Olusesan Laoye

Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at the weekend, held its much awaited national convention, and as widely expected, produced former senate president, Iyorchia Ayu, who had emerged consensus candidate of the North, as national chairman.

It’s a culmination of what had months of intrigues power play among various stakeholders and zones. And the party would hope that its suspended chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who had vowed to proceed to the Supreme Court to challenge his removal, allows peace to reign.

At the well attended convention, Ayu, who was earlier adopted as the consensus candidate for the position, won the election unchallenged with 3,426 votes.

Taofeek Arapaja, a former deputy governor of Oyo state, also emerged as deputy national chairman (south). He polled 2,004 votes to defeat Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun state, who scored 705 votes.

For the position of the deputy national chairman (north), Umar Damagum, former governorship candidate of Yobe state, polled 2,222 votes to beat Inna Ciroma, former minister of women affairs from Borno state, who garnered 365 votes.

25-year-old Muhammed Suleiman from Kaduna scored 3,072 votes to defeat Usman Elkudan, also from Kaduna, who scored 219 for the position of youth leader, an outcome now celebrated as a sign of new beginning in the party, as it looks set to challenge the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) for power in 2023.

“One of the major highlights of the PDP Convention was the election of 25-year old Muhammed Kadede Suleiman as the incoming National Youth Leader of the PDP,” remarked Saraki.

The party is re-branding, and working to appeal to the youth population, which makes over 60 percent of Nigeria’s voting bloc.

Last week, its reconciliation committee recommended the waiving of nomination fees for persons below the age of 35 seeking elective positions under its platform, as disclosed by the party’s national reconciliation and strategy committee (NRSC), after a meeting with youth leaders across the country.

The committee, chaired by Saraki, was set up to resolve disputes and reconcile aggrieved members in order to foster unity within the party.

The committee also recommended that the party’s constitution be amended to limit the position of youth leader at all levels to persons aged between 18 and 35 years.

“As part of our efforts to ensure further youth inclusion and participation in politics, last week, the PDP Reconciliation & Strategy Committee recommended that all young people below the age of 35 should be granted fee waivers on nomination forms,” Saraki said in a statement.

“Additionally, we have also recommended that the National Executive Council of PDP amends our party’s constitution to ensure that only young people between the ages of 18 and 35 can vie for the office of Youth Leader – at all levels.”

The measure is expected to ease the financial burden on aspirants and to encourage youth participation in politics, part of the party’s effort to re-brand.

In the buildup to the 2019 elections, the PDP had slashed its nomination form fee for house of representative aspirants from N2 million to N1 million to “enhance youth participation.”

At the time, prices for nomination forms for other categories were as follows: presidential: N12 million; governorship: N6 million; senate: N3.5 million; state house of assemblies: N600,000; national delegates: N20,000, and ad hoc delegates: N5,000.

The party is also prioritising consensus building to reduce friction. Only three out of the 21 national working committee (NWC) positions were contested, while consensus candidates were adopted for the remaining positions.

The other NWC positions include national secretary, deputy national secretary, national treasurer, deputy national treasurer, national financial secretary, deputy national financial secretary, national organising secretary, and deputy national organising secretary.

Others are national publicity secretary, deputy national publicity secretary, national auditor, deputy national auditor, national legal adviser, deputy national legal adviser, national women leader, deputy national women leader, and deputy national youth leader.

The candidates were declared duly elected by Ahmadu Fintiri, governor of Adamawa state and chief returning officer of the election.

In his remarks, Ayu said the opposition party is back to rescue Nigeria from the “terrible mess” the country has been pushed into, adding that Nigerians will see a “mammoth crowd” defecting to the party in the coming days.

With national officers to lead the party for the next four years elected, the next project is to challenge the APC for power in 2023. And it’s a challenge the party’s new look leadership, have assured they are more than capable of undertaking.

Ayu’s job is cut out for him. His first project will be to reconcile aggrieved members, particularly his predecessor, Prince Secondus.

Going into 2023, the party, with the economy in six and sevens under Buhari, has a good case. But a lot will depend on how it manages itself going into the polls. Of particular importance is how it manages its primary election next year, and how it addresses the clamour for zoning.

