Aftermath of PDP convention: Issues to Shape Emergence of PDP Presidential/VP Candidates
If all the narratives that trailed the PDP convention are anything to go by, the biggest gainers, for now, are the party’s chieftains in the South-South, who have so far produced the national chairman of the party in the person of Chief Uche Secondus.
The second gainers, according to pundits, are “some PDP chieftains” from the North, who allegedly ensured that the party’s national convention was “a success story” ahead of them reaping the benefits in the future, not minding the grumbling here and there.
This is particularly evident because the scheming of PDP handlers, including the caretaker committee and the various committees set up in the last one year, is to see that the South produces the national chairman of the party and the North produces the presidential candidate.
Now that the chairman (Secondus from the South-South) and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC- drawn from across the six geopolitical zones) of the party are all comfortably seated at the Wadata Plaza national secretariat, the pendulum and its attendant turbulence is gradually swinging to the Northern region, which must come to terms with the realities and complexities of producing the party’s presidential candidate.
This is not to say that everything in the South is rosy as far the political permutations ahead of 2019 are concerned because that part of the country is still expected to produce the vice presidential candidate of the PDP.
Sadly, the issue of micro-zoning has remained contentious between the South West and the South East and to a certain extent the South East, with party leaders from the geopolitical zones trying to outdo one another, all in an effort to produce the vice presidential candidate of the PDP.
The biggest challenge for the North
With the general impression across the land that the South West is the biggest loser in the ongoing politicking, leaders of PDP from that political zone are now relentlessly angling for the slot of the vice president.
To them, nothing short of that would make them “feel among” in the power struggle within the PDP; and this is seen as a difficult and delicate position for handlers of the party and presidential aspirants from the North.
A viable presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections would definitely need a saleable running mate from the South to balance the equation and confront the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which may likely field President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
At present, there are potential presidential candidates of the PDP from the North, and this newspaper reliably gathered that each one of them is tirelessly mapping and graphing, as to how he would appeal to certain sentiments in the South and pick his vice presidential candidate in the event he emerges victorious at the parties presidential primaries.
Senator Ahmed Makarfi
He is the immediate past national chairman of the party and comes from the North West.
Senator Makarfi is said to be the biggest beneficiary of the convention and most of the PDP chairmanship aspirants from the South West are of the opinion that the former Kaduna governor did not do enough to clear the course for one of them to emerge as national chairman.
Some aggrieved chieftains of the party believed that Makarfi has presidential ambitions and therefore ensured that he laid a solid foundation and structures all over to ensure his unassailable ascension to the highest position in the land under the platform of the PDP.
They claimed that he succeeded in doing this by superintending the conduct of Congress in all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja with allegations that in most of the places, those who emerged as party executives are in his good books and would work for him to become the party’s presidential flag-bearer.
Specifically, some of the national chairmanship aspirants, such as Chief Olabode George, had alleged that Makarfi, with active support from some Board of Trustees (BoT) members and some state chairmen of the party, deliberately agreed on a secret deal with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to ensure the emergence of Prince Secondus as national chairman.
While Bode George had even called on Makarfi to resign as caretaker chairman of the party, the former military administrator took his frustration to the zenith when he bowed out of the chairmanship contest on the eve of the convention on the grounds that everything had been compromised.
Sources said the “secret deal” between Makarfi and Secondus is that the former Kaduna governor would most likely select his running mate from the South East which is a neighbor to the South-South.
“The insinuation from many quarters that Wike is interested in the vice presidential slot is erroneous; he is a first-term governor and would be very much interested in his second term,” a source from the Niger Delta said.
“Wike’s main concern before the election was to reciprocate the good gesture Secondus did to him when he (Secondus) was the deputy national chairman of the party in ensuring his emergence as governor among other privileged things at the national level.
“Secondly, Wike is now a kingmaker and if Makarfi would go for the presidency, he would definitely support him,” he said.
Another source said Makarfi would specifically take his running mate from the South East.
“When it comes to political persuasion, the South East and South South are one strong family and that is where the PDP has a solid structure. There are eleven states combined from the two zones and apart from Imo and Anambra, all the rest are PDP,” he said.
He added that Makarfi stands a better chance of sweeping the South if he takes his second in command from the South East because there would be bloc votes.
“This is unlike the South West where you have only five states with most of them loyal to the APC. Again, if he picks his running mate from there, it means they would share the votes with the APC, which would also produce its vice presidential candidate from there,” he said.
But Makarfi has denied giving undue advantage to the South-South or South East.
In an interview with Channels TV two days after the convention, Makarfi said the region never had a true consensus candidate for the chairmanship position.
Reacting to the loss of the South West, Makarfi said the South West masterminded its own fall.
