In this report, MUYIWA OYINLOLA writes on the task before the newly elected National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, ahead of the next general elections.
The much talked about National Convention of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was held at the weekend seeing to the emergence of Uche Secondus as its National Chairman.
Secondus, a former Acting National Chairman of the party polled a total of 2,000 votes while former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran who came second scored 230 votes. Chief Raymond Dokpesi scored 66 votes while Prof. Taoheed Adedoja had no vote.
The race which had about a dozen aspirants prior to the eve of the election held on Saturday witnessed a decline of contestants a few minutes to the commencement of voting at the event held at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
A night to the election, a major contender and former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George announced his withdrawn from the race. By the following morning, another contender for the post and former Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel also withdrew.
At about the same time, the party’s governorship candidate in Lagos State in the last general elections, Jimi Agbaje also announced his withdrawal, while a former Oyo State governor, Rashidi Ladoja announced his withdrawal on the field at the commencement of the exercise. Ladoja, unlike others urged delegates from his South-west zone to cast their votes for Adeniran, who is from the same zone with him.
Recall that all the aspirants had refused to step down for one another or agreed on a consensus candidate for the office.
George, while giving reasons for his withdrawal cited monitisation of the process, refusal of the party’s leadership to micro-zone the office to the South-west and alleged assault on his Yoruba race on a national television by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
In a statement announcing his withdrawal, George noted that: “The zoning principle which was publicly reinforced last year in Port Harcourt had specifically and rightly affirmed the South-West as the zone to produce the National Chairman. This binding proclamation was based on equity, fairness and natural balance that hold any organization together.
“But this old, legitimate and morally sound micro zoning principle has now been trashed, dumped in the waste bin, flung into the gutter by very little men who have compromised the pivotal moral anchor of civilized engagement for temporary selfish gains.
“Everywhere you look, the Yoruba people are now being brazenly insulted. The very traditional fiber of our founding fathers are now being trampled upon, debased and soiled by external forces and mercenary traitors within.
“It appears the PDP is now bent on self destruction. It has obviously allowed money moguls to dictate its thematic largeness. The party has lost its soul. It has lost its principled beginning and the predications of righteousness. It has traded the finer principles of democratic guidance and equity for the squalid, dirty and shameful resort to mercenary agenda where nothing matters save the putrid, oafish gains of the moment
“I cannot be part of this screaming aberration. And as the Atona of Yoruba land, I do not expect any well meaning, well disciplined, forthright, sincere Omoluabi of Yoruba land to continue with this deceit and shameful theater
“The Peoples Democratic Party has now mangled and distorted its soul and spirit. There is no morality here anymore. There is no sanity or any sense of enlightened civility
“As a result of these observed aberrations wherein the position of the National Chairman has been apparently sold and auctioned to the highest bidder, I as an Omoluabi and as an authentic Atona of Yoruba land, I will not partake in this charade.
“I hereby withdraw from this brazen fraud and absolutely preconceived, monetized, mercantilist convention”.
While each of the aspirants gave different reasons for withdrawing, George’s reasons appear to be the most poignant and disturbing as the party tries to reposition for the next general elections.
Recall also that the only formidable aspirant from the South-west, Adeniran, who participated in the convention also stormed out of the convention ground alleging irregularities and plot by some powerful forces within the party to force delegates to vote for only aspirants on the ‘Unity List’.
‘Unity List’, it was gathered was a list of aspirants that were endorsed by governors elected on PDP platform. The list had a composition of aspirants for all the offices vied for at the convention.
Top on that list was Secondus, who many still believe is the governors’ candidate. The choice of Secondus ‘by the governors’, it was gathered is that he would be pliable and be able to do their bidding. George and Adeniran, it was also gathered may be a hard nut for them to crack.
The position of the National Chairmanship was the most keenly contested for. The reason, among others is that whoever occupied the office would pilot the affairs of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections. Such a person should also be able to deliver the party and return it to power by that year.
At a time that the party is not controlling the centre, the position is an enviable one because the national chairman is also seen as the ‘president’ of the party. He controls everything and can also determine who gets what in the party.
