PDP Braces for the APC Challenge
Last Wednesday’s registration of the All Progressives Congress was not a surprise to the Peoples Democratic Party, which was believed to have worked against the recognition of the merger. Thus, in expectation of the registration, the ruling party has commenced a gradual process of putting its house in order. Chuks Okocha re-examines some of the latest efforts of the PDP leadership to rise to the APC challenge
The registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has certainly altered the political equation and put the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on its toes. Though the PDP was not oblivious of the fact that APC would be registered eventually, it has since commenced the process of putting its house in order to stave off the challenge the new party will pose to its electoral fortune in 2015.
For the APC, the journey to registration has been rough. From the crisis of identity with another association, the African Peoples Congress, to allegations of sabotage; the APC, which is a merger of key opposition parties in the country, has never hidden its intention to create an upset in the 2015 elections. With the new party having in its fold heavy political weights and the speculations doing the rounds that some PDP governors would join the party, the PDP knew it could not treat with levity the APC challenge.
This explains why the PDP leadership has set up the reconciliation committee headed by Governor Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State and also the National Disciplinary Committee headed by the former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Umaru Dikko. These two committees, it was gathered, were aimed at righting the wrongs and whipping erring members of the party into line. The Dickson committee has begun to listen to the aggrieved members and is challenged to find solutions to their grievances where necessary and at the same time uphold party’s supremacy.
The Dickson Committee
The National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who set the tone for the reconciliation, had charged the NRC to ensure the reconciliation of aggrieved party members and reclaim the South-west region in addition to other states in the 2015 general election. He noted that the party’s present leadership is more determined than ever to reclaim the dominance of the PDP in the South-west. Tukur added that it was painful the entire South-west zone except Lagos which used to be under the party is now under opposition party.
“There is no pretending to the fact that there are issues in the party that need to be resolved,” he said, attributing the party’s crisis in the South-west zone and some other parts of the country to the inability of most of its members to manage success. He therefore charged party members, particularly in the South-west, to work harder to ensure victory in the zone and to bring Edo State back to the party.
Emphasising reconciliation, the national chairman told the Dickson committee that, “There is no gain saying that we need reconciliation to be our guide across the country and the party,” adding that the committee is a critical necessity to hasten the realisation of “quick wins” in the party’s reconciliation platform.
Tukur identified the entire South-west states, Anambra and Imo in the South-east; Edo in the South-south and Nasarawa State in the North central as areas of concentration for the committee. Other areas, he said include Borno and Yobe in North east and Zamfara in the North west zone.
In his acceptance speech, Dickson described his chairmanship of the party’s reconciliation committee as a call to duty, saying “Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that this national assignment you have handed us is a challenging task but I am confident we shall succeed on this committee, with experienced patriots who have accomplished so much in their chosen carrier. Let me assure you that this committee will routinely brief the NWC, party leaders and the relevant organs of our party.”
He said the stability of Nigeria as a nation depended largely on the stability of PDP, explaining that at no time in the annals of Nigeria has the unity of the country come under sustained and severe attacks as it is now.
“Instead of building a political platform for unity and development of the country the way our party is doing, the centrifugal forces are exploiting our diversity to expand the stacks and even making political capital out of them,” Dickson warned, stating that the PDP is the only party in Nigeria that has made the minority to produce the president of Nigeria since independence.
He admitted that a party as big as the PDP cannot afford not to have crisis, but the way it manages such a crisis without stifling members makes the party great. He therefore called on members to play politics according to the rule without denigrating or destroying institutions like the office of the president, legislature, the judiciary or the security services.
Later, Dickson and other members of the NRC were led to take the oath of affirmation by the acting National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Simon Jok. The committee is expected to facilitate the reconciliation of party members and leaders in target states particularly the non-PDP states. It will provide the template that will make the party organise credible primaries and select candidates for elections.
The committee will also facilitate closer interaction with PDP caucus in the National Assembly, know their problems and challenges and brief the party`s National Working Committee (NWC) on same. It is expected that the committee would support and work closely with other similar committees that had earlier been constituted by the party leadership.
