Challenges before PDP Chairman Secondus

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman Chief Uche Secondus has inherited many challenges. Can he reconcile aggrieved blocs in the opposition party? Can PDP bounce back to power under his leadership? Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the challenges that will confront the new leadership.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Uche Secondus, an Ijaw chief from Rivers State and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, has achieved the ambition of steering the affairs of the main opposition party. But, he has also inherited the burden of leadership at this critical time.

Secondus has served as the Organising Secretary and Acting Chairman before his current role. But, the position of chairman is more challenging. Can he unite the party? Can the helmsman reconcile aggrieved chieftains and blocs? Can PDP regain power in 2019 elections under his leadership?

The leadership burden

Between now and the presidential nomination, many challenges will confront the party under the new chairman. Southwest delegates are still aggrieved because of the rejection of micro zoning of the chairmanship to the region. The first critical task is the post-convention reconciliation, which is inevitable for the resolution of pre-convention and post-convention crises. Former Lagos State PDP governorship candidate Jimi Agbaje said: “The Southwest is aggrieved. It should be pacified.”

Echoing him, a chieftain from Osun State, Chief Tunde Odanye, said reconciliation with the Southwest will restore its lost sense of belonging and erase a feeling of marginalisation.

Secondus have four important issues to tackle in the Southwest. Around 3am last Saturday, Senator Buruji Kashamu from Ogun West, a loyalist of Senator Alli Modu Sheriff, was suspended, following his resort to litigation at the expense of the party.

A party source said, if the Kashamu issue is not properly handled, he may play a spoiler’s role in future elections. “Kashamu is popular in his district and he has money to deploy to fight a battle,” a source, who feared that the suspended chieftain may become a willing tool in the hand of the ruling party, he added.

Reconciliation with aggrieved aspirants, especially Chief Bode George and Prof. Tunde Adeniran, may be difficult at the initial stage, but it is not foreclosed. The onus is on the chairman and the reconciliation committee to reach out to the chieftains, their associates and supporters and pacify them to bury the hatchet and put the past behind them.

However, a National Assembly member said if they chose to be passive henceforth, or leave the party, they may not be missed. “How relevant are they as leaders in their states? They are big names. But, do they have the winning formula?” the lawmaker asked.

There are litigations hanging on the neck of the Southwest zonal leadership. The factional executive committee, led by Makanjuola Ogundipe, is still locked with Eddy Olafeso’s executive committee. How to broker peace through political solution is a  challenge.

The fourth assignment in the zone relates to the Osun PDP debacle. It is polarised into two factions, making it impossible for the troubled chapter to harmonise its delegates. The crisis affected the compilation of the list of delegates from the state. Less than 15 delegates from the state voted at the convention. As pointed out by former National Caretaker Committee Chairman Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the new leadership will have to attend to the unfinished business of restoring normalcy and peace to the chapter. Other polarised state chapters that require urgent reconciliation, include Anambra, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Kwara and Nasarawa.

Secundus litmus test will be nest next year when he leads his party out at the governorship elections in Ekiti and Oyo states. The results of the eletions in Ekiti where the PDP is the ruling party and Osun where the opposition clinched senatorial by-election, will determine the future of PDP under his leadership.

More importantly, the PDP has to tackle the challenge of perception arising from the way it conducted its convention. A picture of acrimony painted by the exercise may be discouraging to would-be returnees, who may not want to retrace their steps to a crisis-ridden party.

Defections also have implications. As new members arrive, there will be need for the harmonisation of party structures to accommodate their interests and ambitions. Thus, Makarfi urged Secondus and his executive committee to open the doors of the party to the returnees and ensure that they do not suffer from any disadvantage.

Presidential primaries

How will the party also handle its presidential primary without plunging into another round of  crisis? At least, six gladiators have indicated interest in the sole ticket. They are: former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Makarfi, former governors Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Sule Lamido (Gombe) and incumbent Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo.

More aspirants are expected join the fray. A section of the party is even thinking that a reputable and competent northerner from the business world, who is acceptable to the North and the country can be drafted into the race, if that will make the PDP dislodge the APC in 2019 general elections.

Will the governors, who have been accused of imposing a chairman allow a transparent, hitch-free, transparent and credible  presidential primary? Will the same allegation trail the shadow poll?

