•Expresses satisfaction with its rebranding
•We are ready to regain power in 2019, say Secondus, Makarfi
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Shola Oyeyipo in Lagos
Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (Rtd), at the weekend challenged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to focus on providing a better choice of leadership for Nigerians.
Babangida, who spoke in Minna, Niger State on Saturday while receiving members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP led by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also expressed satisfaction with the rebranding so far achieved by the PDP ahead of the 2019 general elections.
A statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, quoted Babangida as advising the new leadership of the party to stick to its commitment to ensuring that its candidates for the general elections emerge from credible primaries at its congresses.
“I am happy at your assurances that there will be no imposition in all your primary elections,” he said, adding: “It is all about choice and you have promised to provide the best choice.”
While commending the conduct of the elective National Convention of the party held last December, the former president noted that only a few Nigerians believed that it would hold, expressing happiness that its outcome was successful.
According to the former military president: “Your ‘Reposition, Rebrand and Regain’ agenda is working, and I mean particularly the rebranding. Some people believed that having been in government since 1999, the PDP will find opposition difficult but you are carrying on well and providing a better alternative.
“You have also not abandoned the people in times of crisis. I monitored your activities in Benue, Taraba and you just said your party has sent members to Zamfara to commiserate with the people. Surely you have made the people the centre of your return and they will not forget you because you were with them in time of sorrow.
Earlier, Secondus told Babangida that the country’s former leaders must rally together to save the nation from the current administration.
He lamented the killings and economic hardships Nigerians contend with on a daily basis, stressing that Nigeria had never been that divided.
He said: “As a leader, you made the welfare of Nigerians the thrust of governance. You were also concerned about the peace and unity of this nation. You created and built people as well as institutions.
“Today, our nation is drifting and as leaders, you cannot afford to keep quiet and watch on the sides. Leaders like you must come together and take a firm position on how to save our nation from the precipice.”
Secondus said the PDP remained the only alternative platform based on its experience, adding that it had learnt its lessons.
According to him: “We have resolved to play by the rules and operate within the confines of our party’s and the Nigerian constitution.
“We are rebranding and repositioning to make our party open to all and regain the land for the people. We are determined to give opportunities to the youths and our women. We also want to mentor a new generation of young Nigerians that will take our nation to the next millennium.”
Also speaking to the speakers of PDP controlled states Houses of Assembly at the weekend in Abuja, Secondus expressed confidence that the ongoing rebranding efforts of the party would lead to its return to power in 2019, saying Nigerians would be happy with the new PDP that would emerge and would gladly vote it back to power.
He briefed the speakers on the activities of the NWC since December last year and assured them that the new leadership was determined to see through the rebranding and repositioning process.
“What would come out of the re-engineering going on in our party would make it a formidable opposition ready and determined to regain power in 2019,” his spokesman, Ike Abonyi, quoted him as saying, adding: “We have been going around the country since we assumed office and we are glad to report that many Nigerians out there are anxiously waiting for the PDP to return to power.”
He said the visits to the states revealed that only PDP governors were delivering on their campaign promises and that the people were happy and supportive of their government.
“In Abia, Delta and Bayelsa States where we visited recently, PDP governors are phenomenal in their performance, no wonder the people are trooping back to the party from the wobbling ruling APC,” he said.
Secondus told the speakers to note that their position was very critical to the mobilization programs of the party across the country because of their closeness to the grassroots.
“You must remain connected to your people because we are taking the party back to the real owners, the people at the grassroots where you are closer,” he said.
The national chairman also told the speakers that the party was planning a deliberate policy that would take the party to the youths through a new program called ‘Generation Next’ that would soon be launched and wants the speakers to key into it as most of them belong to that generation.
Earlier the Chairman of PDP state Speaker’s Forum and the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Sheriff Oborevworio, told the national chairman that they came to congratulate and identify with the rebranding efforts of the party.
In a related development, former Chairman of PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, vowed that irrespective of the order of the 2019 general election, the party would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that it wins the presidential election.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos at the weekend, Makarfi, a former Kaduna State government, who argued that the PDP lost to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) due to some disorganisation in the presidential campaigns, said his party had learned from its mistakes and was working to win the 2019 presidential election.
“My take is that the PDP should prepare to win, no matter how elections are ordered,” he said, adding: “To think that elections should be ordered this way or that way, it is a lazy way of approaching elections. Whichever way it is ordered, we should campaign and work. I believe strongly that anyhow the elections come, PDP can win. So we should concentrate on the main issues and not through any short-cut.”
He said by the continued sufferings of the people, the ruling APC was making the PDP comeback bid easier, adding that the movement proposed by the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was not capable of making any impact that could stop the PDP from winning in 2019.
According to him: “The role of any opposition party is to take over power and that is what we set our eyes on right now. And I want to thank APC for actually making our job easier and I continue to pray that APC continues to make our job easier as we move closer to elections. I do not pray Nigerians continue to suffer and that is why I believe Nigerians will make the right choice by voting out the party in power.
“All I can say is that we are doing all that is legally and politically doable to achieve our objectives. We keep our plans to our chest but be rest assured we are used to politicking and we shall leave no stone unturned.”
Maintaining that the APC lacked what it took to defeat the PDP at the last election, he said the ruling party capitalised on some errors within the former ruling party, assuring that those mistakes would not be repeated in the forthcoming elections.
He explained: “Going back to the 2015 elections, the North expected to have the ticket; to some, that matters. But even at that, our language was not so polite in the campaigns. The manner and language some of our members used in campaigning for 2015 was insulting to a certain part of the country.
“Also, the party structure was not used for campaigning, rather, an arrangement was made for using TAN for the presidential campaign. And TAN was just a motor formulated by some people to impress those in power. It was not something structured. PDP is a structured party down to the village level. To now abandon that asset and use something superficial, naturally, there will be problems because it discouraged some people while some others became nonchalant.”
On Obasanjo’s call for a coalition to entrench new leadership in the country, he said: “We don’t feel threatened by the coalition of Obasanjo. I can tell you that most of them are friends and associates. They said they are not a political party. Time will tell. If they turn out to be a political party, we will see how it plays out. Obasanjo himself said anytime they turn to a political party, he will cease to be a member. My take on it is, it is like in the United States, where you have independent candidacy. That is what I feel it is. Time will tell what their aims are.”
Makarfi also argued that the sudden favourable disposition of the ruling APC to the contentious issue of restructuring is a crash arrangement targeted only at getting the electorate to vote in its favour.
He said: “The APC is now like a chameleon changing colours. All I can say is that, right from the beginning, we in PDP are for restructuring. Besides that, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Chairman of the committee by the APC said on Channels television that restructuring was not important. The following day, I featured and said all the conferences that were initiated for the processes were done by the PDP during Obasanjo and Jonathan.
“For a party to say because they want to win elections, therefore, they have changed their position, that is the height of deception and it is for Nigerians to take them for who they are; people who will do anything just to remain in power not because they mean it.”