OLUSOLA FABIYI writes about the scheme by the Peoples Democratic Party to stage a comeback in 2019
New flags, an influx of people, praise singers, cars of different shapes and makes, drums of dissimilar figures and diverse songs are a new regular feature at the national headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party, Abuja. The party secretariat is now a hive of activity, unlike when the party secretariat was isolated, padlocked and was under the unvarying surveillance of security agencies. But as soon as the Supreme Court judgment which sacked a former National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was delivered, life returned to the hitherto comatose party. The intervention of the apex court in resolving the 14-month crisis that nearly tore the former ruling party’s umbrella into shreds has restored the hopes of many of its members that the party could, once again, win elections in many states and also return to the Presidential Villa, earlier quicker than expected.
That optimism was further consummated with the successful holding of the party’s non-elective national convention in Abuja, where high-ranking members of the party expressed high hopes that the once-popular political party was on the verge of history once again. Unlike before when such gathering usually attracted unprecedented internal strife, the last convention was almost crisis-free, save for the squabble among some of its members in the South-West over which faction should produce delegates to the convention. Notwithstanding, the party believed it held a successful convention.
Chairman of the convention, and Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, said with this, the party had sent out “a strong message” that it was set to take over power at the national level in 2019.
Okowa said the party had realised areas where it did not meet up with the expectations of Nigerians and was now determined to make corrections and provide Nigerians with good governance, anchored on accountability, the rule of law and improved welfare for the citizenry.
“Our party is back alive and with the National Convention, PDP has sent out a very strong message that will make Nigerians realise that we are very much ready to take over power come 2019,” he said.
Gradually, the previously dispirited members of the party are beginning to find their voices. One of them is former President Goodluck Jonathan. The former President, who attempted to settle the fissure among the warring members of the party but failed, found the convention a veritable ground to bare his mind and assure members of the party that there was nothing impossible for them to achieve if only they could put their house in order.
“The PDP is indeed back to reclaim its prime position as the party to lead Nigeria to greatness. As a human institution, we cannot claim perfection, but obviously as a political party, our accomplishments as of 2015, far outweigh our shortfalls,” Jonathan told the cheering crowd.
Encouraged with the approbation that followed, Jonathan added that, “Nobody should intimidate the PDP. I believe in the PDP; even God Himself believes in the PDP.
“God wants us to celebrate in the PDP. We are ready to take over the state houses of assembly, the National Assembly, the states as governors and the Presidency. It is important we manage our differences responsibly, with an eye on the divine role of the PDP to lead Nigeria to greatness. Let us rededicate ourselves to playing by the rules. Let us all ensure that the PDP is renewed in vigour to deliver on its divine responsibility to Nigerians.
“Let us forget the grievances of the past, and look to the future with confidence and optimism. I urge you to go back to your respective constituencies to promote the ideals of our great party. Let it be known that our party has been born anew, committed to the best ideals of democracy.”
He called on members of the party to pronounce the rebirth of the party in every part of the country “that the PDP is back to claim its rightful place in the affairs of the nation. As we have always done, we are ready to return Nigeria to the path of unity, peace, and prosperity.”
The Spokesperson for the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, agreed. Speaking with our correspondent on the future plan of the party, the former minister of state for works, said that the days of propaganda by the ruling All Progressives Congress was over. As the journey to 2019 progresses, he said his party would feed Nigerians with verifiable data on how the party ran the economy while in power for 16 years to offer a platform for comparison with the current situation under the APC-led Federal Government. Apart from this, he also said that the main opposition party would engage the ruling party on what he described as a “robust debate” on issues affecting the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
Before then, the party had begun hunting for its lost “sheep”, who defected to other parties either out of disagreements or adventure. This was why a national reconciliation committee was set up with a marching mandate to search for its lost members. But the job is not left for the committee members alone.
Only last week, the Chairman of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, led some chieftains of the party to the ancient city of Ibadan. Their target included two former governors of Oyo State – Senator Rashidi Ladoja and Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala. They also spoke with the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the 2015 general elections. The visit appears to be yielding the much-needed fruits already as both Ladoja and Makinde said they were almost in the party they left many years ago. But the two men still gave a caveat – they would return fully if they were given assurance that there would be internal democracy in the former ruling party. The tone of Ladoja’s speech at the end of the meeting indicated that he had yet to forgive the party for what he went through while as a serving governor.
“It was only in the party that its governors were impeached wrongly. What is the essence of being in a group that cannot protect you? We need an assurance that we will be equal in the party so that it will be known that we formed the party together in 1998,” he demanded.
Makinde, on his part, told an excited Makarfi that he was already 99 per cent in the party, but promised to complete his full membership when other conditions were fulfilled. Alao-Akala was said to be out of the country, but his followers were around to receive the former governor of Kaduna State and members of his entourage. Fulfilled with the accomplishment, Makarfi told his hosts that issues raised by them were valid, and gave an assurance that they would be addressed at the party’s elective national convention, slated for December.
Adeyeye said that if the party’s targets in Oyo State could move to the PDP, then the All Progressives Congress would collapse in the state.
That may be true, considering the result of the 2015 governorship election result in the state. In that result, the Governor of Oyo State, who was the candidate of the APC, defeated Ladoja of Accord Party and Alao-Akala of the Labour Party; as well as a former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, of PDP and the Social Democratic Party’s Makinde. To win the election, the APC polled 327,310, Accord – 254,520, LP – 184,111, PDP – 79,019 and SDP- 54,740. In the House of Assembly elections, the APC won 14 seats, Accord Party – 11 while the LP won seven to constitute the 32-man assembly. “You can see that if the results of the PDP, LP, SDP, and Accord Party were added up, we would have defeated the APC. All these parties came from the PDP,” Adeyeye added.
An investigation by our correspondent showed that there are plans by the party to also go after those considered to be really big fish in politics, who were once in the PDP. These are a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; a former Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso; a former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko; a former Governor of Adamawa State, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (retd.); and some other members of national and state assemblies. A top source at the national headquarters of the party, also said that the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was also being considered. A source in the party said that the PDP was being diplomatic in its approach to woo such politicians back to its fold because of their positions in government or in their current parties at both national and state levels.
If things work out, a special committee with a specific mandate to talk to these specific former members is said to be in the offing. Adeyeye confirmed the plan to set up the committee, but declined to give details.
“The Disciplinary and Reconciliation committees are statutory and they are not going to be in charge of those that will talk to the people we want to bring back to the party,” he said.
But according to the APC, the PDP should be begging Nigerians for the atrocities it allegedly committed in its 16 years in government instead of planning to return to power in 2019.
The ruling party said it was wrong for the PDP to be planning to take Nigerians for a ride by plotting to use shortcuts to return to power when according to the APC, the wounds it inflicted on the nation were still fresh. National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, also called on the national leadership of the PDP to stop its desire to return to power.
He said, “Before any kind of restitution can happen, there must be atonement. The PDP should have the courage to beg Nigerians for the evil it has committed while in power for 16 years.”
Adeyeye, however, described the former minister as living in the past, adding that the reality was in favour of the PDP and expressed optimism that the days of the APC as the ruling party were numbered.