2023: PDP gladiators return to drawing board after weeks of brickbats

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After the turbulence of the past two weeks  in the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), relative peace has returned to the opposition party.  However, it is not yet Uhuru for the PDP, as gladiators in  the struggle for the control of the party have returned to the drawing board.

A major crack had emerged in  the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) penultimate week, with some members calling for the resignation of the National Chairman, Uche Secondus.

The anti-Secondus NWC members, who are backed by some PDP governors and members of the National Assembly, had insisted that the continued stay in office of the PDP chairman for the remaining part of his tenure might spell doom for the opposition party.

Some of the NWC members, after a meeting at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, on August 8, had accused the PDP of alleged incompetence and mismanaging the party. After the meeting, which was attended by nine out of the 19 members of the NWC, six of them demanded for the immediate resignation of Secondus.

They include the deputy national chairman( North), Suleiman Nazif; Mai Adamu Mustapher, National Auditor;  Sunday  Udeh- Okoye;  Taofiq Arapaja, National Vice Chairman (South West); Chief Dan Orbih, National Vice Chairman (South South) and Chief Ali Odefa, National vice Chairman (South East).

However, the PDP chairman, in a terse statement last Monday,  insisted he won’t resign. And challenged “the tiny minority”, seeking his exit, to come clean on why they want him out.

However, a source close to the PDP chairman  said the the moves to oust him has nothing to do with the defection of the governors and some other members of the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) nor alleged poor leadership.

He explained that the move to sack him is traceable to the alleged desperation by a bloc in the PDP to hijack the leadership of the opposition party to feather their political nest in the 2023 presidential contest. 

According to him, “having instituted the acknowledged culture of fairness as witnessed in the 2018 National Convention, such ambitious individuals fear that they cannot realize their aspirations, if Secondus remains as Chairman.

“They want him to reserve the 2023 Presidential ticket to a particular bloc.”

Daily Sun gathered that the calculation was to get Secondus to resign or for the entire NWC to be replaced with a caretaker, which will organize a national convention to elect a new leadership for the opposition party; and not because of anything he has done or failed to do. 

Secondus, in a  recent interview with journalists, in Abuja, had stated that the PDP under his watch has recorded several achievements.  According to him, the NWC under his watch entrenched internal democracy in the selection of party candidates.

“We inherited a party that had issues with internal democracy. Delegates were not having the final say on who flies the party’s flag in an election. Names of winners were randomly and blatantly changed in Abuja, with utter disregard to the people and the requirements of our constitution.    

“By the time our reform programme came on stream, the party had become an attractive brand to accommodate the influx of new members that included the entire leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly then, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, other members of the parliament at federal and state levels, as well as three incumbent state governors of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto, who joined us.”

Consequently, there was horse-trading and intrigues as supporters of the PDP chairman and those opposed to him battled to convince the party leaders on the merit of their respective positions.

At the end of the day, Secondus survived the plot against him while his tenure was abridged by two months. Analysts say the survival of the PDP chairman is instructive given the high turnover of party chairmen.

The chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibrin,  at the first reconciliation meeting called by the board had urged the party leaders to take a retrospective look on the PDP to find out why non of its national chairmen had served out their tenure.

According to him, ‘this BoT should therefore look at reasons of the abrupt end of past National Chairmen and the NWC tenures and take decision quickly.

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“ We must sit down with the National Chairman and the NWC and come out with decisions that will make our party strongest. While truth is bitter, we must cope with the bitterness by taking serious actions to handle this situation. In order to operate effectively as the conscious of the party, this meeting today should deliberate fully on the need to put our collective interest as true PDP members ahead of any personal interest against unity and stability of the party; making sure that new leaders emerge only through free and fair election at the National Convention”, he said.

Truly, in the history of the party, none of its national chairman had served their tenure, beginning from Chief Audu Ogbeh, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Adamu  Mua’zu and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.

The removal of Sheriff as PDP chairman had polarized the opposition party and resulted in a legal tussle that almost eclipsed the party.

Apparently guided by the lessons of the past and consequences of a forceful change of leadership in the PDP, few months to beginning of nomination of candidates for the next general election, the party leaders reached a compromise.

The leaders, after a crucial meeting, at the party’s national secretariat, in Abuja,  announced that the party’s national convention, to elect a new leadership will now hold in October while the Secondus-led NWC will remain in office pending the conduct of the convention.

The chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, and governor of Sokoto State, who addressed journalists at the end of the meeting said party stakeholders consisting of the governors, BoT, members of former governors forum, former ministers, serving and former National Assembly members have resolved to continue to work as “a united family”.

He said: “this meeting has agreed that immediately the NEC should be convened for the party to constitute the National Convention planning committee and the National Convention should be held latest by the end of October.

“Also, the zoning committee for the party should also be constituted by the same NEC immediately.

“The NEC of the party shall meet most likely next week and all the issues will be addressed. And that NEC will be convened by the chairman of the party who is constitutionally empowered to do so.”

The battle next time

The breather given to Secondus by PDP leaders, notwithstanding, the  battle for the control of the party, ahead of the 2023 polls is yet to abate. Both the pro and anti- Secondus forces have returned to the drawing board to re-strategize.

However, the new battleground in the tussle by PDP leaders for the control of party structure, ahead of the 2023 polls, has inevitably shifted to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the opposition party. 

The NEC, which is the party’s second highest organ of the PDP, consists of the governors, state chairman, members of the National Assembly, BoT members, national ex-officio members among others.  The party organ  is expected to meet later this week to constitute the National Convention Planning Committee, as well as the zoning committee.

The convention committee will be saddled with the conduct of the process for the election of a new leadership in October while the zoning committee has the onerous responsibility of determining how party and elective offices, including the national chairmanship and  presidential candidate will be distributed among the six geo political zones.

Although neither Secondus nor any of the NWC members have indicated for second term, there are strong indications that they will be seeking a reelection, if the political atmosphere is favorable.

The major gladiators have their eyes on the control of the two committees, especially zoning committee, which will determine the power sharing formula among the six geo-political zones, ahead of the 2023 polls.

The practice in the PDP is to zone the presidential ticket and the party chairmanship and other positions between the North and the South. After the general zoning, the various zones will micro-zone the positions ceded to them to different states.

Therefore,  pundits say the success of the two major power blocs will depend on the outcome of the zoning of offices.

Regardless,  a school of thought in the PDP is already pushing that the issue of zoning for the office of national chairman should be kept in abeyance, until after the 2023 presidential election.  The argument is that the national chairmanship position be thrown open to all qualified persons.

Analysts say the way and manner the PDP is able to manage the convention and zoning of party offices will determine what becomes of the opposition party in 2023.

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