NIGERIA’S EAGLE SQUARE, in the Federal Capital, Abuja, on Saturday 30, and Sunday 31, 2021, was the venue, where 3,600 delegates of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, across the country, gathered to elect 21-member national executives of the party; when hope of the party’s survival seemed shaky and despondency filled the air.
Build-up to the convention, observers see the PDP walking a tight-rope. There were major huddles to cross. Reconciling aggrieved members of the party was one of it. Zoning the party national offices, which often, causes acrimony in party politics management is Nigeria is another issue. How PDP will manage the zoning of its national offices appeared tasking.
Further, the clamour for the presidency to return to the South of Nigeria in 2023, was tick in the air. Uche Secondus, incumbent National Chairman of the party was suspended from the party in his Ward, in Port Harcourt, Rivers Sate. His suspension was affirmed by a High Court judgement in the State. Secondus headed to the court to challenge his suspension and stop the convention from holding.
Given, also, what is known of party politics management in the country – flagrant impunity in conducting party affairs and lack of internal party democracy, observers and analysts, predicted that the convention will be flawed by irregularities. Reconciliation and building consensus within zones of the country, to ensure hitch-free convention engaged the party.
Defection of some key members of PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, hit the party in the past months. The wave of defections, including the defection of three serving Governors; Senators, House of Representatives members and others, rattled the party. The ruling APC, boasted that more defections from the PDP to APC were on the way.
Observers and analysts painted gloomy picture of what they see as unfortunate trend in main opposition voice, the PDP, in the country. They wondered if the country was not heading for one-party state; and PDP, gradually, going under. Confidence on the survival of the main opposition party was declining.
SHOWING STRENGTH, and high optimism, the PDP reacted in defence of the situation in the party. It said the party was still very strong, healthy and most relevant in the country’s politics, against public perception of the happenings in the party. After governing the country for 16 years, the party said, it was re-strategizing to return to power in 2023.
PDP said it was certain the masses of Nigerians was behind the party, and clamouring for its return to power in 2023. It said the unhealthy political, economic and social mood of the nation was intense. And the party was on a “rescue mission”, on the “miss rule” of Buhari’s government, that has put the country in the state of disrepair, in the past six years.
The party said it was putting its house in order, and assured public that the challenges the party was passing through, were normal during elections period, and would be surmounted. And the party was looking ahead to host a successful convention, and elect 21-member national executive, on October 30 and 31, 2021.
PDP CHANGED STYLE, in a subtle, but significant departure from the past, ahead of the convention. The party embarked on consensus building to elect “qualified and competent” leaders to manage the affairs of the party and lead it to victory in 2023 election.
Zoning principle came to play. The party’s zoned it national offices to Nigeria’s North and South. The offices were further micro-zoned within the regions. The party’s leadership – especially, State Governors, on the platform of the PDP, move to ensure the party’s objectives were achieved.
Eventually, consensus candidates began to emerge from the zones. Before the convention was held, only three offices, out of the 21-members national officers were left to be contested at the convention. Other offices had emerged on consensus, and were likely to be returned unopposed.
October 29, 2021, the coast was cleared for the PDP convention to hold. Appeal Court, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, throw out Secondus’ request to the court to restrain the party from holding the convention. A welcomed respite for the party.
PDP held its convention as scheduled, October 30 and 31, 2021. The party’s preferred choice of candidates, it believed would hold the party together and ensure victory in 2023 election emerged. Remarkably, former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, emerged as National Chairman of the party, with 3,426 affirmative votes, out of 3,511 accredited voters; even though he was a consensus candidate.
Ayu, in his thank you address said: “I want to sincerely appreciate the PDP family. Today is simply a thank you address. When we started this party 23 – 24 years ago, we never in any way imagined that the journey will get us to this stage – a stage where we ruled for 16 years, we went into rough times but for anybody who will bother to see, PDP is back.
“And it is back to rescue Nigeria from the terrible mess we have been in the last six years. I want to appreciate all of you who have taken time as delegates, as observers, as supporters, as members of the media, as members of the security services, who have made this event such a wonderful event,”
If PDP produced the president in 2023, Ayu said, the party will develop Nigeria. “We will move ahead to develop this country. We did it before. We are going to do it again”. And added: “PDP will come back to unite our people, put them together, north and south, east and west.”
Ayu further stated: “Many people imagine that this convention will lead to the break-up of PDP. Those people who are dreaming like that, their dreams were misplaced.” He said Nigeria is not a divided country. But “a small group of people decided to divide Nigeria”.
Observers and analysts scored the PDP convention a huge success. They believe, however, that the party still has a lot more work to do. Most likely to be, also, challenging to the party, is the zoning of the presidency. In the party’s principle of rotation; if the national chairman comes from the north, the presidential candidate will come from south.
IYORCHIA AYU, now the new National Chairman of the PDP, has distinguished background and career. He was a former Nigerian Senate President, in the third republic [1992-1993]. He served as minister in different capacities in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s cabinet [1999-2007].
Born in Gboko, Benue State, north-centre Nigeria, he was a university teacher. He taught sociology at the University of Jos; and was Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, University of Jos chapter, among others.