The PDP’s  target is to bounce back to power? But, can it realise the dream? Makarfi said the NCC has laid a solid foundation for Secondus to build upon. He looked vibrant; agile with the strength of a potential presidential contender.  “We have laid a good foundation for the repositioning of the PDP,” he said in his valedictory remarks, advising the new leadership to consolidate on the gains.

Acknowledging the division in the party, which has lingered, owing to the competition for party tickets in 2015, rancorous party congresses at the state level and the scramble for party offices, he said members should leave the door of dialogue open. He said for the culture of litigation to give way to conflict must be ready to make sacrifices and work harmoniously.

Makarfi said the ball is in the court of the post-convention reconciliation panel, headed by   Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson, to listen to the various grievances, ventilate them and reconcile them with the party. He also urged the new executive committee to always ensure a level playing ground for contestants in the future to avoid fresh problems while trying to resolve new existing challenges.

The former Kaduna State governor urged the new leadership to widen the scope of participation by giving room for participation in the affairs of the party to women and youths.

According to him, the establishment of a Students Loans’ Scheme by the PDP government to encourage students and reduce the number of out-of-school students , maight not be a bad idea in the future.

He said the rate at which indigent students drop out in tertiary institution should give any government sleepless night.

Jonathan’s relections

Reflectin on the 2015 electoral tragedy that hit the party, former President Goodluck Jonathan  said the PDP can bounce back to power in 2019 poll, if its house is put in order.

Dr. Jonathan, who urged party faithful to keep the hope alive, accused the APC of persecuting top opposition chieftains. He advised them to endure the pains and resolve to forge ahead with determination. He said the winners must promote a culture of inclusiveness by carrying along those who lost at the convention.

The former president advised the party to put its house in order, maintaining that it can only regain power as a united family.

He said: “PDP should remain at the forefront of leadership by example. I urge members to continue to support the party. PDP has become a strong voice, a reference point as the nation moves closer to another election season. It is growing from strength to strength. Defectors are coming back. There is a reunion.

“PDP is the only stable party that has not changed its name and identity since 1999. It continues to make promises and fulfil its promises. Those who will win the election today must carry the losers along.”

for Atiku,  who dumped the ruling party for the opposition, it is another home-coming. He said the PDP must cultivate Nigerians and convince them that past mistakes will not be repeated.

The former vice president said: “We must work to earn the trust of Nigerians. If we get power, we should use it to work for Nigerians.”

Atiku said the poor performance of the APC will make Nigerians vote for the opposition party in 2019.

The former vice president said: “Under the APC, Nigeria is not working and our workers are not working. APC promised three million jobs and under the ruling party, Nigeria lost three million jobs. Under the PDP, Nigeria was united. Under the APC, Nigeria is disunited, more than it was during the civil war. APC promised restructuring, it has denied promising restructuring. PDP waged war against corruption; APC is waging war against the opposition.”

Atiku lamented that, despite the party’s achievements in 16 years, it lost power because it made mistakes.

He said: “We made mistakes, but we put our nation first. APC is blaming previous governments, instead of solving problems. Let the PDP get winning again so that it can get working for Nigerians again.”

The BoT Chairman, Jibril, said the peaceful conduct of the convention meant that the PDP was on the march again and ready to return  to power in 2019.

Avoiding the pitfalls of the past

Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose echoed the PDP BoT chair. He said: “PDP is well positioned to take over the affairs of the country. There is nothing wrong in falling; not rising again is the problem. PDP will rise again. The convention shows that the PDP is well organised and ready to bounce back.”

To the aspirants, he said: “We are voting for the PDP. In any contest, one will win, another will lose. PDP will be the ultimate winner. When the PDP returns to power, a bag of rice will come down from N20, 000 to N5, 000.”

Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu said: “Our religious and traditional leaders are worried about the suffering of the people, the jobless, the victims of Boko Haram attacks and youths trapped in Libya. The former president and vice president are bothered by the disunity in Nigeria.

“I am proud of the 16 years of the PDP and what it brought; the telecommunication, justice to the Southwest through the election of Chief Obasanjo as president, justice to the minority ethnic group through the election of Dr. Jonathan, amnesty to the people in the creeks, debt forgiveness. But, today, we are in debt. It was 16 years of light. Now, it has been two years of darkness.”

Former Special Duties Minister Kaiti Turaki said: “Today, PDP is more united and prepared to salvage Nigeria. We have learnt our lessons. We have appreciated our mistakes. Nigerians have had an opportunity to make comparison. They are now wiser.”