The crisis in Nigeria’s major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may have taken a turn for worse with the tussle over the position of national chairman even as the party gears up for its national convention, writes ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had on August 10, 2021, rising from a stakeholder’s meeting agreed that elective national convention should hold October 2021 ending and hinted at setting up screening committee for party’s national offices.
The meeting had in attendance 13 governors, Senators, members of the House of Representatives, members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), members of the National Working Committee (NWC), former National Assembly presiding officers, former senators’ forum and former governors forum among others.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, the Chairman, PDP Governors Forum and Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwa,l said the meeting concluded that, “All processes leading to an early national convention in October be immediately activated by relevant party organs, especially National Executive Committee (NEC).
“That the party should redouble efforts to provide credible alternative leadership for Nigeria as it remains the only hope for the Nigerian people for good governance.
“The meeting requested the NEC to immediately constitute a coning Committee for party offices and another committee for national elective offices.”
However, days after the meeting, the party was yet to constitute the zoning committee and the crisis rocking the party have continued to tilt towards an unexpected direction.
What is certain is that in line with the PDP Constitution 2017 (as amended), the four-year term of the current NWC, headed by the embattled National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, would elapse on December 7, 2021. Expectation, therefore, is that before or latest by December 7, 2021, the party must have a new national chairman.
Blueprint Weekend correspondent, who was at the party’s headquarters during the stakeholders meeting, gathered that the stakeholders had concluded plans to allow the national chairman position remain an all Southern affairs in terms of candidates.
Blueprint Weekend checks indicated that most party stakeholders may have concluded that for the party to win the 2023 general elections, it must zone its Presidential ticket to North and allow the national chairman slot to go to the South, without micro zoning both.
Interestingly, as the fight for the party’s structure continues, contenders from the South and their various camps have begun to implement their plots.
Following consultations in some quarters some aspirants for different positions have started to emerge as confirmed by a party source.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity named aspirants to the position of nationa chairman to include: former PDP National Secretary and ex-Governor of Osun state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Governor of Cross River state, Liyel Imoke; National Vice Chairman (South-South), Dan Orbih; and the embattled National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
The source also disclosed that more aspirants may signal interest before the convention.
The embattled PDP National Chairman, Prince Secondus, is one of the major contenders to the position as he is said to also be aspiring to get re-elected at the party’s next national convention for the second term.
A source, who did not want his name in print, disclosed to Blueprint Weekend that “Secondus has never for once hidden his plan to seek re-election, and that is why he’s going through all these. He is planning to re-contest for the position of national chairman and many party stakeholders are solidly behind him.”
The four-year tenure of Secondus, who was elected national chairman on December 7, 2017, is expected to end by December 7, 2021.
It is worth noting that his reign has witnessed many highs and lows notwithstanding the rebranding campaign message of 3Rs, Reposition, Rebuild to Regain which were designed to recreate and rebrand the party.
The NWC under him had organised rebranding conference and embarked on extensive consultations across the country in form of rallies which took the party to all the geo-political zones.
Notably, PDP under Secondus made some progress in some states, zone and aspects while it also made some mistakes that have cost the party a lot.
Some analysts are of the view that Secondus has won the love and supports of some governors, members of the national assembly, members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), National Executive Committee (NEC) and other stakeholders within the party with his performance.
Political pundits have also opined that the war coming from the man who led the campaign to make him chairman in 2017, Governor Wike, may affect chances of the incumbent getting re-elected.
They have also noted that the restraining order by the Port Harcourt, High Court is a great setback for the ‘total chair’ as he’s fondly called by admirers.
Some political pundits have also observed that with the power and the forces that are supporting Secondus in his turbulent moment, he may find his way back as the party’s national chairman.
‘The way they manage crisis’ll determine party’s future’
A political analyst, Aminu Mohammed, has said the outcome of the PDP’s next convention, the party governors and other leaders will determine the party’s future.
In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend Mohammed said: “What is happening to PDP is not new. Political parties go through this across the world. When and where there are many people, with varying interests there is every tendency that there will be a crisis, however, how and when they solve it that matters.
“The PDP in the past have gone through this stage, so they survive this. All the trouble is because of 2023.”
Reacting to whether the crisis and the outcome of the convention will affect the party’s future, he said, “Everything happening in PDP is about the party’s future. So the way they manage it will determine PDP’s future.”
Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola
Former Governor of Osun state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, is one of the major contenders being tipped to succeed the embattled national chairman of the party.
The retired Brigadier-General is said to enjoy the support of the majority of the stakeholders in the South-west and other parts of the country.
Oyinlola, who is 70 years old, still appears physically strong and politically alert, and has as a plus the support of the only governor elected on the platform of the PDP in South-west zone, Governor of Oyo state, Engr. Segi Makinde. This is especially as the governor is believed to have firm control of most of the PDP structure in the zone.
As observed by some political analysts, most party faithful considers Oyinlola fit for the job because of his network of friends that include former military heads of state, former governors, and former senators.
He is also attributed with leadership qualities needed to lead the major opposition party out of the woods.
However, some PDP stakeholders have described him as an “unstable party man” given his four-year political vacation with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his brief stay with the African Democratic Congress (ADC). He is perceived as having abandoned the party when he was needed most.
Another disadvantage could be because Osun state is currently under the control of the APC and most states in the South-west zone where he hails from has continued to swim in crisis.
Meanwhile, in recent times, the former Osun state governor has renewed his visibility in the public space and at the party’s functions. Given the mood of the party, some analysts are of the view that his quest for the party’s national chairmanship may yield fruitful result coming from the only zone that has never produced the party’s number one man.
Former Governor of Cross River state, Liyel Imoke, is another chieftain of the PDP being tipped to occupy the position national chairman.
Blueprint Weekend checks indicate that some party stakeholders, especially from the former governor’s and former minister’s forum are rooting for the two-term governor to succeed Prince Secondus.
Imoke, who is considered a loyal party man, has not only remained in the PDP but has continued to serve the party in many capacities.
The challenge before him, however, appears to be is how to get the support of the South-south governors as two are being rumoured to be plotting to become the party’s presidential running mate in 2023.
As the countdown to the PDP national convention continues, political observers who are close to the party have noted that the chances of the 60-year-old former governor largely depends on his ability to get the support of the governors who are the ‘real owners’ of the party.
Another person whose name has continued to pop up among those gunning to succeed Prince Secondus is the PDP National Vice Chairman (South-South), Dan Orbih.
Orbih, who is former chairman of the party in Edo state, no doubt enjoys the support of Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, as well as few governors from the South-south zone.
A source within the party disclosed to Blueprint Weekend that since the turbulent in the party started those in the camp of the Rivers state governor brought the idea of having Orbih as the acting chairman of the party in a caretaker arrangement.
According to the source, “Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, and a few other states governors are rooting for a Dan Orbih as chairman of the party. But considering all recent happenings time will tell whether they will maintain their support for him. No doubt he is interested in becoming the party’s national chairman.”
Some analysts are of the view that Orbih, like others, is qualified to lead the opposition party, however, he needed to get the support of his state governor Godwin Obaseki and other party stakeholders with whom he appears not to share no mutual relationship before now.
We’re only hope of Nigeria – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has declared its readiness to take over power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, has said the former ruling party was ready to take over power through the ballot box in 2023.
He said the challenges of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism are a clear indication that Nigeria needs to be rescued.
He said: “Our party is the hope of Nigerians as we speak today. The acts of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping have subsumed our nation. It shows clearly that Nigerians are thinking of who will rescue our nation.
“The PDP is ready and prepared to take over the mantle of leadership through the ballot box in 2023.”