Code of Conduct for Reconciliation
The committee quickly went to work and immediately released what it termed the code of conduct for its members and how it intends to address the reconciliation of aggrieved members of the party. According to the Secretary of the Committee, Ambassador Umar Damagun, the code of conduct will help it achieve the objective of reconciling PDP members.
He argued that “The Reconciliation Committee’s work shall place emphasis on utmost confidentiality of all matters brought to it. Members shall ensure strict confidentiality of all information received by them or such information that may be processed by the committee, its leadership or any of its organs (as may be established from time to time).
“In order to boost the level of confidence among our members nationwide while this committee undertakes its assignment, no member shall interact with the media on any matter under consideration by the committee, except with due approval of the committee or its leadership.”
Damagun said the committee shall be committed to the principles of neutrality, saying “To this end, no member of the committee shall serve in any Congress Committee in a state where such a member is an interested party. Similarly, no member of the committee shall hold any inappropriate meetings or contacts with any party member whose matter is under consideration of the committee, especially as regards to the subject- matter under discussion at the Committee.”
Also, the secretary said part of its code of conduct, members should be committed to the principles of fairness to all parties and that all party members to be reconciled should be guaranteed the right to fair hearing.
As part of its first target, the committee said, “In view of the INEC time-table for the imminent governorship election in Anambra State, the committee is conscious of the urgency to reconcile the various factions in the State chapter of the party. Similarly the committee is concerned about the on-going challenges in the Ekiti State chapter of the party.
“We therefore accord reconciling party members in these states our top priority for now. Accordingly, we urge all PDP leaders and members in these states in particular, and the country in general, to refrain from all forms of hostilities in order to give the committee the opportunity to do its work successfully,” he said.
The committee, therefore, called on all patty members at all levels, and irrespective of status, to refrain from comments, remarks, utterances or actions that may inflame tension among party members, and/or overheat the polity, explaining that “This is important in order to create the needed atmosphere for genuine reconciliation.”
Dickson Moves into Action
The first move by the Dickson committee was the intervention in the case of the three PDP members who took the party to court as it appealed to them to withdraw their suit seeking to stop the party’s special national convention. The members however defended their action, saying they went to court to strengthen the party.
The litigants, Bashir Maidugu, Yahaya Sule and Abba Yale, at a meeting with the committee in Abuja, explained that things had taken a dangerous turn in the party and they felt only the court could check the trend.
Maidugu, who spoke on behalf of others, said it took four days of frank negotiations with the Dickson committee to “arrive at where we are. Having extracted firm commitments from the committee to right the wrongs in the party, we were left with no option than to withdraw our suit,” he added.
In his response to the first victory of his committee, Dickson said “This is the spirit we want to see in every member of our party; to subsume your personal interests in the generality because collective interest is more important than individual interest.” The committee has also made significant progress in reconciling the crisis in Anambra and Ekiti state.
Enters the Dikko Committee
Not relenting in its efforts to put square pegs in square holes, the party set up a Disciplinary Committee, headed by Alhaji Umaro Dikko, a former national chairman of the defunct United Democratic Party (UDP) that was recently deregistered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its inability to win a single councillorship election.
But Dikko has a rich political profile. Born in 1936 in Wamba, Nasarawa State, he was a trusted adviser to former President Shehu Shagari and an erstwhile minister for Transportation from 1979 to 1983 in the Shagari administration.
Other members of the committee include a traditional ruler from Bayelsa State, King Amalete Johnny Turner in Opume Kingdom in Ogbia Local Government and also a classmate of President Goodluck Jonathan. He is the Obanema of Opume Kingdom. There is also Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu from Imo State who is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees.
Also on the committee is Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun from Osun State, Hajiya Nana Ayishat Kadiri, Mr Hussaini Diraki and Senator Emmanuel Agboti, the acting deputy national secretary of the party, who is the secretary of the committee. He is from Ebonyi State.
PDP explained that the appointment of the committee was “pursuant to the provisions of Articles 57 (1), (2), (3) of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).” But no date has been fixed for the inauguration of the committee.
