How far can Ayu go with ‘new’ PDP
It was billed to be the return of the old redoubtable, but ended up as an admixture of the old and new. In all, incumbent state governors showed that they hold the ace.
With the affirmation of the consensus choice of former President of Senate in the brief third republic, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, as its national chairman PDP surrounded the fear of open competition as it steered its convention into a warehoused National Working Committee (NWC).
Efforts by the likes of the former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido and immediate past President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to bring back Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola back into the NWC failed to sway the strong control of the incumbent governors.
Despite the outcome of the election into the NWC in which unopposed candidates predominated, Lamido’s insistence that PDP retained its name was extolled by most delegates who expressed optimism that the party would bounce back in two years.
It was obvious as the convention progressed that the open battle between North and South over the Presidential ticket of the party next year would present the strongest test to Ayu’s leadership experience and expertise as a sociology teacher.
Campaign materials publicising the presidential ambitions of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, incumbent Sokoto State governor and chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal; former Senate President, Saraki; former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, left the impression that the 2023 contest would be a northern affair.
But, dispelling that notion, former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim, told journalists that he was determined to contest the Presidential ticket next year. He recalled that as early as the year 2020, many party faithful, started prodding him to indicate interest in the Presidency.
While dismissing insinuations that the failure of the party’s zoning committee to pronounce on the Presidential ticket was a tacit demonstration that the north would have its way, Anyim said PDP stalwarts are focused on doing the right things.
He declared: “Zoning of such positions was deferred, but nothing stops anyone from Southeast Zone from contesting the Presidency even if it is not zoned to it. The most important thing is that the party’s national convention comes as a rebirth for a group of people that have recovered from a setback.
“The members are focused and determined. The zoning committee instituted by our party was only saddled with zoning party positions and not other positions.”
Although there was great apprehension that the convention would run into a big hitch due to the refusal of three candidates, particularly Oyinlola and Hajiya Ina Ciroma, to fall in line with the consensus approach designed by the state governors, the organisers managed to pull it through.
Former Enugu State governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, told The Guardian that despite whatever anybody would say, “the convention was a success. It was a great organisational showcase that occasioned the deepening of internal democracy in the party.”
An Environmental Rights Activist, Ankkio Briggs, however saw things differently, contending that the inability of PDP to state unequivocally that the Presidential ticket would go to the southern part of Nigeria amounted to postponing the evil day.
Alluding to subdued threats by PDP stalwarts from the Southwest to stonewall the plot to throw open the Presidential contest to all comers, Briggs recalled how the various geopolitical zones had fared in accessing the Presidency, the Human rights activist, stated that PDP was not serious that it wants to take over.
However, the unstated question on the minds of pundits as the Benue-born politician was returned as the successor in waiting to the embattle Prince Uche Secondus, was whether he could weather the approaching and break the jinx of abridged tenure in public office.
In 1992, when he was elected as President of Senate, during the Ibrahim Babangida transition programme, Ayu’s tenure was cut short through impeachment. Even in 1999, after he had worked hard to return Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the fourth republic President, he later fell out with Obasanjo. He was removed as Minister of Environment without reasons.
Riding on their close political association within the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Ayu decided to team up with Vice President Atiku Abubakar as they joined their former colleague, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), where Atiku contested the 2007 Presidential ballot.
Perhaps wary of the risk of completing the transition programme within the NWC, PDP leaders resolved to warehouse the outcome of the elective national convention to achieve two purposes, namely await the apex court determination of Secondus’ appeal against his suspension as well as the end of the present NWC’s tenure in the first week of December.
In the final analysis, when Ayu and his team ultimately mount the saddle, it would be seen whether he would bring the experience of his years in politics or activist years as a former Chairman of Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) University of Jos chapter, to bear in managing the intricate issues that would define the build up to the 2023 Presidential poll.