When the present National Working Committee, NWC, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, came on board on March 24, 2012, exactly one year ago, the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, didn’t need any soothsayer to tell him that the challenges were enormous and that the party also required true reconciliation as well as bring back into the fold of the PDP family aggrieved members following irreconcilable differences arising from party congresses, primaries and the emergence of the present leadership where many were coerced to step down especially for the positions of National Chairman and Secretary.
The politics, intrigues, manoeuvring, backstabbing and other things which took place on that day at the Eagle Square when the NWC was elected have now become history. To say the least, the leadership of the PDP has been grappling with how to contend with the problem of party discipline among members and, this being a major problem inherited by Tukur, is also a serious challenge for the present NWC. There is also the issue of supremacy of the party to any member and this applies to all elected officials from the President to the Councillor.
It has also become more challenging for the PDP since after the marriage of four opposition parties viz: All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP that gave birth to All Progressive Congress, APC; the PDP would need to put its house in order especially ahead of the 2015 general elections.
The National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, and his team have brought in new vigour to the media department of the party which has since moved from the traditional ways of writing statements and holding press briefings to using the social media to counter the opposition.
The Tukur- led NWC gives priority to the drive to reconcile, rebuild and reform the party with a bid to bringing back aggrieved members and those who dumped the PDP.
It was against this backdrop that the National Chairman and his team penultimate week embarked on visits to the six geo- political zones of the country to create awareness and to meet with leaders, elders and other PDP stakeholders.
The first zone the leadership of the party visited was the South West. The Town Hall Meeting took place at Premier Hotel, Ibadan where Tukur told the large crowd of party men that the reconciliation visit was part of the moves to bring to the zones his three Rs: Reconciliation, Reformation and Rebuilding, just as he urged the stakeholders to reach out to aggrieved members.
He noted that PDP leadership was not comfortable with the present political dispensation where the South West governors come from opposition parties. He said the South West states had been PDP stronghold and that members must work hard to return to the status quo.
Tukur said, “Reconcile yourselves in all ramifications; you deserve hundred percent governorship; it requires working together, planning together. Politics is a game of number.You must go back to the drawing board and strategise because elections are coming. PDP has been winning here and will continue to win here. This should be the last time the South West governors will be non PDP.”
At the event, a vote of confidence was passed on the NWC. This followed a motion by a former Deputy National Chairman, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, and seconded by a former Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Mrs Titi Oseni.
Speakers at the meeting including a former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; Minister of State, Defence, Erelu Olushola Obada; the PDP gubernatorial candidate in the last Ondo State election, Chief Olusola Oke; and a former governor of Ondo State,Dr. Olusegun Agagu; spoke on the need for internal democracy, party supremacy among others.
Fayose, who particularly called for transparent primaries where the most acceptable and popular candidates will emerge, however, urged the PDP national leadership to stop interfering in the choice of the party’s candidates at every level, adding that the problem in Ekiti State PDP had to do with the gubernatorial election and not congress and Abuja must think straight.
Some major players like former President Olusegun Obasanjo Chief Richard Akinjide; former Ogun State governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel; Chief Bode George; Chief Ebenezer Babatope; Minister of State, FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide; former Speaker, Dimeji Bankole; former Governor Alao Akala of Oyo State; immediate past PDP National Secretary and former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Ekiti State governor, Engr. Segun Oni, among others were absent at the meeting.
After the South West zone, the awareness, reconciliation, rebuilding and reforming train of Tukur moved to the South-East. The venue of the parley was the Convention Hall of Nike Lake Resorts Hotels, Enugu where same issues came up.Party members from the zone told the PDP National Chairman that if there must be total reconciliation, the alleged marginalization of the zone must be addressed. They demanded, among other things, the rotation of the Presidency among the six geo-political zones of the country; the creation of one additional state in the zone; the reconstruction of the Enugu-Port-Harcourt expressway and the provision of free education as well as jobs to the teeming unemployed youths.
