As the campaign for the ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) thickens, the party is set on the edge ahead of the 2019 general elections as the test over its ability to reward loyalty will be brought to fore, writes Emameh Gabriel.
Those who celebrated the denouncement of the colossal leadership crisis that rocked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 2015 and 2017 when Senator Ali Modu Sherif was elected to the party’s chairmanship and subsequently forced to relinquish his position as chairman of the party, may have to brace up for yet another cataclysmic quake that ominously looms in the party.
What many political pundits believe will happen in the next coming months, will ultimately decide the fate of the party which is the main opposition party to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in view of the party’s chances of staging a successful fight against the ruling party which obviously is also working very hard to remain in power beyond 2019.
The past few months have seen a beehive of activities making the rounds in the PDP as defecting politicians thronged into the party in what is obviously a desperate and last minute move to secure their political fortunes ahead of the 2019 elections.
Many of the big names in the Nigerian political industry have surprisingly found a safe haven and shelter under the big umbrella which they had been accused of sheltering corrupt people.
There appears to be a deep sense of dissatisfaction and unease among the party loyalists and stalwarts who have remained in the party all through the years it was abandoned, and laboured assiduously to mend the shredded umbrella.
This crop of members are already ascribing and arrogating to themselves certain rights and privileges, as being the ones who stayed back to fix the mess that was left by those who wrecked the party.
One of the dissatisfied stalwarts of the PDP is the governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who last weekend, posted on his facebook page that PDP loyalists (those who have stood with the party through thick and thin) should be accorded a pride of place in the space available in the party, and that the members who recently defected back to the party should not be allowed to dominate the party’s scheme of things.
“We have sacrificed everything for PDP. Loyalty to party must mean something”, Dankwanbo had posted on his facebook page.
In other words, the Gombe State governor would have preferred that the right of first refusal be accorded those he may want to refer to as the legitimate members of the party. His sentiment is undoubtedly shared by many aggrieved members of the party who as key party men and women, have chosen to keep mum and watch as the drama unfolds before making their stand known to their fellow party members.
Dankwambo is perhaps more worried than the other party stalwarts over the developments in the party because he is interested in running for the presidency and should ordinarily be expected to be more concerned about the happenings in the party than those who are either seeking for other lower tickets or are just ordinary members.
An attentive observer and follower of Nigeria’s political activities will be quick to figure out the real and remote reasons for Dankwambo’s worry. First, is that the PDP, being the largest and strongest opposition party in the country, has become the rallying point for power brokers who desire to challenge the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari on a popular platform.
No politician wants to run for an election and lose out. The political demagogues who have just returned to the PDP are obviously on a desperate mission to clinch the party’s ticket and run on a platform that is well known to the people – the same plan that Dankwambo himself has been nursing for a very long time now.
Another cause for which Dankwambo’s concern has grown is that the political juggernauts against whom he would be slugging it out for the party’s presidential ticket are not push-overs. They are men who have the clout, deep pocket, popularity and followership to cash in on, and wrest the ticket.
While Dankwambo may be popular in his own right as a politician, and a very good one at that, he definitely cannot boast of the manner of influence and political clout that Mallam Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, his co-contestant and former governor of Kano State wields, nor can he claim to be as popular as the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, whose notoriety and reputation for being a political manipulator has soared over the last three years.
Dankwambo acknowledges that the Atikus, the Sarakis and the Kwankwasos are no mean feat, and can pose a huge threat to his chances of making an impressive outing at the party’s primary election.
Such worry as is being put out by Dankwambo, has been described by political philosophers as ‘the sort of healthy worry that helps a contestant who is aware of the strengths of his opponents, to plot more formidable strategies to out-manoeuver them.’
Dankwambo will not be truthful to himself to pretend that the political juggernauts he is meeting at the frontline are not formidable enough. It will rather prove advantageous to him to acknowledge the formidability of his opponents, and strategise towards overpowering them.
Those who understand Nigeria’s politics well enough know that Mallam Kwankwaso is a demigod in Kano, and that engaging successfully in Kano politics requires not just cash or clout, but a searing cult-like followership among the wily people of the ancient city.
Building such cult-like followership implies that one must have to play the grassroots politics to the very best. One must be well known, loved and deeply trusted for such a priced followership to be accorded him.
Such is the followership that President Buhari enjoys among the Kannawa.
Both President Buhari and Mallam Kwankwaso have learnt to play on the sentiments of the Kannawas, and are unceremoniously exploiting this tactic for maximum effect. Both men understood early enough that the Kannawas would be quick to embrace the Sharia Law, and quickly threw their weight behind the promulgation of the Islamic law in 2001, causing them to win the affection and trust of the people, and consequently conferring on them the right to cult-like followership in Kano State.
Kwankwaso began early enough on his political journey, and has paid the price for the kind of gargantuan followership he presently enjoys. The cult-like followership he enjoys in the north is unquestionable, and it played out glaringly when in 2014, he emerged second at the APC primary election that produced President Buhari as the party’s presidential flag-bearer.
Many who thought that former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, would emerge second at that heated battle, were taken aback when Kwankwaso was declared the first runner up to then General Buhari, leaving Atiku at a distant third. The two popular contestants have met again in the PDP for yet another tussle, and if Atiku weighs the odds very carefully and becomes deeply convinced that it will not go in his favour as it were, then the rumour making the rounds that he is considering pitching his tent with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) may well be on its way to becoming a reality.Atiku has contested for the presidency severally on diverse platforms, and lost recurringly. He definitely does not want to become the poster boy of a failed political career in Nigeria. Like President Buhari who contested severally for the presidency and failed repeatedly before finally emerging victorious at his last attempt, Atiku has not given up the hope of actualising his political dream.
