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PDP’s national convention conundrum

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is at it again! Not having learnt a thing from its mistakes, it is again engaging in self-immolation and moving dangerously and, possibly, inexorably, towards the precipice. This time around, the genie is its elective national convention coming up on December 9. If we said the leadership tussle, which saw Ali Modu Sheriff nearly tearing the party into shreds, was fuelled from outside, the present troubles are without doubt the handiwork of enemies from within. And because of this, the approaching implosion may be more difficult to handle and its effects more damaging and disastrous.

The PDP is killing itself over trifles – the chairmanship is a lame duck office; only spent political forces have any need of it. It is a position of irrelevance; if in doubt ask APC’s John Odigie-Oyegun. Most times they don’t even have enough votes to drink tea and eat biscuits in that office. The history of the office shows very clearly that they are at the mercy of the Executive for funding as well as for relevance. The chairman is only chairman in name; he does not control the party but takes orders “from above”. At best, they get only crumbs. It amazes that it is such an office that many eminent personalities are struggling – and fighting dirty – to assume in PDP or is there anything else they know that is not open to all of us? It could mean PDP has developed Sheriff-phobia, seeing what Sheriff did in that position. Since a party chairman can only be that powerful if the party is not in power, it could also mean PDP is not sure of wrestling power from APC in 2019.

Whatever it is, tearing the party apart again is not in anyone’s interest – least of all that of our renascent democracy which needs a virile and vibrant opposition. With Nigerians disillusioned with APC and tired of old-man Buhari, just as the Zimbabweans got tired of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe and off-loaded him last week, this is not the right time for PDP to fumble and wobble again. By sheer good luck it survived Sheriff; it may not be that lucky this time around. Once bitten, twice shy!

The issues tearing PDP apart appear simple on the surface; underneath, however, the personal, even if legitimate, interests of powerful stakeholders have made them knotty and difficult to resolve.  The party zoned the presidency to the North and chairmanship to the South. The initial “understanding” was that the chairmanship could go to the South-West for many reasons, chief of which are that the zone has never had the post and also to use it to prise the zone out of the stranglehold of the APC. Good arguments but politicians are like lawyers: The same evidence that wins a case can also be the same that loses it; depending on how dexterous you are in twisting things as well as the disposition of the presiding judge. The judges in this instance are PDP’s power brokers and their interests. The same reasons that hitherto pre-eminently qualified the South-West have now been turned on its head. Since only one out of six states in the zone is PDP, the South-West is too weak to be made the party chair at this point in time. More so when the only PDP state in the zone does not seem to support the party chair coming to the zone for reasons we shall discuss later.

Since state governors and other office holders such as Ministers and National Assembly members are those who fund political parties, and not party members as the textbooks say, a PDP chairman from the South-West will be a heavy burden on cash-strapped Ekiti and will always run to other more buoyant zones for funding because there is an aridity of PDP elective office holders in the South-West at the moment. And how many of those contesting the PDP chair from the South-West have pockets deep enough to carry the office’s financial burden? To be sure, each of them is eminent in their own right. Chief Gbenga Daniel, two-term governor of Ogun State, is my friend and benefactor. Prof. Tunde Adeniran taught me International Relations in the Graduate School at the University of Ibadan; and very pleasant “Lagos boy” Chief Olabode George I had the privilege to interact with while he was military governor of my native Ondo State and later when he was Principal Staff Officer to the then Number Two, Gen. Oladipo Diya, in those giddy days of the military dictatorship of the vilest of them all, Sani Abacha. On a good day, any of the three can, and should, be PDP chairman. The other contestants – former Gov. Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, Taoheed Adedoja, and Jimi Agbaje – I have followed from a distance.

