Less than one year and two months to the 2023 general elections, the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is seriously working to dislodge the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from power at the centre with its popular “Rescue and Rebuild Nigeria” slogan.
One man who is expected to lead the battle is the newly elected National Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.
Before the emergence of the Benue State-born former senate president as the PDP helmsman, the party had several unresolved issues. And for the party to make any headway in 2023 the issues must be sorted out first.
Daily Trust Saturday, in this piece, highlights five key issues that Dr Ayu must address before the party can realise its ambition of dislodging the APC in 2023.
Surely, the management of the process leading to the PDP presidential primary election is going to be a litmus test for Dr Ayu who assumed the mantle of leadership as a consensus candidate during the October 30 and 31, 2021, national convention of the PDP held at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
The forthcoming PDP presidential primary, pundits say, will either make or mar the leading opposition as key contenders struggling to pick the ticket need to be assured that a level playing field will be provided for them.
On this, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Dr Walid Jibrin, at a consultative meeting between members of the new National Working Committee (NWC) and BoT, advised Ayu to focus on his task of building a formidable institution instead of pursuing the individual ambitions of people struggling to become president, vice president, senate president, among other key positions.
Dr Jibrin told Ayu: “Do not be distracted by the ambitions of individual members, but keep the party as formidable as possible. Concentrate on your duties and not more on who shall be the president, vice president, senate president and others.
“Do not side any individual with self-ambition and try to reduce the state of godfatherism. Please respect the divinity of individual and dynamism of a group.”
Reacting, Dr Ayu pledged that every member would have access to all NWC members, saying, “This party requires a lot of openness and courage to carry everybody along. That is the only way that this party will move forward successfully.
“I personally have no any personal interest; I will not be part of factions in any state. Now, we’re not encouraging factions.”
In an interview with Daily Trust, the immediate past National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the party would survive the looming challenge the coming presidential primary would pose to its stability.
Mr Ologbondiyan said, “How did we handle the 2018 primary? The number was larger than what you have mentioned now.
“Bootlickers thought the party would fail, the party would collapse and aspirants would tear themselves, and after the Port Harcourt convention, there would be no PDP.
“We went to Port Harcourt, elected a candidate, returned and ran the campaign of the election which we believe we won irrespective of the decision, with due respect to the Supreme Court.
“It was with the same passion we went to the national convention at the Eagle Square to decide elective offices. Some people said, ‘No, no, no, this time around, they cannot survive it’. But we survived.
“The party is still alive. You should give it to the PDP. Like I always say, we have our shock absorbers to manage situations.”
At the recent convention in Abuja, posters and banners of presidential aspirants of the party adorned strategic locations.
Though none of them has declared to contest during the 2023 presidential election, their foot soldiers have been mobilising for their ambitions.
Posters of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a former Governor of Kano State, Sen Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and incumbent Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, were on display within and outside the Eagle Square.
One unresolved issue in the PDP is whether its presidential candidate will emerge from the Southern or Northern part of the country.
The issue was partially resolved before the convention by the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) following the constitution of the Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi-led Zoning Committee which strategically zoned the position of national chairman to the North on September 30.
Analysts said the PDP prevented “massive defection with the strategic” decision.
Traditionally, the party’s presidential candidate should emerge from the South with the zoning of the position of national chairman to the North.
However, Daily Trust Saturday gathered from stakeholders that the party should have thrown the position open following the recommendation of the Bala Mohammed committee that reviewed its defeat in 2019.
Ayu is expected to manage this issue which can equally make or mar the PDP with before 2023 as the “unwritten zoning arrangement” which has no clear cut evidence in the Nigerian constitution can still put the party in jeopardy again.
A presidential aspirant on the platform of the PDP and former Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Sam Ohuabunwa, recently said any attempt to jettison zoning ahead of the 2023 general elections would be a threat to national unity.
Mr Ohuabunwa, who noted that the principle of power rotation between the North and the South must be sustained, said zoning had not outlived its usefulness in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious setting like Nigeria, adding that the time to jettison zoning would come when leaders stopped thinking about their region, zone, ethnicity and religion.
Outcomes of Ekiti, Osun gov’ship elections
No doubt, positive outcomes from the coming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states will be morale booster for the PDP party.
Therefore, Ayu must resolve all obstacles that can prevent PDP’s victory in the two polls which dates the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed for June 18, 2022 (Ekiti) and July 16, 2022 (Osun).
Internal strife in non-PDP controlled states
Another issue which Ayu must resolve is the internal wrangling among members in states which are not under the PDP across the country.
Pundits say the emergence of various political leaders in the absence of sitting governors in the affected states who will provide leadership and give direction ahead of 2023 will be costly for the PDP.
Tussle over control of party leadership in states
The new helmsman of the PDP, analysts say, needs to resolve the dangerous struggle for the control of party leadership and structure in states across the country before the next general elections.
The new NWC seems to have realised the need for this, going by Ayu’s remarks at a stakeholders’ meeting in Ekiti State.
Ayu, while speaking at the meeting, said the NWC took a crucial decision to start the process of sorting out problems in the state chapters to have a united and formidable force to go into an election, including the forthcoming presidential and other national elections in 2023.
The former senate president, who said the process which started with Ekiti State was directed at the party as a whole, stated that: “There is a need for dialogue with stakeholders so that the PDP would go into any election as a united force capable of fighting and winning elections.
“Once the party decides on the candidates, it is the responsibility of every member of the PDP family to fight for that candidate, because you’re not just fighting for that candidate, you are fighting for the PDP.
“So, you have a responsibility to support him. Anybody that does otherwise will be considered as working against the PDP. So, it will be regarded as anti-party.
“The mood of the PDP today is that anybody who works against the PDP will not just walk away, because we don’t want members of our party fighting against members of the party.
“We lost election because the leaders in various states and the followership were divided, with PDP winning or losing against PDP. That trend has to stop.”