In this report, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH reviews recent activities within the political arena and suggests that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) may as well be the Third Force poised to challenge the dominance of APC and PDP in the 2019 general elections.
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, not a few Nigerians have expressed reservations about the ability of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to give Nigeria the kind of purposeful governance that would take Nigeria to the promised land. Out of despondency, some citizens have called for an alternative Third Force to challenge the duopoly of the governing party and the major opposition party in the country.
Political analysts insist that Nigerians have seen the best of APC and PDP and should be given another option in their quest for true democracy. At the moment, the mindset of even the common man on the street is that the difference between APC and PDP is that between six and half a dozen.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo took advantage of this new but silent agitation for a New Order when he openly asked President Muhammadu Buhari early this year not to seek re-election in 2019. In an unusual press statement on the state of the nation, the former Nigerian leader passed a vote of no confidence on both the APC and PDP. He called for a coalition, which he tagged a third force, that will steer the country’s ship of governance to a safe harbour of good governance.
Keen observers of happenings in the polity have opined that recent activities on the political landscape of the country show that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) could possibly be the new political platform on which the Third Force would thrive. The thinking is that the gale of defections hitting the PDP and the influx of disgruntled party members to the SDP, which are imminent in the coming weeks would be unprecedented.
The SDP shot into the limelight in 1993 when the late MKO Abiola contested the presidential election on the party’s platform where he emerged victorious before the election was annulled by the military regime of former president Ibrahim Babangida. Besides, some key members of the defunct SDP like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were also founding fathers of the PDP.
Meanwhile, some political observers have also opined that the Obasanjo-advocated Third Force is dead on arrival. The thinking is that, with the calibre of people currently in the former president’s coalition, his own version of the third force may end up being a mirage.
Yet, there are other close watchers who posit that the time was too short for the third force to any pull political weight and muster real challenge in 2019. They recall that it took the legacy parties close to two years before they formed the APC, hence its excellent outing in the 2015 presidential election.
As at last count, the country has over 65 registered political parties recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The PDP, which is the major contender and the leading opposition in the country, tends to be losing political height by the day, as its stock is being depleted daily.
In what seems like a deja vu, the PDP is also losing some of its members to the SDP. The acrimony that trailed the national convention of the party last December resurfaced after some Board of Trustees (BoT) members of the party defected to the SDP and pledged to work with the coalition movement recently formed by former President Obasanjo. They also declared that the PDP, as the leading opposition platform, has reached its end ahead of the 2019 general election.
While the situation has created some disquiet within the PDP BoT, which was most hit by the defection wave, some of the members have disagreed over the impact the former president’s coalition would have on the polity ahead of 2019. LEADERSHIP Friday recall that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed last Thursday by the defecting PDP members, other political parties and other groups for their movement into the SDP at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja.
Some of those mentioned include former minister of education, Prof Tunde Adeniran and former minister of information, Prof Jerry Gana, who served in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government and who were also members of PDP’s BoT. Adeniran contested the national chairmanship of PDP last December but lost to Prince Uche Secondus, who enjoyed the support of the governors spearheaded by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
Following allegation of malpractices that trailed the convention, a reconciliation team led by Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, met with Adeniran and other chairmanship aspirants who felt aggrieved by roles played by the governors, especially Wike. The fall-out of the convention also created a division within the party’s BoT, which comprises elders and former national elective officeholders of the party.
BoT members were split along the lines of some of its members who contested the national chairmanship positin. While the likes of Jerry Gana backed the aspiration of Prof Adeniran, other members either backed Secondus or former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George.
The BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, had also set up a reconciliation committee led by a former Senate president, David Mark, to reconcile the aggrieved members of the advisory organ of the party following Secondus’ eventual emergence as national chairman.
Confirming their defection to SDP, Adeniran told LEADERSHIP Friday that they decided to leave the PDP because they needed a platform, among other things, that is not owned by one or few individuals. He added that, while he was satisfied with the reconciliation team led by the Bayelsa State governor, he was compelled to leave PDP because his supporters from the Southwest were miffed by the way Wike insulted them on the eve of the national convention.
“I am a member of the SDP and we have taken a decision to move to the SDP. What has happened is this: there are those of us who believe in genuine internal party democracy, who believe in social justice, equity fairness and honesty in politics and are irrevocably and uncompromisingly against impunity imposition and corruption. We formed what we called new political order. Most of us came in from the PDP, some came in from some other parties, groups, social activist and so on.
“Those of us in the PDP felt that the PDP has gone beyond what could be redeemed in terms of its commitment to what we thought should be things of the past. But we realised that we would not be able to get justice for the people and for the things that we should be running away from, and would not move this country forward.
“So, we thought we needed a different platform that will respect the dignity of man; that will be honest in all its dealings; a platform where the love of country, genuine patriotism and interest of the masses of the people is supreme; a party that will not be easily purchasable by one individual or group of individuals.
“Those of us who believe in the future generations and the youths and the rights of women to be respected and given their rightful place in society and in the politics of the land, we felt we needed a platform that will provide opportunity for this and we considered some new parties and some existing parties and among the various parties that we considered we also thought of those that are likely to encourage national spread, that will not promote ethnicity; a party that abhors internal crisis, a party that will have good programmes and principles, whose structure is good for the country.
“That was what recommended the Social Democratic Party. As we are moving in as part of it, everybody is equal; nobody is bigger than the other, and there is room for people and others coming behind because there are so many other groups coming from all over the place and different parties that are still coming in,” Adeniran said.
Adeniran further regretted that the reconciliation committee led by Governor Dickson, did not yield the expected result. On this, he said, “What sparked my decision to move was the fact that the reconciliation committee was headed by a very honourable, honest, nice and patriotic man.”
