mohammed, who won a hard-fought reelection, was chief host. The national leadership of the party and governors, reelected and freshly minted, honoured the invite to the meeting in good numbers.

Candidates of the Saturday November 11, 2023 off-season gubernatorial election in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi, were also in attendance. Bauchi continued to savour the carnival air of the season, presaged by the colourful inauguration, on Monday May 29, of Governor Mohammed, as PDP heavyweights peopled the city. The event was held in Government House.

Atiku set the tone of the converge. He admonished the lawmakers-elect to remain very optimistic while awaiting the resolution of the disputed election by the electoral arbiter. Said the former Vice President: “You are representatives of the party and your constituents. Resist the temptation to jettison your party just because of a temporary setback. At the end of the day, truth and good shall triumph over falsehood and evil.” Exhorting the parliamentarians further, Atiku said: Please remain resolute. Do not work in isolation from one another. You are a team and should always work together as a compact, indivisible unit. This is the way you can achieve meaningful results. Remain connected to your roots, your constituents and other stakeholders.”

In the words of the PDP presidential candidate: “Based on the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, our members are not the majority in the National Assembly for now. There are, however, several pending electoral suits awaiting judicial determination by many of our members. For the time being, therefore, our legislators should function as an effective, constructive and unified opposition. They must also, prepare themselves for possible roles as the party in the majority, when outstanding litigations are resolved.”

Atiku, also the Prime Minister of Adamawa, courtesy of his installation as Wazirin Adamawa a few years ago, reminded participants that the PDP is a truly people-based party. This, he noted, is distinct and different from some others held at the jugular by rent-seeking godfathers and overlords who must regularly be offered propitiation.

He expressed optimism in the reclamation of his presidential mandate, upon the conclusion of judicial proceedings and reaffirmed his conviction that the recently inaugurated regime, is a passing phase, a temporal one, in the nation’s political evolution. Atiku prayed the legislators not to reduce themselves to cringing and grovelling “yes men” to those who might want to govern as dictators, emperors and modern day monarchs. 

His words: “Do not be rubber-stamp representatives despite being momentarily numerically disadvantaged. Your numbers will surely grow when the courts rule on contentious electoral fall-outs before the tribunals. Our party ran a robust issue-based campaign and our constituents expect us to hold those who profited from the glaring duplicity of INEC, to account on governance and administration. You cannot afford to disappoint or fail them.”

Acting National Chairman of the party, Umar Aliyu Damagun expressed delight at the quality of attendance at the retreat, despite the short notice. He congratulated elected and reelected participants for their triumph at the recent polls, despite the odds stacked against them. According to him: “The 2023 general elections will go down as the worst in the country. Nigerians had hopes that the elections will be free and fair following the amendment of the Electoral Act which made the deployment of improved technology imperative, so as to make the process more transparent.

Using the combination of BVAS and electronic transmission of results, was also designed to ensure seamless accreditation and hoisting of results. Sadly, INEC failed the minimum test of integrity and believability.” Damagum noted that PDP has traditionally conformed with various prescriptions and milestones advanced by the Electoral Act, to ensure the credibility and broad acceptability of its processes.

He noted that the way the party spontaneously, successfully and convincingly rediscovers its preexisting allure and navigates its present circumstances, will point the way to the future of the party. He requested that efforts be redoubled at various levels of the party, to rediscover the vibrancy and mass appeal of the party which has always won joiners to the party.

Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo State, called for healing and regeneration in the party. He advised stakeholders to keep aside their egos and vain arrogance, so as to begin redefining the core objectives of the party rebuilding the cracks and crevices in its edifice. Candidate of the PDP in the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State, Dino Melaye, concurred with Makinde’s proposition.

He enjoined elders and leaders of the party to be more involved and interested in the various litigations involving the party. Said Melaye: “Our governors regularly have business in Abuja the capital city. They should demonstrate more interest in the presidential election petition, for example, by going to the tribunal to support our legal team.

Let it be known that this is not about an individual, but a wholesome party and its teeming membership.” The rebuild and makeover of the PDP among others, must also include re-establishing rapprochement with important members of the party, who have been disaffected in various ways and have opted to stay aloof. Some have grudgingly crossed over to new political havens, to drive home their misgivings. 

Dr Olusunle, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE.