It is only a question of time before the embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party; Alhaji Adamu Muazu will be shown the way out following the party’s woeful outing in the general elections. Three candidates from the South-South have presently emerged front-runners to replace him. They are Dr. Peter Odili, Governor Liyel Imoke and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta state. CHIKA NWABUEZE and EZUGWU OBINNA report

As the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, continues to grapple with the reality of its ouster from power at the national level, facts have emerged that the reported move to overhaul its National Working Committee, NWC, is indeed at a most advanced stage.

Already, three names have now emerged as prime contenders to succeed the embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Adamu Muazu, who has been in the eye of the storm following the party’s woeful outing in the just concluded general elections.

The replacement candidates are former Rivers Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, and the outgoing Governors of |Cross River and Delta States, Senator Liyel Imoke and Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan.

According to sources, one of the three is expected to be the arrowhead in a brand new move that would see the PDP drawing very heavily upon its yet entrenched and almost impregnable South South base.

Apart from losing the presidency to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), the PDP under Muazu’s leadership also lost control of majority states and seats in the National Assembly. Effectively the acclaimed largest political party in Africa has been consigned to an opposition party, with fears being expressed over its ability to perform that task.

But Muazu said in Abia state recently that he is going to be the attack dog of opposition against the APC administration. However, that is if he survives the ongoing move to remove him from office. The PDP is not only disappointed with Muazu but felt betrayed by the party’s helmsman at the polls. This is why the push for him to resign or be shown the way out has gained more grounds in the past few days.

To rebuild the party and make it strong again, the South-South appears to be the favourites to produce Muazu’s successor. Since the formation of the PDP in 1998 the region has not been at the top leadership of the party despite its contributions to its success.

Close party sources have disclosed that the need to draw upon its most talented personnel at this time resonates with the fact that the party is in dire need of leadership. Odili for one has not been very visible until lately when he decided to lend support to Jonathan’s reelection. His candidature will be good for the party both at the state and national levels.

As for Uduaghan, he was stopped from going to the senate as he planned; maybe it is for him to be part of the rebuilding of PDP that made that ambition not to fly, while Imoke is a gentleman who is capable of navigating the ship of the party out of its present state.

Muazu’s problem is compounded by the fact that he failed to deliver his state to PDP, Bauchi which also has the FCT minister and incumbent governor, Isa Yuguda defeated in the state.

The pressure comes even as a number of PDP members have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the wake of Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the presidential polls thus prompting questions over the party’s ability to function as a strong opposition party.

The general believe among PDP members is that its leadership contributed to the defeat of President Jonathan, and that Muazu allegedly did not do enough for the party during the electioneering campaigns. Worse still, some have accused the party’s leadership of conniving with the APC to plot Jonathan’s defeat.

The latest, for instance, was the allegation leveled against the party’s stalwarts in Oyo State, including the Minister of state for Federal Capital Territory, Mrs. Jumoke Akinjide; Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial zone, Ayo Adeseun and the then Chief of Staff to former governor Adebayo Alao Akala, chief Saka Balogun who were recently suspended from the party.

At the national level, Muazu has been accused in many quarters of working against the party’s interest during the electioneering campaigns. Although the accusation has been subtle thus far, it is nonetheless holding sway among a reasonable number of the party members thus the increasing calls for him to step down.

Chief Anselem Njoku who until now was a PDP chieftain in Lagos state in a chat with Hallmark noted that it was indeed time for Mu’azu to step aside having led the party to its abysmal failure in the elections. In his opinion, the chairman doesn’t need to be told to resign since he failed woefully in his mandate to lead the party.

“If you set out a target for yourself but at the end of the day you’re not able to meet that target, you need to step aside; Mu’azu doesn’t need to be told to do so, he failed the party woefully, therefore he shouldn’t wait for party members to stage a protest before he leaves the stage,” Njoku said.

For Njoku, however, it is not only Mu’azu at the national level that caused the party’s misfortunes, he went ahead to accuse those who are at the helm in Lagos state of deliberately killing the party due to their own selfish interest. “I was a PDP chieftain in Lagos state, I witnessed as they murdered the party in Lagos; PDP leaders in the state killed it for their own selfish interests. I don’t think the party can ever recover here in Lagos and that is why I left it for APC. The leaders are not sincere.”

Another stalwart of the party who declined having his name in print insisted that those who led the party to failure have to step aside if the party must recover from the defeat it suffered. “If the PDP must move forward from here, it is paramount that who led the party to failure in the elections be changed, personally, I am not comfortable with people like our National Chairman, he did not stand firm and sell Jonathan’s candidature to the North; he was either too afraid to do so or he was indirectly supporting the opposition.”

