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2023 concerns as PDP negotiates another rocky bend

By By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor)
10 November 2019   |   3:12 am
It is not known whether the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would undertake a post-mortem on its outing in the last general elections. But

• Southeast Stuck With Atiku, Restructuring

It is not known whether the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would undertake a post-mortem on its outing in the last general elections. But already, the general impression among the chieftains is that it went into the election without a field marshal.

One of the founding fathers of the party confided in The Guardian that what happened to PDP in December 10, 2017, contributed “immeasurably to the unexciting performance” of the party in the last election, especially the presidential contest.

The source, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, explained that the election of Prince Uche Secondus as the national chairman at the revival national convention at the Eagle Square, Abuja, showed how far the former ruling party had degenerated.

Listing the names and pedigrees of former national chairmen of the party from inception, particularly late Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Solomon Lar, the BoT member lamented that the national chairman was selected more out of narrow political considerations of some governors than the strategic interest of the party.

He argued that when compared to the chairmen of the former opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), especially Chief Bisi Akande and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the PDP chairman presented in carriage and comportment as an aide, rather than the chief executive of a major national political party.

The source asserted that it was a combination of two factors, including need to move the party after a prolonged leadership contest between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi’s Caretaker Committee, as well as the urgency to ready the platform for the 2019 presidential election that “forced most stakeholders to swallow the flawed process” that threw up Secondus as national chairman.

Although Secondus was elected national chairman after polling 2, 000 out of 2, 396 votes cast during the elective convention, his emergence was shrouded in intrigues and horse-trading, especially the politics of micro-zoning to the Southwest that preceded the convention.

From the accounts of the PDP BoT member, it could be deduced that the party seems to be enjoying uneasy peace currently. To make matters more challenging, unlike when the party did not have a rallying core in its leadership, the fact that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar contested the 2019 presidential election, has placed him at the pivot of the party’s leadership.

Add to that the perceived split between the national chairman and his state governor, Nyesom Wike, who pulled all the strings, including rallying other state governors to adopt Secondus as consensus choice.

It would be recalled that based on the tardiness of the withdrawal process by some aspirants during the national convention, there were calls on the Makarfi committee to hand over to the BoT.

Prior to his decision to walk out of the convention, one of the aspirants, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, in a statement by his Director of Media and Publicity, Taiwo Akeju, rejected the electoral process, alleging that it was predetermined and compromised through a so-called ‘Unity List’ prepared by Governor Wike and Ayo Fayose.

Adeniran expected to be the beneficiary of the belated consensus arrangement made by some aspirants from Southwest, including former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Bode George; Gbenga Daniel; Rasheed Ladoja and Jimi Agbaje.

The Southwest felt shortchanged by the insistence of the PDP governors on Secondus, despite Fayose’s charge to “losers to take their loss in good faith.”

2023 And Spectre Of Zoning
WITH the recent apex court ruling that refused to upturn President Muhammadu Buhari’s election in favour of PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the party seems to be walking in the shadows of another zoning controversy.

Some party faithful had observed that the PDP and Atiku would have performed better in Southwest if only the presidential running mate was selected from the zone, not only to atone for the misgivings of the December 9, 2017, elective national convention but also give the stakeholders the currency to canvass for votes.

By 2021, PDP should be going for another national convention. That exercise would most likely give indicators as to how the mind of the party leadership is working concerning zoning of the presidency.

Against the backdrop of insinuations that the party was planning to retain the zoning format that paired Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from Northeast and Mr. Peter Obi from the Southeast on the 2019 Presidential ballot, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said no such plan has been mooted.

He said: “For the avoidance of doubt, our party is yet to discuss the 2023 presidential election, overtly or covertly, at any time whatsoever. If anything, the PDP is currently working with Nigerians on how to win the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states and will not be distracted by individuals who found themselves operating in the highest offices of the land, but failing in governance.”

The party’s denunciation followed the discovery that certain elements in the ruling party that are opposed to powershift to the South decided to fly the kite that PDP was divided on the issue.

Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai told The Guardian that while it would be inappropriate for the ruling party to select its candidate from the North after President Buhari, people should not lose sight of the fact that political parties are wont to choose candidates that would help them win an election.

Yakassai contended that circumstances that predisposed the last military administration to ensure that Southwest produced the President in 1999 are no longer obtainable, stressing that being a democratic dispensation, debates and concessions play great roles.

Gauging from the current situation of PDP, the predominant opinion of stakeholders in Southeast is that the Atiku/Obi ticket should be represented.

A former Southeast governor who did not want his name in print said despite the ambivalent posturing of incumbent governors in the zone, Obi remains a better alternative, adding that retaining the Atiku/Obi combination is the safest way to avert the infighting that could divide the party if the presidency was zoned to Southeast.

Already, perhaps in a bid to quash the Atiku/Obi arrangement, some of the second term governors are said to be scheming to serve as running mate to any other presidential candidate from the north.

And this posturing has given the pervading impression that the Southeast was not ready for the 2023 Presidency, even as other stakeholders in the zone believe that the country’s current structure would not enable a Nigerian President from Southeast extraction to exercise authority.

A former Senate President, Adolphous Wabara, has also aligned himself with the sentiment that 2023 was not ample time for Southeast to aspire for the nation’s top job.

Short of admitting that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar reserves the right of first refusal when the considerations for the zoning of PDP’s presidential candidate would come up in 2023, Wabara argued that being ill-prepared, Southeast lacks the basis to engineer negotiations for the Presidency.

He stated: “As a matter of fact, we have been given our permanent place and limits in our country called Nigeria. However, Nd’Igbo believes that a wise patient dog eats the fattest bone because this too shall pass.”

The Strutting North
The odds seem to be stacked in favour of PDP more than the ruling party. Despite the grandstanding by some APC chieftains, especially Governor Nasir el Rufai, there is a growing perception in the north that leaving the Presidency in the zone after President Buhari’s eight years would amount to a third term.

However, some Presidency cabals fault el Rufai in his quest to succeed Buhari, saying that the Northeast should be considered in the spirit of equity and fairness.

Some in the Northeast APC are disposed to having the Presidency zoned to the South, particularly the Southwest. Although the immediate past Governor of Bauchi State, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar, denied that he was being groomed for the Presidency, the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, said it would be in the interest of APC to zone the 2023 Presidency to Southwest, adding that former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, would make a good President.

Yet, while the likes of the former SGF and Adamawa State APC organising secretary, Ahmad Lawan, root for zoning to Southwest, some former governors, particularly, Senators Danjuma Goje, Ibrahim Gaidam, and Kashim Shettima, are said to be interested.

Prior to the nomination of the former Vice President as PDP standard-bearer at the Port Harcourt convention, after Senator Makarfi was persuaded to mellow his ambition, former Governors Sule Lamido, and Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Dankwambo and Governor Aminu Tambuwal, were the other prominent presidential aspirants from the core north.

None of the above politicians, except Alhaji Bafarawa, has disclosed that he would no longer seek elective office.

Although sources said APC plans to delay the selection of its Presidential candidate in 2022 to see how PDP solves its own puzzle, the idea of retaining the Atiku/Obi ticket sounds a plausible option.

That option depends on how far presidential aspirants from Northwest are persuaded to bury their ambitions and the possibility that no other candidate with proven capacity would arise from the northeast to challenge Atiku.

On paper, the calculation favours the Atiku/Obi ticket, but the snag is the insinuation that the Buhari Presidency could prop up a candidate from the Southeast with a view to breaking the zone.

In the event of such a scenario, the challenge would be whether the Southeast could retain the bloc vote for Atiku/Obi or align with the federal might available to the prospective APC flagbearer from the zone.

It would then boil down to a vote between Igbo presidency and restructuring, which the Atiku/Obi option represents. As the variables would keep changing in the next three years, all options, as Americans would say, remain on the table.