Governors of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime; Ebonyi State, Martin Elechi; and Abia State, Theodore Orji, represented by his deputy, Chief Ananaba, members of the national and state assemblies, minister of power, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; Professor Chinedu Nebo, among others, were present. Notable politicians from the South-East including the former Senate President,Senator Ken Nnamani; former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; Chief Chis Uba; Professor Chukwuma Soludo; Prince Arthur Eze; Senator Jim Nwobodo; Chinwonke Mbadinuju; Adolphus Wabara; Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; and Dr. Sam Egwu; were absent at the meeting.
The absence of these major key players at the parley suggested that all is not well and the leadership of the party must take a second look at the reconciliation move.
Speaking at the event, Tukur, who pledged that the party under his watch would not engage in any form of imposition of candidates in the election of candidates to fly its flag in future elections, however, insisted that gone were the days politicians hand-picked candidates for the party, stressing that the time has come for the PDP to be rebuilt in order to ensure equity and justice.
Identifying what he described as “sharing formula” as the major challenge facing the party, the National Chairman urged the stakeholders to embrace peace as well as imbibe the spirit of sacrifice as that was the only way the party could retain its status as a truly national party that respects the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
Tukur said, “We have come here today to appeal to you to forget your differences. Let PDP win elections through reconciliation and understanding. We must ensure equity and justice in all our actions. We must be our brothers’ keepers.
“We must allow people to choose who they want. Party will henceforth give tickets based on the wishes of the party owners who, of course, are the people. It is one man, one vote. By the time, you aggregate the votes, you see that our party will continue to win and win.”
Getting to the South South zone, the PDP team was well received with the Port Hatcourt Airport filled to the brim, just as Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State; former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro; and Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba; received the team and were later joined at the Government House by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State. The business of the day then moved to the Civic Centre, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt.
The meeting started well with members celebrating the visit, but the event got sour when two players from the zone spoke. The first was Uduaghan who harped on the need for the PDP to resolve all issues as well as ensure that the party continues to maintain its dominance in the South South.
He said, ‘’If you tar all the roads, even if you air-condition the entire environment and the stomach of the people of members of the party are empty, they will not appreciate what you have done. So I want to join them to tell us to ensure that their stomachs are filled so that they will appreciate what we have done.”
Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, immediately after Uduaghan’s speech, said, ‘’Well, my brother governor, Uduaghan, said you are hungry. So I will give the state Chairmen from the six states N1million per state for Mr. Biggs right now. All the state Chairmen should immediately after my remarks come so that at least I can drop N1 million each for Mr. Biggs so that PDP can chart the course for empowerment.”
Soon after Akpabio’s remarks, Amaechi and Uduaghan stormed out of the hall, leaving Akpabio and members of the NWC on the high table.
Various excuses must have been given by the gladiators on what took place that day, but why did it extend to the night stakeholders meeting where the host governor was absent unlike what happened in Bauchi, venue of North East, where the host governor, Isa Yuguda; visiting Governor Ibrahim Dankwanbo of Gombe; deputy governor of Adamawa;and acting governor of Taraba, Garba Umar; waited till the end of the stakeholders meeting in the zone.
The visits may have given Tukur and his men the opportunity to appreciate the problems in the zones and to know that the problems vary and would require different formula to solve them. The PDP National Chairman must have known that going out of Wadata Plaza to the zones and having a touch with the people was the way forward.
He and his men may have gone to the zones to preach peace, to ‘reconcile’ aggrieved members and that may have come and gone, but Tukur must not forget in a hurry the events and scenarios that reared their heads in the course of the visits; he must not forget the urgent need for the team to engage all the leaders in closed door meetings so that they can tell one another the truth if all the problems must end. The onus now lies on the party leadership to use the findings and gains of the visits to plan, strategise and forge ahead as the NWC enters its second year in office.