FRED ITUA captures the lingering controversy that still dominates the polity one week after the quirky convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While the winners are quick to claim that the outcome represents the wishes of the party members, the losers appear to read the long handwriting on the wall ahead of the events that will shape 2015 presidential election
The bitter rivalry that characterised the build-up to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP national convention at the Eagle Square last weekend in Abuja, and what some political watchers describe as the contrived consensus that produced the new National Working Committee members are indicative that the crisis of faith assailing the ruling party is not over.
Contrary to the provisions of the PDP constitution that officials elected into national offices of the party must go through democratic election, the president and some powerful lords in the party coerced the popular candidates to step down and throw their weight behind the ‘anointed scribes’ who would do the bidding of some party leaders.
Although a much villified election was finally conducted last weekend, the war of supremacy on who calls the shots in the party began in 2011, few months after the swearing-in of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Doubtful that he might renege on his promise not to seek reelection in 2015, some ‘concerned leaders’ from the north swung into action to galvanise massive support that would eventually produce the new leadership of the ruling PDP which will in turn protect the political interest of the region in 2015.
The consensus effort however hit a cul de sac when the purported and most acceptable scribe for the party’s top job, Dr. Musa Babayo was 'bullied' to step down.
The outcome of the convention has given President Jonathan a firm grip on the leadership of the party and finally confirmed speculations by some party stalwarts that he will seek reelection in 2015.
Beyond the convention of the PDP, there are critical questions some political observers sort answers to. Mohammed Abubakar, an indigene of Bauchi State who resides in Abuja has expressed shock and wondered why the PDP would elect a weak NWC considering the dicey politics that will shape 2015 election in the country.
He questioned the conspicuous failing health of the new chairman of the party, Alh. Bamanga Tukur, the election of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the party’s national secretary in spite of the alleged electoral fraud he committed in 2007 and finally the contentious consensus emergence of the 60-year old new youth leader of the party, Alh. Chiza Abubakar.
Tukur, no doubt ranks among one of the most respected technocrats in the country. A prominent businessman and an astute politician who was Minister for Industries during the administration of General Sani Abacha, has contributed to the development of the Nigerian project.
Beyond the shores the country, Tukur currently holds the position as the president of the African Business Roundtable. However, his age is seen as a factor that might hamper his optimal performance in championing the affairs of the party. But this is yet to be proven.
This assertion became obvious when Tukur preemptively took a solidarity walk round the venue of the convention before the official declaration of his new position, in appreciation of the ‘overwhelming support’ he enjoyed from the delegates. During an interval, the new chairman stopped to regain his strength and stamina.
Another controversy political observers noticed during the convention was the consensus emergence of the 60-year old new youth leader of the party, Alh. Chiza Abubakar.
According to the United Nations, persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years are regarded as youths. Similarly, the World Bank recognizes persons between the age of 15 and 24 are as youths. The World Health Organisation perfectly captures the definition of who should be considered a youth.
According to its charter, a youth is defined as any member of society between the ages of 15 and 34. The new PDP youth leader doesn’t fall within the recommended age ranges. Pundits are therefore worried if the PDP recognizes the relevance of the Nigerian youth in nation building when it consensually elected a sexagenarian as the youth leader of the party.
A pressure group under the auspices of Kogi Transparency Initiative has added its voice in condemning the election of a 60-year-old man as the national youth leader of the PDP. Coordinator of the group, Idris Usman accused that the way the PDP conducted the last congress where the sexagenarian emerged as youth leader, showed that the party cannot run the country effectively.
“Electing a man of such age as youth leader is an indication that there is no internal democracy within the party. If they have internal democracy they should have disqualified him. Even electing an old man as national chairman of the party does not speak well of the party”, he said.
Usman emphasized that the PDP is insulting the sensibility of Nigerian constitution which stipulates who a youth is and who is not, saying that our leaders do not have plans for the youth of the country.
Opposition parties and civil right groups have also picked holes in the manner the PDP conducted its primaries. The Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, Transition Monitoring Group, Campaign for Democracy, the Peoples Progressive Alliance and Conference of Nigerian Political Partiesslammed the president and the PDP, alleging there was no internal democracy in the ruling party.
The opposition parties made allusions to the 59th National Executive Committee meeting of the PDP in Abuja on February 29, where the president said “for now, the PDP is the only political party we have in Nigeria that does not have one person whose word is law.
Most other parties have individuals whose words are the laws. In the PDP, there is no such person whose word is the law.” The outcome of the election however contradicts the earlier statement credited to President Jonathan.
Observers however believe that the coast might be clear for the opposition parties in the country to regroup ahead of 2015 by taking advantage of the discontent in the ruling PDP.
They are also optimistic that President Jonathan’s ambition to seek for a reelection in 2015 creates a perfect platform for the opposition to explore the politics of ethnicity promoted by Jonathan in 2011 during the general elections and beat the PDP at their own game.
The national leaders of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and General Muhammadu Buhari have given a clue on how the opposition will unite against the PDP in 2015.
While acknowledging why the proposed collaboration between the two main opposition parties didn’t work in 2011, Tinubu however vowed that the game will change in 2015.
According to him, “The principal reason why we did not succeed in the past was the lack of a spirit of compromise,” Tinubu stated. “We (ACN) did everything we could; we changed symbols, created names and party apparatus to consummate the marriage and relationship, but it didn’t work because it didn’t work.In 2015, we will unite to the shame of the ruling party.”
On his part, Buhari remarked he has have worked closely with Tinubu in the past, when they formed an amalgam of opposition leaders who tried to move forward the process they initiated before the 2007 elections to bring the major opposition players under one banner ahead the 2011 elections.
“I strongly believe the effort we made then opened a window of opportunity of cooperation for opposition forces which must never be shut if our people are to get out of the evil grip of those who do not mean well for Nigeria,” Buhari affirmed.
President Jonathan may have triumphed over his political foes with the emergence of the ‘anointed scribes’ as the new members of the NWC of the PDP.
However, the tide might work against him if the ongoing political consultations among some ‘northern elites’ to restore power to the north in 2015 succeeds. Bamanga Tukur’s loyalty might temporarily rest in the powerful hands of President Jonathan for now. It is however inconclusive if he will bow to the demands of his kinsmen in 2015. Time will tell.