The major opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be taking on the toga of a party continually in crisis. Ever since it was dethroned as the ruling party, it has bounced from one crisis to another.
Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi, while battling for the soul of the once biggest political party in Africa, had torn it apart, and it has not fully recovered from that experience, as a good number of prominent members left the party when the Supreme Court declared that Makarfi, chairman of the National Caretaker Committee was the authentic leader of the party.
That leadership tussle had threatened to tear PDP apart, as many of the stalwarts had reportedly floated an alternative party to move to, in the event the resulting legal tussle did not go their way.
Now, the party has slated its national convention for December 9, 2017 in Abuja, to pick its national executives and another crisis has reared its head as the ambitions of some members have come to play. The powers that be within the party have set out to influence the selection process to ensure that they, or their candidates get their target office and position within the party.
While some aspirants have gone out to seek the support of members, others are hobnobbing with the leadership, and other influential chieftains to grab a juicy post. Meanwhile, even as the aspirants jostle for various positions, some chieftains have remained in the background trying to influence who gets what, as a means of ensuring that their own future ambitions or target aspirations are not jeopardised.
To the average onlooker, the battle is about who gets what. But it runs deeper than that.
For example, there have been accusations and counter accusations that some members are canvassing a zoning pattern, for their own selfish interest, rather than for the interest of the party, and the larger nation. The heat was turned up when two aspirants for the position of national chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, and Prof. Tunde Adeniran cried foul over the arrangement being put in place for the national convention.
Both men have alleged that Senator Makarfi was in support of the zoning formula proposed by Ekiti State’s governor, Ayodele Fayose because it would favour his (Makarfi’s) presidential ambition. They also called on the head of the party’s caretaker committee to tender his resignation because they had lost confidence in his ability to deliver an unbiased convention.
According to George, “Apparently spurred by personal ambition of contesting for the presidential office in 2019, Makarfi is brazenly allying with a particular aspirant in the South-south to deliberately distort the process, muddle equity and invariably destroy the democratic process for transient personal gains.”
Prof Adeniran, on his part, pointed out that Makarfi was setting the stage to ensure that a candidate from the South-South zone, Uche Secondus, emerges as the national chairman of the party at the forthcoming convention. To perfect the plan, he alleged that some supporters of Secondus were appointed into the committee to conduct state congresses that would produce delegates for the national convention.
“There is lop-sidedness in the composition of the list of the ad-hoc committee that was published last week. A particular state has members in that list and some of them are the leading campaigners for Secondus. Our campaign organization was not consulted to bring one or two persons and I am sure other aspirants were not consulted too”, he stated.
Secondus supporters, according to him, are “Senator George Sekibo, Austin Okpara, Dr. ThankGod Danagogo and Chief Kenneth Ubani.”
“You can see Emeka Ihedioha leading the campaign for Secondus in that ad-hoc committee list that was released,” Adeniran claimed.
But spokesman of the party, Dayo Adeyeye, would have none of that, insisting, that the call for Makarfi to resign was uncalled for, as the caretaker chairman had no presidential ambition as speculated.
He informed that the zoning formula, was the idea of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and that it had decided to distance itself from negotiations over micro zoning of national offices of the party, which has seen different states laying claim to particular offices.
Adeyeye, however conceded that both North and South may politically micro zone positions to geo-political zones and the geo-political zones to states, but that such arrangement should be done without recourse to PDP headquarters.
Adeyeye took pains to explain, that the national secretariat was not involved in the compilation of membership of committees supervising the congresses in the states and FCT.
“We wish to remind all that it’s the state chapters that actually conduct congresses. The committees only compile the results and attend to appeals after which they file their reports to the party headquarters.
“When all reports are filed by the committees, we shall summon the states chairmen to come with their copies and reconfirm the results at a date to be fixed and all bonafide interest groups will be welcomed to witness it. This is to reassure everybody that validly elected delegates list is not tampered with,” he said.
