Saturday, 24 October 2015

PDP ON THE PATH OF TAKING OVER POWER IN 2019

It appears that the once ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) is now embarking on self-rediscovery voyage after its loss in the last presidential poll.

The loss was the first of its kind for the party since 1999. Since the party’s defeat, the centre could no longer hold. Some of its members have massively defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Party workers and national leadership of the party have quarreled over planned reduction of workers at the party national secretariat Abuja. Party bigwigs have confessed traded blames over what were responsible for the party’s loss of the presidential seat for the first time.

In their several disclosures, the major reason for their loss of 2015 presidential poll was its failure to uphold the zoning principle that brought it to power in 1999. With this, it is obvious that the PDP stakeholders played the ostrich when it mattered most by not questioning President Jonathan’s candidature during the last polls. Were they saying that it was a political miscalculation on the part of the party by fielding presidential candidate of Southern extraction in the 2015 poll? If so, why didn’t those who are saying this now object to it then?

As immaterial as the disclosures are now, it exposed the hypocrisy of the country’s political class in power politics. They speak from both sides of their mouths, always mindful of their personal interests and how to protect it.

It could be recalled that the crisis that rocked the PDP over zoning of the presidency came to fore following the sudden demise of President Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua in May 2010.
Lest we forget, at the peak of Yar’Adua’s ailment, the then national chairman of the PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor had publicly declared that the party would adhere to its zoning principles.

Chief Ogbulafor’s assertion many believe, ruffled feathers in the camp of the then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan who was being prevented by a cabal from taking over power in the interim. Immediately Jonathan was sworn-in after Yar’Adua’s demise, Chief Ogbulafor was removed from office on the allegation of corruption.

With this and ahead of 2011 polls, some PDP chieftains and elders from the North began agitation for the North to complete the remaining four years of Yar’Adua’s term in line with party zoning principles. They hinged their quest on the principle of zoning as enshrined in the party’s constitution. Those in support of Jonathan’s ambition opposed them, arguing that the party’s zoning principle was unconstitutional.

Some groups from the Southeast aligned with the North, claiming that if President Jonathan were allowed to contest 2011 poll, it would jeopardise the chance of the southeast and North-central zones to produce the president and vice in 2015 in line with the party zoning principle. Some prominent party members including former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, denied that there was zoning principle as it affects presidential seat.

The development divided the party along ethnic and religious lines. There were discordant tunes among the party faithful across the country. The matter at a stage took judicial dimension as some party members from the North approached the court. Despite all these, President Jonathan emerged the party’s presidential candidate in 2011 and eventually won the presidential poll. Even with this, it was obvious that the North felt shortchanged by the development.

Ahead of the 2015 polls, the North’s opposition to President Jonathan’s second term was obvious and strong. First to let the cat out of the bag was the then Niger State governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu. Dr. Aliyu alleged that the North had a secret agreement with President Jonathan in 2011 that power would return to the North in 2015. President Jonathan and his spin-doctors denied the alleged secret agreement, challenging Dr. Aliyu to provide evidence.

Before Dr. Aliyu’s disclosure, the former vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and secretary of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi, had said that the North would vote massively for any party that gives its presidential ticket to their son.During the party’s 2015 presidential primaries, President Jonathan emerged a consensus candidate. The likes of Dr. Aliyu and his Jigawa counterpart, Alhaji Sule Lamido, who had nursed the ambition to challenge Jonathan in the primaries were allegedly persuaded and cowed.

The result of the 2015 presidential poll showed clearly that the North voted massively for President Buhari in line with their earlier warning. That was how Jonathan and his party (PDP), for the first time in the last 16 years lost the presidency.

North And The PDP Presidential Slot
Smarting from the presidential defeat and ahead of 2019, the PDP at its first National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja recently said it has zoned the Presidency to the North, saying it has learned its lessons and would never repeat any such mistake in future. The party also said it had drawn a roadmap towards the 2019 general election and for future electoral success.

This was part of the recommendations of Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu-led PDP Post-Election Review Committee, which recommended that in accordance with the popular views expressed in the submissions to the committee, the Presidency should be zoned to the North as it would also assuage any ill-feelings over any perceived breach of the party’s zoning principle.

The committee also recommended that, as a matter of urgency, if PDP must heal inflicted wounds, it should constitute a strong reconciliatory panel made up of party leaders to facilitate the reconciliation of aggrieved members at all levels, just as it recommended that the party reverts to the practice of having two deputy National Chairmen as entrenched in the 2001 Constitution of the PDP.

With this political development, it was expected that the PDP faithful from the North would jump and hail the recommendations. But none of such has happened since then. Though, it can be said that it is too early to talk about 2019 politics, PDP appears to have lost its stronghold in the North.

Out of the 19 states in the North, PDP controls three states namely Kogi, Taraba and Gombe. Also in the south, the party is in control of Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Cross River, Delta, Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom states. Governorship poll is scheduled for Kogi and Bayelsa in November and December this year. Many believe that the success or failure of the party in the two states will be a major determinant of its survival and cohesion ahead of 2019. Another determinant is the number of states and national assembly seats the party will retain at the conclusion of the election cases pending in various tribunals across the country.

While it is possible that some APC governors may defect to PDP before 2019, there is higher probability that before 2019 some PDP governors, especially from the North and Southeast may join APC so far constitution did prevent them from defection. Also looking at political precedents, more PDP members may join APC before 2019 for political survival.

If such happens, it may be politically difficult for the PDP to regain its stronghold in the North before 2019, unless there is serious crisis in APC. A development that is not out of place politically looking at the trend of events in the party since it came to power.

Again, the studied silence of former PDP governors and party stakeholders from the North since the conclusion of the general elections is an indication that their grudges over the altering of the zoning principle in the party is not yet over. As it is now, some of them are already in dilemma over remaining in the PDP or pitching tent with the APC. With such dilemma, which is neither here nor there, it appears the party may engage in long search for relevance in the North ahead of 2019 polls. (guardian)