By Fela Shodunke
S ince the July 10 Supreme Court judgement which confirmed former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Maikarfi as validly elected National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, the party has returned to the news. Maikarfi’s mandate is to midwife the election of a substantive national Chairman which hopefully will take the party to the next election in 2019.
This sidekick to this development is that beyond the one-sided narratives from what is fast looking like a one-party state Nigerians are expecting robust issue based campaigns with rhetorics, promise and options of “better life” and improvement of living conditions. The All Progressive Congress, the ruling political party have had it going for it since May 29, 2015 all thanks to the protracted crises in the PDP. The citizens expect a change in rhythm in the songs of hope. But can the PDP rebrand to play that role expected or anticipated by the citizens? The next track on the political album and the lyrics played by the politicians should chorus that.
Perhaps what the All Progressive Congress has going for it is that it was formed on the ashes of those who had played in the Opposition for sixteen years; those who felt they had played on the sideline of national politics and those who were disgruntled things were not as they wished in the then ruling party, the PDP, put simply those who were angry with the way issues and matters resolved. They needed an expression, a vent. It then comes as no surprise that even in government, APC retained itself as an Opposition to itself. PDP looks like having a second chance like the mythical Phoenix to rise from its own self immolation.
PDP miscalculated on its confidences to dominate the Nigeria political space for some fairy one hundred years and became too fat to fly, members behaved like fat cows without much troubles and the party became a fiefdom of contest for control of landed properties and Spartans were being hired as mercenaries in the political warfare. Since 2011, conquered territories declined, the party started shrinking and loosing battle weary soldiers to other political parties. The few parcel of land yet partitioned among various contending interests. The APC defeated the PDP at its most vulnerable point, lashing on to its weakest link.
The APC on the one hand built its structure and ascendancy to power on a foundation which appealed to the emotions of the younger generation, maximising the new political hardware of the social and new media; the PDP refused to be regenerative. Except perhaps in the South Eastern states, the younger members of the party are gradually distanced from the PDP, and the party becomes Orthodox suffering similar fate as the Anglican Church in the face of rising Pentecostalism or “Gospel” churches.
The Supreme Court landmark judgement however gave a renewed hope for a re-set; an option for a fresh start or further partitioning. The Maikarfi led National Caretaker Committee has set December 9, 2017 as the date for a new National Convention to elect those who will steer the affairs of the party towards 2019. Many options have been thrown before the members; former South West Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George who had also served as the Military Governor of old Ondo State 29 years ago, precisely between July, 1988 and September 199. Also in the race is Professor Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister for Education. Both Bode George and Adeniran are equally members of the party’s Board of Trustees BoT, (the spirit and highest decision making organ of the political party) they have played roles either for its good fortune or otherwise. If age is Bodeo George’s albatross, Adeniran’s gooney bird is the fear that he is being sponsored by a controversial Senator from Ogun who many believed was a leading mercenary and one of those responsible for the party’s immediate sordid pass.
A former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel has als shown interest in the race, so is Proessor Taoheed Adedoja, a former Minister for Sports. All of them are from the South Western states of the country where it is believed the zoning arrangement might be preferred for the reason that the region had never had a shot at the office since the party was founded in 1998. The political party had zoned to the South. Both Adedoja and Daniel are the age card prospective to connect and build successor generation and regenerate the party.
However, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, the media merchant from the South South is also rumoured to be in the race. His main card on the table is the ownership of one of the most virile media organisation which is believed could assist the PDP in its perception reconstruction. But his choice may suffer from the zonal arrangement and an impediment to the aspiration of the South Eastern part to produce the Vice President in 2019.
Whatever their choice, the PDP has taken on itself the responsibility of redrawing the political landscape of Nigeria as an Opposition party and a prospective party to be in power, it needs to recreate, refresh, rebrand and connect to all generations to live in the future.
–Fela Shodunke is a Public Affairs Commentator, lives in Ikeja, Lagos