The PDP, in its efforts to reinvent itself after losing the 2015 presidential election, decided to reposition by setting up a committee to work out suitable zoning arrangements.
The committee headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, recommended zoning of the presidential slot to the North having 19 states for the 2019 election and the chairmanship of the party to the South which has 17 states.
Early signals, that the position of national chairman had been zoned to the South-West, threw up several candidates who felt they had what it takes to lead the party to the 2019 elections.
Those who declared interest in the position included Chief George who is a former PDP Deputy Vice Chairman (South West), Prof Adeniran and a former Minister of Education, a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Uncharacteristically, a former National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, from the South-South, also expressed interest in the chairmanship of the party, throwing up more controversies, and division within the party.
But Secondus has also refuted claims that he is being supported by the chairman of the party’s caretaker committee, Makarfi. According to him, he has a right to contest the position because it was never micro zoned to the south-west.
“No truth in it. I have been going round quietly and canvassing for votes. I have not held any meeting with Makarfi and he has not endorsed me,” he said.
He also asserted, that “There was no time in this time that the office (national chairmanship) was micro zoned.
“The office of national chairman was zoned to 17 southern states of the federation. President was zoned to 19 states. Let’s not dwell in misinterpretation: aspirants know this unless they want to be mischievous.”
However, feelers indicate that the leadership of the party may have indeed micro zoned some offices to some states. It was gathered that the party has picked Katsina and Kaduna states to produce the National Secretary of the Party; National Publicity Secretary was micro zoned to Kogi State, just as the position of National Woman Leader was zoned to Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States.
Even as analysts contend that the development may trigger another round of crisis if not properly handled, before the party’s convention, there are indications that some of the party’s leaders may be secretly involved in double standards, by openly speaking against micro-zoning, while in actual fact secretly supporting it.
They argue that abandoning the Sen Ekweremadu committee’s recommendation for selfish reasons, and powerful forces in the party is tantamount to shifting the goalpost in the middle of the game.
Even as Makarfi has not openly spoken of any presidential ambition, there are strong beliefs among many within the party, that it is not impossible that he may habour such a dream, hence he may in actual fact be interested in who becomes the national chairman of the party.
The argument they put forward to justify that Makarfi may be nursing a presidential ambition is the fact that he would not have any active or official role in the PDP, after the December convention.
Also, Fayose has openly declared his interest in the presidential race set for 2019, as he would not be eligible for re-election as governor after 2018.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Fayose may be among the three governors who are rumoured to be seriously plotting to have a national chairman come from the South South of the country, as it would be unthinkable in Nigeria’s political party hierarchy to have the national chairman of the party, and the presidential candidate come from the same geo-political zone.
Many have argued, however, that Fayose’s declaration for the presidency may just be a plot to bargain for the position of vice president since the party would be better off in the 2019 contest if it fields a presidential candidate from the north.
Whichever way the dice rolls, Fayose is better off with a national chairman of the party coming from a zone outside the South-West, as this increases his chances of clinching the vice presidency ticket.
On his part, Makarfi is said to have influenced the micro zoning of the position of National Secretary to Katsina State, leaving Kaduna where he comes from out of the contest to also increase his chances to clinch the presidential ticket of the party, as it would be unthinkable to have the presidential candidate and National Secretary of the party come from the same state.
As it gets closer to D-Day, except the party puts its house in order, and avoids another round of crisis, and legal battles, it is bound to cripple its chances of putting up a good fight come 2019, or providing the needed opposition platform to tackle the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and keeping them on their feet.
The question now is, will the ambition of a few individuals push the party to the brink of another crisis, or will the PDP resolve the issues related to its national convention on time, to use it as a podium to bounce back to national reckoning?
Indeed, would the burgeoning crisis be the Achilles Hill which would signal more problems for the party? As it stands, if the convention goes downhill, it may lead to PDP’s eventual breakup yet again, raising serious concerns that it would unlikely emerge stronger from another round of crisis.
By Etaghene Edirin…
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