Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is indeed a political association that is walking through the valleys of the shadow of death. General Editor, TAIWO ADISA, however, reports that the hemorrhage noticeable in the party today, which he said could lead it to the Golgotha, are evidence of the seeds of discord its leaders planted in the recent and not-too-recent years….Continue Reading>>>
On June 3 and July 11, 2023, in a space of one month and a few days, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held two strategic meetings. The first, held in Bauchi, the Bauchi State capital was a retreat, ostensibly to x-ray the 2023 general election, which saw the party post its worst results since its formation in 1998.
The second meeting, which was held on July 11, in Abuja, was the inaugural meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDPGF), a once robust group, whose meetings usually command compelling presence, power, and ceremony.
That the two meetings ended with near barren communiqués was a clear pointer to the veracity of our elders’ saying: when two brothers go into a closed-door meeting and come out smiling, it’s evidence they’ve not told themselves the home truth. Not a few would easily conclude that if the scenario continues, the massive bleeding being noticed right now could just develop into an unmanageable terminal disease.
The Bauchi Retreat
At the Bauchi meeting, hosted by Governor Bala Abdukadir Mohammed, there appeared an attempt to paper over the monumental treachery, indiscipline, and unfounded recalcitrant postures by well-placed party leaders, a situation that turned the party into a toothless bulldog going into the 2023 elections. There was no attempt at a post-mortem of the party’s disastrous outing in the February 25 and March 18 elections. Nobody seems to be yelling questions at an engineer whose failings had led to the collapse of a 24-storey building. And when that is the case, observers would easily agree, a foundation for fatal crashes is truly being laid.
Though Nyesom Wike, the immediate past governor of Rivers State, who led four of his colleagues including the immediate past governors of Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Benue, Samuel Ortom; Abia, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State to form the G-5 Governors, which orchestrated what looked very much like an insurrection that laid the foundation for the party’s poor showing in the general election, was not in attendance at the meeting, his successor, Siminalayi Fubara and the man they referred to as the youngest member of the G5, Makinde, were present.
Some other dignitaries in attendance at the Bauchi retreat include former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate in the February 25 election; the Acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum; Chairman, Board of Trustees, Senator Adolphus Wabara; former PDP National Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, and former Board of Trustees Chairman, Walid Jibril.
Governors in attendance include the host, Senator Bala Mohammed of Bauchi; and the Governors of Adamawa, Umaru Fintiri; Bayelsa, Duoye Diri; Oyo, Seyi Makinde, Osun, Ademola Adeleke; Delta, Sheriff Oborevwori; Rivers, Siminalayi Fubara; Plateau, Caleb Mutfwang; Taraba, Agbu Kefas; Zamafara, Dauda Dare and Edo, Godwin Obaseki, who was represented by his deputy, Philip Shuaibu.
Other notable members at the meeting were the former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu; former Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Senator Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the candidate of the party in the November 11, Kogi State governorship election, Senator Dino Melaye.
There were also former and serving senators and House of Representatives members and members of the state Houses of Assembly including the Speaker of Bauchi State House of Assembly, Hon. Abubakar Suleiman, among others.
In an attempt to drag the apparently war-weary party men out of the belligerence of recent months, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who spoke at the retreat called for unity among the party leaders, declaring that the strength of the main opposition party lies in its unity.
He said: “Despite the challenges we face as an opposition party, we must remain resilient and united in our pursuit of the interest of our constituencies.
“We must also exchange this unity to both people we agree with and the people we differ with.
“Conflicts with the governors and within our ranks, serve only to divide us and undermine our shared objectives.
“Our governors are partners in progress and it is by working with them not against them that we can effect the desired change,” he said.
The party’s standard-bearer in the February election, former Vice-President Abubakar attempted to give hope to his party men when he said the PDP was “government-in-waiting,” practically referring to the ongoing petition at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC).
While addressing the retreat in Bauchi, Atiku said: “You’re representatives of the party and your constituents. Do not be tempted to abandon your party just because of a temporary setback. In the end, truth and good shall triumph over falsehood and evil.
“Therefore, you must please remain resolute. Do not work in isolation from one another. You’re a team and should always work as a team in other to achieve meaningful results and also remain connected to your roots, your constituents, and other stakeholders.
“Based on the results announced by INEC and pending the determination of the electoral challenges in the court, our members-elect are not the majority in the national assembly. So, for the time being, they have to prepare to work as an effective, constructive opposition while also preparing for a possible role as the majority party when the cases are resolved. “Don’t ever lose hope. The role of the opposition is to hold the government and majority party to account. And in doing so, you demonstrate that you and your party are ready to govern in the shortest possible time — a government-in-waiting — so to speak.”
THE PDPGF MEETING
The backslapping and show of camaraderie that characterized the July 11 meeting of the PDPGF in Abuja completely belied the eerie glow that occupied the party’s sky. The communiqué read by Bala Mohammed, the Forum’s chairman painted the picture of an association that was already focused on the future as it called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the ruling party and security agencies to remain neutral during the forthcoming off-season election in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.
