Can the strategic committees set up by the PDP help it regain power at the center? CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a hurry to return to power at the centre in 2023, and its disposition towards setting up committees aimed at either firming its structures or mending cracks, tells that much.
So far, the party has set up no fewer than three committees namely; the 2019 Election Review Committee led by Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed; the National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee led by former Senate President Bukola Saraki; the Electoral Reforms and Constitution Amendment Committee led by former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
The committees with diverse mandates are expected to help the party rebound at the national level. But just how strategic are they, and how far reaching will they go?
This committee is not different from that of the post-2015 general election committee which was basically to review why the party lost and recommend how it can reclaim power by 2019.
That committee headed by Ike Ekweremadu had blamed the jettisoning of the party’s zoning arrangement for its loss and recommended that the 2019 presidential ticket should be zoned to the North.
The party however lost the 2019 poll despite fielding a northern candidate, former vice president Atiku Abubakar.
The 14-member Bala Mohammed-led committee was set up in February 2020 to review why the party lost and recommend solutions on how it can return to power in 2023. The committee has since met with various party leaders and even former leaders including Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
However, the seeming delay in presenting its report almost one year after is causing some form of suspense within the party’s ranks, especially as the debate over zoning of the presidential ticket is involved. Sources within the party told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the governor had requested for more time on the assignment.
The party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, had last year said the party was awaiting the recommendation of the committee to decide where it would zone its presidential ticket to.
But the intrigues around the matter came to a head when Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi defected to the APC on the ground that the party would zone the ticket to the South East.
What’s more, insinuations and debates over where the party is likely to zone its ticket to remains rife. Some party members believe the North has not served its term after the demise of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was in office for a little over two years.
The Saraki six-member committee already has its hands full what with the level of frictions within the party. Set up last November, the task of the committee was to resolve disputes among members, which were many. From the South West crisis and the raging tussle in Kano PDP to the post congress battles mostly in states not controlled by the PDP, the assignment seems a herculean task. However, with the party losing members to APC’s seemingly enticing offer of offer of uninhibited membership, the Saraki committee really has its work cut out.
In the last few months, the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC caretaker committee has wooed over top PDP members, ranging from Umahi to former House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara to Senator Barnabas Gemade, among others.
Buni is also wooing former president Goodluck Jonathan to join the ruling party.
Although Saraki and his team have since sprung to work, it might still be early days yet to ascertain whether or not their interventions are yielding results. So far, they have met with former heads of state Babangida and Abdulsalami. They have also met with former governors of the party and the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT). One significant meeting they had was with Jonathan whose romance with the APC has spurned rumours of his defection to the ruling party.
Although it’s natural to have frictions in a political family, like party faithful are wont to argue, whether or not the peace mission of the committee will be far reaching and sustainable is another matter.
Electoral Reforms and Constitution Amendment
This committee is meant to help the party convey its inputs in the ongoing constitutional amendment process. Although the party boasts of making electoral reforms while in office, some pundits would argue that for a party that was in government for 16 years, perhaps, the amendments to the constitution and Electoral Act could have been bolder and more far-reaching.
Still, the timing of the Ekweremadu-led committee has already raised some questions as to whether it can have much impact considering that the party’s leadership in the House of Representatives was split for over two years. What’s more, it remains to be seen how this committee will be able to engage lawmakers of other parties to adopt its proposals pending the executive’s consent to make it a law.
But the committee is hopeful, as Ekweremadu during the inauguration of the committee recently said, “I call on our party faithful, the media, civil society and well meaning Nigerians to put narrow political, partisan, ethnic, religious and sectional interests aside, and seize the opportunity of the ongoing constitution amendment exercise to immediately pull our nation back from the brinks.”
A PDP chieftain from Gombe State, Salisu Magaji, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that while the Mohammed and Saraki committees had broadened the space for discussion within the party, there was more work to done at the grassroots level.
“As for the Governor Mohammed-led committee, he has gone round and met all the leaders of the party, including former presidents and former heads of state, he has tried his best.
“The Saraki committee has also tried. The party did well by choosing him for that role because he commands respect being a former governor and senate president. Most of those fighting are either lawmakers or former governors who by virtue of the offices he had occupied are his juniors, so they will listen to him.
“The only issue is that there are some states where there are problems between the party chairmen and aspirants. It is okay that he is reconciling party members at the top but at the grassroots more work needs to be done,” he said.
Also reacting, a lawyer and political analyst, Maxwell Obiekwe, said the extent to which these committees can help the party succeed is dependent on whether the party’s leaders are ready to abide by the recommendations as personal interests overshadow the party’s collective interests.
“We have seen that several times in the Nigerian political space and it won’t be surprising if we see that manifest again. So it’s not enough for the party to set up committees. The issue is whether or not the party leaders are ready to commit to the party,” he said.