The offences are as many as the charges. That the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dropped the ball was exemplified by its loss of the Presidency in 2015 after 16 years on the pinnacle of Nigeria politics.
Ever since that loss, the same disease of failed covenant has continued to manifest similar symptoms. Consequently, in the present disputation within the party, there is no longer any guile to hide the fact that PDP is in distress.
Apart from the crisis of distrust between the party’s presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubkar and Rivers State governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, the failure to come clean on zoning, a strong feature of the party’s constitution, is at the root of the current upheavals. The other irritations are merely symptomatic of the party’s many unresolved discrepancies.
Put simply, the disagreement between Atiku and Wike has all the elements of the pre-2015 schemes within the party, which led to its historical defeat as an incumbent. At the epicentre of the squabble is the different interpretation given to zoning or power rotation clause contained in the PDP constitution.
Although the Wike camp believes that the disagreement within the fold of PDP Governors’ Forum betrayed their resolve to ensure that the party’s presidential standard bearer would be one of them, it has resolved to ensure that the disparity in the leadership structure must be addressed before the general elections.
The Wike group, citing history, argues that in 2010, former Governor Okwesilieze Nwodo was asked to withdraw from his position as national chairman in order not to endanger the party’s chances during the 2011 general election. The fact that Nwodo had to yield his post to Bello Mohammed, who acted as national chairman until the party’s next convention is now being thrown up as part of the arguments fueling the call for the ouster of Senator Iyorcha Ayu as PDP national chairman.
Former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, told journalists in Lagos that as far as the 2023 general election was concerned, it was not yet uhuru for PDP, even as he noted that “if we don’t get it right this time around, this nation will never forgive us, because Nigerians are waiting for PDP.”
George, while urging disenchanted PDP members to sheathe their swords in the interest of the party, counseled Ayu to toe the path of honour and vacate his office in line with his agreement, stressing, “Zoning has sustained our democracy for this long because it’s the concept that established our party.”
The PDP chieftain noted that the founding fathers of the party included zoning in the party’s constitution to foster equity and unity through the distribution of six core positions among the six geopolitical zones.
Recall that Ayu’s emergence as consensus candidate for the position of national chairman during the 2021 PDP national convention was preceded by a proviso, which came in the form of an agreement that in the event that a northern presidential aspirant picks the party’s ticket, he should resign honourably to ensure geopolitical balance.
Also in an interview with journalists barely one week to the October 30/31 national convention after emerging as the consensus choice for the position of national chairman, Ayu declared that he would resign from office in the event that the party’s presidential candidate emerges from the North.
“I am only a consensus of the North, so the rest of the country has to accept me. And the law provides that we go to the convention and do the voting…Party positions are not tied to the position of executive and legislative positions.
“However, I’m a very democratic person and I will do everything to promote the interest and image of my party. If the PDP says I should step down after a presidential candidate emerges and happens to be from the North, I will be very glad to do so, because what we want is to take over the government and run the government in the interest of Nigerians. So, I’ll sacrifice anything to ensure that my party wins,” Ayu had declared.
[FILES] Atiku. Photo/Facebook/Atiku Abubakar
Three months after former Vice President Atiku emerged as the PDP presidential candidate, the demand on Ayu to honour his promise has continued to roil the party. To make matters worse, the national chairman has been pulling a bold face to rebuff his avowals.
Perhaps, in a bid to avoid the possibility of casting himself in the mould of a Janus or Jekyll and Hyde personality, Ayu prodded his aides to declare his about face and decision to stonewall the call on him to exit in the interest of the party’s cohesion and stability.
Shortly after Wike hinted that Ayu’s resignation was with the former President of Senate, Dr. David Mark, Ayu’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Simon Imobo’tswan took to his twitter handle to assert: “The PDP national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, has not resigned and has no plan of resigning. For clarity and emphasis, he was elected for a tenure of four years.”
Not done, Imobo’tswan made the position formal in a statement. “We restate, therefore, that the PDP national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, has not resigned and has no plan of resigning. For clarity and emphasis, he was elected for a tenure of four years…”
Party stakeholders are worried that Ayu was imitating Alhaji Atiku Abubakar by insisting on breaching the powersharing arrangement. For instance, former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, had told reporters that it does not make sense to throw up a candidate simply in anticipation that he would win.
Repudiating Atiku’s insistence on participating in the 2023 presidential race, Duke wondered why somebody should continue contesting for one position at every election cycle since 1992.
The Guardian gathered that it was based on the anticipation that PDP’s presidential ticket would be taken by a candidate from the South that the post of national chairman was zoned to the North Central.
As Atiku, So Ayu
Some PDP faithful hold that since President Muhammadu Buhari would be completing eight years in office as President, it was the turn of the South to throw up his successor in line with the North-South power rotation principle in the country.
However, while the governors elected on the platform of governing All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State declared that it was the turn of the South to produce the next President in 2023, within the PDP, Atiku and his supporters think otherwise.
Ahmed Mohammad Makarfi.<br />Photo/Twitter/Ahmed_M_Makarfi
The fourth republic Vice President had, while asserting his right to first refusal for the party’s presidential ticket, argued that the last holder of the PDP mandate was a Southerner and as such the power sharing arrangement favours a northern candidate.
Nonetheless, reminded of how Atiku and other PDP stalwarts defected from the party to APC in 2014 to enforce the North-South rotation of the Presidency, a former national caretaker chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, contended that the PDP constitution laid emphasis on power and not mere presidential ticket.