Reading the party’s communiqué, Mohammed said: “The meeting consequently advised the Federal Government and security agencies to rise to the situation and bring the situation under control.
“In the interim, the forum would cooperate with the federal government on issues concerning the welfare of Nigerians and good governance while striving to maintain the independence and autonomy of the forum through offering constructive criticisms where necessary.
“The aim of the forum is to provide a platform for peer review of issues, policies, programmes, and achievements (legacy projects) of member-Governors across the PDP states.”
The communiqué did not touch on the internal crisis that was already devouring the internal organs of the party and when newsmen asked the chairman of the PDPGF, he said that it was the party that would resolve the crisis, not the governors.
Analysts would say that the statement by Mohammed depicts the enormity of the danger that stares the PDP in the face. If the governors don’t have the solution to PDP’s problem, who else does? It would look like a situation where a man who had been diagnosed with leukemia comes out of the diagnostic lab to tell his family that he only needs a two-hour session at the massage parlour and would be okay. It is the type of self-deception mothers of twins in Yorubaland were encouraged to engage in, in the olden days.
In the days of old, in Yorubaland, the mother of twins who loses one of them is not permitted to announce such reality to any visitor. Once a visitor greets her and asks about the second baby, she simply says it has gone to buy clothes.
BUILD-UP to 2023 POLLS
Long before the dawn of the 2023 elections, the cracks within the PDP have been obvious. Close watchers of the party would notice that the cracks started setting in under the leadership of the former National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. It was noted that what led to the Wike/Secondus tiff was actually a struggle for the soul of the PDP, pitching the governors on one side versus the other leaders.
Immediately after the 2019 presidential primaries, where Governor Aminu Tambuwa of Sokoto State slugged it out for the presidential ticket with Atiku Abubakar, the governors were said to have vowed to seize control of the party going forward.
At the National Convention held in Port Harcourt in the build-up to the 2019 general election, Wike, who fought tooth and nail to host the convention in his state capital, witnessed the defeat of his candidate, Tambuwal, right at his backyard by a combination of the “old guard.”
The governor was then said to have resolved that a strategy must be put in place to tame the influence of the retired Generals in the party. He was said to have resolved to get a firm hold of the governors in the party, through whom he could take total control of the structure.
That resolve appeared to have worked as the governors, under the leadership of Wike dispatched Secondus as National Chairman and brought Dr. Iyorchia Ayu in his stead.
The search for Ayu according to sources in the party showcased the determination of the governors to take total control of the party. At the start of the journey, names like Senator David Mark, former President of the Senate, and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola were said to have came up. But the duo was knocked off with the governors declaring that their military background and closeness to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida ran contrary to their desire to cleanse the party of the control of former military leaders and the older generation.
Sources said that the mantra of the governors was that with Ayu, a member of the old generation, who was ready to dance to the tunes of the governors on board from October 2021, the views of every other member of the old guard and the former military leaders would become inconsequential.
One of the governors at the forefront of the takeover bid was said to have shouted at an elder at a caucus meeting when he told the man to “sit down, we are in charge now.”
With a mindset that the unity of the governors would deliver them control of the PDP, the governors continued their charge to have one of their own corner the party’s presidential ticket in 2023.
But as time went by, each of the governors find their comfort zones. That, according to sources is in line with the law of nature and the saying of the elders, which indicate that 20 children cannot keep playing together for 20 years. Governor Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal, Emmanuel Udom of Akwa-Ibom, and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi indicated their interest in the presidential ticket, same as Wike, who had positioned himself as leader of the pack all along. Though the Bauchi governor was said to have told Atiku and some other associates that he was merely testing the waters, he remained in the race till the end.
Even at that, insiders believed that Wike was still confident that he would clinch the presidential ticket ahead of Atiku. For instance, it was said that Bala Mohammed’s entry into the race was to enable him to whittle down Atiku’s influence in the North-East, while the Rivers governor also appointed a former governor of Gombe state, also from the North-East as his campaign manager.
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THE NATIONAL CONVENTION
In May 2022, the PDP held its National Convention to pick the presidential candidate for the 2023 election. As of this time, distinct camps had fully emerged. But the two dominant camps were the Atiku’s and Wike’s, while the like of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Udom were just on the fringes. Udom, according to sources, was part of the initial meetings and the plot by the governors’ forum to hijack the party structure but felt unease when some meetings were moved to Ghana and he was sidelined.
Close observers submitted that the Wike camp went into the National Convention with a single goal-to win the presidential ticket. Unexpectedly, however, the camp was beaten to the game as Tambuwal withdrew from the race at the last minute, therefore paving the way for Atiku to win the ticket.