“For the South West, it was at the convention venue that they resolved on a consensus candidate. And even then, another candidate came to the state box and met the leaders and said, look, they never resolved, that he was still in the race. So, it was a total confusion.
“Somebody signs on behalf of other candidates and say ‘we now have a consensus candidate and please support him’ and another went round saying ‘no, we don’t have a consensus candidate.’
“The whole issue of the South West was its inability to put itself in order in good time. And then allowing some characters that cannot stand up in terms of credibility to occupy the political and media landscape; all kinds of abuses.
“And we cautioned them that negative campaign by one individual was damaging them as a people and members of the PDP and they needed to call that person to order. Still, they never called him to order,” Makarfi said.
It is therefore in the coming months that Nigerians would see where Makarfi would go to gain political capital.
In October, this year, the former Jigawa governor formerly wrote PDP leaders and followers across Nigeria of his desire to seek for the office of the president.
Curiously, Lamido had refused to announce the open endorsement of any of the nearly ten chairmanship aspirants of the party during their rigorous campaign.
As the leader of the PDP in Jigawa State, Lamido had hosted most of the frontline contenders at his Bamaina country home in faraway Jigawa.
“He was careful not to have endorsed anyone because he is a tested politician; you don’t commit yourself in such contest,” a source close to him said.
The source said that was the same posture Lamido maintained at the convention ground. “But as you must have seen, he paid glowing tribute to all the aspirants because only one of them would win and at the end of the day, Lamido would need the individual credentials of each one of them to succeed in the presidential contest,” he said.
In the letter he wrote, Lamido lamented that Nigeria has departed from the dreams of the PDP founding fathers.
“I am no means claiming to be the only capable material, any PDP member given the trust and support can fly our flag, and I expect many more aspirants will express the desire to run,” he said but added that he believes in his capacity to take Nigeria out of the woods.
Malam Ibrahim Shekarau
He is a former governor of Kano State who also in August, this year wrote the PDP national secretariat of his resolve to seek for the presidency even though the matter only came to the fore in October.
“Malam Shekarau deliberately refused to make his ambition public because he does not want the relevant stakeholders to read it for the first time on the pages of newspapers. He first notified them before making it public. He is now making necessary consultations,” his spokesman, Malam Sule Ya’u Sule, told the Daily Trust.
In another letter he sent to his political associates, Hassan Indabawa, dated August 22, 2017, Shekarau said after the 2015 general elections, there had been requests by individuals and groups from different quarters urging him to contest for the presidency in 2019, hence his resolve to throw his hat into the contest.
Sources said ahead of the convention, Shekarau had aligned himself with Chief Raymond Dokpesi from the South-South for the position of national chairman so that they could work together towards producing the vice presidential candidate from the South West.
“Shekarau and Dokpesi are in the good books of each other and they wanted to play the same card in the buildup to 2019,” one of the sources within the PDP said, even though this could not be verified.
He said Shekarau believed that with Dokpesi, who has wide outreach in the North, especially the North East, they would be able to get a strong vice presidential candidate from the South West and it would be perfect for the PDP. However, now that Dokpesi did not get the chairmanship, pundits say Shekarau would have to do extra work to achieve his goal.
The former vice president and Wazirin Adamawa had tried for the presidency almost three times and at 71, this should probably be his last chance.
Though he clearly denied that he was in support of any of the chairmanship aspirants, sources said he wanted Professor Tunde Adeniran for the plump job so that they could collectively look for a saleable vice presidential candidate from the South East.
Atiku reportedly went back to PDP from the APC after he was “blessed” by ex-president Goodluck Jonathan and Ibrahim Babangida among others.
Unarguably, Atiku is in the good books of the South East and South South because lately, he is actually playing to their sentiments in the call for restructuring.
Sources said though Adeniran did not make it to the PDP chairmanship, the Waziri Adamawa is still looking towards working very well with the South South and South East.
Atiku’s biggest advantage is enormous resources to execute his campaign but the greatest challenge is he must first get a waiver from the PDP, a big step for him, to qualify to contest for any office.
“But for now, he has a long way to go because some forces within the party who might feel threatened would work against him getting the waiver,” a source said.
The source said once the former vice president gets his waiver, he has the potentials of cleaning whatever the likes of Makarfi, Lamido or Shekarau did.
“He would even give the PDP governors a fight for their money and alternatively, he can cajole the governors by asking them to stop spending their money financing the party, this would be a good relief to them and they would be willing to work with him because, for all intents, he can give Buhari a big fight,” he said.
Though the former Senate President has not publicly declared for the presidency yet, his posters had a few months ago adorned many strategic places in Abuja and his home state of Benue.
Credible sources said the “so-called Middle Belt” is working hard to parade Mark alongside a strong vice presidential candidate from the South West.
