The journey to 2023 for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is set to commence today after the election of a national chairman that is expected to lead the charge for the party’s comeback bid to the corridor of power. For the main opposition that was forced to kiss the dust in 2015 after former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded power to General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), it has been a winter of political misfortunes.
It is obvious that the PDP is not endowed with the propaganda machinery of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that swept away President Jonathan out of power after the PDP swore it would rule Nigeria for 60 years. Considering the footprints of both parties in the last seven years plus, the APC is yet to realise that it has left opposition, while the PDP is a weak player in playing the opposition.
Someone recently captured the tragedy of both parties when he told me: “When 2023 comes, I pray the APC returns to its opposition role, while the PDP returns to power. Even when the APC is in power, it has continued to blame the PDP for the woes of the nation. The PDP still cannot learn the art of criticism and opposition”.
Sorry for the distraction. Before today’s national convention, controversies surrounding the congresses have made the rounds, with many predicting the event may not hold. Doubts over the conduct of the convention became more palpable when the former national chairman of the PDP, Chief Uche Secondus, approached an Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt to grant an interim injunction stopping the convention.
To the consternation of the former PDP chairman, the court dismissed the appeal and provided the hope of electing a new leadership that could lead the path in healing the self-inflicted wounds of a party that ruled for 16 years. With the PDP delegates set to elect a new national chairman for the party, today’s event could turn out a coronation of consensus candidates for the various positions across the zones after a series of nocturnal meetings and horse trading.
The North has settled for the former Senate President, Dr Iyorchia Ayu for the chairmanship position. Where two or three analysts are gathered together, discordant tunes are bound to be whenever the name of the former radical lecturer is mentioned. That he emerged as the consensus candidate for chairman still remains a puzzle. One or two factors, according to insiders’ accounts, made the choice of the Benue-born politician unbeatable for the position.
Being a founding member of the PDP, Dr Ayu plays politics of principles and not the type played by meal seekers with no fixed addresses. Like the intellectual that he is, the former Senate President is seen as someone with the capacity to rally forces and weave them into a united force that could wrest power from President Buhari whose second term in office expires in 2023.
The defeat of the PDP by the APC in 2015 has revealed the underbelly of party hypocrisy displayed by members of the political class who see politics as means of getting meal tickets. Looking at the array of prominent politicians in the APC that were once in the PDP, politicians have been exposed as fair weather who are only out to serve their pockets.
The new PDP national chairman that will be endorsed today is a consummate intellectual that has brought rationality into the realm of politics. As a democrat who is not an advocate of stomach infrastructure, the former sociology lecturer is seen as a dependable personality who can deploy his vast networks of connections to regain the past glory of the PDP that was once noted for its capacity to resolve its internal crisis before disagreements spiraled out of control ahead of 2015.
After nearly eight years of losing power, the PDP is desperate to return to power. Frightened by the political undercurrents that are enlarging its centrifugal forces of rancour, the possibility of the main opposition party returning to power is enmeshed in daunting tasks.
Described as the right man for the job, many believe that the forces that eventually threw up Ayu for consensus chairmanship position may also undermine him. Except he is able to unlearn the past and galvanise the party for unity and purpose. As delegates trooped out to endorse the candidature of Ayu today, some are of the opinion that the months ahead may prove challenging as he comes face-to-face with forces that may seek to pocket him.
However, politicians that are close to the man that is expected to be crowned today as the new PDP national chairman are quick to note that he is not an easy push. He has a long history of struggles against undemocratic forces. His major weakness may be hinged in his intellectual understanding that makes it impossible for him to compromise on core principles. Being a system man who believes things must be done rightly, Ayu may face several hurdles in dealing with those determined to foist their control on the PDP in order to gain advantage ahead of the general elections.
More worrisome, the power shift arrangement of the PDP may pose a difficult bridge to cross for the Benue politician. The hues and cries that attended the Enugu decision which had zoned the chairmanship position to the Southern zone was quickly upturned by the governors to save the day.
For many analysts, zoning the PDP national chairmanship position to the South was akin to denying the South the party’s presidential ticket. Even when the chairmanship position was finally zoned to the North, the decision to make the contest open for all has not obliterated dissenting tunes. A prominent member of the party and Chairman Emeritus of DAAR Communications, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has insisted that only a Northern candidate can win the presidency for the PDP in 2023.
Against the backdrop of intense agitation for power shift in 2023, the Sen Ayu-led chairmanship of the PDP, when ratified by delegates today, is expected to walk a tight rope of reconciling various groups that are further separated by presidential ambitions of desperate politicians. It is a public secret that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is leaving no stone unturned to get the ticket. The South-east zone has continued to insist that 2023 is its turn if justice is to be served. Sadly, the baton for political power is not a moral exercise but is dependent on the capacity to build bridges of collaboration and cooperation with other regions for support.
The APC is not without its own shares of troubles. While the ruling party may be adopting a wait-and-see disposition on how today’s event is concluded, the crisis of confidence blowing across some states controlled by the APC as a result of the congresses signposts future troubles for the ruling party. With some leaders of the party saying they are still waiting on President Muhammadu Buhari to show what direction to follow, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu may have started the journey early as some groups have commenced showcasing him as the man to beat for the prime position. Nonetheless, it is not the person who starts early in the race that ends up getting the crown.
The choice of Sen Ayu as the new PDP chairman is an attempt to enthrone a strong personality that is deeply enmeshed in the knowledge of party politics. Having founded the party with many who are now deceased, not a few expect him to rejig the party and unite the rancorous groups that have turned the PDP into a house of perpetual commotion.
No doubt, Sen. Ayu has the capacity to rebuild the ruins of a party that has been shredded by animosity and internal bickering. If Ayu eventually emerges as the PDP chairman today, the hope of recreating the party may be enhanced and the possibility of wresting power from the APC brightened. Nevertheless, the possibility of wresting power from the APC could turn out a mirage for the PDP if Ayu proves incapable of unlearning the past where powerful persons called the shots. Getting the Ayu team to lead the renaissance of the rancour-filled PDP may prove a defining moment for now, but the real job starts after today’s coronation.