BACK TO WINNING WAYS

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The PDP has served notice that it is ready to reclaim the presidency it lost in 2015, argues Greg Mbadiwe 

If there was any sign and wonder that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) needed to perform to be taken seriously by Nigerians of its readiness to return to power, the peaceful national convention of the party held recently in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital was it. Many Nigerians had predicted the implosion of the party, given the dozen presidential aspirants that vied for its ticket at the convention. Even among the leaders of the party, they were those who feared that the fragile peace engendered by the smooth election of a national chairman was about to give way. But then, the way of man is not the way of God. With the election of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of PDP, the party has suddenly even become stronger.

Yes, as doomsayers were getting ready to sing a dirge for the party, another event of even proportional importance occurred. President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed Atiku, his former deputy and implacable political foe. Baba did not even stop there, he commenced a campaign to get the international community to support Atiku’s candidature as the man who will reverse the dwindling economic fortunes of Nigeria and reunite the sharply divided people. President Obasanjo who in a similar fashion endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2014, said he was convinced that Atiku’s time has come for him to be president.

These two significant political events which would be likened to a political tsunami has swept through the  Nigerian political space, igniting fears among the ruling All Progressives  Congress (APC) and rekindling hope among the distraught people of Nigeria who are dissatisfied with the lack-lustre performance of the Buhari’s administration. Within two weeks, the PDP has served notice that it is more than ready to reclaim the presidency it lost in 2015.

One of the reasons why PDP lost in 2015 was lack of internal democracy which bred impunity and arrogance among the leaders. The transparent manner in which the convention in Port Harcourt was conducted confirmed that whenever the will of the people is upheld, trust and confidence would be engendered in the system. The Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led convention committee demonstrated a high sense of responsibility such that none of the 12 aspirants was in doubt of getting justice. Across many states of the federation, the PDP primaries went on in a similar fashion, thus confirming that this is a new PDP bereft of the baggage of the past.

It is also refreshing that the new leaders of the party, including the presidential candidate, realised the need to quickly reach out to President Obasanjo, to mend fences with him and seek his blessings. That was also a clear departure from the past when some of the leaders derided Obasanjo that he didn’t have any electoral value. Unknown to them, the international stature of Obasanjo dwarfs whatever political clout they believe they have in their little corners. So, the foresight of these new leaders in seeking Obasanjo’s forgiveness and endorsement deserves commendation.

And being the statesman that he has always been, Obasanjo forgave and gave reasons why he had refrained earlier from supporting Atiku for the presidency. As a Christian, he knows the wordings of the Lord’s Prayer which enjoins people to forgive in order to be forgiven. But what struck me most was that contrary to wide-held belief that Obasanjo had a personal grudge against Atiku, it turned out that the grand old man was his patriotic self, fighting that long battle just for the sake of Nigeria.

For Atiku, winning the presidential ticket of PDP is more like a home coming. There are very few Nigerians who worked harder than Atiku in the emergence of PDP as a formidable political party in the country. There are even fewer who committed more time and resources than Waziri Adamawa in the campaign that ushered in Obasanjo into office in 1999. That is why many of us had been praying for their reconciliation because it seemed incongruous that a man will be denied the fruits of his labour just because of a moment of indiscretion. Like Obasanjo said, the Presidential candidate has learnt from his mistakes.

Learning from those mistakes is actually a plus for the nation and Nigerian people because Atiku’s vast economic experience is urgently needed to halt the drift of the Nigerian ship. As an entrepreneur and creator of wealth, Atiku was a key figure in the economic revolution that characterised the Obasanjo’s Presidency. No other person is better suited than the former vice -president for the enormous job required to restore investors’ confidence in the nation’s economy and create jobs for our teeming youths.

As a pan Nigerian who is neither a religious bigot nor an ethnic irredentist, Atiku has started well by picking former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate. There couldn’t have been a more formidable economic team than the duo. The Igbos who for the past 42 months have been treated like outsiders in their own country now have a sense of belonging. This is actually a good sign of what the Atiku’s Presidency will portend.

This bright prospect is what should inform the return to the fold of those who previously left PDP for a sabbatical in other political parties. The acrimonies and rancorous primaries of APC across the nation including subverting the right of first refusal for a sitting governor, has shown that APC is on its way out of power. Understandably, the party was not prepared for power. It howled its way to Aso Rock through base propaganda and emotion. Now that it is clear that it cannot offer the change it promised, it will be changed with an Atiku’s presidency.

However, a word of caution, even advice for the APC and the Buhari’s administration will not be out of place. They must show commitment to the rule of law and a free, transparent and credible national election next year. What happened in the Osun Governorship election was a national disgrace and embarrassment that should not repeat itself. The hands of INEC were openly tied by the present government and APC.

President Buhari recently at the United Nations gave his word that the 2019 elections will be free. We believe him. But certain actions of the administration including the controversial Executive Order Six which I am opposed to as a lawyer, give ominous signs as to whether we shall have the kind of elections that ushered in Buhari in 2015. However, as an incurable optimist, I sincerely hope that President Buhari will behave like President Jonathan in giving us a credible election that would be applauded by the international community even if he loses.

Mbadiwe, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Congo, wrote from Lagos