From reports, the chairmanship may go to Uche Secondus from the South-South – except a miracle happens. Politicians can change like a chameleon. Secondus is the rave of the moment but who says the equation cannot change before Dec. 9th. In fact, permutations can change right there on Convention ground. “No be you I carry come; but na you I go carry go” kind of shenanigans. That is politics for you. As matters stand today, the South-West’s surest route to the PDP chairmanship lies in micro-zoning; that is, excluding the South-South and South-East from the contest and limiting it only to aspirants from the South-West. PDP Caretaker Committee chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, says he has no such powers. He may be right. His opponents counter that he is shying away because he has presidential ambition. They, too, may be right. Micro-zoning, once effected in the South, opens a Pandora’s box in the North.

The “Anambra syndrome,” where a deluge of opposition candidates allowed incumbent Governor Willie Obiano make mincemeat of his adversaries, is also not helping the South-West PDP chairmanship aspirants. The South-West parades a crowded field of six aspirants while the South-South has only two – Secondus and the AIT boss, Alegho Raymond Dokpesi. The zone with the lesser number of delegates has the larger number of aspirants while the zone with the largest number of delegates has the fewer number of aspirants. This is poverty of ideas akin to poor folks having large families while the rich have small, manageable families.

If the South-West loses – or forfeits – the chairmanship, what will it get in return? For one, it has many other lesser party posts to choose from, like Treasurer, Deputy National Chairman (South); more importantly, it has the vice-presidential slot of the party to contend for. Going by experience and conventions here and abroad, the vice-presidency is also inconsequential, prompting an American presidential aspirant to retort “I hate all vices, including the vice-president.” The derogatory term for it here is “spare tyre” that is hardly used but like my grandma would say, out of two small things, one will still be bigger than the other if you consider both carefully. Looked at closely, the VP is still to be preferred to the chairmanship. If the South-West can get the VP slot of PDP in 2019 and the party goes on to offload Buhari and APC from Aso Villa, that should serve the South-West’s interest better than a party chairman that puts his hands behind his back before sundry cabals in Abuja. It is, however, important to post the caveat that the quality of the person pushed forward as VP matters. We have suffered dumb VPs again and again. If it better serves the South-West’s interest to gun for the VP slot, why are the PDP chairmanship aspirants from the zone not thinking along that line? Politicians hate to work for someone else to eat. They prefer to eat crumbs; especially if they eat while others watch their mouth and wait on them for the crumbs from the main crumbs.

Sorry to say this but it appears to me the truth – PDP is yet to imbibe the winner’s mentality. Its present mentality is that of a party that has learnt no useful lessons from its past; either from the mindless impositions that started with Olusegun Obasanjo or the bad choice of Sheriff that nearly tipped the party over the edge.  If party leaders fight-to-finish over the chairmanship and scatter, like they did to swell the ranks of the APC, allowing it to win the presidency in 2015, they would still not have learnt useful lessons. PDP needs the winner’s mentality – keeping its focus on the larger picture, which is winning the presidency in 2019. No sacrifice is too much to make.

LAST WORD: Last Thursday, 23rd November at the Chapel of Christ the Light Hall, CBD, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, the Christian Conscience group organised its annual public lecture entitled “Religion and Corruption: Strategic direction in fighting corruption in Nigeria”. Can religion alone wipe out corruption in Nigeria? Watch out!

 

FEEDBACK

Daily reports on the conduct of the incumbent IGP is worrisome. You have given him honest advice and warning. I believe in the end, you will be vindicated. It is a matter of time. History is replete with similar individuals who held power and believed they were invincible but, in the end, were disgraced out of office and left naked, power-wise. Mugabe’s grace-to-grass story is still fresh and hot. The Ilesha Grammar School name-change brouhaha is rather unfortunate. The pros and cons arguments have merit but what is really important is to create a very conducive learning environment for the students, which Aregbesola did. However, he got himself into unnecessary controversy and petty politics by the school’s name change. The name can be reverted once he ceases to be governor and wields no more power.  What can he do and how will he feel seeing his legacy being rubbished before his very eye? Methinks it is ego-tripping, which is a common disease among Nigerian politicians. They want to be all-in-all. That is why you hear all-commanding statements such as “constituted authority”, “Nigeria is not negotiable”, “we are in power.” etc. Well done! – Yacoob Abiodun.

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