Can Saraki Mend PDP’s Cracking Walls?

Bukola Saraki

The reconciliatory job handed a former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party is obviously not an easy task especially, with the desperation for 2023. But, is Saraki up to it? Shola Oyeyipo asks

As if it is not sad enough that the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has failed to give the country the kind of leadership and change promised when the four legacy parties fused into one ahead of the 2015 general election, worst still, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has not really positioned itself to cash-in on the failures of the current government.

However, in a move considered both smart and timely, the PDP, last Monday, announced that the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki would chair its six-man committee on National Reconciliation.

Others on the committee are another former President of the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Ayim; former Governors Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), and Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) as well as a former House of Representatives Minority Leader, Mulikat Akande as members.

The task before the committee is simple: to bring about peace among the various factions in the party, restore cohesion in the states and position the party for future successes in the national polity. Therefore, the choice of Saraki as the chairman of the committee has been deemed a well thought out move, because the former Kwara State governor is a man that has the temperament, the network, the reach, experience, resources, and grit for such an assignment.

He has displayed the capacity to deftly handle such assignment, when he resolved the crisis in Osun State PDP before the last gubernatorial election and it is on record that his party had the highest vote in that election before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the election inconclusive and the rest is history.

Though the task before Saraki might seem herculean, it is not insurmountable and it is important that the reconciliation committee succeeds, because the stronger and more cohesive the political parties, the better for the political process.

First, Saraki and his team must draw modalities to actualise the ambition of the PDP leadership to reposition the party for 2023 and beyond. Second, since its defeat in the 2019 national elections, its ranks have been further divided, because of several factors such as invasion of the ruling party, the in-fighting between its leaders, the rat-race towards 2023, the fall-out from its last congresses, and the management of the election of its National Working Committee (NWC) members.

Flowing from the above issues, states like Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Plateau, and Borno have been in crisis hence Saraki would be expected to activate his capability to convince many aggrieved PDP leaders to forgive, forget, reconsider their stands and bring many APC top shots into the PDP, just as he can get many politicians from other parties into the PDP.

In doing this, however, he would have to contend with suspicion, clash of ambition, attraction, which the ruling party usually has for the ordinary Nigerian politician, and the calculations for 2023, which is fueling some of the fights in the various states and parties.

This was worsened by the doubt by the Southeast over the 2023 presidential ticket of the PDP, considering the reason given by the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi for his defection into the APC. He alleged that the PDP has not been fair to his region despite the support the party had gotten from the zone.

If the Saraki committee works against all the odds and succeeds at reuniting the party, they have enough arsenals to really contend with the ruling APC at the moment, because the party is generally rated as failing to meet the aspirations of Nigerians, fulfill it numerous promises, and walk its talk.

Obviously, the PDP was badly pummeled by the APC with the corruption stigmatization. But as things stand presently, the President Muhammadu Buhari leadership has shown glaringly that the APC is not only incapable of fighting corruption, but also that corruption under the government is left unchecked, coupled with crass ineptitude.

Bothered about the many unresolved corruption cases under this administration, this last September, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in an open letter to President Buhari, asked that he should direct his Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to prosecute high-profile corruption cases under his government.

Some of the cases listed in that letter include the 103 cases reportedly sent by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2017, and the 15 allegedly missing case files sent by the now-defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, (SPIP) in 2019 to Mr. Malami.

Apart from these, the PDP will have more than enough list of corruption cases swept under the table for Buhari to prove to Nigerians that the party is not true to its words. This is more so because a tangible number of the so-called ‘corrupt’ PDP members are now chieftains of the ruling APC.

Another important reason the PDP move is timely is that watchers are convinced that an implosion is looming in the ruling party, because sources have hinted that President Buhari is not considering supporting politicians from the core North and the South to succeed him, instead, he plans to throw his weight behind extremely disadvantaged areas of both the North and the South to get the presidency. This move will surely create some ripple effects with negative consequences.

Already, names of persons like Senator Bola Ahmad Tinubu, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chief Rochas Okorocha, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Babatunde Fashola, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Malam Nasir El-Rufai have been flying around as potential presidential aspirants.

Thus, any move that denies the notable aspirants the presidential ticket will be a source of crisis. Added to that, the ruling APC has not been insulated from crisis. In Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Edo, Rivers, and many other states, the APC is sharply divided.

The victory the APC recorded in Edo State is a pointer to the fact that the party is still a force to reckon with and that it has the potential to regain its national leadership, because Nigerians are obviously disappointed in the APC leadership and government. The recent protests by Nigerian youths across the states were an attestation to how much Nigerians want a formidable opposition to the APC.

There is no better time than now for Saraki to put his recognition and acceptance among governors, National Assembly members, top national leaders, and the National Working Committee members of the PDP to work to stop further atrophy of the party, because Nigeria truly needs, not just a good opposition party, but a competent one in power.

But Saraki and his party must take note of one fact: it is both instructive and strategic that they involve the youths in their new arrangement and extrapolation by allowing them to take elective positions at all levels, because doing otherwise might be counterproductive and the current efforts will come to naught.