Barely two months after the presidential elections the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to be headed on an implosion course following long drawn intra-party crisis. Will the main opposition party survive the post-elections crisis? ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU asks in this report.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been engulfed in an internal crisis before the 2023 presidential election which led to the exit of one of the party’s presidential aspirants, Peter Obi, who eventually became the presidential candidate of the Labor Party (LP); Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who also became the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and the abandonment of the party’s presidential candidates by some governors elected on the platform of the PDP.
However, highpoint of the crisis that started shortly PDP National Convention in May 2022 was the call for resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorche Ayu, by the G-5 governors led by Nyesom Wike, reportedly to achieve the North-South balance in the party.
All reconciliatory efforts failed as Ayu, PDP Presidential candidate, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and some party stakeholders called the bluff of Wike-led G-5 governors and others aggrieved members of the party.
It s common knowledge that PDP went into the 2023 general elections divided into at least four groups: Ayu/Atiku group, Wikes group, Obi and Kwankwaso group; a huge departure from what obtained in 2019. Political pundits have maintained that the divisions within the party led to the defeat of the PDP, LP, and NNPP in the last February 25 presidential election.
Having lost the presidential elections in 2015, 2019 and in 2023, especially with the emergence of a new opposition leader in the person of former Anambra state governor and LP presidential flag bearer, Obi.
This is as some analysts have expressed fear that the post election crisis could be the beginning of the end for the party that held sway in centre for 16 years, and controlled most states across the country.
While party faithful were struggling to come to terms with implication of the PDP once again losing the presidential election, seats in the National Assembly (NASS), as well as some states previously controlled by the party, Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC), upset the peace by suspending former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim; former Governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, former Governor of Katsina state, Ibrahim Shema; former Governor of Enugu state, Chimaroke Nnamani; Dennis Ityavyar (Benue state); and Dr. Aslam Aliyu (Zamfara State) over their alleged involvement in anti-party activities.
This is as the NWC referred the Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom, to the party’s National Disciplinary Committee for the same offense.
Explaining the reason for such action, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said it was done after a very extensive review of the affairs of our Party in the country and according to the provisions of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).
Also reacting to his suspension alongside other party stalwarts, Anyim described his suspension as an act of cowardice.
He said, “It smacks of arrogance for the NWC to put up a bold face instead of showing remorse and being sober for leading the party to such colossal loss in the 2023 general elections, thereby dashing the hopes and expectations of party members and indeed Nigerians.
“It is clear that arising from the leadership style of the NWC, many members, intentionally and proudly, worked against the party including members of the NWC. “Therefore, it is a display of innate cowardice for NWC to choose soft targets to suspend and fear those that daily demonise them.”
Fayose on his part, described the act as the last kick of a dead horse insisting that, “Ayu and his cohorts are only entertaining themselves with the purported suspension as their latest comedy skit.”
Similarly, Shema gave the party 48 hours to reverse the suspense or risk losing his membership, while Ortom said the party leadership lacked the power to discipline or suspend him.
Having set the stage with the suspension of some leaders and key members of the party Ayu got a taste of the bitter pill when members of his Igyorov Ward in Gboko Local Government, of Benue state, Sunday suspended him and also accused him of anti-party activities.
Barely 24 hours after the suspension, the Benue State High Court in Makurdi ordered Ayu to stop parading himself as the national chairman of the PDP.
The Judge, W. I. kpochi, issued the order following an ex parts application by a member of the party in Benue State, Terhide Utaan.
Consequently, in obedience to the court order, the PDP NWC after an emergency meeting replaced Ayu with the Deputy National Chairman, North, Umar Ililya Damagum.
Announcing the development, Ologunagba, who was flanked by the party’s National Youth Leader, Muhammed Sulieman, National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Adeyemi Ajibade (SAN), National Treasurer, Ahmed Yayari Mohammed, National Organizing Secretary, Umar Bature, National Financial Secretary, Daniel Woyegikuro, National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and Damagum said the NWC’s action was online with the court order and in line with Section 45 (2) of the Constitution of the PDP (as amended in 2017).
The NWC charged all leaders, critical stakeholders, teeming members, and supporters to remain calm and united at this critical time.
In his remarks, the acting national chairman hinted that the NWC would meet today to review the party’s past actions.
On the suspended members, Damagum said: “What you are asking me is already on my mind, the NWC is meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) in that meeting we will discuss and possibly review some of the past decisions.”
Party gradually collapsing, analyst insists
For political analyst, Aminu Mohammed, what the PDP was going through was the consequence of losing another presidential election.
Mohammed noted that with the birth of LP, series of defections and suspensions, as well as other the internal crisis rocking the party, “PDP is gradually collapsing.”
In a phone interview with Blueprint Weekend, Mohammed said: “PDP is getting weaker, and losing in the February 25 presidential election will affect the party.
“PDP is currently going through another phase, many people have been suspended, Ayu has been removed, and in the coming days, months, or year, many will dump the party for either ruling APC or the emboldened LP because of the party’s loss the political future of many members is bleak and uncertain. Many have been suspended, Ayu has been removed and there is every possibility that many members of the party will leave for other political parties.
“If care is not taken, the party will collapse totally. The option before the leadership and other stakeholders is to form a coalition and do whatever they can to rebrand the party for future elections.
“However, if the removal of Ayu is for a selfish reason, then am afraid it may be the beginning of the end for the PDP.”
It’s new start for PDP – Abdullahi
On his part, the PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Abdullahi, while confirming that there were issues in the party, however, expressed confidence that with Damagum in charge, it was a new start for the opposition party.
In an interview with Blueprint Weekend, Abdullahi disclosed that out of the fear of the unknown some of them had spoken loud and clear before the primaries, and soon after the primaries.
According to him, “We’ve been warning that there are issues afflicting this party. These issues range from managerial to political. We were expected to have done things differently than we did preceding the convention.
“After the presidential convention some issues engulfed the party, which for the last four months have not been addressed completely. I don’t see any individual or group of individuals capable of bringing PDP down by their actions or inactions.
“However, there are issues in the party that we must all collectively come to the table and resolve as quickly as possible. Otherwise, we will be contending with bigger problems, but I do not subscribe that it’s the beginning of the end for the party or to the view that the party will go extinct, not PDP.”
On whether Damagum would be able to steer the ship out of murky waters, the deputy publicity scribe said, “First, Ambassador Damagum understands the issues in the party, he is an administrator per excellence and I have absolute confidence in his ability. In fact, in the heat of this problem, he was the one person that we called to come in and stand for the party in between, you will agree that all the conditions that the G -5 gave.
“One of them was that Damagum should take over if the South was not going to be given the chairmanship preceding the presidential election.
“So the Damagum is one person that the members of PDP across all strata I have confidence in, we all believe that he is capable. He has carved a niche for himself as an outstanding administrator and has been involved even in the administration of the Ayu-led NWC.
“So, as the second in command all through, is in the position and good stead to be able to steer the ship out of these murky waters of uncertainty,” he stated.