Despite ongoing efforts to grow the opposition base ahead of the general election in 2019, the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still locked in uncertainly over whether or not to change its name, it was learnt yesterday.
This comes as presidential aspirants cut across some opposition platforms have commenced lobbying to emerge the unity candidate.
So far, some of the leading aspirants positioning themselves to become the candidate for the rainbow opposition platform are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, and former governor of Kano State, Senator Musa Kwankwaso.
Others are former governor or Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, had last week, while rallying opposition platforms, declared that the PDP was ready to broaden its base, saying that the party would not be able to defeat the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) alone.
Sources in PDP, however, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that some influential members of the APC, who are desirous of moving into the PDP, have been mounting pressure on the ace opposition party to change its name so that it would ease their return to the party.
It was learnt that the demand for name change is part of ongoing negotiations between PDP and the group seeking to defect from the APC.
However, it was gathered that PDP chieftains, mainly the conservative members who populate the Board of Trustees (BoT), are not favourably disposed to the prospects of the party changing its name.
“The older members of the party and some party leaders in states that are not controlled by PDP are not totally in line with the name change. They are at the fore of the objection to the move. But some governors and members in the National Assembly seem not opposed to the idea. For them the idea is first to gather the needed momentum to remove the APC in 2019. They are quite realistic of the challenges ahead of 2019, as they have been in the fore of the battles so far,” the source said.
The source corroborated reports that the idea of name change was greeted with objections when it was mooted at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party.
However, the national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Olagbondiyan, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the PDP had not reached the point where it would deliberate on whether or not its name should be changed.
When asked about the claims that PDP wanted to change its name as part of the strategy to rally the opposition parties to come under one platform, he said, “You don’t need to change name to agree; it’s a coalition that the PDP, as the major opposition party, will be leading.
“We’re open to discussions and we’re open to receiving members. We’re also open to having a working arrangement or agreement with other smaller parties who are desirous of taking this government out of power. Discussions have not reached that level of a change of name. It hasn’t reached that level.”
When pressed on whether the change of name was being considered, he said, “I will not say that, because we have not reached that level of discussion as a party. But what we’re saying is, we’re open as a party to receive community groups, members of civil societies, which we already have as an agenda on our party. So we’re open to all these groups.
“We hold discussions; we will not shy away from any discussion. We will discuss all issues provided it borders on removing this incompetent government from power through a democratic process.”
On the claims that most of the pressure for change of name is coming from prospective defectors, he said, “Like I said, we’re holding discussions with parties across board whether it is APC. There are people in APC also talking to us; we are speaking to people in other smaller parties and other smaller parties are also talking to us. So it’s not a thing that you can submit fully to say a party.
“We’re talking to parties – everybody, not just the political class or the religious class or business class today. Everybody is sick and tired of the government that is taking them nowhere and has no destination, and as such people are bound to hold discussions. And we’re holding discussions towards having a coalition with the major opposition party which is the Peoples Democratic Party. So that’s where we are,” he said.
On his part, the chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, said the party was still discussing with other political parties on the best way of building a strong political platform ahead of 2019.
The former senator, while responding to questions over the call for the party’s change of name, said a lot of discussions are going on and that various views were still being collated.
He, however, said people would not be forced to do anything that is not in the interest of the PDP.
“What I want to warn is that people shouldn’t bring selfish interest and views into the discussions. Frankness, truth on what we want to achieve should be the guideline,” he said.
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