For APC, PDP, It’s Time to Rebuild and Reconcile

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Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale write that the two major political parties, All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party maybe faced with similar challenges of reconciling aggrieved members to determine the future of their groups ahead of 2023

The year 2020 could mean a lot for the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in terms of rebuilding the party and reconciling aggrieved members of the party.

It is a year, it should lay the building blocks of unity and reconciliation for the 2023 general election.  The basic duty of a political party is not only to win elections but to ensure harmony amongst its teaming members.  The year of the next election cycle in 2023 may appear far, but it is not quite so.  Every minute inches towards the 2023 general election. This means a lot to all political parties, particularly the PDP.

There are some pockets of elections before the PDP this year, beginning with the bye elections, the Edo and Ondo state governorship elections.  And it would be in the overall interest of the party to approach these elections as a united and a formidable party.  This is why the advice by the former vice president and the PDP presidential candidate in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar is timely.

Abubakar had charged his party to focus on rebuilding and strengthening the party for the challenges ahead of the 2023 elections.

Atiku who made the statement via his verified Twitter account wrote, “Our preoccupation at this point in the @OfficialPDPNig should not focus on elections, but on rebuilding and strengthening our party for the challenges ahead of us.” Recall that the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jibrin, had alleged that there were plans to assassinate him by some supporters of the former Vice President. Jibrin said these supporters want to force him to say, “Atiku is the man that I want because I am a leader.”

Jibrin warned that, “they should not also forget that the party has a constitution and guidelines which say there must be primary election for whoever wants to contest.”

The advice by Atiku was intentional.  The PDP lost some crucial elections in 2019, especially the Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections.  Though, the party lost under questionable circumstances, the PDP must move ahead to put its house in order, especially between contending gubernatorial candidates of Mohammed Idris and Ibrahim Wada in Kogi State.

Before the November 16 governorship elections, Wada and Idris were still in the court seeking to determine the authentic governorship candidate of the party.  Also, all is not well with the PDP as the former governor, Ibrahim Idris who governed the state for eight years is having problems with the party in the state over who controls its structures. He is drawn into a battle with his son, Suleiman over who controls the party machinery in the state. However, the PDP under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus is not folding its hands to watch this power play.  The party has taken steps to intervene in the overall interest of PDP in Kogi state.

In Bayelsa state as well, the outcome of the governorship election polarized the state between the supporters of Timi Alaibe and the members of the Restoration family headed by the outgoing governor of the state, Seriake Dickson. Alaibe who has a case in court told THISDAY that he has not withdrawn the suit challenging the circumstance surrounding the emergence of Senator Douye Diri as governorship candidate of the PDP in Bayelsa.

The role played by former President, Goodluck Jonathan before and during the elections is circumspect.  A faction of the party accuses him of working against the party. Those who maintain this stand are pushing for an investigation in order to punish those culpable, bearing in mind that party is supreme and above any individual.  With this in mind, the Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) plans to use 2020 to rebuild, as well as, reconcile all interests and stakeholders for the journey ahead.  Such a reconciliation would be a confidence block for the elections in 2020.

Within the PDP, there is a dirty fight between the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike and his Bayelsa state counterpart, Henry Seriake Dickson.  The feud between Dickson and Wike is a thing of concern for the PDP.  Though, the party has mandated the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa to meditate in the crisis.  The resolution should go beyond window dressing.  The Soku oil well should not be allowed to divide two sister states like Rivers and Bayelsa.  Bayelsa was created out of Rivers state.  The two states have been governed by the PDP since 1999 and should not allow Soku oil well and the ego of the two state governors set them further apart. The PDP should set its machinery in motion on how to bring back Bayelsa state to its fold.

Already,   the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will conduct 28 court ordered rerun elections on January 25. This should serve as a wake-up call to the PDP

The commission said in a statement by the National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Public Informing, Festus Okoye that the rerun elections will take place in one senatorial district and 12 federal constituencies and state constituencies

The commission said that it reached the decision to conduct the rerun elections after a meeting of the Elections Management Body,  stating that  there are 28 court-ordered elections still outstanding which are distributed across 12 states of the federation.

INEC said that the breakdown of the rerun elections comprised of one Senatorial District out of 109. 12 Federal Constituencies out of 360 and 15 State Assembly Constituencies out of 991.

