In politics, like a game of football, political parties win some and lose some. In the year 2020, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won and lost some elections and even members. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU takes a look at how PDP fared in the year 2020.
Then and Now
It has been 12 months of ups and downs for the party, that went from ruling party to an opposition party. Notably, the party is not at the level where the Secondus led NWC met it. They took over the party when it was still trying to come out of the trauma of losing an election, a psychologically traumatized party struggling to adjust to opposing life after 16 years in power.
It is also a known fact that Prince Uche Secondus led NWC inherited party that had issues with internal democracy, delegates were not having the final say on who flies the flag of the party in an election. Names of winners were randomly and blatantly changed in Abuja with disregard to the people and the requirements of PDP’s constitution.
With its rebranding campaign message of 3Rs, Reposition, Rebuild to Regain which were designed to recreate and rebrand the party, Secondus-led NWC quickly hit the ground running in its reform policy. It organized a rebranding conference and embarked on extensive consultations across the country. Its sensitization programme in form of rallies took the party to all the geo-political zones.
Interestingly, by the time PDP reform programme came on stream, the party had become an attractive brand to accommodate the influx of new members that included the entire leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly then, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, other members of the parliament at federal and state levels as well as three incumbent state Governors of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto who joined in 2018.
In the build-up to the general election of 2019, the party was already the party to beat. The internal democracy promised in the PDP reform package was already in place. Powers were effectively decentralized to flow from the people. Party tickets were gotten at the congress venue, not at party headquarters at state and national levels. Popular and more acceptable candidates emerged at state congresses and National Convention.
The party’s national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers state in October 2018 became the first of its kind in Nigeria. It was so transparent that there was no complaint from anybody, instead, all the contestants resolved to support the winner. All these helped to engender confidence and trust in Prince Uche Secondus leadership.
As at 2020, the party was in control of 15 States out of 36 states: Enugu, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba, Sokoto, Zamfara, Benue and Oyo states.
Notably, 2020 was a year of ups and downs for the leading opposition party, PDP.
Bayelsa: The first win in 2020
Like a parade ground, wherewith a shout of about-turn, the first becomes the last and the last becomes the first. On 13th of February, 2020 the Supreme Court on sacked David Lyon of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as governor-elect of Bayelsa state, barely 24 hours to his inauguration.
A five-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Mary Odili nullified the election of Lyon because his deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, presented false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) in aid of his qualification for the November 16 governorship election in State.
The apex court in the judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko consequently ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo.
The judge also ordered that INEC should immediately declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread.
Consequently, with the judgment of the apex court, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP), Diri Duoye, was inaugurated on 14th February 2020 as governor of Bayelsa state.
Duoye came second in the election with 143,172 votes to Mr Lyon’s 352,552 votes. He won the election in two of Bayelsa’s eight local governments while Lyon won in the remaining six.
In a way, analysts believed that the supreme court judgement set the pace for the party’s victory in the year 2020.
The Lockdown gifts
Interestingly, the COVID -19 lockdown also come with some blessing for the PDP. Coming back from months of lockdown, in June 2020 the party received the Governor of Edo state, Godwin Obaseki his deputy, Comrade Philip Shuaibu their supporters into its folds.
In a dramatic move, Obaseki formerly joined the party on 19th of June, 2020 and hours after, the National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP granted him waiver to contest the Edo governorship election primaries on Thursday, June 25. In a carefully arranged primary election, Obaseki was declared winner, after ratification by party delegates following the withdrawal of his main rival, Kenneth Imasuagbon.
In a chat with journalists after his emergence, Obaseki said ” I have faith in the principles of democracy and share the values of my party, the PDP to build a qualitatively better society based on the commonwealth, human rights and social justice under the rule of law. As a political party founded on justice, equity and fair play, PDP’s social contract is the covenant with the people of Nigeria”.
Against all odds, after a rigorous campaign, Godwin Obaseki, candidate of the PDP was returned elected as the governor of Edo state.
He secured 307,955 votes across 18 local government areas while Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the APC polled 223,619 votes. Total votes cast is 550,242 while the total number of valid votes in the election is 537,407, and rejected votes – 12,835.
Though many factors contributed to the successes of PDP in the Edo poll. But political pundits commended the party National Working Committee (NWC) for the victory. First, it was able to manage its members peacefully. A few are of the view that the party’s choice of Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike as chairman of the Edo governorship campaign council was one of the best decision taken by the party in 2020.
Ondo is not Edo
In October, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Rotimi Akeredolu won the October 10, 2020, gubernatorial election in Ondo.
