AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH in this report writes that going by the current permutation, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can only return to power next year if the party’s presidential aspirants remain together irrespective of who becomes a candidate.
While it has become obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari will not have a rival during the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential direct primary election to be held very soon, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lined up array of presidential aspirants from who to make a choice during its primary election. As at Friday September 14, 2018, not less than 13 PDP presidential aspirants have bought nomination forms, just as only President Buhari purchased similar form under the APC.
Amongst the PDP presidential aspirants include former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senator David Mark, Senator David Jang, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Ex-Governor Sule Lamido, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, Tanimu Turaki (SAN), Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo and Ibrahim Shekarau. This line-up is so formidable that each and every one of them is fit and proper to be the President of this country on account of academic credentials, aptitude and qualitative experience as well as emotional comportment. But the party can only present one flag bearer among the lots, a duty that is set to wreak havoc if it is not well managed by the party leadership. There must be ‘first among equals’, as Jeffrey Archer the British novelist may say. Just as preparation by the main political parties and combatants rages, the Nigerian electorates are the more confused and frustrated over choice of the next President of the country. By this time penultimate 2015 presidential election, there was a clear coast of where majority of voters were likely to swing, many people then were buying into the change mantra of the then opposition party, the APC. By the time the much expected General Buhari emerged as the APC presidential flag bearer, the die, as Shakespeare may put, was cast.
Nigerians opted for the APC and General Buhari as against ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP due to hyper-level of pervasive corruption in the country which characterized and domiciled all aspect of governance in the country. The belief of many Nigerians was that General Buhari would not only carry the anti-corruption war and the wars against insecurity to logical conclusion, but would make life instantly conducive for the general populace in the country.
At this moment of stock taking, performance appraisal or score card assessment of elected officials, the question is whether the right choice was duly made in 2015; even just as questions are asked as to the alternatives to the present rulers in town. Generally, as much as Nigerians are not prepared to relapse into the past, they are also not comfortable either with the present. This is why the PDP must be careful, decisive, brazenly patriotic in the choice it is set to make, because even a missing ‘dot of its i’, crossing of its ‘t’ or missing ‘full stop’ will cause the party an aggravated consequences. None shall be spared, and it would be a collective calamity.
The PDP’s over bloated number of aspirants will give comparative advantage to the party based on past experience. Even in 2015, APC was able to coast home victory simply because the party went into presidential primary election with five contestants, whereas, the PDP then paraded only one aspirant, the then President Jonathan. By the time President Buhari, all other contestants collapsed their supporters and campaign machinery into his own, President Jonathan alone could not combat what the five political big wigs marshalled together for one person to apply. It will certainly be difficult for President Buhari alone to defeat collective political strength of the 13 aspirants if they remain united irrespective of the outcome of the PDP primary election.
But the PDP must take some lessons from both the APC and the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) presidential primaries in 2014 and 1978 respectively, if PDP is truly determined to return to power next year.
On September 20, 1978, the defunct NPN was formed, comprising members of the constituent assembly or referred to as the National Movement of Nigeria and the Council of National Unity, the party was headed by Makaman Bida, an old NPC member. A month later the party adopted zoning to elect party officials. The party then adopted a new chairman, Augustus Akinloye, a Yoruba man, paving the way for the presidential candidate to go to the core base of the party: the Hausa-Fulani states. Five aspirants contested in the primary, namely, former President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Maitama Sule, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Dr Olushola Saraki and J.S. Tarka, with the last four now late. At the end of the primary election held at Metro Cinema in Lagos, Shagari came first, while Sule clinched the second position. Ciroma came third, Saraki fourth and Tarka, fifth. Going by the NPN’s election guidelines at the time, the total votes Shagari scored was not enough to declare him winner. Therefore, there was a need for a re-run between Shagari, Ciroma and Sule, to determine the eventual winner. Ciroma and Sule however stepped down at this juncture, citing overall interest and unity of the party, as crucial and paramount.
However, no primary elections were held by the UPN, NPP, PRP and GNPP prior to the 1979 presidential election, as they were “one-man champion’’ parties, while NPN was multi-champions party.