This should be seen as a direct challenge to the PDP to boost its confidence among members.  With proper rebuilding and reconciliation, the party should be able to test its general acceptance by winning some of these bye elections. This will prepare it for the Edo and Ondo state governorship elections.

Already, PDP state congresses are billed to commence on January 15. The party should aim to take advantage of the bickering within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

PDP at the National level should strive to ensure that reconciliation is perfected in its state chapters. The party should work the talk concerning harmony within its fold in order to attract more members.

The constitution of the PDP provides for a mid-term convention.  The mid-term convention is not for elections. It is used to pass vote of confidence on the National Chairman and members of the NWC for effectively steering the affairs of the party. It may be a good strategy to hold a mid-term convention, where confidence vote can be passed on the NWC as booster to do more. Indeed, 2020 is a year that the PDP can lay the building blocks for 2023. 

Battle Within the APC

Towards the end of last year, the All Progressives Congress (APC) appointed a 10-member National Reconciliation Committee as part of the plans to put an end to the battle within.

The committee is chaired by the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, former Interim National Chairman of APC,  Chief Bisi Akande as the Vice Chairman, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed  Wase; Sen. Tanko Al-Makura; Sen. Kashim Shettima; Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; Alh. Nasiru Aliko Koki; Sen. Khairat Gwadabe-Abdulrazak; Sen. Binta Garba and Sen. John Enoh (Secretary).

A statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, noted that the committee was in line with the November 22, 2019 resolution of its National Executive Committee (NEC).

The committee was mandated to address grievances of party members and resolve existing conflicts, all with a view to fostering unity and oneness within the party.

Similarly, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party appointed the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje to head its five-member fact-finding committee for the APC chapter in Edo State.

Other members of the committee are; Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari; former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi; former governor of Borno State and serving senator, Kashim Shettima and Honourable Ahmed Wadada (Secretary).

The Committee is expected to meet with all disputing interests and present its finding to the party. This, the party noted, marks another step in its effort to find a lasting solution to the crisis and ensure that the party comes out of it even stronger.

The ruling party did not stop at that, it equally lifted the suspension on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, former governors of Ogun and Imo states Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Rochas Okorocha, former Director General of Voice of Nigeria  (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani.

The  party  chieftains were suspended immediately after the general election for alleged anti-party activities, but the APC was however silent over lifting of similar ban imposed on the Deputy National Chairman, North, Lawal Shuaib and National Vice Chairman, North-west, Inuwa Abdulkadir, who were equally suspended for the same offence.

The spokesman of the party had in a statement said, “Through the suspension, our party has shown the capacity and willingness to implement its own rules and enforce discipline when there is an infraction. We have also shown that no individual is above discipline and that the party would always apply equity and justice in the day to day running of the party.”

The reconciliatory move by the party was not unexpected considering the fact that since the ruling party won the presidential election, majority of National Assembly seats, as well as, the highest number of states, the party has been enmeshed in internal squabbles which manifested immediately after the party’s primaries prior to the 2019 national elections.

Another major reason the party is desperate to put its house in order is because the Buhari-factor would no longer be an influence in the subsequent elections as his tenure expires in 2023.

The last general election was actually a mixed-fortune for the ruling party under the leadership of its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, while the party was disqualified from participating in all the elections in Zamfara and Rivers states by INEC and subsequently lost the two states to the main opposition party, the PDP, it won Kwara State for the first time, and later made in road to Bayelsa, among other states won by the party.

The party under Oshiomhole was also able to ensure that its favourites emerged as the presiding officers of the National Assembly. Despite the ups and downs, the Oshiomhole-led NEC has not done badly, but the increasing call for his removal is becoming deafening.

The thickening plot to get him out of the way continues to gather momentum as those calling for his sack believe that he has been more of a burden than an asset to the party.

How the party crisis started/Call for Oshiomhole’s removal

The Deputy National chairman (North) of the APC, Lawal Shuaibu, was the first person to call for the removal of Oshiomhole when he blamed the National Chairman for being responsible for the party’s loss in Zamfara state.

Shuaibu had in a five-page letter to the chairman dated May 27, 2019, decried the party’s decline under his leadership, while urging him to bow out of office instead of being forced out.

