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Reinvented PDP and the pitfalls ahead

By Abraham Ogbodo
17 December 2017   |   3:50 am
I congratulate the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on its successful elective convention last week. The event brought to a resolution, two and half years of breathtaking build-ups.

The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

I congratulate the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on its successful elective convention last week. The event brought to a resolution, two and half years of breathtaking build-ups. The management of the party is now in substantive hands and not a caretaker committee or an impostor whose agenda was at best nebulous.

It is something to crow about, especially against the backdrop that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has been avoiding going into convention of any kind – elective or non-elective – to keep trouble at bay. Even so, the PDP has more reasons to be reflective than to be triumphant. It is trying to get back to the crest after a tough trudge through the trough. The PDP has to watch it because it is beginning to seem as if the two leading parties in Nigeria have better capacities to manage misfortune than they have to manage success.

The new PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus has been smiling and shaking hands across the country in full acknowledgement of the beautiful moment. Every victory comes with its joy and the Prince can be granted some time to absorb the ensuing euphoria, but not for too long. There is work to be done, beginning with the effective management of the fall-outs from the convention. There were bruises last Sunday at the Eagle Square Abuja. The party can only deny that at its own peril which, perhaps, is why it has promptly set up a reconciliation committee headed by Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson to begin some healing.

Specifically, the Southwest, which prior to the convention got conditioned by whatever considerations to feel so strongly entitled to the PDP chairmanship seat must be engaged. But first, I want to say that there was nothing basically faulty with the outcome of the convention and the processes that led to that result. When the consideration for micro-zoning the chairmanship seat to the Southwest failed, it became an open contest for the entire South and not a call for the affirmation of a particular region.

Going forward, all sides deployed the awesome elements of the power game and the side with the most sophisticated deployment within the rules of engagement took the seat. That is the summary of what happened. The details might throw up the hand of the devil but such inquisition would only mean little or even hurt after crossing the Rubicon. Let’s then just say that overall, Secondus had better political firepower than his opponents. I add that the concept of a level playing ground, the absence of which most losers in power contests attribute their failures to, does not mean all the contestants will be equally endowed.

Some will be better equipped than others. It is only when the strongest in the objective ranking fails to win the prize that issues about the undulating playing field and other biases will be raised. In the just concluded PDP contest, it has not been established that Prince Uche Secondus wasn’t the strongest of all the contestants. Maybe, if the rules had stipulated that being a professor, ex-military officer or media magnate, was an added advantage, the trio of Professor Tunde Adeniran, Chief Bode George and High Chief Raymond Dokpesi would have had a positive edge over Secondus.

The rules did not stipulate that and Secondus came top in the equation that was drawn from the available factors. In effect, the battle has been won and lost. But Secondus, like General Yakubu Gowon at the end of the Nigerian civil war, has announced that there is no victor and no vanquished in the contest for the PDP national chair. It is a sweet and wise thing to say at this time and I enjoin him to search for more of such statements to say in the days, weeks, months and years ahead to keep the PDP house together.

Meanwhile, two names had remained constant in the intrigues that attended the convention. They were Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. Both were accused of working towards the emergence of Secondus. Well, that is practical politics. People work to increase and protect their stakes in the common enterprise and these two gentlemen could not have been pinned down to a different standard. They worked and will still work to protect their interest.

That said; let’s now examine the undertones. Being a first-term governor, the stake of Wike is well defined. He wants first and foremost a mandate renewal in 2019 and then a measure of control in the national PDP, preparatory to the next general election. That is not too much to ask given his level of investment in the party.

Fayose on the other hand, is differently motivated. He is a second-term governor and while he may be interested in who comes after him as Ekiti State governor, his post-office political status seems to be of greater concern to him. He has been sounding clairvoyant since the beginning of the 2015 dispensation making it look as if his next sure destination after Government House Ado-Ekiti is Aso Rock Villa Abuja.

His declaration of intention to contest the presidency on the platform of the PDP in Abuja in spite of the understanding within the party to let the North have the presidency in 2019 has been interpreted by watchers as a maximalist bait to bargain what Fayose really wants in 2019, which is the vice presidency. This is where the PDP has to be very careful. Winning the presidency is not a tea party. It is a world different from the intra-party politics of a convention with a handful delegates.

Governors Wike and Fayose were culpable in creating the Ali Modu Sheriff albatross that almost pushed the PDP under. They knew who invited the snake into the house. Their saving grace was that they were relentless in the remediation efforts that followed until the snake was finally cast out. More or less, the two them became doctor kill and cure. They destroyed and restored the party. But now that the PDP is seeking to consolidate its new little gains into a winning strategy in the aftermath of the Ali-Modu Sheriff devastation, the duo of Fayose and Wike must also seek to play a different role.

If they make operations in the party to be all about themselves and their interests, the PDP shall surely return to captivity in Babylon before long. What is worse, it may not have the grace to return from a second captivity. This is therefore the time for the two champions to be magnanimous and resist the temptation of triumphalism.

In the emergent PDP configuration, I foresee a situation where the two governors will double as grand administrators of the party and where nothing happens until they decree accordingly. If this turns the case, the PDP will not only be weakened to compete in 2019, it will be atomized in an unending attrition. The only way to avert the impending doom is for the strong, weak, rich, poor and all other disparate elements within the party to come to a uniform vision of promoting only the interest of the PDP within the larger national interest.

What define democracy are not the altruistic claims of the ruling party, but the alternate views of a strong opposition. The PDP, which swapped roles with the opposition after the 2015 general elections therefore, has a unique duty to make democracy survive in Nigeria even as it schemes to return to centre-stage. It is left for it to remember that in all contexts, power is never given but taken.

It follows therefore, that as the PDP is planning to shoot without missing, the APC will be planning to fly without perching. The latter will deploy all its might, including the highly indeterminate factor of incumbency in Nigerian politics, to stop the former, which has become attractive again to its prodigal members, from reaching destination. In the end, it is the better planner that will win.