In a press conference recently, the Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organization in Bauchi South Senatorial District, Alhaji Bala Abdulahi Mai Adudga also heaped the blame for the party’s failure on its national leadership. “Even though there is a clamour for change, our campaign activities were sabotaged by the national leadership of the party that diverted over N230 million campaign funds from presidency.”

In his own assessment, the senator representing Nasarawa South District, Senator Suleiman Adoke shocked many when he disclosed in an address to journalists last week that PDP leaders from federal and state levels actively connived with the APC to ensure victory for the APC in the general elections. “In fact, ranking PDP stalwarts participated in the grand design to effect a change in governance. Even when the ordinary people knew the election was not free and fair, they looked the other way because everybody was united to make sure that PDP was out of government.”

Other notable party personalities had also at various forums and interviews called on Mu’azu to leave his job as the party’s helmsman. The president of National Consolidation Group (NCG), Hon. Ajon Ugboho in an interview with journalists advised Muazu to resign his job honourably or face legal battles for “grave anti-party activities” which according to him, led to the failure of President Jonathan to win a second term in office.

“Adamu Mu’azu and Rufai Alkali connived to starve Jonathan’s support groups of funds up to the date of election. They ensured that the groups were rendered ineffective. While TAN (Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria) was supported to make empty noise across the country on radio and pages of newspapers, the real Jonathan’s support groups with strong grassroots reach were starved of funds,” Ugboho was quoted to have said.

In the same vein, other leaders of the party such as its former National Vice Chairman, Edet Nkpubre;  former Special Adviser to Jonathan on Political Affairs, Ahmed Gulak and Ibrahim Suleiman-Zango, a chieftain of the party in the North-West have also called for Mu’azu’s sacking.

Zango had notably, last year, warned President Jonathan that Mu’azu might have planned to work with the APC and had like a prophet predicted that if Muazu was not removed, Jonathan would be the first sitting president to be defeated in an election.

His warning preceded speculations by other political figures last year, especially in the aftermath of the party’s primaries that Muazu was not working for the party’s interest. The Ebonyi state Commissioner for Information, Dr. Ifeanyi Ike had before the general elections for example, fingered the party’s leadership for the problems it was having in many states. In Ebonyi particularly, he explained that Muazu had neglected President Jonathan’s instruction that governorship primaries be put on hold in Ebonyi and other states that had outstanding issues to hold primaries in the state.

“The primaries were rough handled by the National Working Committee of PDP all the way from Abuja, including the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh; Zonal Chairman, Uche Secondus and even the party’s Chairman Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu and a host of others that claimed they came to conduct a primary election in Ebonyi State when President Jonathan had directed that primary elections should not be conducted in four states where there were outstanding issues yet to be thrashed out,” Ike said.

It is not therefore surprising that the call for Mu’azu’s sack is growing louder than ever, such that the entire South West caucus of the party at a meeting in Ekiti over the weekend asked the NWC of the party to “honourably resign and give way for fresh blood.”

But the quest to ouster Mu’azu has even taken ethnic dimension following the recent speculation that the South East and South-South geopolitical zones are plotting to take over the party’s leadership. The two zones according to new media reports are plotting to get rid of Mu’azu and install Cross River State governor, Liyel Imoke in his place.

The speculation is understandably prompted by the fact that South East and South-South presently remain the only strong holds of the party. In the South East, the PDP won all the National Assembly seats even as it remains in charge in three out of the five states in the zone. The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) which controls Anambra State is said to be only an appendage of the PDP.

In the South-South, the party has five out of the six states and just like in the South East, produced almost all the National Assembly members. On the contrary, the party won only Taraba out of the 19 states of the old northern region, while it has only two states of Ondo and Ekiti in the South West.

Of the two zones nonetheless, South-South remains the favourites to take over the party’s leadership considering that it has the financial capacity to bankroll the party which will be crucial for its survival since it does not control the centre any more. Besides, the party winning five states in the South-South makes the zone the party’s strongest.

But even so, there seem to be growing concern over the loyalty of northern members of the party as many of them were alleged to be in sympathy with the APC. For some of those who share the view that the South-South should take charge of the party however, there are still other reasons, paramount of which is that the North and South East have remained in charge of the party for a long time thus there is need for a change.

This is particularly the reason why Chief Njoku believes that the zone should have a shot at the party’s leadership. “The South East and the North have led the party all along leaving out the South-West and South-South. But the South West has not always been a PDP zone so I think the leadership should go to the South-South for the first time,” he said.

As the PDP looks to rebuild, its strength may indeed lie with the South-South given the zones financial capacity and the popularity of the party there. However, the ethnic colouration the party’s leadership question is taking portends doom for its revival.