Also, in August 2019, the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, in a four-page letter to Oshiomhole titled, “APC: Appeal for Reconciliation,” blamed the National Chairman for the diminishing fortunes of the party.

In yet another statement released prior to the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the party, Lukman  called on  Oshiomhole to convene NEC meeting in order  to resolve some of the lingering crisis in the party or resign immediately.

He added that considering the plethora of challenges facing the party, nothing short of a NEC or National Caucus meeting of the party can resolve all the challenges of the party, noting, “It is either Oshiomhole respects the party constitution and convene a superior organ meeting to deliberate on all our challenges, or he should just accept his inability to manage the party and simply resign.”

On his part, the former governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, during a recent interaction with journalists aligned his views with those calling for the sack of Oshiomhole, saying if a football team is not playing well, the coach should be fired.

He said he had on several occasions expressed his fears about APC and what may happen after the exit of Buhari, adding that the party requires some structural redesign to be able to carry it to 2023.

Okorocha stated, “When we run a party on bases of sentiments, then we are going to have problems that the PDP had in the time past. For God’s sake, if somebody is not doing a proper job, he should be shown the way out so that others can take over. We have more than 100 million people in this country, you can find one who can do a particular job. But when we bind ourselves with sentiments, then we are going to have a lot of challenges.

“No party ever survives with crisis and on daily basis you hear APC with crisis here and there. And anytime a football team is not doing well, don’t blame the players, you should blame the coach and if the coach needs to be fired for things to get better; fire the coach and get a new coach to train the people to win their match.”

The battle continues as APC Governors’ rank grows

The growing rank of the governors allegedly led by the chairman of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu is a pointer that the waves of the troubled water that Oshiomhole is currently swimming in appears to be getting stronger.

While the APC governors may not be unanimous in the call for the sack of the former Labour leader, the increasing number of those against Oshiomhole will make their aim easier if feelers that the governors already have the tactical support of the president is anything to go by.

Whether the national chairman is hanging by the thread or he still has the strength to fight more battles is what cannot be ascertained at the moment. But the forces planning to get him out of office are not relenting.

No doubt, in months ahead, the way the ruling party handles it internal crisis may determine whether the party would survive after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari or his exit from power will mark its end.

QUICK FACTS:

*Atiku Abubakar charged the PDP to focus on rebuilding and strengthening the party for the challenges ahead of the 2023 elections

*Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jibrin, alleged plans to assassinate him by some supporters of the former Vice President

*The PDP lost some crucial elections in 2019, especially the Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections

*PDP governorship candidates in Kogi State, Mohammed Idirisu and Ibrahim Wada are at war

*In Bayelsa state, the outcome of the governorship primary polarized the state PDP between supporters of Timi Alaibe and the members of the Restoration family headed by the outgoing governor, Seriake Dickson

*Alaibe has a case in court challenging the circumstance surrounding the emergence of Senator Douye Diri as governorship candidate of the PDP in Bayelsa

* The role played by former President, Goodluck Jonathan before and during the elections is circumspect.  A faction of the party accuses him of working against the party

*There is a dirty fight between the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike and his Bayelsa state counterpart, Henry Seriake Dickson

* Independent National Electoral Commission has said that it will conduct 28 court ordered rerun elections on January 25

* PDP state congresses are billed to commence on January 15

* The constitution of the PDP provides for a mid-term convention

* The All Progressives Congress has appointed a 10-member National Reconciliation Committee as part of the plans to put an end to the battle within

* Similarly, the National Working Committee of the party appointed the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje to head its five-member fact-finding committee for the APC chapter in Edo State

*The APC equally lifted the suspension on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, former governors of Ogun and Imo states Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Rochas Okorocha, former Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani

*The APC under the leadership of its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, while the party was disqualified from participating in all the elections in Zamfara and Rivers states by INEC and subsequently lost the two states to the main opposition party, the PDP, it won Kwara State for the first time, and later made in road to Bayelsa, among other states won by the party

* The party under Oshiomhole was also able to ensure that its favourites emerged as the presiding officers of the National Assembly

* There is a thickening plot to get Oshiomhole out of the way continues to gather momentum