The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party recently emerged from its national convention, electing a fresh set of officials to oversee the affairs of the party, Emameh Gabriel looks at what it means for the tussle to replace the All Progressives Congress administration of President Muhammadu Buhari
On Sunday, October 31, the much anticipated elective national convention of the PDP came to an end with former Senate President, Ayorchia Ayu formally becoming the party’s chairman. Ayu and 19 of the 21 new officials emerged by consensus after a high level horse trading at the geopolitical/zonal caucus levels, underlining the strong desire of the major opposition party to portray a veneer of unity and stability, and give order to an otherwise very difficult situation.
Before its latest twist of fortune, the party had been enmeshed in an atrocious internal wrangling among factions, underlined by the conflict between the erstwhile party Chairman, Uche Secondus and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesome Wike. Since the party’s defeat at the 2015 election, all has not been well, as all prescriptions intended to put it back on its feet seems to have fallen short of restoring the health of the former largest political party in Africa.
The chief beneficiary of its ailment has been the ruling APC, as it has been relentless in poaching into its ranks and aggrieved members of the former ruling party. While the changing fortunes of governance has seeing some Nigerian yearning for more leadership, the PDP apparently did not seem to be able to capitalize on it.
The bulk of this blame was directed at the party’s leadership under Uche Secondus, who they accuse of complacency and corruption. His arch foe, Governor Wike, who of course was instrumental to Secondus emergence as the party’s national chairman, had once described the party’s NWC as tax collectors. A factor attributed to the loss of Zamfara, Ebonyi and even Cross Rivers to the APC as their governors decided to jump ship.
So the election of Ayu, a former sociology lecturer and minister in Obasanjo’s PDP’s administration as party chairman is seeing as a watershed moment for a party that tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the APC at the 2019 general election. Many analysts see it as an attempt by the PDP to return to its old ways, as it was during the nascent days of the fourth republic, when the party was driven by ideas and populated by men who understood the high ideals of democracy.
As a former Governor of Plateau State and Nigerian Ambassador to Kenya, Fidelis Tapgun, noted: the election of Senator Iyorcha Ayu, as the National Chairman, of the PDP, means the party has returned to the ideals of its founding fathers.
Tapgun said, “The PDP is not called the PDP for nothing. I want to congratulate the new national chairman and the chairman of the national convention committee for a job well done because the party is now in the hands of those who understand the idea that informed the formation of the PDP.”
“No single person was dictating happenings in the party. When people saw how truly democratic the PDP was in its operations during the conduct of the council elections, many more people joined the party afterwards.
“This continued overtime but the democratic values which we all cherished later degenerated and were replaced by godfatherism, imposition, high-handedness and all manners of undemocratic practices in the party which is what obtains in the party today even presently.
“But with the emergence of the new national chairman, who was one of the founding members of the PDP, I believe that he and his team will rescue the party and return Nigeria to its rightful place.”
“The implication is that the party will now go back to its original philosophy centred on fairness and value for the people.
Consensus arrangement as PDP’s secret weapon
Conscious of its turbulent post 2015 trajectory, the governors on the platform of the party which have since become the dominant factor in party affairs opted to fill the party’s positions with consensus candidates, something which began at the zonal/geo-political levels and culminated at the convention proper. Though consensus are difficult to come by given the multiplicity of interests in the party, but the strong desire to offer Nigerians an alternative platform overrode all other considerations. The consensus candidates arrangement is intended to show that the party was united and could agree on issues.
This is coming at a time when the ruling APC has been finding it difficult to agree on issues as has been revealed in the congresses that have taken place across the country, from the ward to the state level, with parallel congresses, which is making it difficult to set a tentative date for its national convention.
The APC had on July 31, 2021 held its ward congresses, followed by local government congresses on September 4, and state congresses on October 16. The party’s national convention which was initially scheduled to hold in December 2020, was postponed till June 2021 after a meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party, which was presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on December 8, 2020.
The Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee was inaugurated in June 2020 and given six months within which to conduct the convention.
The Buni-led CECPC was given an additional six months on December 8, 2020, which expired in June 2021. However, when this lapsed on June 26, 2021, another NEC meeting presided over by Buhari approved an indefinite timeline for the committee to achieve its objectives.
The new Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, shortly after his election at the party’s national convention, mocked the APC over its inability to hold a national convention.
Ayu said the ruling party had produced 92 chairmen in the 36 states of the federation.
However, reacting to the allegation of the ruling party being unable to conduct a national convention, the Director General of the APC Governors Forum, Dr Salihu Lukman, said it would have been difficult for the main opposition party to conduct a national convention with general acceptability if it were in control of the Presidency.
Lukman declared that the erstwhile ruling party abused internal democracy for the 16 years it was in the saddle in the country, attributing weekend seamless exercise to the PDP loss of the central government.
He said: “Nigerians should wish PDP, its leaders and party members well. Nigerians should hope that PDP leaders will build on the successes of the National Convention to re-orient their politics based on honesty and respect for one another.
“From all indications, PDP leaders have only moderated themselves and submitted to processes of internal negotiations up to the National Convention because they are out of power at federal level. It can be predicted that had PDP been the ruling party in the country, the approach would have been different.
“Probably, as was the case with all previous PDP leaders, new leaders would have emerged without any negotiation and the National Convention would have been reduced to window dressing ritual, legitimising the instructions of a serving PDP President.
“Perhaps, everything leading to the PDP National Convention happened because there is no serving PDP President acting as the leader of the party. Good enough, being out of power, PDP leaders had to respect the democratic process, which raises the hope of especially PDP members that the party is being reformed.”
A Rejuvenated Party
With the election of Senator Ayu, Taofeek Arapaja, Umar Damagum and co, for the first time in its history the leadership and hierarchy of the party seems to be filled with new faces, untainted by the party’s ugly past. Its Chairman itself was a victim of internal party injustice, after falling out with Obasanjo, whom he served as a minister, he left the PDP and joined the Action Congress (AC), where he was to head the campaign to elect Vice President Atiku Abubakar as president on the AC platform in April 2007. Arapaja, Damagum, Anyanwu, Kosheodo are all relatively new to the national stage as are the governors whose bid they would be serving.
And also as if to appeal to its youthful base in the light of the End SARS crisis, in an unprecedented move, the party delegates through a consensus elected a 25-year-old man, Prince Mohammed Kadade Suleiman from Kaduna State, North West geopolitical zone as its National Youth Leader. His election is no doubt the climax of the rebranding agenda of the party, which has been vocal in excoriating the APC led federal government of mismanaging and neglecting the youths and even those who contributed largely to the success of the party from 2015.
The youths form a sizable part of the voting population and events of lately has shown that it is disenchantment with the APC government it helped to emerge in 2015. While it is in the credit of Buhari and the APC that the Not- Too – Young-To – Run bill became law, still the youths have no found their place in the president’s cabinet, even though supporters of the party would point to the appointment of 41 year old Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) boss, Abdulrasheed Bawa as a great feat.
While the APC is making moves to make 69 year old Bola Tinubu its presidential candidate to succeed 78 years old incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, the PDP seems to be positioning itself as liberal and youth focused party to reap from the grievances of the Nigerian youth, a somewhat similar strategy employed by the APC in 2015, with their preposterous promises of N5,000 and social safety net for the youths. As the APC searches warily for the most suitable date for its national convention, it is only a matter of time before its strategy for the post Buhari era becomes clear.
Conscious of its turbulent post 2015 trajectory, the governors on the platform of the party which have since become the dominant factor in party affairs opted to fill the party’s positions with consensus candidates, something which began at the zonal/geo-political levels and culminated at the convention proper. Though consensus are difficult to come by given the multiplicity of interests in the party, but the strong desire to offer Nigerians an alternative platform overrode all other considerations