A source said that the Wike camp was actually dazed by that result. Tambuwal was seen as the main culprit, while Ayu, who incidentally had played along with the governors for some months was another. Some of the members were however said to have advised the former governor not to burst the bubble until the emergence of the running mate.
Thus, as soon as Atiku unveiled the former Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate, the war against the former vice-president broke out in full force.
This is a group of governors including Wike, Ortom, Ugwuanyi, Ikpeazu, and Makinde. It later included former governors like Ayo Fayose, and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and even had former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, in its meetings. The G5 emerged from the ashes of the national convention. It was to be a group of aggrieved governors who were largely the arrowhead of the youth takeover plot in the PDP.
The group made it appear as if it was on a national assignment when it also hosted Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party to meetings. Obi was to pay courtesy visits to some of the G5 governors. Sources said that the decision to host Obi and weigh the possibility of backing Obi was largely a decoy. It was learnt that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had advised members of the group to back Obi as the presidential candidate of choice for the 2023 elections during their visit to him in Abeokuta.
Though watchers of this group said that the G5 had made some inroads into the All Progressives Congress (APC) and had talks with a leading presidential aspirant, even before the ruling party held its primary election in June 2022, the volume of their grievances against the PDP became only frontally noticeable after the emergence of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.
They had hinged their agitation on the need for power shift and railed against Okowa for betraying the cause after his government hosted the 17 Southern governors in Asaba, at a meeting whose communique demanded power shift to the South.
Sources told the Sunday Tribune that even though Okowa and Ayu were largely tackled by the G5, the animosity of the Wike-led group was against Atiku and Tambuwal. Tambuwal’s offence was for allegedly betraying an ally, Wike, who fought tooth and nail to make him (Tambuwal) the presidential candidate of the party in 2019. Ayu was also seen as having bitten the fingers that fed him since his emergence was facilitated by the governors in the first instance. Atiku was said to have further worsened the anger when he named Tambuwal his campaign chief. The G5 then resolved to make the removal of Ayu its irreducible minimal condition, a position Atiku found difficult to abide by, in view of its inherent dangers.
After a series of meetings in Nigeria, Ghana, Spain, and London, with sessions in London with then-presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Atiku of PDP, the G5 was unable to publicly announce its preferred candidate ahead of the February 25 election. Even at that, members of the group continued to make statements that showed clearly they were not on the same page with the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Election and Aftermath
Following the announcement of Tinubu as the winner of the February 25, 2023 election, jubilation took the better of the G5 camp. It was obvious that the camp was at home with the presidential aspiration of Tinubu ab initio. Even though a source said that they were more angered by their failure to retire the “old guard” of the PDP, a convenient spot was found to be the call for a power shift and the southern presidential agenda. Members of the group have since visited President Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa, with reports suggesting that at least one of them would be appointed minister. But that appears not to be the last of the G5 and the Young Turks of the PDP.
Long Road to 2027
Some stakeholders told the Sunday Tribune that the camp of governors is unrelenting in gaining the upper hand and that what they failed to achieve through the convention of May 2022, might come their way through a direct and total control of the party this time.
With Atiku’s failure at the polls and the exit of Tambuwal as governor, sources said that the coast appeared clear for the governors to launch the new agenda. For instance, the group loyal to the G5 has enlarged its coast, with Bala of Bauchi, Umar Fintiri of Adamawa, and others joining the fray. It was further gathered that one leg of the agenda is to continue to collaborate with the Tinubu government while staying put in the PDP. The other is to defect to the APC as a group if it ever comes to that.
Sources said that the party has already split into pro-Atiku and pro-Wike camps in the aftermath of the general election. Already, it was learnt that the Wike camp appeared to have taken complete control of the Governors’ Forum with Bala Mohammed, and Fubara, the incumbent governor of Rivers State as chairman and deputy. While Umar Iliya Damagun continues in office as Acting Chairman of the party, forces are said to be strategising for the soul of the party.
Whereas the name of the former Senate President Bukola Saraki came up recently for the National Chairman of the party, it was learnt that the choice appears tricky for the governors’ camp.
“A person like Saraki can only be supported to be chairman if he would agree not to play Atiku’s game and that he would yield firm control of the party to the governors,” a source said.
But the agenda of the governors is said to be diametrically opposed to that of other stakeholders in the party, who have been pushing for a thorough review of the 2023 elections process and punishment for those that worked against the party.
One of those in this camp said: “If we just paper over the activities of the governors who dealt a huge blow to the fortunes of the PDP in the February election, we would have laid the foundation for the total demise of the party in the nearest future. If some persons can gang up against a Northern candidate, nothing would stop others from doing the same when it gets to the turn of a Southern candidate and the cycle continues.
“Despite having such members as Senator Mark, Anyim Pius Anyim, the Board of Trustees, and others, the current set of governors are seeking to take control. They are seeking to chart the direction and while working with the APC government on one hand, they will keep watching the public rating of the government and decide whether to keep investing their future or team up with others to try their luck in 2027….Continue Reading>>>