With its leadership crisis over, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faces a new challenge of forging a common front as it welcomes returnees and new comers
BY CHIBUZO UKAIBE
xpectedly, events in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), shows a party in 2019 mode. Having survived a long leadership crisis, the party has been trying to cover lost grounds.
It’s national leadership under Sen Ahmed Makarfi has been racing against time to ensure it mends fractures within its fold.
As it stands, the party, in states it does not control, grapples with leadership crisis. From Anambra to Osun, Benue, Jigawa, Kebbi, Ogun, Imo and Oyo States, (to mention a few), there has been tussle for the soul of the party.
Although some of the divisions in the states preceded the recent leadership crisis, tensions within the party in most of those states, escalated with the emergence of the leadership battle at the national level, led by Sen Makarfi and Sen Ali Modu Sheriff.
Recall that in the build up to the party’s national convention in Rivers State last year, which sparked off the leadership crisis, state congresses were held amidst rancours.
However, with the legal battle over, Makarfi had declared no victor, no vanquished. While it was the politically correct thing to do for a party seeking to keep its fold intact, it however creates a fresh challenge.
For one, the party leadership strives to hold a national convention in Abuja next week. While the aim is to make ratifications to its constitution and smoothen out preparations for an elective convention much later in the year, the party’s leadership nonetheless, craves to have a measurable level of unity going into the convention.
It hopes to display it might and readiness to take on the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) as a united party. But strategically, according to some analysts, the party intends to use the convention to win the confidence of voters that it is ready to serve as an alternative platform in 2019.
To this end the party’s leadership has commenced series of meetings with stakeholders in the states where party crisis are intense. It has also been assuring members that it’s reconciliation program would be built on justice, sacrifice, reward and equity.
In separate meetings he held with party stakeholders in Abuja, Makarfi, while pleading for understanding of members, underscored the need to avoid the mistakes which drove them into crisis in the past.
In one of such meetings, specifically with former principal officers of party who served in the House of Representatives, he declared that the party cannot afford to cut corners anymore if it intends to thrive.
“I will stick to the party guideline and constitution in doing whatever we do. We must stop cutting corners. We live in a high litigious society.
“When we cut corners thinking that nobody will not see you, a lot of people has seen you a lot of people have seen you, at a time you least expect, somebody will drag you to court again. Therefore, what is worth doing is worth doing well. We must consult on fundamental issues, use consensus as much as possible and move forward,” he said.
He continued “We’ve gotten judiciary victory, we need to consolidate and translate it into political victory. Political victory means expanding the scope of the party, reconciling with the reconciliable and attracting members into the party that will enable us regain political power at the centre by overwhelming majority.
What I don’t want is for one party to dominate. We want a healthy competitive democracy where people will freely chose their leaders.”
However, in separate meeting with party leaders from the Oyo and Osun States, he underscored that nobody stands to gain when internal acrimony results in loss of election.
He stressed “We are not in politics to suffer but form government”, adding “PDP was the dominant party in the state but internal crisis caused us to lose election.
“The problem is not as big as it is made to look like. All we need in our opinion is to resolve to accommodate and have a state committee that is inclusive.
“We should look out for our common interest and clear the mess so that when we succeed at the polls, that success won’t be at the mercy of the tribunal to interprete it any way it likes.”
Similarly, other members in the party’s leadership, including its national secretary, Sen Ben Obi and Prince Dayo Adeyeye, had echoed this appeal when party stakeholders from other states paid a visit to the national secretariat.
Key stakeholders who were with Sheriff, including Sen Buruji Kashamu; Sen Hope Uzodinma and Chris Uba, are however still fixated on retaining their structures in the state.
But there is a bigger challenge still. Now that the party is fast regain its formidable stature ahead of 2019, its leadership faces a major task of striking a delicate balance between rewarding those who kept faith with it through its period of crisis and ensuring level playing field for returnees. This scenario, it was learnt is causing some concern in the party.
Already there are strong indications that some major heavy weights are expected to join PDP from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a chieftain of the APC, is speculated to make a return to PDP just as he has being tipped as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections.
Similarly, former governors of Kano and Sokoto States, Sen Musa Kwankwaso and Aliyu Wamako, who are also said to be uncomfortable in the APC, are rumored to be being wooed by the PDP. They have however denied any plans to move
Already, former governors of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja and Alao Akala, have returned to the party.
Ladoja and Akala, after serving single terms each as governor of the state at different dispensations, defected to Accord Party (APC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), respectively.
Representatives of the former governors had participated at a meeting between PDP stakeholders from Oyo State and the national leadership of the party in Abuja, last Wednesday.
While the party has noted its return to power is hinged on its ability to gather an aggregate mass of influential members across the states, members who remained through its turbulent period are apprehensive that more influential new comers or returnees would seize the party structures.
However this won’t be first time it would happen in the party, a scenario which cost them some states in 2015 as well as created some problems thereafter.
In the build up to the last general elections, the party had granted waivers to the recently sacked national chairman of the PDP, Ali Modu-Sheriff; former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu; ex-military administrator of Lagos State, Buba Marwa; former governorship candidate Markus Gundiri among others to contest national and party offices under the party’s platform.
This was in spite of the provisions of Section 49(4) of the PDP Constitution which provides that “No member of the Party shall be qualified for nomination or election or appointment into any of the offices of the Party, unless he has been a registered member for not less than two years, and is of good financial standing in the Party, except there is a waiver by the appropriate Executive Committee”.
The emerging concern appears to be accentuated by alleged plans to reduce the two year provision of waiver for new comers and returnees to six months in the ongoing constitution amendment process.
However, it would seem that the party leadership is not unmindful of the concern. Sen Makarfi, while hosting members of the PDP Rescue Group in Abuja on Thursday, assured that no special privileges would be granted to those who will defect into the party.
While saying that the party would provide a level-playing field to all politicians, he however assured that loyalty would be rewarded.
“We are open to reconciling with everybody. We are open to accepting new entrants into the party but no special privileges for anybody coming into the party. That is not an issue to be contemplated. No exclusivity. It will be inclusive without any special privilege to anybody or group of individuals.
“That’s how APC got it wrong. We should learn from how APC got it wrong. We will create a level-playing field and we will not lord it over those who have slaved for the party. The Party must evolve mechanism for dedicated and loyal party men and women. That’s how people can remain committed. But if there is none, people can question themselves why do you have to continue exhibiting such loyalty and commitment to the party,” he said.
As soothing as this assurance may sound, it remains to be seen how the party will ensure equitable reward for loyalty, and in same measure, guarantee equality of members in light of its bid to return to power in 2019.