By OLUSESAN LAOYE
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s main opposition party, has thrown into confusion over who emerges as the next chairman in the coming National convention which is just about eight months to go.
The issue over who get the number one position of the party has remained controversial in the last two years, even before the last general election, when some powerful members were bent to impeach the current chairman, Uche Secondus, who they believed, was favourable to a particular candidate, the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Since then, these groups have been at Secondus throat and had plotted several times to get him out of the office but the Board of Trustee (BOT)of the party, has always prevailed in order to avoid further rancour, which could lead to the total extinction of the party.
The BOT had always felt that any attempt to get Secondus out at a period when the party was still battling for survival and yet to get out of the woods, after losing two elections, would be disastrous and calamitous for it.
As the national convention approaches following the conclusion of zonal congresses the plot seems to have assumed new urgency as the different political interests reposition for dominance.
They have been mapping out strategies that would make sure that come December, 2021, at the National Convention, Secondus do not return for a second term.
What is actually causing the division in the party sources said was centred on the presidency, since the area from where the National chairman emerges would determine the zone that produces the presidential candidate of the party.
This was why some members of the party were agitating on zoning, which they believed has been entrenched in the constitution of the party since 2009 in article 7(2). The argument of the members from the South is that should Secondus retain the chairmanship for a second term, then the chances of the South clinching the presidential ticket would be very slim.
As it is now, there are two major groups battling for the soul of the PDP. The Nyeson Ezenwo Wike, Governor of Rivers State /Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State camp and the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar /former Senate President Bukola Saraki’s camp.
Although there were speculations that Saraki may be planning to stand alone, making it three camps, this move has not been so declared and the National congress would show clearly where they all belong.
Right now, members of the party in the south are aggrieved with Secondus, who is believed to still stand solidly behind Atiku and that has been the core reason why he wants to retain the chairmanship, so that it would be very easy for Atiku to outwit other contestants, except Bukola Saraki and Kwankwaso, the former Kano State Governor, who could give him a good fight. But no one is sure yet, if Saraki would want to spoil his relationship with Atiku over the presidency.
The snag about the zoning demand by the south is that virtually all the three zones of the South-South, South West and the South East are interested to grab the ticket of the party. Out of the three, only the South East since the present political dispensation in 1999 has not had a bite at the presidency in the party.
The South West had former President Olusegun Obasanjo for eight years, while the South south had former President Ebele Jonathan for six years; the South East still remains the only one with out a shot.
It was strongly argued that if any zone would have it in the South, it should be the South East. And that is why members from the zone in the party are clamouring for the removal of Secondus to pave way for the South East. The issue over the chairmanship at the National even played out in the just concluded South West Congress and the voting pattern went in that direction.
Right now, in the South West, there has not been a clear cut stand as to which camp the presidential aspirant would come out. Even no one has actually signified intention to contest.
Although, Chief Olabode George came out last year that he intends to go for the ticket of the party in 2023, since his first press conference about it, he had not taken any further steps to signify his seriousness concerning 2023.
Feelers in the zone indicated that he may have shifted camp to the Atiku because his group are plotting to have a South Westerner, in person of the former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, to replace Secondus from the South South.
The game they are playing along with the Oyo State Governor Engineer Seyi Makinde is not yet clear but it is likely that they would back Atiku if Oyinlola replaces Secondus.
BusinessHallmark was reliably informed that the Atiku group is not comfortable with Makinde’s antics and they are suspecting that they may be working for Bukola Saraki underground who may eventually declare his intention to contest. But right now he is with Atiku.
The Ayo Fayose group too in the South West does not want Secondus but would prefer someone from the North since they too are interested in the South taking the flag of the party.
But the suspicion is rive that Fayose may be working for a southerner in the ruling party of All Progressive Congress (APC), which was one of the allegations against him at the party’s South West Congress two weeks ago. The stand of Wike and Tambuwal is clear: they just don’t want Secondus to emerge as the next National Chairman of the party.
What has also heightened the agitations all over against the present National working Committee of the PDP, headed by Secondus was the post election review committee’s report of the Governor Bala Muhammed’s team which allowed the presidential ticket of the party to be thrown open in 2023.
This angered members of the party from East, who compared his report to that of the 2015 election review panel led by Senator Ike Ekweremandu which recommended that the presidency should go to the North in 2019 which gave Atiku the chance to contest.
What the South East in particular expected was that the Bala Mohammed’s panel would outright favour the South, which would give the South East, the impetus to vie on the zoning arrangement of the party without any other person from the North.
Since the outcome of the Mohammed’s report, which was believed was done in Secondus interest, and to favour Mohammed too, from the North who sources said, is likely interested in the presidency, a lot of people have kicked against the report which they described as one sided.
In fact, Secondus has been the main issue in the party because it was believed that his tenure has made the party to be more divided across the states, which also has led to many prominent members like Governor Dave Umahi, Gbenga Daniel, Dimeji Bankole and host of others leaving the PDP.
It was said that Umahi left the party because he felt that Secondus led executive has not done anything to favour the South East.
Also Governor Wike declared that members of the Secondus led Exco cared about perpetuating themselves in office than ensuring the victory of the party in 2023. He said Secondus stands the chance of remaining in office, if the presidency goes to the North.
It is not the people in the party alone that wanted the PDP to abide by the zoning arrangement that the ticket of the party should go to the South, especially, the South East. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo is ready to oppose any party that sidelines the South East.
There were some leaders of the party too, even from the North, who would want the South to fly the ticket of the party to match the APC, which no doubt, is prepared to give the south the presidential slot.
In his own reaction Chief Kassim Afegbua said that Secondus has outlived his usefulness in the party, saying that with him, the PDP has no chance in 2023. According to him, “the PDP has performed woefully as an opposition party under Secondus and that more members had left the party than those before him.”
The arguments against Secondus too was that he has failed to resolve the crises in the party nationwide which is now making the PDP contesting for power in 2023 difficult.
Also Secondus NWC was accused of financial mismanagement which is strongly being used against them and which has led to lack of cohesion within the NWC and the entire party. The agitation therefore, is that for the PDP to be viable for the 2023 elections, Secondus and his team must go.
The chairman of the BOT of the party, Senator Walid Jibrin has called for caution among members and warring groups, saying that it was not necessary to heighten the tension in the party before the December Convention, which would determine the direction which the party would head for in 2023. He said that intra party issue over who would be the next chairman was a serious matter, which must be resolved.
Also the National Vice Chairman South South, Chief Dan Orbit said that whatever the case may be, the presidential election would be determined by the political terrain prior to the election in 2023.
The Secretary of the BOT of the PDP and former Senate President, Adolphus Wabare had earlier this year posited that the party would rather resolve all unresolved issues before talking about zoning. He also said that it was not healthy for the party to start debating key offices when there were other contending issues to be tackled such as internal squabbles in many states.
According to him “we would talk about positions and zoning when other issues are resolved.”
He argued “going by the constitution, the PDP as a party can amend its constitution to win election in 2023. But all I will say is that there must be a level playing ground and uninterrupted operations of all organs of the party before the National Convention in December that would help us to regain power at the Federal level in 2023.”
The publicity secretary of the party Mr..Kola Ologbandiyan said that the party is not worried about who gets what for now but building for the task ahead.
“We are re-inventing the party, which is now a changed party. What we are doing now, is to keep PDP in a steady state. Positions and who gets what is not our priority but repositioning the party”.