The Peoples Democratic Party is planning a comeback to power at the centre. The opposition party last Wednesday began talks with some politicians and leaders of seven political parties on modalities for an alliance that enable them wrest power from the All Progressives Congress in 2019.
Some of the political parties said to be involved in the new initiative to broker an opposition alliance include the Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party, which is led by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae.
The meeting with friendly political parties and associations, which was at the instance of the PDP, was held on Wednesday evening in Abuja, shortly after the presentation of the report of the Strategic Review and Inter Party Affairs Committee in a colourful ceremony witnessed by a large crowd of PDP stakeholders.
PDP muted the idea of going into strong alliance with likeminded political groups and individuals, apparently, to be able to wrest power from the APC. But the opposition was quick to state that such an alliance will not follow the pattern of the merger done by the ruling party. PDP also distanced itself from speculations that it was behind those mobilising to form a new mega party.
Chairman of the PDP Strategy Review and Inter Party Affairs Committee, and former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, while submitting the report of his committee restated that the alliance negotiations had nothing to do with the rumoured mega party.
Gana said, “We are pleased to report that our initial contacts have yielded positive responses from seven people-focused and social democratic parties. In fact, key leaders and selected delegates from the seven parties will be meeting at the invitation of the PDP. This is nothing to do with the rumoured mega party, but a separate and highly principled initiative of the PDP. Our desire is to have all genuine democrats and friends of the people to flow together and provide a fresh and trustworthy leadership to promote and ensure a people-friendly process of national development.”
He said the committee seriously considered how best to put in place a robust mechanism of inter-party relations so as to encourage the coming together of all genuine and people-oriented democrats on the basis of shared principles and core programmes of national transformation.
There was no concrete decision taken at the end of the discussions among the parties. The talks were regarded as an exploratory exercise aimed at bringing about fruitful engagements in future. The meeting has no doubt set the ball rolling for the race for 2019. The PDP’s move is seen as a response to recent defections of its members to APC and moves by the ruling party to poach further on PDP’s turf, especially in the South-east, where APC has opened its books for fresh registration of members.
Gana said PDP was a strong sleeping lion that was now rising, warning that no one should under-estimate the capacity of the former ruling party to turn things around. This is, especially, given what he described as lacklustre performance of the President Muhammedu Buhari-led APC administration.
Other leaders of the party who spoke at the ceremony shared Gana’s enthusiasm.
Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibril, said the party remained as strong as ever despite attempts by detractors to dismember it. He maintained that contrary to the notion that the PDP had split into factions, the party was a united family under the leadership of the national caretaker committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi and national secretary, Senator Ben Obi.
However, Jibril lamented what he described as an unprecedented animosity and wicked plot by a few members to destroy the PDP.
A high point of last week’s reunion move by PDP was the surprise appearance of one of the founding fathers of the party and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma. The sight of Ciroma elicited a loud applause as he entered the hall at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, venue of the event.
Addressing the gathering, Ciroma went down memory lane to describe how PDP was formed. He said the party was formed to take care of the interest of all Nigerians, the poor and the rich alike. He said the party would have stayed longer in power but for some avoidable mistakes that altered its vision. Speaking on the difficult position in which PDP had found itself as an opposition party, Ciroma advised the leadership and members work together to rediscover the past glory of the party.
He stated, “I feel very proud of being in the PDP and of being one of the members that played a critical role in its formation. I fell proud to say that the party is still alive today. We must be very proud that we were able to maintain the position we are now. If we want to help the ordinary Nigerian, we must give him a government that respects his feelings and one that shares his pain as well understands what his aspirations.”
Another founding member of the PDP, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, described the event as a great milestone. He said PDP was a gathering of very illustrious personalities in Nigeria. Iwuanyanwu, whose speech was punctuated by loud ovation from the appreciative audience, said one of the key decisions that should be taken was when to reopen the national secretariat of the party. He said the leadership must start the process of reclaiming its office, which, according to him, was illegally locked up. He also insisted that he was still in the PDP, describing the suggestion by the governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, that some of the leading members, including governors, were itching to join the APC as a fallacy.
Iwuanyanwu demanded that all those members who recently defected to APC be made to vacate their seats and re-contest under the party. “Frankly speaking, this is my happiest day. In the life of every person or organisation, there comes a time for change. This is the stage that the PDP is now. I am telling the PDP members gathered here to trust in God, we are going to recover power Io 2019,” Iwuanyanwu stated.
There was a loud ovation when Makarfi stepped forward to receive copies of the committee’s report from Gana. It was as if PDP regained its lost voice, as the hall filled to capacity shouted, “Power to the People.”
In his short speech, Makarfi pledged to make the report of the Gana committee available to stakeholders for critical analysis before it would be adopted. He said the party needed to lay more emphasis on the manifesto it would be offering the Nigerian people in 2019. The former governor of Kaduna State said one of the strategies the APC adopted to distract the PDP and to prevent it from mobilising to take power back in 2019 was to fuel a leadership crisis by encouraging a few pliable PDP members to embark on a prolonged legal tussle.
However, Makarfi said the leadership of PDP had discovered that and had decided to move ahead with its activities without hindrance. The former governor also tried to woo those who might have been frustrated out of the party over past actions of the leadership to return. He offered an apology and urged them to give the party another chance. Makarfi said every effort will now be made to ensure strict adherence to the principle of internal democracy and that the days when impunity reigned was over.
One remarkable moment of truth for the PDP during the event was when the former Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njeze, asked God in her prayer to give victory to the PDP in the 2019 election against the APC just as He gave David victory over Goliath, the giant, as it is written in the Bible. Also a former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, who anchored the event, described PDP as the party that brought democracy to Nigeria and sustained it, adding the party is poised to return power to ordinary Nigerians in 2019 by defeating the APC.
Among those who attended the PDP stakeholders meeting were the party’s founding fathers, governors, lawmakers, former governors, ministers, and lawmakers from across the country.
Youth and Women Wing
One of the key recommendations of the strategy committee was the restoration of the youth and women wings of the party, which it said will help to energise that critical part of the party’s support base in future elections. The committee recommended new initiatives like the adoption of direct primary as well as other means of ensuring conduct of credible congress and conventions. It urged the party to do way with things that encourage impunity.
The committee also recommended the use of direct primaries in all elections. To this effect, the committee recommended guidelines for direct primaries. It also recommended situations where the option of indirect primary could be adopted, when direct primaries are deemed not feasible. The committee recommended strategies for the proper funding of the party, stating that funding under the rebranded PDP would no longer be left in the hands few individuals but should spread to all members under a funding system that will be worked out.
In a bid to strengthen the party and put it in position to win elections henceforth, the committee said it had analysed the activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission and come up with strategies to respond to issues relating to the conduct of election, including the need for the party to adopt a rapid response mechanism and a situation room where elections are monitored and necessary actions taken to protect the interest of the party.
The committee further recommended that the party should convoke a national conference of democrats to create a network for the defence of democracy in the country, which will place the PDP in a position to act as a strong advocate of democracy in Africa.
There is no doubt that PDP is in earnest search for strategies to shore up its strength ahead of 2019. The alliance option is just one strategy. It will be interesting to see how the former ruling party’s plans would evolve ahead of the next general election.