The victory of Uche Secondus as the new national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) signifies the emergence of a new power bloc in the main opposition party, ahead of the 2019 general elections, analysts have said.
At the just-concluded Elective National Convention, Secondus – a former acting national chairman of the party between 2015 and 2016 – enjoyed the backing of the 11 PDP governors who resisted attempts by some members of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) and founding fathers of the party from determining who emerges as national chairman.
For some analysts, the intrigues that led to the emergence of the Rivers State-born politician as chairman of the self-acclaimed largest political party in Africa, could be an indication of an emergence of a new set of political heavyweights who had dared personalities that hitherto dictated the pace of the polity in the party.
These political gladiators include: former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, former Minister of Information Jerry Gana, ex-Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu and former Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko.
The quartet threw their weight behind former Minister of Education, Tunde Adeniran, at the just-concluded convention. While Adeniran came a distant second with 231 votes, Secondus who had the support of all PDP governors garnered 2,000 votes, even as Raymond Dokpesi and Taoheed Adedoja polled 66 and zero votes respectively.
Other political heavyweights yet to quit the stage include: former President Goodluck Jonathan; Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) Walid Jubril; ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President Adolphus Wabara; Ebenezer Babatope; former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, his counterpart in Oyo and Kogi States, Rashidi Ladoja and Ibrahim Idris respectively among others.
Whether this embarrassing defeat will lead to the retirement from active politics of these old guards or force them to beat a retreat and restrategize ahead of the 2019 general election, is another matter entirely.
Already, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur and former Chairman PDP BoT Tony Anenih have retired from active politics.
It also remains to be seen if this change of baton will last through the new dispensation or lead to the party’s victory in the 2019 general elections.
Perhaps, it was in his bid to thread softly that made former Vice President Atiku Abubakar not to align himself with any power bloc when he rejoined the party prior to the convention. It would be recalled that few days to the convention, he was invited to a meeting of PDP Northern Elders in support of Adeniran’s chairmanship aspiration. But despite assuring politicians like Gana and Mantu of his presence, Atiku shunned the meeting.
The new power bloc consists of the 11 PDP Governors as well as the 21 newly-elected National Working Committee (NWC) members led by Secondus, ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha, PDP governorship candidate in the last gubernatorial election in Ondo State Eyitayo Jegede and former Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam. One common feature about these new set of political heavyweights is that they are mostly in their 50s and 60s unlike the old guards who are predominantly septuagenarians and octogenarians.
How South West undermined South West
The greatest undoing to South West PDP at the convention was not the PDP Governors but the South West itself.
A major talking point of the convention was the last minute withdrawal of some chairmanship aspirants from the region for Adeniran.
The intrigues that played out in the South West brings to mind the saying that: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.
The region undermined itself by the multiplicity of chairmanship aspirants. For instance, out of the nine aspirants, seven of them hail from South West. They include: Adeniran, George, Daniel, Ladoja, former governorship candidate in Lagos State Jimi Agbaje; former Minister of Youths and Sports, Taoheed Adedoja and Olusegun Aderemi.
While Agbaje, Daniel, Ladoja and Aderemi withdrew from the race and supported Adeniran, George who was the first to step down, however, refused to endorse him.
Speaking on the development, a political economist Matthew Ezeh, said from the body language of the governors, the party would have suffered funding challenges had Adeniran won the election.
According to him, none of the PDP governors supported the former Minister in the first instance, thus complicating the situation for him.
His words: “If all seven South West aspirants had presented a consensus candidate much earlier, perhaps it could have changed the pendulum but no, all seven aspirants wanted the ticket; they adopted the ‘me-or-never’ syndrome.
“Even Bode George that first stepped down refused to adopt Adeniran. And you blame the Governors?
“Negotiations had already been concluded when some of them grudgingly accepted to step down at the Eleventh Hour. This should serve as a lesson to others.
“Even if the VP ticket is micro-zoned to the South West in 2019, the region will have more vice presidential aspirants than the entire PDP Presidential aspirants in the North”.
PDP not ready to change – APC
Hours after the convention, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has criticized the opposition party over alleged irregularities of vote buying and imposition which trailed the process.
A statement by APC National Publicity Secretary Bolaji Abdullahi on Sunday says the abnormalities that trailed the PDP National Convention have further exposed it as a party not ready and willing to change.
The party stressed that the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a Party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA.
In a statement on Sunday titled ‘Convention irregularities: PDP not ready to change’, Abdullahi said: “In reacting to revelations of how money-for-votes and systematic rigging was brazenly perpetuated during the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) is mindful of the popular axiom: “A leopard cannot change its spot”.
