By Osazemen Imagbenikaro
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, one of the oldest and major parties in Nigeria, is to hold its National Convention to elect leaders into the National Working Committee on 30th & 31st October 2021. Till now, there have not been clear indications on which region among the six geo-political zones of the country that will produce the national chairman, consequent on the fact that the position has been zoned to the North. The emergent question, which unarguably will give birth to new questions, is which of the three zones in the North will carry the day?
There will always be adequate changes in the political arena, but the analysis one seeks to confront is the news that the PDP has zoned the chairmanship position to the North. Consequently, where the chairman comes from of the three geo-political zones in the North holds some dynamics to the alignment of forces to change the game of securing the party’s presidential ticket. Notwithstanding, political analysts say, what PDP really needs now is a pragmatic chairman who can midwife the process to electing a presidential ticket bearer for the party from any region of Nigeria, provided he has the capacity to unite, excite and motivate members of the party to speak with one potent voice at the 2023 election.
It is in this connection that the issue of who becomes the chairman of the party is relative. The history of PDP chairmanship has not always been a straight curve policy, but one riddled with concessions and democratic necessity, devoid of equity. Zoning certain positions in the parties generally is a convenient mantra that has never really been practised to the latter. Hence, for the purpose of this write-up, it becomes instructive to look at the record of the previous occupiers of the PDP chairmanship position, vis-à-vis their geo-political setting.
From 1998 to date, the PDP records show that only five geo-political regions have had their fair share of the chairmanship position, with the North Central topping the chart. The South-East produced the following chairmen; Dr. Alex Ekwueme (1998), a former Vice President under the Shehu Shagari administration and pioneer chairman of the party who held the position for few months and later stepped down to contest the presidential ticket with Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo on the platform of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor (2008-2010) and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo (2010).
The North-Central has had it five times with Chief Solomon Lar at the helm for some months in 1999. Chief Barnabas Gemade held the reins from 1999-2001, Chief Audu Ogbeh (2001-2005), Colonel Ahmadu Alli (2005-2008) and Alhaji Kawu Baraje (2011-2014). The North-West produced His Excellency Ahmed Makarfi (2015-2016) and Dr. Haliru Mohammed in 2010. The North-East produced Dr. Bamanga Tukur (2012-2014), Alh. Adamu Muazu (2014-2015) and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff (2015-2016). Other Chairmen are Prince Uche Secondus of the South-South, from 2017 to 2021, and the present acting chairman Chief Yomi Akinwonmi from South-West.
However, the rumour mill is buzzing with unconfirmed reports that the North is craving the idea of conceding the position to the North-Central Zone again; a region that had earlier produced five chairmen. If the rumour is anything to go by, the implication is that it might seem there’s an unwritten conspiracy to perpetually have the region produce the national chairman in order to deny her the opportunity to vie for the presidential ticket. This gleaned from the fact that such a move can be interpreted as an ingenious ploy to hinder people from the region, especially someone like the former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki who has clearly expressed his interest to vie for the party ticket in an open contest. And if the pattern is true, will Saraki kowtow to the plan of scheming him out of the race or defy the arrangement and go ahead to contest with others yet-to-be formally identified contestants? These and other questions will test the fragile unity of the party, which only smart political brinkmanship can help resolve in the coming days.
How things pan out at the end of the day will be an interesting horse-trading of all time. Meanwhile, there has been no indication of any PDP presidential aspirant from the southern part of the country. What should guide the party if she wants to win the 2023 presidential election, is to carefully read the political temperature of the country to know the kind of president that majority of Nigerians yearn for at this time.
A former President and party leader, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo counseled the National Working Committee members and party chieftains led by former Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who visited him recently. He advised the party to purge itself of “bad eggs and hypocrites”, who according to him will not return the party to its grandeur, but rather choose one who has the capacity to address issues resulting from modern challenges of nation building and developing societies, such as technology, foreign affairs, economy and security among others. And that leader must be a vibrant voice, a unifier with a sound intellectual mind, to reset and move Nigeria forward. This is the ultimate challenge before the PDP.
Imagbenikaro wrote from Abuja