Commenting on the current crisis over zoning of political offices, Senator Makarfi disclosed that in the lead up to the nomination processes for the 2023 general elections, a committee was set up to receive inputs from members and make recommendations to the party.
On the decision of party stalwarts to zone the chairmanship to North instead of Southwest in the belief that the South would pick the presidential ticket, Makarfi stated: “It was Southwest that rejected it at the last convention. As a matter of fact, the power brokers and Southwest leaders had already adopted (Prince Olagunsoye) Oyinlola.
“The issue was reconciling him with some people that had grievances over him, suddenly their political permutation changed; that is why I said when you change it, it doesn’t mean that what you are thinking will work out.
“Maybe, if Southwest had taken the chairmanship, who knows, maybe some of the things they are complaining about now may not even be the issue. We should not be God to say what will happen tomorrow. We should just do things on the basis of beliefs and principles and knowing that things come from God.”
So, it could be seen that the multiplication of breaches of its covenants have remained an albatross for PDP. But, Makarfi insists that “PDP has not changed from what it has been since it was formed.”
According to the former Kaduna State governor, “The problem with all of us politicians is trying to play fast one on one another. The constitution of the party provides for power rotation and zoning. “Power” means when you are elected not when you are nominated.
“A candidate has no power, he is seeking for the power. So if you go by power rotation, who was the last president under PDP? It was Jonathan and if you go strictly by that it is power rotation and zoning. That being the case, a committee was set up by the party to address the issue of zoning.
“For whatever reasons, most people assumed that the national chairman was going to be zoned to Southwest. Then suddenly there was a shift. Some said, oh, let it be north and the argument adduced by those who were pushing for it was, ‘we need somebody now in the North. We have more governors in the South, let’s have somebody in the north.
“After all, (it is) until we get the power before you can address anything and let’s leave the Presidency open, we are not talking about Presidency; whoever emerged presidential candidate, if he is from the South, then already chairman is in the North, no problem.
“But, if somebody from the North emerges, then after winning, the party can hold a mini convention to rotate the whole thing. Those were what they professed. Now, if you professed something and then probably some people have some other interests and that interest is not met, then you come and start going against what you professed. We should be careful as politicians, because when you are pushing for something, you don’t know whether it is going to affect you positively or negatively, but assume that once something is in a particular manner, it basically suits you. Politics is not like that.”
From the foregoing, it could be deduced that the crux of the matter in the entire gamut of misgivings within PDP between the Southern politicians, which Wike leads and the Northern counterparts under Atiku, is whether Ayu should retain his post as national chairman until Atiku wins or quit according to his declaration before the convention.
But, the former national caretaker of the party, Makarfi, said it was agreed in principle that if the winner of the presidential nomination happens to come from the north after winning, the President can accommodate whoever, may be the national chairman, in any position. Then the party can hold a mini-convention to make whatever necessary changes in its constitution and elect whoever in line with the situation at hand.”
Is it winning the nomination or winning the main election? Which was the agreement before the national convention that birthed Ayu as national chairman?
On its face value, both Atiku’s decision to contest the presidential ticket and Ayu’s obdurate stance against his earlier stance are mere political sophistry that does not align with equity and fair play.
That could explain why Makarfi described the current crisis as “some political gimmicks and game play, which started long before the convention to elect national offices.”
But, a PDP stalwart from the South, who spoke to The Guardian in confidence, said Ayu was being dishonourable by reneging on his promise to quit if a Northern presidential candidate emerges, stressing that the chairman appears to be programming PDP for eventual defeat.
While contending that insincerity was killing PDP, he stated: “They don’t know that Wike has lost everything, he has nothing again to lose. The person fighting with him will be the loser. Atiku is the person who is losing, Wike has nothing to lose, all the things he need to lose, he has lost them.
Senator Walid Jibrin
“But, for Ayu to be talking rubbish claiming that he was elected for four years shows lack of sincerity and seriousness. Atiku is the cause of his own problems, he wants to eat his cake and have it. Atiku was privy to all the agreements, so, if he needs Wike’s money and votes, and he is making a demand and the man is making to change the agreement, why not tell the man to quit. They are tagging Wike as a trouble maker, but the truth about it is that Wike may be a trouble maker, but on this matter he has a point.
“Atiku has no base, his base has always been Southern Nigeria and the South is not available now. The North, which has never voted for him, that he is hoping for is not a bird at hand. So, let’s just watch them and see how far they will go. All these things could be in favour of Obi.
“Wike can only trade with his supporters, which he can use now. Why not give in to him and make friends with him until you get the thing you want? The truth about it is that without Wike and his supporters – four governors plus Wike, five -Atiku cannot win election anywhere.”
However, the Chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, told The Guardian that the issue of Ayu’s resignation has not been brought to the BOT.
He assured that PDP was taking all lawful steps to ensure that the party remains united to be able to win the forthcoming election, adding, “As far as the BOT is concerned, the issue (Ayu’s resignation) has not been brought to us.
“People should be very careful in trying to cause any problems. We don’t need any problem now; we want us to get together to the end to ensure that our presidential candidate, Atiku wins the race.”
The BOT chairman remarked that the party is not unmindful of the ability of APC to stoke crisis in PDP, even as he urged PDP stalwarts not to do anything to undermine what is going on in the reconciliation process.
“We are not unmindful of the antics of APC. One does not need to be told that APC is up to that task. That is their stock in trade, to cause more confusion in the system. But, we depend on God. God is on our side.”
With the evident polarization between North and South, there are reasons to believe that if PDP loses the next presidential election – the third in a row – it would have unwittingly dug its political grave.