PDP haunted by ghost of 2013, driven by today’s realities

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BY AUGUSTINE AVWODE

Uba Group

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, particularly, the February Presidential contest, the major opposition People’s Democratic Party has been stuck in a position akin to what happened to it some eight years ago. The party has been enmeshed in serious turmoil since late May and there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis. Though there had always been disagreements, especially over where the presidential candidate of the party should come from, it didn’t quite portend so much danger to the party until after the National Convention of May 28.

Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, had emerged victorious by edging out Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike at the primary held in Abuja. While he polled a total of 371 votes, Wike, his closest challenger, garnered 237 votes. Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, came a distant third with 70 votes.

Finding by The Point revealed that the actions of principal officers of the party soon after the convention, helped in no small way in stoking the fire that is presently ravaging it. First, pronouncements by key figures were said to be too provocative and insensitive in the face of a just concluded election with nerves still very frayed.

Secondly, the failure of the party to seize the momentum of the euphoria of the moment was also fingered as playing a major party. It was learnt that the failure of the party’s top hierarchy to proactively engage the major actors in the contest immediately after the convention was a big undoing of the party which has now contributed in no small way to the present crisis. But perhaps the immediate trigger of the crisis, though hardly mentioned, was the choice of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the running mate to Atiku Abubakar.

While many people argued that it was his prerogative to pick whoever he would want to work with, it turned out to be a major political blunder by the party in setting up the Governor Samuel Ortom-led committee in the first place, to scout for a suitable candidate for the position. More damning, the report of the committee was sensationally leaked, perhaps to forestall any possible manipulation, but which of course didn’t cut any ice with Atiku Abubakar.

Whereas the committee favoured Governor Wike, the candidate himself had other plans. Since the choice of Okowa was announced, the party has known no peace. Though the Wike group never for once hinged its actions on the nomination of Okowa, the insistence on the resignation of the party’s chairman, Iyorcia Ayu, has been defined as the shortest cut to strike at the soul of the party.

Speaking to The Point at the weekend, a chieftain of the party, who craved anonymity, expressed pity that the PDP was rapidly cascading towards a repeat of the infamous division of the party in 2013.

“Speaking to The Point at the weekend, a chieftain of the party, who craved anonymity, expressed pity that the PDP was rapidly cascading towards a repeat of the infamous division of the party in 2013”

GHOST OF 2013

The party chieftain lamented that the PDP is doomed to spend more years in the political wilderness if the major players of today fail to properly consider the collateral damage the present crisis portends for their political careers and the future of the country.

He stated that “All I see is the ghost of 2013. Those who championed the ‘killing of the PDP’ back then are back on a familiar route again in 2022. It is so sad. The refusal of about 30 top PDP members to see the reason why they should support President Goodluck Jonathan then led them to dump the party. They formed the nPDP. What did it give them? How did it help their political careers? Apart from maybe three or four of them, where are the rest today, politically? The fact is that there was no way the All Progressives Congress would have defeated the PDP in 2015. You know, Samson told the Philistines or his enemies in the Bible that if they had not plowed with his heifer, they wouldn’t have known the meaning of his riddle.

“The APC knew it. They used the backbone of the PDP to paralyse the PDP. No, tell me, who was in the APC in 2015 apart from Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu? Nobody. So, nPDP was hugely responsible for the victory of the APC in 2015. And that’s what N.E.W (Nyesom Ezenwo Wike) is telling people. He is saying, look, these people who have hijacked the party today, actually sold the party for less than a farthing in 2014/2015 because they want the presidency to come from the North. So, something tells me it is payback time.

The tragedy of it all is that it will further push all of us into political Siberia. You know I have a faint knowledge of that country, Siberia. Who goes there? And, for what? It is a political wilderness. And that is what PDP is toying with, after eight years of being in the cold.”

In August of 2013, Atiku had led seven governors of the PDP and many top-notch chieftains of the party, among them senators, House of Reps members, commissioners, and State House of Assembly members to walk out of an ongoing special delegate’s convention of the PDP. It instantly threw the then ruling party into crisis.

The governors of Jigawa, Sokoto, Niger, Rivers, Kwara and Adamawa joined Atiku in leaving the venue of the convention and headed to the Yar’Adua Center in Abuja, where they addressed a press conference to explain why they stormed out of the convention. Even a former chairman of PDP, Abubakar Baraje, also joined.

Governor Wike was to make reference to that watershed event while campaigning to be the candidate of the party before the May 28 convention. He pointedly accused them of being the reason why the party lost the election in 2015, a claim that most political analysts would readily agree with.

Speaking during a consultative meeting with stakeholders of the Benue State chapter of the PDP at the Government House in Makurdi back in March, Wike had declared that “To remove APC from power, I’m the person who can tell them enough is enough. We must take this power and I’m ready to take it for the PDP. God is with us that’s why APC keeps failing every day.”

Not one to mince words or dress them in diplomatic garbs, Wike had taken a swipe at Atiku and Saraki for leaving the PDP ahead of the 2015 presidential election to join the APC.
He noted that all founding fathers that ran away from the party and now striving to be recognised have lost their shares in the company.

“CBN"

“By the time you ran away, you sold your share as a founding father so you can no longer retain your position as founding fathers.

“I stood for this party. I have worked for this party since 1998. I have nowhere to run to and that’s why anything that happens to this party I take it personally. I have never relented.

“In 2015, those who ran away made us lose the election. Today, they are crying but some of us stood and said PDP will not die. Some people want to use Nigeria to buy back their personal business. They talk about the private sector – let them mention their private business that had survived. Is it a bank that your father had? Everybody is an employer of labour; even in my house, I have 50 people who feed from me. They should stop deceiving us.

