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Published On: Sun, Mar 11th, 2018

SDP to the rescue, makes a bid for 2019

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Social Democratic Party (SDP), the political party through which the late Chief MKO Abiola ran- and as widely believed, won what was arguably the most credible election in Nigeria’s history in 1993, is staging a virile come-back bid that could change the dynamics of the country’s political landscape.

It is Deja Vu. It was on June 12, 1993 that then head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), apparently acting under pressure from General Sani Abacha who felt it was his turn to mount the saddle in fulfillment of a 1985 coup agreement, did the unthinkable by annulling the election. An action which triggered a chain of reactions resulting in the death of Abiola, his wife Kudirat and many others in what later became the June 12 struggle spearheaded by NADECO.

On February 12, 2018 various political players came together at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, to effect a rebirth of the SDP. Fortnight ago at the same hotel, a memorandum of understanding to the effect was signed; a merger for the rebirth of SDP with the  Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Peoples Salvation Party (PSP) already absorbed while more are being expected.

The party is anchoring on restructuring, the dominant topic in the country’s political space. And according to Chief Olu Falae former presidential candidate and founding member of the party, it is aimed at providing “credible” alternative to Nigerians. This to many can only be a welcome development.

“In a democracy, the more the merrier,” observed Chief Goddy Uwazurike, president emeritus of Aka Ikenga. “If they want to form or join SDP, it’s good luck to them. If they want to go back to PDP, it’s good luck to them.

“If we can have a brand new party with enough strength to upstage every other party: why not? All I am asking is, to quote Jerry Gana, if you are commander in chief, please chiefly command well. That’s all I will ask.”

The memorandum jointly signed by Chief Falae and former Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana on behalf of Movement for a New Political Order, reads in part:

“Whereas on the 12th Day of February 2018, a joint resolution was adopted at Sheraton Hotel Abuja, for working together to ensure the emergence of a new and credible political order to deepen democracy, good governance and genuine development, with peace, security and social justice. The said meeting also unanimously resolved to build:

  1. a) a restructured, balanced equitable and truly functional Nigerian Federation:
  2. b) a humane, free, seIf-reliant and democratic society;
  3. c) a dynamic, productive, transformed and sustainable economy;
  4. d) a just, fair, egalitarian and peaceful nation
  5. e) a land of bright and full of opportunities for all Nigerians; and
  6. f) a national culture of raising good leaders through effective mentoring…”

“Whereas, the Strategic Committee, comprising representatives from all the six geopolitical zones of the Federation, have met  and submitted their report, unanimously recommending the adoption  of  Social Democratic Party(SDP) vehicle by the movement for a new political order:

“Therefore, we hereby resolutely agree to: (a) Fuse together into one political form; (b) adopt the Social Democratic Party(SDP) as the political vehicle for the fused political formation; (c) Convene a non-elective convention for Saturday, 14th April, 2018; (d) authorize the National Working Committee to serve as the Interim Management Committee until the said convention;  Set up a National Steering Committee of 12 members to guide the Interim Management Committee during the transition period; Raise a Constitution Review Committee to consider all necessary amendments to the party constitution.”

The SDP which had for sometimes now, existed on the fringes as one of the numerous political platforms making up the numbers, is already turning into a political force with top personalities in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who were aggrieved with the outcome of the party’s convention last year, joining, while more are still being expected. And with the growing discontent in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), observers say, it is only a matter of time before aggrieved members move in droves.

“We know those who moved to APC, we know about the N-PDP, they are the ones marginalized in APC. ACN is also complaining badly that they are not carried along,” Uwazurike noted.

“They are really agitating, so you never can tell what will happen. There is a lot of discordant in a number of states. There may be an upset in various states soon.”

Apart from the disenchanted Dr. Bukola Saraki APC camp whose future in the party remains uncertain, BusinessHallmark was reliably informed that some top political leaders in the North, including an APC governor who is close to the party’s acclaimed National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are plotting a switch to the SDP and are only waiting for the right moment.

There is equally an emerging speculation that Tinubu is having secret talks with former President Olusegun Obasanjo with a view to moving his camp to join forces with the platform. In the event that such becomes a reality, some say, it could very well be game over for the ruling party.

“This was always going to happen,” said Mr. Taofic Gani, spokesman for Lagos PDP. Everyone knows that there is going to be political realignments before 2019.

“It is obvious, so tying it to Bola Tinubu alone may just be eulogising him. What I think is that what Obasanjo has said is just a repeat of what some people had already agreed to and have been doing.

“But because of his clout, people now think it’s a new thing.

“I will give specific examples. Look at Pastor Tunde Bakare who was even vice presidential candidate with Buhari, but who has several times embarrassed the president. Even, Prof. Wole Soyinka and up North, the Shehu Sanis and the rest who previously supported this government are moving away. So, it is something that was inevitable that we were going to have a new political alliance.”

Few weeks ago, Obasanjo inspired what was called Third Force Movement, an alternative political platform to both the PDP and the APC. It is a movement that quickly gathered momentum, enlisting the likes of former governors: Donald Duke, Olagunsonye Oyinlola, Prof Pat. Utomi, Olisa Agbakoba, Oby Ezekwesili, Ahmadu Alli, Buba Galadima among others. The movement birthed what is called Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) which Prof. Utomi, a professor of economics and former presidential candidate says, was “necessitated by the need to save Nigeria from anarchy.”

Utomi, a member of the APC had also emerged as one of the strong critics of the Buhari government, and SDP sources say the NIM is also plotting a merger with the party.

At the event in Abuja; in what was an aftermath of talks with notable PDP members like former deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; former Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu; Gana; former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe among others, members of the party left in numbers to join the SDP. Although both Mantu and Aliyu stayed back in the PDP, at least for the moment but there are still speculations surrounding their movements.

Other PDP stalwarts who have pitted tent with the SDP include former Military Administrator of Katsina State, Sen. Joseph Akaagerger; former Chief of Staff to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Mike Oghiadhome, ex-Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State; and ex-Minister of state for Defence, Dr. Olu Agunloye and a former Deputy Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. Dare Emiola.

Equally enlisting in the rejuvenating platform is the very vocal and staunch critic of Buhari, Dr. Junaid Mohammed; a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Olamide Oni; South West Zonal leader of the SDP, Supo Shonibare; Sen. Bassey Ewa Hensaw; former leader of the Alliance for Democracy in the House of Representatives, Hon. Dipo Olaitan; a former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Kehinde Ayoola; Amb. Yemi Farounbi; leaders of the Middle Belt Forum; leaders  of the National Intervention Forum led by Dr. Tafawa Balewa; Amb Bejide; Shehu Gabam; Mr. John Dara among others.

“I am an optimist,” Dr. Mohammed told the Nation. “I believe SDP will make a great impact. The main reason I want to be associated with it is because it is ideologically driven. Even if it was not ideologically driven before, it has to be ideologically driven now.”

With the APC adjudged by many to have failed amid rising economic and security challenges, as well as battling with internal crisis, and the PDP tainted with corruption, the SDP will offer a sort of respite and fresh air.

But it’s barely a year left before the general election of 2019, and some say its idea may have come too late.

“What I think will happen is that everybody will return to either APC or PDP or the third force can be lucky to emerge. But the shortness of time may not allow such to happen,” said Mr. Taofic.

“I see a situation where those who are originally in PDP will return, the Kwankwasos will return, and those left in APC will work together. Atiku is already with us for example.”

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