2019 Presidency: National convention as factor for PDP’s relevance
• South-West, South-South intrigues for chairmanship may make, mar party
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains the only opposition party capable of giving the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) the necessary challenge in the coming 2019 general election. But the big task that would determine whether the PDP would live up to such expectations, particularly as many Nigerians are becoming critical of the administrative style of President Muhammadu Buhari and the unending internal squabbles in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is the outcome of its (PDP) scheduled December 9 national convention.
Since the last aborted national convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt, which led to the protracted power tussle that almost destroyed the party, the Supreme Court intervention eventually resolved the tussle over its national leadership crisis between the Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff faction and Sen. Ahmed Makarfi’s-led Caretaker Committee.
Having scaled through that hurdle, thanks to the decision of the apex court, the coming national convention is however going to determine the strength and weakness of the PDP ahead of the next general election.
Investigation revealed that three issues are at the centre of the looming crisis in the party ahead of December convention and 2019 polls. They are Governor Ayodele Fayose’s declared presidential ambition, who emerges the party’s national chairman in December and who picks the party president ticket in 2019.
Even though Fayose was among those who agreed and ratified Senator Ike Ekweremadu Committee’s report on zoning, which zoned the party’s 2019 presidency to the North, his declaration appeared to have contravened the understanding or agreement and ruffled feathers in the North.
A one-time national chairman of the party told The Guardian that Fayose and his supporters including the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike are planning to hijack the party again ahead of 2019 polls.
“Fayose’s game plan is to ensure that Southwest zone did not produce the party national chairman in December convention, because Wike wants his strong ally and former national deputy chairman of the party, Uche Secondus to return as party chairman. This will enable the governors, especially Wike and Fayose to have a grip on the party and dictate who picks its presidential ticket. In their plan, the governors want one of their own to emerge the party’s candidate or the running mate.
“That is the reason Fayose, despite being the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum was the first person to flout the party’s zoning agreement. Obviously some of these governors that created the problem that crippled the party for almost two years have not learnt anything. We are just watching them. The chairmanship position is zoned to the South, but in the South, Southeast has produced it twice, South-south has produced national deputy chairman, so also the Southwest. There will be battle for the soul of the party in 2019 between some state governors led by Wike and Fayose, the current leadership of the party led by Ahmed Makarfi, ex-ministers and governors of the party mainly from the North on one hand and foundation leaders of the party on the other hand,” the party ex-chairman said.
It was discovered that the developments triggered off the recent meeting by PDP leaders from the 19 states of the North in Abuja. At the meeting, which was convened by one of the founding fathers of the party, Prof. Jerry Gana, the leaders harmonised their position on the zoning arrangement of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections and the PDP national convention.
Gana, while welcoming members at the meeting, said there was a need to select the best candidates in accordance with the zoning arrangement of the party. He said the party must insist on its zoning formula, which also ceded the office of the national chairman to the South. He added that the recent declaration by Fayose was of no consequence. He said that the party’s position on the presidency in 2019 was clear enough.
“I want to appeal to you to give to the party the very best in the positions that have been zoned to us. Let us therefore, give to the party, men and women of impeccable integrity. Whatever the Fayoses of this world may be doing, the party has resolved that the presidential candidate will come from one of the three zones in the North.”
Also speaking on the issue, a former acting national chairman of the party, Bello Haliru, called for sanctions on Fayose, noting that zoning and rotation of offices have always been given a pride of place in the PDP.
“Zoning and rotation are part of the PDP constitution. We must adhere to them if we are to keep this party alive. There are people who are bent on contesting whether the office is zoned to their place or not. We must discuss with the South so that anybody who goes against zoning can be punished. We cannot afford to have people come to the convention and make a fool of themselves and ridicule the party.”
The Chairman of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi, said he was happy that members of the party were ready to make sacrifices. A source at the meeting said that the meeting was hurriedly convened, when the Northern PDP leaders got hint of the plot by some governors to hijack the party leadership and dictate the outcome of the zoning arrangement.
“The meeting is to send a signal to Fayose and Wike that the North is not ready to toy with the zoning arrangement that ceded the 2019 presidential ticket to them. We are not against any aspirant picking the party’s presidential ticket provided he or she is from the North. But we are strongly against some governors hijacking the party machinery under any disguise to dictate who picks the party’s ticket from the North. It won’t work this time around.
“If it was another person that declared from the South, we won’t bother because we know how we have handled such in the past, when we were in power. But Fayose is not a character to be treated with kid’s glove in politics. He is capable of rocking the boat if not checkmated early.
“There are only two PDP governors in the North- Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe and Dairus Ishaku of Taraba. Dankwambo’s tenure will end in 2019 and he is planning to throw his hat in the presidential race. Others planning to contest in the party include Ahmed Makarfi; Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State; former Kano governor, Ibrahim Shekarau; former Special Duties Minister, Kabiru Turaki; former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; and former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Mukthar Shagari. Atiku Abubakar is still weighing his options, considering that PDP ticket may be difficult for him to grab,” the source said.
It was disclosed that some of the PDP governors are also discussing with aggrieved APC governors to defect in 2019, especially if Buhari decides to seek second term in office. One of the popular APC governors from Northwest is leading the discussion. The APC governor is equally positioning himself to be considered for the PDP presidential ticket. Unfortunately for the PDP in the Southeast, some of its governors in zone are planning to move to APC before 2019.
Investigation revealed that discussions with some of the governors had reached advanced stage, but the defection is being delayed deliberately to know the outcome of the forthcoming Anambra governorship election. That may be the reason the zone is not interested in asking or struggling for anything tangible in the PDP’s zoning arrangement. They recently endorsed what was presented in Enugu.
It is clear that the outcome of the forthcoming Anambra election will go a long way in determining the continued survival or otherwise of the PDP in the zone. Meanwhile, a foundation member of PDP from the North, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that after the 2019 zoning arrangement, the North will not be party to any zoning arrangement with the South.
Asked why, the member said: “Several efforts by the North to maintain and abide by the zoning arrangement has been rebuffed or abused by the south. Our great party PDP lost 2015 presidency because of the failure of the South to abide by the understanding. There is no pretence about it.
“No matter what anybody says, PDP wouldn’t have lost 2015 presidential election if a Northern candidate had been fielded as agreed in the zoning arrangement. Look at where our party is today. There is need for people to abide by agreement. There is no assurance that what happened in 2015 that cost the party victory would not happen again. Some governors of the party, especially from the South because they are in majority, are already behaving as if the party belongs only to them. These were the same governors, who created the crisis that lingered in the party for years.”
A member of Board of Trustees of the PDP Chief Ebenezer Babatope said that members of the party from the Southwest zone must abide by the party zoning arrangement. On Fayose’s declaration and alleged plots by the governors to hijack the party structure ahead of 2019, Babatope said that the situation would be taken care of at the appropriate time.
“PDP has zoned the presidential ticket to the North and party chairman seat to the South. Nothing has changed. Not even Fayose declaration can disrupt it, even though he has the right to aspire for the position.”
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