Home Columns National Chairmanship contest: PDP at the crossroads, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

National Chairmanship contest: PDP at the crossroads, By Sufuyan Ojeifo

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For avid watchers of the nation’s political scene, the developments in the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over the election of substantive national chair and other officers, understandably, deserve more than a scant attention.  This is due, largely, to the fact that, as a leading opposition party in the country, the PDP is the alternative government-in-waiting.

However, for it to transmute and become government-in-power, it must muster the capacity to dislodge the ruling All Progressives Party (APC), otherwise, it will be the alternative government-in-waiting beyond 2019.  Capacity, in this sense, refers to human, financial, material and intellectual capacity.  Located in the vortex of this critical component is leadership ability to galvanise and mobilise party members along desired directions.

Therefore, a leadership that has the character and discipline to further the process of consensus-building within the party as well as construct and strengthen strategic linkages with other parties in the overall interest of the nation is imperative in the PDP quest for self-rediscovery, not a leadership with questionable antecedents or a leadership that is mollycoddled by some state governors to the extent of being rendered compromised from the outset of its administration of the party consequent upon anointment.

Having just been pulled back from the jaws of the lion via the verdict of the Supreme Court, after it had sustained scary injuries inflicted on it by some self-seeking members, it will be sad if PDP repeats the same mistake that plunged it into that celebrated hysteria.  Both members and non-members of the PDP were concerned that a party that had blossomed for about seventeen years with sixteen of those years in the saddle at the federal level, was headed for self-immolation.

The role of the duo of Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike and his Ekiti state counterpart, Ayodele Fayose, in signing off the party to Senator Ali Modu Sherrif is still very fresh in the mind.  The battle that Sherrif took the party and its salvation army of leaders through before they could reclaim the party and prepare it for the national convention billed for this week’s Saturday in Abuja cannot be forgotten in a hurry.

Both Wike and Fayose admitted making a mistake that could have destroyed the party.  Having been given a second chance to restitute, one would have expected Wike, in particular, to be of good behaviour and act in ways that would conduce to peace, stability and growth of the party.  But developments in the party have clearly indicated Wike’s resolve to once more embark on a scary adventure that is capable of destabilising the party.

In his new preoccupation to assume control of the party structure, he has enlisted the support of the National Caretaker Committee chairman, Senator Makarfi, who is interested in the presidential ticket of the party.  In the spirit of quid pro quo, both party leaders are committed to the realisation of each other’s agenda.  For a promised support for his presidential aspiration by Wike, Makarfi has ensured that the micro-zoning of the position of national chair to the southwest zone is discountenanced and the contest thrown open to the entire southern region.  Curiously, it is only the national chair that is subjected to this political shenanigan.

Perhaps the move would have been popular if the choice of aspirant had been different from Uche Secondus, a crony of Wike, whose antecedents in the National Executive Committee of the PDP where he acted briefly as national chairman have arguably been questionable.  Perhaps, if Wike and his co-travelers in the fresh plot to destabilise the party have been pushing Chief Raymond Dokpesi, whose capacity and qualification for the post are not in doubt, it would have been a different ball game.  It would have been a case of undisputed merit against zoning.  But where is the merit in Wike’s Secondus?

It is sad that Wike could expend public funds belonging to Rivers people in pursuit of a laughable national leadership for the PDP.  This act has only exposed the governor as profoundly ridiculous and provincial.  Even if his plan is to test his popularity and financial might in the party, should he not have placed his bet on another person outside his Rivers state?

Dokpesi would have been the right person.  I cannot fault Dokpesi’s political connections, preeminence and administrative savoir-faire.  Even at that, those who crave the entrenchment of due diligence, respect for party supremacy and discipline would invest their solid support for the emergence of the substantive national chair from the southwest zone.

It is expected that those who are committed to the survival and progress of the PDP would ensure that the next national chair comes from the southwest.  If southwest does not get it, it would have lost out completely from the PDP power arrangement, which has already ceded presidential position to the north.  The south-south has just ended its occupation of the presidency in 2015 and should not talk about appropriating the national chair.  Besides, it is only the southwest that has not produced the national chair of the PDP since the formation of the party in 1998.

If it wants to stay together as a united party, the PDP must not allow any action or decision that would undermine its existence, progress and stability.  But, unfortunately, that is the trajectory that the party under the leadership of Makarfi seems to have taken.  Selfish political interests have once again reared their heads in a desperate bid to hijack the party machinery and control the soul of the party.  Such moves certainly always leave any party divided, weak and unable to effectively confront the “monstrosity” of the ruling party.

The contestation for different positions was structured, jurisdictionally circumscribed and settled.   There should not have been any reason at all to throw open the position of the national chairman to the entire southern region, the way Makarfi has done on the prompting of Wike for his promised support for his presidential ambition.  And who would have thought that Makarfi would become so desperate as to fall for Wike’s overture?

Makarfi has surprisingly unraveled, thus losing a historic opportunity to show selfless leadership and firmness in dealing with a potential flashpoint in the party’s march to self-rediscovery.  The good thing is that there are men of honour in the party who would shun Wike’s messy porridge and do the right thing for conscience sake and for posterity. The survival of the PDP will certainly bear their imprimaturs.

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