In a few days from now, precisely on Saturday March 24th 2012, a Special Elective National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold at the Eagles Square in Abuja. A new set of the party’s national leaders would emerge from that convention. The quality and character of the individuals that would constitute the next National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP should be of serious concern to every well- meaning Nigerian. This is so because PDP controls power at the centre. It also governs 24 out of 36 states that make up the country. The Minister for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is also from the PDP. It therefore means that the idiosyncrasies of PDP leadership would affect the thinking of the President and therefore the fortunes of all of us.
For PDP members, the evident determination of the opposition to wrestle Federal power from the party at all cost should make all PDP members rise to the challenge of making their party more attractive to the majority of Nigerians. If PDP must survive as a frontline political party in today’s Nigeria, it must reform itself and embrace democratic ethos completely. And to achieve these, the leadership must be made up of men and women who are versed in the knowledge of both political laws and human relationship as well as cerebral enough to conform themselves to international best practices and rules of democratic governance. The era of iron- handed leadership is gone and this is a global reality. Any government, political
party or institution that fails to key into the new world order is doomed and would soon be consumed by either something like the orange revolution or the Arab spring.
With the ceding of the position of National Chairman to the North East geo- political zone, over 31 party stalwarts had earlier declared their intention to contest the position. That was before the convention was postponed from 25th February to 24th March. Today however, a special panel set up by the Party and led by Governor Chibuike Amaechi of River State was said to have short-listed five of the aspirants whom they recommended for consideration by the leadership of the party. They include former Liaison Officer to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on National Assembly Matters Senator Abba Aji, former governor of old Gongola State Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Acting National Secretary Alhaji Musa Babayo, Second Republic politician and one time running mate to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe Alhaji Ibrahim Shetima and incumbent National Publicity Secretary Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali.
It was to the surprise of many and even chagrin of some of his close associates, admirers and supporters that while other aspirants were busy with lobbying, mobilisation and open campaign for support, Prof. Alkali for months kept everybody in doubt whether or not he was actually in the race until a few days ago on Thursday 8th March when he officially declared his campaign open at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre where he explained the reasons behind his decision to wait while others jostled.
Firstly, Alkali told his audience that the zoning of the position of National Chairman to North East came immediately after President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated his cabinet and needed the support of the Party to stay focused and concentrate on setting up of his structures and machinery for effective governance. He therefore felt that running around in the name of campaign for PDP leadership positions would distract the attention of the President from his determination to deliver electoral promises.
Secondly, Alkali said following the appointment of former Acting National Chairman Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed as Minister of Defence, he needed to give full support to Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje who filled the Chairman’s position at that crucial time for him to stabilise in office. Added to these according to Alkali was the nullification of the tenure of five PDP governors and the need to work fully with other party leaders to ensure that the party retains those states. With the return of PDP in Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto and Cross River States, Alkali said he was satisfied and proud to now fully go into the contest.
There is no doubt that Prof. Alkali has paid his dues and is the most qualified be the next national chairman of the PDP this time. Those who share this thought see Alkali as a well- enlightened, intelligent yet unassuming educationist, administrator and politician whose sharp intuitive and calm ambience would combine to make him the best material for the job.
For the past four years, Alkali has stood at the gate for PDP and effectively warded off all media attacks from a conglomerate of political enemies and public speaking practitioners from the other sides of the political divide. His none combative yet deep penetrating approach to media delivery has earned his Party much public sympathy and attracted new members to its fold. Apart from cleaning the image of PDP, Prof. Alkali successfully defended the overwhelming mandate given to President Goodluck Jonathan by Nigerians through the April general election. This is in spite of the desperate attempts made by the large army of opposition to dent the elections with tar.
After the 2011 presidential election, it was a forgone conclusion for many that Alkali would be among the first set of ministerial nominees either considered from ones contributions to the growth of PDP, being at the fore- front of the PDP Presidential Campaign to personal credentials as a cerebral professional and technocrat. But not even the fact that he was not appointed minister could becloud his vision for his party and his total commitment and loyalty to the transformational agenda of the President.
Another quality that marks Alkali out among Nigerian politicians is his readiness at all times to make compromises and sacrifices for the sake of peace, his party and for Nigeria. For example, in spite of the overwhelming support he enjoys in his home state Gombe, the manner in which the 2011 gubernatorial primaries of the PDP in the state was conducted was reported to have caused some disaffection among party leaders and members. After the primaries, all the other contestants were reported to have ganged up against the eventual candidate Ibrahim Dakwanbo. To the surprise of many, Prof. Alkali not only accepted the outcome of the primaries, he wrote a personal letter to Dakwanbo, congratulated him for his victory and assured him of his support. Alkali then went ahead to donate his campaign office and other political infrastructures to the Dakwanbo Campaign Organisation, urging
his numerous supporters and campaign team to work for the victory of PDP in the state and at all levels. It may be no surprise therefore that the young and dynamic Governor of Gombe State has thrown his weight behind Alkali’s aspiration with all members of PDP family in Gombe State queuing behind their Governor to give Alkali full support on this project.
Many PDP members see Alkali as a stabilizing factor in times of party internal bickering. Apart from his patriotism and the spirit of give and take which has been the hall mark of his political career, Alkali has the experience and maturity and especially neutrality, qualities the next chairman of the PDP’s must possess in order to be able to bring all interests in the party together and work in harmony with the President’s agenda.
It is to Alkali’s credit as the image maker of the PDP for the past four years that majority of Nigerians now see the PDP as a people- friendly institution. Statistics on the last elections show that PDP got votes from young people more than all the other parties. Alkali has managed some of the greatest image challenges of the Party through the last convention and even defending the 2011 general election that saw the bitterest opposition in a gang- up to rob the Party of its well- deserved presidential victory.
He therefore has all it takes to lead a modern PDP in an era when the whole world is reshaping public institutions and governments to meet the demands of their population a greater majority of who are restive young people that are taking advantage of social media to confront their leaders and address community needs. Alkali has the educational experience; he has the managerial skill, the patience and deep intellect to meet each segment of the society at their points of need. As a university teacher, an Alkali led PDP would be a darling of Nigerian students and other young population which is expected to play crucial role in the politics of the coming years.
To take the PDP to greater height and make it meet the challenges of a new world therefore, the Party must inject dynamic intellectualism as well as allow its members access to open dialogue and critiques like is the case of most political parties in the developed world. PDP cannot afford to hold on to old dogmas in a world driven by social media and activism and Prof. Alkali is the new face that a transformational government of President Goodluck Jonathan needs to convince Nigerians of all age groupings to key into the Federal Government’s agenda.
Bonaventure Melah is of the Publicity and Strategy Committee of Rufai Campaign
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