Challenges Before the New Leadership

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Tobi Soniyi considers some of the issues the new leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party must address before the party can make impact in the next general election

 

After ruling the country for 16 years, losing power to the All Progressives Congress was very devastating to the Peoples Democratic Party.

Instead of adjusting quickly to the new reality as an opposition party, members of the PDP went on a blame game, holding one another responsible for the party’s loss in the 2015 general elections.

Hardly had the party gotten over the blame game than it was plunged into a leadership crisis that threatened to completely destroy it. It took a judgement of the Supreme Court for the gladiators to bury the hatchet. The national caretaker committee, which was set up and headed by Ahmed Makarfi, quickly went into action by setting up a couple of committees, chief among which was the reconciliation committee.

 Reconciliation 

With the party divided into factions in virtually all the states, reconciling the warring factions proved a daunting challenge. The reconciliation  process was still ongoing before last Saturday’s elective convention, which ushered in Uche Secondus as National Chairman.

Therefore, the first challenge the new leadership has to contend with is reconciling members of the party.

Apart from the inherited quarrels within the party, the convention that produced this new exco also appears to have pitched South-west members of the party against the party at the national level. How the new chairman embarks upon the process of solving the disputes  will be crucial.

Luckily for Secondus, he can count on the  PDP Reconciliation Committee  led by the Governor of Bayelsa State,  Chief Seriake Dickson. But this will not be easy.

Credibility Problem

The withdrawal of all South-west  candidates from the chairmanship race because of alleged imposition of candidates has seemed to taint the credibility of the election. Some have alleged that the election is a charade. The new exco will have a credibility problem. There are fears that the impunity which the party promised to put behind it is still very much within the party.

Secondus’s job, it seems, was further made difficult by the decision of the defunct caretaker committee led by Makarfi to suspend the senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Buruji Kashamu.

Kashamu had said his suspension might lead the party to “self-destruct and extinction.”

Kashamu is a major pillar of the party in the South-west  and the PDP  may be taking a risk if it fails to bring him back into its fold. He is capable of further destabilising the party in the South-west.

Bringing the South-west into the mainstream of the party will prove tricky and daunting, yet, it is a task that must be done. Otherwise, PDP will pay dearly for it during the next general elections.

Bringing Back Former Members 

After reconciling warring members of the party, the next challenge that the new exco must give attention to is to bring back those who left the party for the ruling APC. There are many of them. If some of them cannot return immediately because they are already holding key positions in the APC government, secret agreements can be reached with them to defect close to the next general elections.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who retuned to the PDP recently had already appealed to other defectors to come back to the party. The new leadership of the party must first identify these people and begin to approach them one by one.

Aggressive Membership Drive 

While the PDP is still basking in the euphoria of electing a new exco after two years of in-house fighting, it must remind itself that it had done very little to sell itself to the public. While the APC government’s uninspiring performance has made the PDP to consider itself a better alternative, it is important to remind the party that many Nigerians still see the PDP as a party of crooks that mercilessly looted the nation’s treasury. The party has not done much to change this perspective. While PDP was quick to accuse the APC of embarking on a witch-haunt of its members, it has not denied the fact that its members looted the treasury brazenly. Many Nigerians still view the PDP as a party of thieves that cannot be trusted. Changing this perspective and narration is a task that the new leadership must carry out meticulously. PDP cannot afford to be complacent.

The argument by the PDP that it did better than APC is too early to hold true. PDP was in power for 16 years. APC has yet to do three years. It is difficult to see the basis for such comparison.

Women and Youth

Women tend to be more loyal to their party than men. The new leadership of the party should embark on membership drive targeting women. Nigeria has more youths among its population. Many of them are disillusioned and need hope. The PDP can offer them this hope.

Tackling Impunity 

One of the reasons the PDP almost collapsed is the fact that it allowed impunity to reign. It disrespected its own constitution, forcing people to lose faith in the party.

To restore people’s faith in the party, PDP must abide by its own rules. It must respect the wishes of the people. A situation where someone wins a primary election but the slot is given to someone who did not take part in the election would discourage members.

A situation where those who have money and power only decide what happens in the party will send the PDP back to the brink.

What happened recently in Anambra during the governorship election held in the state was a stark reminder of the lingering contradictions in PDP. Members of the party brazenly worked against the party’s candidate, Oseloka Obaze in that election. It will be difficult for the party to win the presidency with such happenings. How to rein in those who undermine the party will prove a challenge to the new exco.

Leadership

Nigeria expected the PDP to lead a virile opposition, having had the opportunity to govern the country for 16 years. However, since it lost the 2015 general elections, the party has not been there for Nigerians. It is expected of the new exco to take the party back to leadership position by providing alternative and credible approach to governance.

Preparing the Party for 2019 General Elections

It is going to be the responsibility of the new leaders to lead the party to the 2019 general elections, unless the party sends the exco packing before that election. To prepare and lead the party to the general elections, the party must address all the tasks raised above. There is an urgent need to rebuild the party. It is not going to be an easy job.