He has cashed in on every opportunity available to him to try his hand at the game of power, and he obviously seems not to be considering throwing in the towel any time soon, especially considering that he has the deep pocket to bankroll his political project to any height.
The feelers coming from inside the PDP house indicate that all or most of the presidential aspirants contesting under the platform of the PDP, are in the party to pursue their personal interests, the reason Dankwambo has voiced out his dissatisfaction with the developments. Dankwambo seems to have foreseen the bleak future that looms for the PDP, and has started early enough to draw the attention of the party leadership to a possible catastrophe that may rock the party if propercare is not taken.
Like the many people who are deeply concerned about the fortunes of the PDP, Dankwambo is wary of the fact that the same fate that befell the PDP at the dawn of the 2015 elections may repeat itself if caution is not adhered to. Dankwambo’s call for the reward of loyalty could not have come at a better time than now, seeing that the party has become flooded with all kinds of desperate political characters who will not spare a second thought before dumping the party if their political interests are not enhanced under the umbrella party.
Dankwambo has seen that the activities of the political jobbers who have flooded the party from other political parties, particularly the APC, may prove to be inimical to the successes of the party ahead of the 2019 election. He has seen a possible disorganisation of a party that is only recovering from a ‘below-the-belt’ blow it suffered at the hands of the APC in 2015, and has started early enough to speak up against the anomalies that may stunt its full recuperation.
Those who appreciate the PDP story will surely take sides with Dankwambo because the Gombe governor is the only northern governor who has never shifted grounds nor defected to any other party since joining the PDP, but has remained with the party even during its most trying times.
In other words, Dankwambo can be said to have paid his dues, and therefore understands the pains of nursing an ailing party back to health. Dankwambo’s love for the PDP is synonymous with the love a mother has for her child. No mother can stand the mishandling or manhandling of an ill child she laboured to nurse back to health.
Dankwambo is one of the few Northerners who midwifed the PDP back to fitness, and has developed a very deep and strong affiliation with the party. This explains why his voice appears to be the loudest in the call for the proper management of the party’s affairs.
If Dankwambo’s worries are anything to go by, then the PDP would have to be very wary of the interests of some of the politicians it is welcoming back into its fold. The likes of Atiku Abubakar who wants to become president should be put under the party’s radar and be made to prove his loyalty before being incorporated fully into the party.
Atiku may not want to play the gentlemanly games he had been playing all along. This time, his want for power may have grown, going by the manouvers he has recently been putting out.
The Adamawa-born political prince, who upon losing at the APC primary election of 2014, promised to deploy all his arsenal to make it possible for the APC to win the presidential election, may not be willing to be that sportsmanly again especially as his drive for power appears to have heightened over the last two years.
Atiku may not be willing to continue with the gentlemanly style of supporting his defeaters to actualise their political ambition, while he is left with no stake in the proper politicking. He supported President Buhari to ascend to power in 2015, but was discarded like a piece of rubbish after the Buhari administration set out on the four-year journey of governance. There is no doubt that the disregard he suffered from the Buhari’s APC is the reason he rolled up his mat and stealthily left the party.
Many of those who supported President Buhari during his last attempt at running for the presidency felt abandoned and disgruntled when their hopes of being duly compensated for their huge sacrifice and commitment was dashed. Many of the aggrieved members of the APC had common grievances – disregard and disappointment. They felt disregarded by the party’s leadership, particularly President Buhari, and were disappointed with the way everything turned out to be, following Buhari’s ascension to power.
Aggrieved members of the APC included the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who until he was recently approached by President Buhari for reconciliation and negotiations, was deeply dissatisfied with the way his sacrifice was not accorded the proper reward. It took President Buhari a lot of apologies and horse-trading to be able to win back the solidarity of the Jagaban of Borgu.
The other members of the APC whose grievances the president could not douse, either formed a faction in the ruling party, or completely defected to other parties. Senate President Bukola Saraki, is one of those whose dissatisfaction with the ruling party could not be allayed. His swift defection to the opposition PDP was in consonance with the expectations of political pundits who have been observing his body language, and predicted that he was soon going to abandon the party under which he clinched the coveted headship of the Nigerian parliament.
Saraki has so developed his political muscles that all those who are contesting any political position with him often feel psychologically defeated even before meeting him at the arena of the contest, because of his Machiavellian tactics of outmaneuvering his opponents.
How he does it still remains a mystery to politicians. What can only be said about the Ilorin prince is that he gets whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.
Observers of the political tussle in the PDP are already touting him to be the most likely aspirant to clinch the PDP presidential ticket. With this sort of political colossus battling for the PDP’s presidential ticket, Dankwambo has so much to worry about.
A roll call of the power brokers seeking to clinch the PDP ticket for the 2019 presidential election include the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former governor of Kano State, Mallam Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, former governor of Kaduna State and immediate past chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, and a host of other equally influential contestants.
Political observers are wondering how the PDP will be able to meander successfully through the labyrinth of dealing with these powerful, egotistic contestants without undermining the interest of any one of them. Will it be possible for the PDP to reach a consensus on who clinches the presidential ticket so that there are no wrangling and infightings at the end of the day? This is one question that is begging for urgent answer.
There are already rumours that the PDP will adopt a ‘Unity List’ in choosing its presidential flag bearer, just like it did in choosing its national chairman last year. But will the adoption of a Unity List not cause some aggrieved members to pull out of the party?
What is most obvious from all the politicking going on in the PDP is that all the contestants jostling for the party’s presidential ticket are desperate for it. Many of them feel that 2019 is the best time to have a great outing at the polls. Whatever can put a clog in their will of progress is expendable at worse, and this is definitely the reason Dankwambo is calling for caution as the party pulls through its strategy for clinching back the power it lost in 2015.
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