Thursday, 8th June 2023

PDP rebirth: Controversial southwest deal versus impending northern duel

By Leo Sobechi
12 November 2017   |   6:57 am
So far, only former governors of Jigawa and Kano States, Sule Lamido and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau have practically indicated their intention to vie for the PDP ticket, there are indications that the number would spiral after the convention.

Former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido.

It was essentially a deal brokered by prominent politicians from the north, but with tacit support of some Southwest leaders, who insist that their zone should be supported to produce the national chairman for the first time, 19 years after the party’s formation. Naysayers have already started to grumble, alleging a plot to exclude certain caliber of aspirants.

Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun signed the shortlist document. He said the decision was to ensure that Southwest produced the national chairman at the convention, even as he explained that to select the three aspirants, the Southwest caucus looked at such considerations as acceptability, vision, experience, chances of winning and educational exposure, among others.

The BoT member noted that ultimate aim of the exercise was to increase the chances of picking a consensus candidate, as well as, to reduce election expenses and avert possible splitting of southwest votes.

But, noting the sensitivity of the exercise and, above all, its potential to throw up new animosities and antagonisms in the healing PDP, the chairman, BoT of the party, Senator Walid Jibrin, short of dismissing the sideline elimination, assured that the convention would provide a fair and level playfield for all aspirants. What is the import and implication of Jibrin’s consoling claims? They are many.

In the first place, it offends the spirit of zoning. How? Insofar as PDP’s zoning format was not a product of constitutional provision, but a commonsense approach to accommodate all segments of the population, the idea of zoning presupposes that benefitting zones should do all in its power to present its best or those with brighter chances to win the major election.

The positive side to what the Southwest caucus of the BoT did is that it affords party faithful from across the six geopolitical zones, a bird’s eye view of the pre-selected aspirants. This way, with the sizeable number, it becomes easier to critically appraise the Southwest short list, without the possibility of a lucky dip.

But the snag is that it does not seem as if the Southwest caucus procured the endorsement of the aspirants or what strategy they adopted to arrive at the three aspirants.

Senator Jibrin had reiterated that since the position of national chairman was zoned to the south, any aspirant from the zone was free to contest.

He added that the clarification became necessary following “information that a sectional meeting of the Southwest BoT was reported to have appointed only three aspirants for the position and said to have discarded the rest aspirants.”

The BoT chairman who addressed journalists in Kaduna not only denied that the meeting was at the instance of the national BoT, but also disclosed that he has invited Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun to a national caucus to explain why he championed that event.

While urging all BoT members in all the zones to avoid holding such meetings without first clearing with him, Senator Jibrin disclosed that two BoT members from the Southwest contesting for the chairmanship did not attend “the meeting where such sensitive decision was taken.”

The BoT chairman may be well meaning in his intentions, but the harm has been done. There is no way any of the rusticated aspirants could go to the convention and expect to win the baggage of having failed a purported mock examination. It would amount to the equivalent of traveling to a foreign country without a valid visa.

Even if by any stroke of luck such an aspirant emerges from the convention, he may not perform optimally without the support of his immediate caucus. Apart from Jimi Agbaje, who all the while played as the anointed favourite, the other aspirants should know within themselves that their membership gross cumulative points average cannot guarantee them a passage to the national chairmanship of PDP.

JK’s exclusion from the prequalified three may be a strategic move to pacify George, who waged a stiff battle during the buildup to the failed Port Harcourt convention, when it was obvious some governors were showing marked preference for the 2015 governorship candidate of the party in Lagos.

There are those from the north, particularly those with presidential ambition who believe that the best way to continue the journey back to stardom for the party is to have a set of new leaders at Wadata Plaza. That sentiment may actually work against Uche Secondus and Chief Raymond Dokpesi at the convention.

That may be what Senator Jibrin meant when he declared: “Never again will our party witness any impunity; count me out of any game that deliberately excludes any aspirant from fair participation. The delegates of our convention should be allowed to decide in accordance with set down rules of the party.”

Who Will Call The Shots In The North
In line with the zoning arrangement announced at the Port Harcourt convention in May, the Presidential slot was ceded to the nebulous north. With the hiccups being encountered in the attempt to streamline and reduce the number of aspirants jostling for the post of national chairman, it would be interesting to see how the north grapples with geopolitical agitation within the North.

Some politicians from the northeast geopolitical zone, including some of those that were involved in the search for a consensus candidate in the build up to the 2011 election, are already mooting the idea that the presidential ticket be further zoned to their area.

While some chieftains of the party still make moves to bring back former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to PDP, others insist that whoever does not rejoin the party from among the defectors before the December 9, 2017 national convention should not be eligible for any electoral contest in 2019.

So far, only former governors of Jigawa and Kano States, Sule Lamido and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau have practically indicated their intention to vie for the PDP ticket, there are indications that the number would spiral after the convention.

As the national convention date draws near, it is not known whether presidential aspirants from the northeast are waiting to know the fate of Atiku Abubakar, before joining the race or merely bidding their time out of caution. But The Guardian gathered from various sources that some politicians from the zone are holding meetings across political party divides to ensure that the next President hails from their region in 2019.

The sources, which spoke in confidence disclosed that while some first term governors in the All Progressives Congress (APC) are making desperate efforts to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari contests for a second term, political leaders from the northeast are patiently observing developments.

Dismissing apprehensions over the number of aspirants jostling to contest the Presidency, one of the sources noted that in keeping with the resolution to have the next president come from northeast, only the northwest would witness many aspirants, stressing that unlike what is happening about the party chairmanship, the Presidential ticket would be settled at the primary election.

“So, we are mindful of that and that is the essence of the series of meeting by leaders from our zone. We don’t have to give room for aspirants from northeast to divide their delegate votes or even the likelihood that a candidate does not feature on any of the two major parties,” he explained.

Another privileged source disclosed that the two things that will inform the nature of politics in the region in the days to come are President Buhari’s decision to join the race and possible movement of the former vice president back to PDP.

“If Atiku rejoins PDP, you can be sure that some people from PDP would move over to APC. And if Buhari agrees to contest, effort will be made to ensure a competitive primary to see the possibility of having an all northeast presidential aspirants in the two parties,” he added.

It should be noted that Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, recently warned those trying to draw President Muhammadu Buhari into a second term ambition to desist so as to allow the President focus on the job Nigerians voted him for.

Going by the foregoing, it is possible that presidential aspirants from northeast geopolitical zone may also be waiting for Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who is also associated with presidential ambition that predated even the present dispensation.

Not long ago, Fayose declared his intention to contest the presidency, he stated that his ambition was not prejudicial to the zoning arrangement, but stressed that those with interest in the nation’s top job should show up for public scrutiny. This may be what informed the seeming emphasis on the national chairmanship, in the hope that time and variables would help to whittle down the number of aspirants chasing the PDP presidential ticket.

Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see how the party solves the chairmanship puzzle, especially in the light of the disputed short listing in the Southwest geopolitical zone. How the matter gets resolved at the national convention would be a unique pointer to how the geopolitical consideration could affect the selection of the PDP flag bearer.