“The abnormalities that trailed the PDP National Convention have further exposed the PDP as a Party not ready and willing to change. Indeed, the PDP has once again displayed itself to the generality of Nigerians that it is a Party with corruption deeply rooted in its DNA.
“Again, it is tragic that the PDP which used to pride itself as “the biggest political Party in Africa” has now been reduced to a regional party. By frustrating South West Chairmanship candidates, it is unfortunate that the PDP has decided to punish the South West for not voting for the Party in 2015.
“We urge members of the PDP that can pass the integrity test to join the APC so that we can together bring about the much-needed Change the country deserves”.
APC, enemy of PDP, Nigeria – Atiku
In a swift reaction, former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, who recently resigned from APC, has asked for unity amongst members of the Peoples Democratic Party following the conclusion of election of the party’s executive at its National Convention.
A press statement by the media office of the former Vice President congratulating Secondus as the new national chairman of the PDP and other elected officials of the exco, says that the immediate challenge before the newly elected national officials of the PDP is to run an all-inclusive administration where the various interests within the party can find accommodation.
Atiku reminded that Nigerians are looking up to the Peoples Democratic Party for unity in the party, “because it takes a united and coherent PDP to sack the APC government in 2019″.
The statement reads: “Our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party is, again, at the threshold of an historical moment. Just as we mobilized to put an end to prolonged military rule in 1999, the people of Nigeria at this moment look up to us to rescue the country from the mis-government of the APC.
“Arising from our elective congress, there should be no victor and no vanquished. Our paramount attention should be focused at sacking a government that deceived the people of Nigeria into power by promising our youths three million jobs annually, only to deliver three million job lodses annually; a government that is repeatedly living in denial of its commitment to restructuring. We must be united to take power back to where it belongs: the Nigerian people.
“As members of the PDP, we must take pride in being able to hold a national convention and in so doing live up to the bill of being a truly democratic political party. Our major opponent has not been able to achieve this feat and I join millions of our party members to congratulate the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.
“I understand that there are complaints and grievances from many of the co-contestants in the congress. I am aware that the PDP has a mechanism for addressing such complaints and it is important that such avenues of redress are made available for members to explore without let or hindrance Meantime, I call on ALL our leaders and members to rally the new executive for the sake of our party, Nigeria and the good of our people”.
The tasks before Secondus
What next for the PDP, the behemoth that had ruled at the centre and in most states from 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule, until 2015?
The first major task before the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) is to unite the party’s feuding members under one ‘umbrella’ ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Crises in state party chapters of Anambra, Osun, Yobe and the South West and North West geopolitical zones, meant that the states were not represented by ad-hoc delegates while the regions were thrown into crisis due to alleged imposition and impunity by national leaders.
Nonetheless, the PDP has a history of emerging stronger after major crises. It did so in four previous occasions.
In 2001, the party survived a major crisis, which saw the expulsion of some founding fathers, including Sunday Awoniyi, Don Etiebet, Asheik Jarma, Bamanga Tukur, Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. All members of the party’s Board of Trustees had battled with the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, for the soul of the party.
In 2006, it survived another crippling crisis instigated by its pioneer National Chairman, Solomon Lar, and a former Deputy National Chairman, Shuaibu Oyedokun, both of whom floated a parallel NWC.
In 2013, the PDP again was thrown into crisis when some of its prominent members, including five governors and a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, revolted and floated a new faction of the party, named nPDP.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court affirmed Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic leader of the party after a 15-month leadership squabble with Ali Modu-Sheriff.
Reacting to the development, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, stressed that the process of unification and healing process in the PDP is urgently needed due to the general elections approach.
In a statement on Sunday by Uche Anichukwu, Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of the Senate, Ekweremadu said: “The PDP has set an example, which other political parties will have to emulate to deepen the nation’s democracy.
“Importantly, I believe that 2019 is a comeback year for the PDP because distraught Nigerians look up to our great party. However, there is a lot of work to be done and party faithful expect members of the new NWC to hit the ground running because they have no luxury of a honeymoon.
“We expect them to start the process of galvanising party faithful to reposition the PDP and mobilise Nigerians towards building a Nigeria of our dreams”.
Also, the new administration needs to work pretty hard to woo those who have left the party. They include: Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, former National Chairmen of the party Barnabas Gemade and Audu Ogbeh respectively.
Others are five former governors of the party: Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) as well as other federal lawmakers in the 8th National Assembly.
Whether the honeymoon between Secondus and the governors will continue till 2019 or whether there will be realignment of political forces, only time will tell.