Palpable optimism had been sparked off among party faithful following the successful conclusion of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party as well as the electricity generated from by the charismatic brand new chairman whose inaugural speech was woven with an assurance of a quick return to Aso Rock, having served the ruling All Progressives Congress a verbal quit notice.
Still basking in the euphoria of victory, Prince Uche Secondus who was declared the winner of the PDP’s chairmanship election at about 3:30 am on Sunday morning and sworn in shortly after, said in his acceptance speech:
“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”.
The controversies generated from the vicious struggle for the capture and control of the soul of the post-2015 PDP had resulted in a staccato flow of life for Nigeria’s former ruling party, making worse the morale of many members already battered by the historic defeat of Dr Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential elections.
Saved from imminent extinction by the controversial Supreme Court ruling of July 12,2017 which ended the leadership tussle between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi’s prolonged leadership crisis foisted on it by the rift between its displaced chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the governors under the opposition party’s platform party faithfuls had hoped that the national convention of the party which took place on the 9th of December, 2017 would breath fresh energy into rejig it for the forthcoming general elections of 2019.
Against all odds, the PDP convention has come and gone and new party officials have emerged with Prince Uche Secondus, however the process and outcome has been randomly described by commentators as a charade and an anti-climax.
The convention has produced contradictory outcomes. First, Governor Nyesom Wike has proven beyond doubt that he is not just the new de facto leader of the PDP; he has the full reins of the party in his grips. In the face of stiff opposition from the South-West, his candidate, Prince Uche Secondus emerges through what appears to be a guided-democratic process –the unity list. On the other end, events that have followed from the outcome of the congress show that the party may have contracted an illness that is already deteriorating its morphology. It’s not yet clear if the this illness is in the chronic or end stage but then we cannot deny that the health status of former ruling party that once prided itself as “the largest political party in Africa” has fallen by a few more rungs, below the unenviable conditions of the days of the Sheriff-Markafi tussle.
Same Old PDP
In form, content and context the December 9 congress didn’t show anything different from what we’ve known of the PDP. Since 1999, the PDP has shown a preference for ‘adoptions,’ ‘endorsements’ and ‘consensus candidates’ as a model for internal and external succession and continuity in place of broad participation of constituents.
Not many would disagree that part of the reasons the PDP failed to clinch retain its 16 year rule beyond 2015 was the deliberate constriction of its political space by the powerful power brokers.
Ahead of its presidential primaries scheduled for December 6, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole candidate for the 2015 election, shutting out the ambitions of other party men. This over played scene is ubiquitous and like the Nigerian movies, the end is easily predictable. Victims and defeated candidates are forced to dance along the tone of hurriedly arranged reconciliation committee or be tagged anti-party.
On the surface, there was an intention to make the elective congress appear as a departure from the past until the leakage of the “unity list” betrayed the scheme. In the end, new leaders emerged but through a process that appears more like a pseudo election or a guided democracy.
According to the results announced by Gabriel Suswam, former Benue State governor and the chairman of the Electoral Sub-Committee of the convention, one of candidates, Professor Taoheed Adedoja scored zero, apparently forgetting to vote for himself! Secondus, the ‘chosen one’ scored 2,000 votes of the 2,396 votes cast; Chief Raymond Dokpesi got 66, and Prof. Tunde Adeniran 230. The final vote count of 2, 297 was higher than the 2, 115 registered delegates, the final vof 2, 297 exceeded that number.
When the results were finally announced, every other candidate except those on the “unity list” failed. Before the voting began, a list of preferred candidates printed on sheets of papers and allegedly accompanied by envelopes of dollars was being distributed to delegates had leaked and was been circulated in the media, especially the internet.
An aspirant for Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Demola Kehinde, seeing that his name was not on the list making the rounds at Eagle Square venue of the convention raised a whimper, but he was easily ignored.
“What kind of party is this? What is the list meant for? What is it meant to achieve? Look at delegates with the sheets. They are telling them to vote in a particular way,” he averred.
Adeniran, Dokpesi and Adedoja also blamed their defeat on the circulation of the ‘unity list’ which was used to arm-twist delegates into voting in predetermined arrangements.
In the same vein, an aspirant for the post of Publicity Secretary and Former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Olanrewaju Sulaimon rejected the results. He called on the electoral committee to annul the elections because he had been excluded from the process as his name had been omitted from the ballot box.
“To my chagrin and utter constellation, I was informed that my name was conspicuously missing from the list of candidates vying for the post of National Publicity Secretary, which lists were pasted in booths earmarked for voting into the office of National Publicity Secretary. I therefore, pray that the august body would do the right thing by me by cancelling the purported election,” he said.
Chief Bode George, withdrew from the chairmanship race before the convention kicked off, describing it as “brazen fraud and absolutely preconceived, monetized, mercantilist Convention”. Chief George He accused Governor Wike of manipulating the process and of insulting the Yoruba race. Wike had reportedly appeared on television to tell the South West aspirants to forget their ambition because the Yoruba have never contributed much to the PDP.
Amidst the grumblings, Wike and his allies had sent a clear message: they are in full control of the post 2015 PDP.
The new kids on the block have won a pyrrhic victory and are prepared to brandish triumphalism. Before the election results announced, Governor Ayo Fayose had appeared on AIT Television boasting with a nose in the air that whoever was not happy with the outcome of the elective Convention had no option but to accept the results.