“David Mark would likely be the dark horse which the PDP new leadership would showcase for 2019. Everyone in the South South, South West and South East as well as the so-called minority in the North, irrespective of religious sentiment, would support the ticket,” a former PDP national official, said.
“The South West would feel compensated over the ill-treatment meted to them during the convention,” he said.
The pulse from the South West
There are discordant tunes from the South West over which of the zones in the South should produce the vice presidential candidate.
Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, a PDP chieftain in Lagos is of the view that the southwest is the architect of its misfortune but said all the presidential aspirants have a duty to reconcile with the zone.
“It is now left for Atiku Abubakar and other aspirants to come to the South West and reconcile and preach for unity; appease them after the victory and see what they are going to give them, maybe Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). But as long as we are disunited, we will not add value to any victory,” he said.
When asked about who the zone may likely back for the presidential ticket, he said, “All aspirants are qualified.”
A Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Diran Odeyemi, also told Daily Trust Sunday in Ibadan that the region was the cause of its defeat to produce the national chairman of the party at the convention.
He, however, said the claim that Yorubas have been shortchanged in PDP is part of the APC propaganda which cannot stand the test of time, adding that the party wants to look at the political arrangement to win the 2019 elections before taking decisions on other political offices.
Odeyemi said other positions like the vice president and the Senate president are still available for the region to take but quickly added that the party has the final say on the arrangement that will result in its victory in 2019.
An ex-youth leader of the party, Hon. Dare Adelekan, said the intervention of the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson to reconcile aggrieved members of the party is a welcome development, adding that many of them are not happy with the outcome of the convention.
Adeleke noted that since the national chairmanship of the party has gone to another zone, the party must compensate the South West region with the slot of the vice president in 2019 to assure that all the zones are taken care of.
For one of the gubernatorial aspirants of the party in Oyo State, Engr Seyi Makinde, the party has done well by appealing to the aggrieved members after the convention.
Makinde who spoke through his media aide, Alhaji Akeem Azeez, said there must be winners and losers in any contest, adding that the victory of the national chairman of the party at the convention is a victory for all party members.
The quiet scheming in South East/South South
Weeks before the PDP convention, there were different views on to how to microzone the positions of national chairman and that of the vice presidential candidate.
Though he too later joined the race for the chairmanship position, Dokpesi, who is from the South-South, had declared that the VP slot should go to the South East.
“My position is that the highest position coming to the South should of necessity go to the South East. I have no apology for it because the South West has produced the president for eight years and the South-South has produced the president as well,” he said.
Another high ranking official of the PDP said the fact that the chairman of the party came from the South-South, that development would not in any way alter the original plan of giving the vice presidential slot to the South East.
He made reference to the May 21 National Convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where the template for sharing of offices was endorsed.
The template reportedly zoned the national chairmanship to the South West and even agreed that the PDP’s governorship candidate in 2015, Mr Jimi Agbaje, should get the mouth-watering position of the chairman.
“The arrangement was that Agbaje should become the chairman and someone from the South East should get the vice presidential slot when the North produces the presidential candidate,” he said.
He said South-South chieftains were not even bothered, believing that it wasn’t long when they produced the president.
He said the whole plan was aborted because of what he called “the lackadaisical posture” of the South West.
According to him, “PDP elders from the North, the South South and South East were peeved at what they considered as the nonchalant attitude of Mr. Jimi Agbaje, the favorite candidate at the peak of the crisis between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and others which led to the emergence of Makarfi as caretaker chairman.
“Agbaje abandoned the party when the crisis with Sheriff broke out after he was promised the chairmanship by the governors. When he returned this year, they now told him to go back. They complained that he did not sympathize with them at the courts,” he said.
And when asked why the PDP governors did not support any other candidate from the South West, he said, “Bode George, Gbenga Daniel, and all the others were seen as lacking in electoral value, that they cannot deliver their states to the party.
“Also, Governor Ayo Fayose had during the PDP NEC meeting threatened to leave the party if Adeniran was made chairman,” he said.
He also insisted that South West leaders should only work hard to get the position of SGF or Senate president in the event the PDP dislodges the APC in 2019.
“I am being frank; we are talking of value even though I don’t want to sound like Wike but look at what is happening carefully. Political parties are sponsored by governors and to a greater extent legislators.
“Now, how many governors do we have in the South West who would be willing to bankroll the PDP presidential candidate from the North if they are given the vice presidential slot?
“But come to the South East and South South, we have many PDP governors, many PDP senators and many PDP House of Representatives members. We also have dozens of PDP legislators at the state level.
“So we have a lot to put on the table for the PDP to actualize its dream and more so, it is only the South East that has not produced the president or vice president. This is our turn and PDP must get it right,” he said.
It is now left to be seen how all this would play out.
Source – Dailytrust