The emergence of Ayu, a Christian from Benue State, North Central, as national chairman, suggests that the party’s presidential ticket will be thrown open to the North and South, with the North East and South East more likely to be considered.

In the meantime, members are full of confidence. In their various speeches at the convention, former vice president and presidential hopeful, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Fintiri and the outgoing acting Chairman of the party, Elder Yemi Akinwumi, chided the APC, accusing it of working to disintegrate Nigeria, with its mismanagement of the country’s diversity.

They accused the Buhari government of pursuing policies which they claimed were inimical to the progress and aspirations of the people.

Fintiri and Akinwumi said members encouraged members to come together, while Fintiri declared that the inauguration of the newly elected executives would come on December 9, 2021 to ensure smooth transition and for the current executives to finish their tenure.

Governors Take Charge

Obvious from the convention, and the intrigues, is that the party structure is now in the grip of governors.

There were too glaring cases which stamped the authority the governors in the party. They were the choice of Deputy National Chairman South and that of the North.

For instance, Oyinlola who came to the convention ground after being assured at home, was at the last minute betrayed by Governor Seyi Makinde, who backed the former Deputy Governor of Oyo State and the current Chairman, South West of the party, to emerge as the Deputy chairman for South.

It was the same game plan with the counterpart in the North, as Ambassador Uma Illiya Damagum, who was a governor’s candidate emerged as the the Deputy Chairman North, against Mayryam Ciroma, who like Oyinlola refused to stepped down when ask to do so at the convention ground.

The machineries put up by the elders and Presidential hopefuls, like Atiku, former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, Former Senate President Bukola Saraki and others, to make Oyinlola and Ciroma emerge, failed as the governors definitely had their way.

Atiku, Saraki, Lamido and others had wanted Ciroma and Oyinlola in order to curtail the overbearing influence of the governors but failed.

The convention was also an avenue for the presidential aspirants to declare their intentions, as they all displayed posters and banners to let the members know that they are coming out for the primary of the party.

From what was witnessed, Atiku, Saraki, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Lamido and former FCT Minister and Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, have declared interest to contest for president.

Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, has also thrown his hat in the ring, and looks poised to take the battle for the presidential ticket to the likes Atiku, Kwankwaso, among others.

Just as it happened in Lagos in 2014 at the APC Presidential Primary at theTeslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, where Kwankwaso came second, it was said that his supporters with their red caps and head gears dominated the Eagle square where they danced round with their principal, Kwankwaso.

List of Elected Executives

1. National Chairman – Iyorchia Ayu
2. Deputy National Chairman (North) – Umar Damagum (Contested)
3. Deputy National Chairman (South) – Taofeek Arapaja (Contested)
4. National Secretary – Samuel Anyanwu (Unopposed)
5. National Treasurer – Ahmed Mohammed (Unopposed)
6. National Organising Secretary – Umar Bature (Unopposed)
7. National Financial Secretary – Daniel Woyegikuro (Unopposed)
8. National Women’s Leader – Professor Stella Effah-Attoe (Unopposed)
9. National Youth Leader – Muhammed Suleiman (Contested)
10. National Legal Adviser – Kamaldeen Ajibade (Unopposed)
11. National Publicity Secretary – Debo Ologunagba (Unopposed)
12. National Auditor – Okechuckwu Daniel (Unopposed)
13. Deputy National Secretary – Setoji Kosheodo (Unopposed)
14. Deputy National Treasurer – Ndubisi David (Unopposed)
15. Deputy National Publicity Secretary – Ibrahim Abdullahi (Unopposed)
16. Deputy National Organising Secretary – Ighoyota Amori (Unopposed)
17. Deputy National Financial Secretary – Adamu Kamale (Unopposed)
18. Deputy National Women’s Leader – Hajara Wanka (Unopposed)
19. Deputy National Youth Leader – Timothy Osadolor (Unopposed)
20. Deputy National Legal Adviser – Okechukwu Osuoha (Unopposed)
21. Deputy National Auditor – Abdulrahman Mohammed (Unopposed)