This perhaps was why former Military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida played a formidable role behind the scene. In fact, his Minna Hilltop mansion played a host to virtually all the Chairmanship aspirants. It was reported that while not throwing his weight behind any particular individual, he urged them to deemphasize money politics and allow the choice of the delegates to prevail.
However, with the emergence of Secondus, the baton is now in his hands to take the party to victory but the challenge of the fallout of the convention may be a litmus test for him. How resolves the post-convention grievances will definitely go a long way in determining how the party would fair in the next general elections.
Whereas none of the aggrieved aspirants threatened defection to another party, Secondus would do well to address some of the issues raised by each and everyone of them, especially George’s position that South-west is being maligned, marginalized and being treated as ii it is not wanted in the party.
Recall that in the last political dispensation, the slot for the Speakership of the House of Representatives which was zoned to the South-west, and the only slot zoned to the zone, was occupied for that period by the present Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal from North West.
The perceived injustice against the South-west by the PDP as well as the alleged sidelining of the zone by the then leadership of former President Goodluck Jonathan, were said to be some of the reasons the party had a poor performance in the zone in the 2015 general elections.
Also, in this present dispensation, the South-south now holds three major offices. The national chairman of the party, Senate Minority Leader and Reps Minority Leader. The South-east has Deputy Senate President, while the presidential candidate will obviously emerge from the North. Hence, the South-west is also missing in the present equation in the party.
The current disequilibrium within the party may not be unconnected with the so-called disregard for the zoning formula as institutionalized by its founding fathers. However, while George emphasized on micro-zoning, it will be recalled that former Chairman of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi, insisted that PDP only zones North/South. He added that while it is not opposed to micro-zoning, it should be an internal arrangement of those from such zone and not really a party affair.
But one other area where Secondus would need to focus on is the North, where most of the states that used to be under the control of the party are now in full control of the ruling All Progressives Congress ( APC
Secondus may however not be oblivious of the challenges ahead as he in his acceptance speech promised to rebuild the party and lead it to return to power in 2019.
His words: “By my understanding, the mandate you have given us today is clear and unambiguous. It is to return our party to power come 2019. As Herculean as this mandate seems, I know it’s achievable. My campaign pillars for this election are ‘To Rebuild, Reposition and Regain’.
“Let me assure you great members and leaders of our party, that by the grace of God and with all hands on deck, the brief tenancy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Aso Rock Villa expires on May 28, 2019. By this, we serve them a quit notice.”
“This has to be immediate, in order to save our beloved country from disintegration. We are all witnesses to how the unity of this country has been shaken to its very foundation under the watch of the rudderless and clueless APC. We therefore have a gigantic task of retrieving this country from APC’s clear lack of direction and confusion starting with the Presidency.
“In the words of the 34th President of the United States of America Dwight .D. Eisenhower, “If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power”.
“Judging from this, it is crystal clear to all Nigerians, that APC is not a political party, but a body hurriedly assembled to seize power without a clear cut plan for governance.
“Our party on the other hand, was founded on ideals which are totally in tandem with those of the founding fathers of this great country. Those founding fathers had in mind, a prosperous and lasting democracy as captured in the preamble of our constitution clearly stating their desire for a free and egalitarian society. Even in our perceived failure of 2015, we chose to to abide by our strong faith in democracy, willingly conceding power to opposition, thereby elevating the democratic status of Nigeria. We are the true democrats!”
While speaking further, he assured that “all necessary steps will be taken to avoid a repeat of our past mistakes. Indeed we have learnt our lessons and by this convention, we are now set to forge a new path for our great party and Nigeria. Under my watch, Internal democracy will be strictly adhered to with a deliberate policy to return ‘real’ power to the people. No more imposition, no more impunity.
“Every member of this party can from this moment, consider him or herself, an equal shareholder in our common destiny. I call on all Nigerians, of all creed and class, to embrace this new PDP and join in this quest for a new Nigeria. Particularly, I reach out to our old members who for one reason or the other have left the party, to please come back ‘home’.
As Secondus begins his term of office this week, all eyes are him to see if indeed his emergence would make or mar the party currently gasping for breath and yearning to return to power.
Secondus is coming to office at a time politicians are known for jumping from one party to the other, and unless he is able to rebuild and reposition the party, the PDP will not be able to regain its lost glory.