Politics

April 13, 2024

Caretaker Committee list: Raging battle for soul of PDP continues

PDP

PDP and its colour flags

By John Alechenu

The scramble for the control of party structures across states of the federation is threatening to further split the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP last week, released a list of caretaker committees for most of the 36 states of the federation after some pressure from stakeholders.

This decision was sequel to the expiration of the tenures of most of them. In order not to run foul of its constitution and the Electoral Act, the NWC decided to appoint caretakers to steer affairs in affected states.

As it is to be expected, not everyone is enamoured by the composition. State governors in states where the party has control are by convention leaders in such states.

As such, decisions on sensitive matters such as who controls the party machinery at this level are not taken without their input. In practice, they literally “handpick “ trusted allies for top positions in the state executive committees.

Loud protests

The caretaker committees list released by the NWC has elicited loud protests from none other than the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, the estranged political godson of Chief Nyesom Wike, now the powerful minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, in an APC-controlled federal cabinet. Fubara’s grouse is that the time-honoured courtesies granted governors were accorded his estranged godfather with whom he has been having a running political battle since the 2023 elections.

He has told all those who care to listen to that as far as he was concerned, the list as released by the NWC for Rivers “cannot stand.”

According to him, what was agreed during the last meeting of party stakeholders was that the tenures of State Executive Committees should be extended for three months in states where tenures have expired.

He explained that the decision awaiting the ratification of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, didn’t make provisions for the addition or subtraction of names of existing party officials.

Fubara who spoke at an event in Rivers, said: “We had a meeting and agreed that not just in Rivers but in all the states affected, that the Executive Councils of PDP should be extended for three months.

“This extension is not meant to bring in new names, the extension also did not say that you are working without the authority of the governor.

“So, for those lists that you saw and those names altered, I can assure you that they are not going to stand. “We also agreed that there is going to be a NEC meeting on April 18, that should ratify that decision. So, what you are seeing is the handiwork of desperate people who like media Publicity, so don’t bother about anything. Nothing is happening. The PDP, a party which once prided itself as the largest party in “black and white Africa”, is now gasping for breath largely due to internal wrangling.

Foundation members of the party which came into existence in 1998, have since joined other political parties which have successfully challenged the PDP for political dominance in some states and at the federal level.

The PDP, a former ruling party has been confined to the role of the main opposition party since 2015.

Before this time, the party dominated the political landscape like a colossus for 16 unbroken years at a point boasting it would rule for 100 years.

This dream became a nightmare when arrogance ignited a war of attrition among power brokers which led to the exit of five of its sitting governors who joined others to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), to bring PDP’s 16-year rule to a screeching halt in 2015.

There is no gain in saying the fact that most of the party’s problems are self-inflicted. At inception, it was an amalgamation of powerful interests in business, economy the military and to an extent, the academia.

The battle for the control of the Party structure at all levels has been a long drawn battle among power brokers since the early days.

While a powerful president can, to a large extent, control the power strings at the federal level, he needs the support and loyalty of equally powerful governors who control the states, local governments and wards to be effective.

With the PDP out of power at the centre, it’s 13 State Governors appear to have all the aces. Where their collective interests align, it would take a man with extraordinary powers to swing the tide against them.

Party leaders who have 2027 ambitions will begin moves to court them. With the party’s Presidential ticket up for grabs, a lot is indeed at stake.

The forthcoming National Executive Committee meeting slated for April 17 and 18, will surely be a defining moment for the party as an institution going forward.

A senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos, Dr. Joseph Anuga, said, “In Liberal democracies such as the American style we are trying to copy, you can’t have control outside of the established structure.
“Ordinarily, the electorate should and ultimately decide what happens as such, party structures which position the party to mobilize the people towards voting in its direction are crucial.

“Take Rivers State for example, the electorate has remained essentially PDP since 1999.

“This, to a large extent, was responsible for Governor Rotimi Amaechi losing out in the power struggle to control the state when the left the PDP with some of his colleagues in the defunct New PDP to join the APC.

“Now, it will be a Herculean task for former Governor Wike, whose relevance is being sustained by federal support to change the orientation of the electorate from being PDP to going the way of the APC.

“So, for Nyesom Wike, it is a struggle for political survival. If you ask me, there must be a way for Wike and his political protégé to set aside their egos and work together to benefit from the magnanimity of the people of Rivers State to remain politically relevant. The state is too important to be ignored by whichever political party controls the centre.”

Speaking in a similar vein, an Abuja-based political analyst, Auwual Musa, explained that while the struggle for dominance among contending interests within a political party system is part of the game, the brazen manner in which our politicians go about it calls for concern.

He said, “What is happening is a carryover of our military past. The military with its command and control structure is not democratic in nature. Absolute control and dominance is the operational doctrine.

“So, you find politicians who have been groomed in this tradition importing this system consciously and subconsciously into our polity.

“ A governor in our setting wants to determine who gets what especially when it comes to the political party he belongs.
“To do this, he will require foot soldiers to do his bidding. At the party level, he will need a state party executive whose loyalty is absolute. With full control of the structure, he can to a large extent determine how party tickets are distributed.”

It is no longer news that the instability which was the lot of the National Assembly, especially between 1999-2007, was a direct fallout of the struggle for the control of the legislative arm of government between traditional politicians and serving and retired military officers with vested interests in the polity.

It remains to be seen who blinks first as power blocks within the party struggle to control its structures at all levels.