“I have performed as a governor and can carry my shoulders high anywhere. I have the capacity to face this evil government, give me the mandate. I will speak the truth to power and nothing but the truth. I have the capacity to move this country forward,” were his words back in March.

Our respondent tacitly justified the steps taken so far by Governor Wike. He said those who sow the wind should be made to reap the whirlwinds.

“Left for me, Wike should gather as many governors, both serving and former and all other chieftains of the party who were made to kiss the dust in 2015 by these people and serve them an act of very cold revenge. When was the last time you heard anything from former President Jonathan about the PDP? Of course, he will smile but deep inside of him, he would be saying these same people who sold us for a penny are not worthy of my support or attention. In fact he was going to do the unexpected but like the gentle man that he is, he refrained. He had the right to join the APC but he didn’t. At least, we have not seen it.

Last week, a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode while weighing on the crisis bedeviling the PDP, made copious references to the 2013-2015 incidents. The lawyer- turned politician pointed out that karma was at play in the party. He argued that Governor Wike and his team supported former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election, while Atiku and his camp worked against him.

FFK as he is popularly called, stated on his verified Twitter account that “One thing I will say for the Wike group in PDP is that every single one of them stood with GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) in the 2015 presidential election.

“Conversely every single one of the key players on the other side including Atiku, Tambuwal and Saraki betrayed GEJ in 2015.”

Last week, Wike and his group made up of his colleagues from Oyo and Benue States – Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom among others pulled out of Atiku’s Presidential Campaign Committee as they insisted on Ayu’s resignation. Others throwing their weight behind Wike include former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Bode George, a former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, a former Cross River governor, Donald Duke and others. It was a development that significantly further damaged the image of the party ahead of the 2023 contest.

“In 2015, those who ran away made us lose the election. Today, they are crying but some of us stood and said PDP will not die. Some people want to use Nigeria to buy back their personal business”

UNDERCURRENTS IN PDP

Apart from the ghost of 2013 haunting the PDP ahead of next year’s election, there are other undercurrents that portend grave danger for the party. Primary among these is the willful refusal to honour the rotational policy in the party between the North and the South.

Speaking to The Point last week, a lawyer and environmental activist who was until three months ago a PDP member but now an Obidient, Egedegbe Marcus, said the failure of the PDP to observe the rotational policy was as bad as the All Progressives Congress presenting a Muslim/Muslim ticket.

“The PDP doesn’t deserve any pity from right-thinking individuals. A party that can willfully manipulate its Constitution and subverts the same just to arrive at a predetermined point, is not worthy of the trust of the people. In those days in secondary school, we called it, ‘wuruwuru to the answer’. That is what the party has done. It is worse than the Muslim/Muslim ticket of the APC. Or at best they are on the same pedestal. But the truth is that Wike must be seen as a rebel with a cause. That is my opinion. Others wouldn’t agree with that suggestion. But come to think of it, this is one of the undercurrents that are buffeting the party today.

“The fact is people generally don’t want to be told the truth. Why do you think Wike is fighting? Can anybody fault Wike’s argument? A little time now they will label him unnecessarily loud and garrulous. That he doesn’t know how to talk. That is his style and a popular man once said ‘style is the man’. What he is saying is that let the right thing be done.

“At one point, 14 or so Southern Governors met in Asaba. They called it the ‘Asaba Declaration’. After that, they met in Lagos, then they met in Enugu and later in Umuahia to reaffirm and reemphasize their demand that the presidency be allowed to come to the South after the tenure of PMB. But the PDP was able to subvert. Of course, people like Obi left and I have now joined him. I can only wish the PDP good luck,” he argued.

Egedegbe also pointed to the seeming “hijack of the PDP by returnee nPDP members who saw to it that the party was brought down to its knees because of parochial, selfish and ethnic considerations.”

He added that “Those who scaled the gate of the National Assembly in the heat of their opposition to President Jonathan and did everything possible to bring down the house are the ones forming caucuses today. They have forgotten that Nigerians know them inside out. The question is if Wike had also checked out to any of the existing parties then, which party will they return to? So, when they try to say Wike is a sore loser, they don’t get it. The act is Wike had worked so much for this moment and just like you and me, won’t be happy to see others come and reap the fruits of our labour. Nobody allows that.”

He also argued that a state like Rivers which had contributed so much to the growth of the party should not always be given the short end of the stick. Egedegbe cited the case of the choice of Minority Leader in the House of Representatives and how Rivers was short-changed. The party had agreed and sent the name of Kingsley Chinda to the Speaker of the House. But in a dramatic twist, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila announced the name of Ndidi Elumelu as Minority Leader and stuck to his gun.

“Can you imagine the type of politics played in PDP. In July 2019, the party agreed and sent a letter signed by then Uche Secondus to the House Leadership that Hon Kingsley Chinda was its leader. But only in Nigeria will a Speaker reject the choice of a party and pick another from the wind or anywhere. Certainly, the rejection of Hon Chinda by Speaker Gbajabiamila was as a result of what some people in the PDP asked him to do. Chinda is from Rivers. Which states in the South have supported the party like Rivers? None.

So, if this time somebody says enough is enough, let’s agree with him.”

Last week, former Governor Jonah Jang faulted Ayu’s behaviour after the convention at which Atiku emerged. He argued that the fact that he was able to declare publicly and without hesitation and restraint that “Tambuwal was the hero of the convention”, presupposes that they deliberately did some things to ensure a predetermined result was arrived at.

With the campaigns beginning on Wednesday, it is certain the party would be hitting the campaign fields without the Wike group. How it hopes to perform well in a state without the support of Wike remains to be seen.