PDP, Presidency and the New Calculations
THISDAY gathered that the party is gradually evaluating its chances in the zones to ascertain its weak and strong points. According to a source who outlined details of what could be described as the chances of the party in the face of ‘one leg in, one leg out’ of governors from the north-west and north-east in the newly formed APC, both the presidency and PDP are banking on the South-south, South-east and North-central for victory in 2015.
Inside sources in PDP and the Presidency said with the look of things, the APC would concentrate on the stronghold of the merger parties of ACN, CPC and ANPP but that Ondo which is a part of South-west where the ACN calls the shot might back the presidential aspiration of President Jonathan in the 2015 general election. Another source said by its calculation, the PDP is sure of scoring the mandatory 25 per cent in the states in the South-west states and more than 60 per cent in Ondo.
Following same permutation, the source explained that the PDP might be at home in majority of the South-south states, with a gamble in Edo State. The Edo scenario is hinged on the relationship between the state governor, Adams Oshiolmhole and President Jonathan. Observers noted that it was the relationship between them that accounted for Oshiomhole’s victory in the last governorship election in the state.
And since no governorship election will hold in Edo State by 2015 but in 2016, PDP is therefore confident that it would do well in such states as Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross River, Bayelsa and Rivers, garnering more than 80 per cent of the votes.
Similarly, the presidency and PDP are said to be nursing equal optimism in all the South-east of Enugu, Abia, Imo, Anambra and Ebonyi states. By these extrapolations, the source said, “We will carry the day in Anambra and Imo States, despite the fact that it is under the governorship control of APGA. Majority of the voting electorate are in the PDP.
The party, in Anambra, has a majority in the State House of Assembly and two out of three senators are members of the PDP. The state governor, Peter Obi cannot conduct the local government elections in the state because of the fear that the PDP will win all the seats.
“Apart from this, Governor Peter Obi is very sympathetic of the PDP. He is a member of the PDP at heart and also a member of the President Jonathan economic team. So the state is for the PDP anytime.
“The party has perfect control in the states of Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and even Imo. We are aware that Rochas Okorocha became governor because of the crisis in the state, where some members of the PDP worked for his governorship. The Imo State governor is playing a game. He wants to contest as a presidential candidate. As we talk, his party is in crisis of leadership between the Peter Obi who is seen as a PDP sympathiser and Governor Okorocha. All these are to the advantage of the PDP both in the governorship and the presidential election,” the source explained.
The North-west, the source contended, is where the PDP might encounter some problems, but not to the extent that the ruling party will not get more than 25 to 30 per cent of the votes cast. The source argued that in the run-up to the 2015 general election, there would be no governorship elections in Sokoto and Kebbi States. This is because of the by-elections in the two states that extended the gubernatorial elections in the states to 2016.
“PDP will get more than 30 per cent in Jigawa State, if Sule Lamido decamps to the APC. But if he remains in the party, the state remains a PDP state. The same will happen in Kaduna State. Vice-President Namadi Sambo will deliver his state for the PDP and President Jonathan. We may encounter some problems in Adamawa and Taraba, but other states like Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Yobe will vote the PDP, or at least, the party will get more than 50 percent,” the source reckoned.
PDP may also have a good showing in the north central states of Benue, Plateau, Kogi and Kwara. The problem here might be Niger and Nasarawa States. Nasarawa is under the control of the CPC, but the majority of the state House of Assembly members is PDP.
“Like Jigawa State, if the Niger State governor, Dr. Aliyu Babangida stays in the PDP, there the state will vote for the PDP, but that may change if he dumps the PDP and joins the APC. The governors of Kwara, Kogi and Plateau States will ensure that PDP carries the day,” the sources said, noting that in the end, the PDP will still carry the day, but “all these plans depend on whether or not President Jonathan will seek re-election.
Although the extrapolations appear more self-serving and looks too good for a troubled PDP, what could however undo the speculated defeat of the party in 2015 is dependent on how well it is able to put its house in order, genuinely resolve the crises and reconcile the aggrieved members. Otherwise, the danger posed by the APC is more potent than the paper work of state-by-state analysis.
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