The PDP lines up aspirants with tempting qualifications and experience; Atiku -former vice president; Makarfi -former governor of Kaduna State and chairman of former National Caretaker Committee of the party; Tambuwal – Governor of Sokoto state and former Speaker of the House of Representatives; Mark –serving senator and former Senate President Saraki -Senate President and former Governor of Kwara state; and Kwankwaso -former governor of Kano State and serving senator. Others are Bafarawa -former governor of Sokoto State and former member of the House of Representatives; Lamido – former governor of Jigawa State and former Foreign Affairs minister; Shekarau -former governor of Kano State and former Minister of Education; Dankwambo -Governor of Gombe State; Jang -former governor of Plateau State and serving senator; Turaki – a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a former Minister of Special Duties; and Baba-Ahmed -former Senator. All these aspirants as earlier observed are ably qualified and capable of been the President of this country. But according to Russian ageless poet, Larco Chefold, “man’s worth, like a flower has its season’’, just as Ecclesiastes 3:1 under the ‘New American Standard Bible’ also put it that, “there is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven”. At the risk of sounding immodest, the former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who recovered the PDP from an undertaker Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and rebirthed the dying PDP as chairman of former National Caretaker Committee of the party, shall make a good choice if the party settles for him. Makarfi is not a person of means, he has no billions of naira to donate to the party but he will be a good choice for the party at this moment of time for a number of reasons.
Sheriff who was invited by some PDP stakeholders in view of his presumed ‘’financial and political clout’’ to provide alternative platform to the APC; no sooner than later was alleged to have been hijacked by ‘’enemies’’, and at worst assumed a PDP-one-chance-car platform who even his erstwhile political associates and sponsors no longer wished to be identified with, rather they began to denounce and dissociating from him. While he was told that his time was up and he should quit, he filed a suit before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos asking the court to stop the national convention. On May 12, 2016 a vulnerable Justice Ibrahim Buba issued an injunction barring the PDP from holding its national convention Notwithstanding, the PDP went ahead with the convention and elected a caretaker committee. However, Justice Buba on May 23, 2016 sacked the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi-led PDP caretaker committee, declaring his newly constituted interim committee, as invalid and illegal. He directed the then Inspector general of police, Solomon Arase, to enforce his order and to ensure that the Makarfi’s committee does not take over the party’s national headquarters and that Ali Modu sheriff remains the national chairman of PDP.
On the same day, in Port Harcourt, Justice Abdullahi Liman gave a contrary judgment that now seemed to give the approval to the action of the (hitherto discredited) Port Harcourt convention. He gave the order following an exparte motion filed by the members of the Makarfi led faction of PDP. Justice Liman directed Sheriff-led committee to desist from parading themselves as national officer or member of the national executive committee or national working committee as doing so would negate decisions reached at the national convention of May 21. At the last count, not less than 19 conflicting judgements and orders were in circulation relating to this matter further leading to confusion as to the propriety and legality of those orders and judgments. However, Sheriff appealed against the judgement of Justice Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt delivered on July 4, 2016 at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division. And on February 17, 2017, Justices B.G.Sanga and A.A.Gumel gave lead judgement in a split decision of that court upholding the appeal of Sheriff-led committee, just as Justice T.S.Orji-Abadua in the 3-man panel upheld Justice Liman’s decision of July 4, 2016 Not satisfied, Makarfi group approached the Supreme Court on February 27, 2017 asking the apex court justices to discountenance Appeal Court decision and uphold the judgement delivered by Justice Liman on July 4, 2016.
The Supreme Court however on July 12, 2017 upheld that judgment of Justice Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, delivered on July 4, 2016, and the subsequent dissenting judgement of Justice T.S.Orji-Abadua, of the Court of Appeal Port Harcourt, which both validated the removal of Sheriff as the National Chairman at the party’s national convention held on May 21, 2016. Senator Ahmed Makarfi kept the usual Kaduna state’s Muslim-Christian conflicts at bay throughout his eight-year tenure as governor of that state. Markarfi’s candidature will on this count of his conduct in Kaduna appeal to Nigeria Muslim and Christian populace. He equally developed the state by constructing so many roads and other critical infrastructure in nooks and cranny of the state without discrimination. He is not an EFCC client since he left office. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to be divided between him and the President Musa Yar’Adua on who to succeed him base on their credibility, senses of discipline and performance as governors of their states. Nigerians will never tolerate a party that offers Presidency for sale. It will be foolhardy for the party to offer its presidential ticket to the aspirant who makes the biggest donation to the party, in preference to candidate which appeals to other aspirants in the party and Nigerians.