Akerdolu defeated his major contenders the candidate of the PDP Eyitayo Jegede, and Hon Agboola Ajayi of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP, with about ninety-nine thousand (99), votes in 15 local governments areas in the state. Akeredolu polled 292,914 votes as against Jegede who garnered 195,431 votes.
Many believed that the inability of the party’s national leadership to manage the crisis that engulfed the south-west chapter of the party and their inability to manage Agboola and Jegede largely led to their loss.
PDP lost Dogara, Umahi and others
In July, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara dumped the opposition PDP for the ruling APC.
In a resignation letter dated 24 July 2020, to the Chairman, PDP Bogoro ‘C’ Ward, Bogoro Local Government, Dogara said, “I write to formally intimate you of my decision to resign my membership of the People’s Democratic Party. This became necessary because the same reasons why we fought hard in 2019 to effect change in the governance of our dear state are festering now.”
Also in October, two lawmakers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) announced their defection to the APC.
The lawmakers, Ephraim Nwuzi (Etched/Omuma Federal Constituency of Rivers) and David Abel (Gashaka/Kurmi/Sardauna Federal Constituency of Taraba) announced their defection in separate letters to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila read during plenary.
Later in November, PDP’s pride governor in the Southeast, Ebonyi state governor, David Umahi in November defected to the ruling APC.
Explaining why he left, Umahi said, “I offered this movement as a protest to injustice being done to Southeast by the PDP. Since 1999, the Southeast has supported the PDP. At a time the five states were all PDP. One of the founding members of the PDP was from Southeast, the late former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme. It is absurd that since 1999 going to 2023, the South-east will never be considered to run for presidency under the PDP. And this is my position and will continue to be my position. It had nothing to do with me or my ambition”.
Similarly in November, Senator representing Adamawa North, Ishaku Elisha Abbo, also defected from the PDP to the APC.
Abbo in the letter said his defection was informed by the mismanagement of the PDP in Adamawa state by Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, which he noted had led to disaffection in the party.
Aside the aforementioned, others who left PDP for APC in 2020 include former PDP National Chairman, Barnabas Gemade; a former Senator, Isa Misau of Bauchi state and Datti Yako of Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency of Kano state, among others.
Analysts noted that the fact that most of those who left PDP attributed their defection to the crises, factionalisation and maltreatment of the party members in their states calls for urgent action from the party national leadership.
Can Saraki’s reconciliation and strategic committee help?
Early in December, in its proactive measure to placate aggrieved chieftains and ensure that the party work together as a united political family ahead 2023 general election, the PDP National Working Committee announced the inauguration of a six-man National Reconciliation and Strategic Committee with the immediate past Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, as chairman.
Other members of the committee are 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 former House Minority Leader, Mulikat Akande.
Speaking shortly after the inauguration, Senator Saraki promised to reach out to all aggrieved individuals for genuine reconciliation.
He said: “We will go all out to reach our members who have one grievance or the other and seek to reconcile all of us. We will reach out to numerous key politicians who have left our fold and have indicated interest in returning to the PDP”.
In a stern warning, Saraki said “as members of this committee, we have decided to do only what is right. We do not have any personal interest and will not allow any interest other than of the party and what represents the truth, equity, objectivity, unity and peace to influence what we will do.
He continued “the NWC must also give us free hand to operate. I want to make it very clear that we will put in our best. That is why we seek the cooperation of the NWC. However, if we see any sign that the NWC is working to undermine us or that we are not working in sync in the performance of this assignment, with all sense of responsibility, we will not hesitate to tender our resignation. That is what the members of the committee have asked me to convey to you, chairman”.
However, some political analysts are of the view that considering Saraki’s antecedent, political clout and his intellect, the former Senate President have almost all that is required for genuine reconciliation, and if put to proper use, will assist to strategically position PDP for victory in 2021, 2022 and 2023 elections. But the questions remain whether Saraki will put all his skills and resources to use for party or his ambition?
All Over the country PDP remains the bride – Secondus
PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus said its leadership enhanced the image and status of the party, adding that it remains the bride all over the country.
“Projecting into the next one year when our tenure will end, we have lined up some programmes. Our e-membership registration is to begin in 2021 unfailingly having secured the approval of its take off from the NEC of our party. We also intend to finalize the peace and reconciliation process within the party with a few to enter the general election as one united and focused political family”.
2021 and the task ahead
In 2021, a few analysts say they expect the party leadership and the reconciliation committee to reconcile the aggrieved members, make a clear pronouncement on zoning that has been the major cause of the cold war and conduct a rancour-free party elective congress. To them, PDP success in 2023 general election, largely depends on its actions and inactions in 2021.