However, the new kingmakers may have successfully crowned Prince Uche Secondus, an astute and experienced politician as the substantive national chairman of the PDP , but the party in he has been asked to nurse is one that has been inflicted with too many injuries, many of whom are self-inflicted. The PDP under Seconudus is far weak and more entangled in controversies than it has ever been and this is made worse by the crisis of legitimacy and acceptance owing to the way he and his colleagues emerged.
Commentators had hoped that the opposition party would use the opportunity of the Convention to renew itself and set the tone for a new beginning. The Saturday December 9 event disappointed the expectations of observers and many party men that would give birth to the PDP’s new beginning. Former presidential spokesman to Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abbati held that the election was not only disappointing but a big let-down. “The election that took place was another night of the long knives. After the macheting, the ego slaying, the marching out, and the intrigues of Caesarian flavour, the PDP was left in a worse state than it had been. It was sad.” He wrote on a national daily.
Like Sheriff, Unlike the South-West
Since losing the 2015 presidential elections, the PDP has in attempts to redefine and reposition itself plunged into self-inflicted predicaments that have resulted mostly from strategic blunders even though it’s been quick to blame it on external intrusions, especially the ruling All Progressives Congress .
Former national Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, before his ouster by the Supreme Court said he never bargained to lead the party, but that he was begged to serve because of his pedigree.
Before they fell apart, Sheriff had eulogised Governor Ayodele Fayose during a visit to the state PDP secretariat at Ado Ekiti. He said: “I never wanted or thought of being chairman, but I was sleeping in my house when governor Fayose called me from Port Harcourt and said I was going to be the new National Chairman. This to me was a miracle.”
Senator Modu Sheriff was forced down the throat of party members and chieftains by the same cabal that have now openly undermined the South-West to produce Secondus as Chairman. Also, the reaction to the emergence of Sheriff resembles in many ways, the response of a huge chunk of the PDP to the emergence of the “Unity List” candidates as substantive national officers of the party.
Ministers who served under the administration of the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan under the auspices of PDP Former Ministers’ Forum through its spokesperson and former Minister of National Planning, Dr Suleiman Abubakar said he and other like minds would rather review their membership of party than submit to the “selfish interest of some cabal whose main goal is political profiteering”. He described Sheriff’s emergence as drawing the curtain on the rescue mission aimed at rebuilding the party and positioning it for better performance in 2019, adding that the redemption boat has capsized.
The perceived maltreatment of the South-West in the last convention has set off a chain of unpleasant reactions which pose an existential threat to the PDP. Before the elective congress began, comments which were said to have been made on national TV by Governor Wike asserting that the South West aspirants should forget their ambition because the Yoruba have never contributed much to the PDP had made it clear to political watchers that the Rivers State Governor and his co-travellers were not prepared to listen to the call for micro zoning which would have given the South-West the exclusive right to produce the chairman of the party.
Pundits have argued that as the alleged major sponsor of PDP, there was nothing holding Governor Wike from determining the type of tune that is to be played in the party, and more especially at the convention. Even though Wike has denied bankrolling the processes that produced Secondus and every other candidate on the unity list, the Rivers state chapter of the APC had categorically accused him of using Rivers’ money to manipulate the outcome of the convention:
“The report that governor of Rivers state, Chief Nyesom Wike, spent a whopping N15.5 billion of Rivers state resources to sponsor Saturday’s elective national convention of the PDP and install his lackey, Prince Uche Secondus, as the new National Chairman of the party came to us as a political party as shocking, unfortunate, unacceptable and condemnable.
The successful execution of the preconceived strategy to jettison the concerns of the Yoruba people in pursuit of absolute control of party structure has produced the anointed Uche Secondus as Chairman but then, the withdrawal of Chief Bode George on account of what he said was insult on the Yoruba race by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has become a preamble to the many more loses which party was to suffer in its post-convention era.
Political watchers had dubbed the December 9 convention of the PDP as the “make or mar convention” and they were not wrong. Events that have ensued from the elective convention of the self-acclaimed largest political party in Africa have raised fears as to whether the PDP has used up its ninth life.
Shortly after he was sworn in, Prince Secondus put in place the mechanism for reconciliation and reunification of the party. Everything appeared to be working according to plans, the Governor Dickson led reconciliation committee had met with most of the chairmanship aspirants and had extracted commitment from them on the way forward until one of the aspirants signalled that it was not yet uhuru. Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, quickly slammed the party with a court action. Adedoja, a former Minister of Youth and Sports, said he filed a suit at an Abuja Federal High Court to challenge the outcome of the election, which saw to the emergence of Secondus as national chairman.
While reconciliation committee was still trying to calm the many frayed nerves, the borders of the PDP shrunk further as 1,500 as members in Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area of Lagos State defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, led by a PDP chieftain in the Local Government, Mr. Fola Mosaku, and four councillorship candidates of the party in the July 22 council polls in the state.
Imo State Governor, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, was on the floor of the House of Representative by himself to witness the formal defection of a PDP Representative, Mr. Raphael Igbokwe Igbokwe to the APC at the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara. Honourable Igbokwe represents Ahiazu Mbaise/Ezinihitte constituency in the house.
Barely five days after the defeat of the entire Yoruba Chairmanship aspirants, former governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala led former Senate leader, Senator Teslim Folarin and former Secretary to the State Government, Chief Ayodele Adigun, and thousands of PDP memebers into the APC.
As if the post-convention problems were not enough, a new faction of the PDP Led by one Emmanuel Nwosu has emerged. The group, which called itself Fresh PDP, declared that the newly elected National Working Committee (NWC) chaired by Prince Uche Secondus would not stand. It has threatened to open its secretariat in Abuja.