“He is someone I respect a lot. I admire his style of leadership. He meant well, no question about that. But after all that was done, you know, politics is about people. We represent people and so forth. I am from the South West, I have gone back to my people and they felt so insulted by some people within the PDP, and they said they do not believe that they can relate and deal with people who have no regard or respect for them. They mentioned Wike in particular with the way he insulted the Yoruba in the TV programmes few days to the convention. So I share the sentiment of my people,” he added.
On their decision to work with Obasanjo’s coalition, he said, “We shall be working with groups that believe in the core values that we believe in. The coalition that Obasanjo is working with is a movement. President Obasanjo is an elder statesman; he will not be involved in partisan politics.”
“But members of that movement – I am also part of that movement; many of us are part of it. We want changes that will liberate this country. And we are going to work closely with him and we will also work with other patriotic groups who mean well for this country,” Adeniran revealed.
He however noted their movement from the PDP signaled the end of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections. “What this means is the end of the road. I wish the PDP well but then it will pose some challenges but then they will be the ones to say what it means for them. But as far as I am concerned, I feel they have a huge task ahead of them.”
But in his reaction, the chairman of PDP BoT, Senator Jibrin, told LEADERSHIP Friday that he was yet to receive any formal notice of BoT members’ defection. He recalled that the BoT had set up a committee to reconcile its members following the crisis that arose from the national convention, adding that until the report is ready, they will not make comment on the defection.
Jibrin who lamented the movement of the party chieftains to SDP, however, noted that there was no cause for alarm over the perceived threat Obasanjo’s movement poses to PDP.
He said, “I talk appropriately regarding Gana and Adeniran about the issue. In any contest there is bound to be a winner and a loser. And when a winner emerges, we should all rally round and support whoever he is and forget about the past. Today the serving national chairman of the party is Secondus. So we will do everything possible to ensure success for our party.
“Many people have defected to PDP; many people are coming into PDP. The number of people coming into PDP is double the number of those leaving PDP. There is no cause for alarm. Even if I am the only person remaining, I will never leave PDP. I will continue to remain in PDP. I am very consistent in my belief that PDP will never die”.
Reacting to the possible impact of Obasanjo’s coalition, he said, “The issue of Obasanjo is not a new thing at all, particularly for anybody that knows him very well. He has condemned Buhari and APC. He has also condemned the PDP. So why is he worried? Despite his position, the strongest parties today are still PDP and the APC. And so he had condemned all of us.
“I can’t see the coalition succeeding at all because the majority of the people are in PDP and APC. And these are the parties he is condemning. His is a total blanket condemnation of parties, which we will not take. So I only pity people who are moving into his type of game. This is a plot set up by some people in order to achieve their own selfishness and not with the people of Nigeria.
“We have a lot of problems in Nigeria but we have been able to put our heads together. We have come together to make Nigeria one. Anybody who is trying to break Nigeria, God will not give him the opportunity to do so.”
Another BoT member of the PDP, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, however, expressed displeasure over the defection of his former BoT colleagues to the SDP. He also noted that the former president’s coalition was coming rather late ahead of 2019 general election.
He said, “Frankly speaking, Prof Jerry Gana and Prof Tunde Adeniran are highly respected people in the party. They are both good friends of mine. They didn’t tell me. I didn’t know theywere going away. If they had told me I would have offered my own advice because two heads are better than one.
“In all the parties today you will notice that there is general disaffection within them. Even in the APC there are a lot of problems. I know a lot of people in APC that want to defect to PDP. My philosophy of democracy is different. I believe that before you join a party you must know the philosophy and try at all times to protect it. This Idea of people jumping from one party to the other does not show democratic conduct. If democracy must be preserved, even if you have not got what you want in the party, you have to stay”.
While this is playing out in the PDP, some keen observers of the happenings in the polity also observed that there are some members of the APC who are also disenchanted with the way things are going in the ruling party and may leave the party anytime soon. LEADERSHIP Friday also gathered that about four governors and National Assembly members on the platform of APC are planning to defect to the SDP.
One name that keeps coming up is that of Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, who is said to have perfected plans to move to the SDP. It was gathered that the presidency is not happy with Ortom over the way he handled issues bordering on the killings in Benue earlier this year.
It was also gathered that the APC is propping up the Managing Director of the Nigeria Export Processing Authority, Emmanuel Jime, to fly the party’s flag in Benue state come 2019 in the governorship contest.
For instance, Ortom was advised not to go ahead with the mass burial of the 73 victims allegedly killed by Fulani herdsmen because it would inflame passions, but the governor went ahead with the mass burial. Since then, he had been seen frolicking with PDP members who have turned on the charm offensive to lure him back to the party.
It was also gathered that the SDP is currently prevailing on the former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, to defect to its fold and fly its presidential ticket in 2019. The former governor is having a running battle with his successor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and may be denied the senatorial ticket in 2019. Although, Senator Kwankwaso is apparently eyeing bigger offices like the presidency.
Recall that Kwankwaso came behind President Buhari in the APC presidential primaries election of 2014 in Lagos. He is also bidding his time in the APC and in the event that President Buhari decides not to seek reelection, he would not hesitate to declare his intention.
The PDP, on the other hand, is wooing Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal to come back to the fold and fly its presidential ticket in 2019. Tambuwal is considered as young and urbane and would fit the bill of a modern politician.
The SDP now seems the best bet for Kwankwaso who is regarded as an ‘Obasanjo Boy’. The SDP steam is gathering momentum and it remains to be seen whether it can gather the needed numbers to muster any challenge come 2019. Only time will tell.
“ The SDP steam is gathering momentum and it remains to be seen whether it can gather the needed numbers to muster any challenge come 2019. Only time will tell.”