Though the Bukola Saraki-led reconciliation committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is making appreciable progress, ANAYO EZUGWU of New Telegraph examines the challenges the upcoming zonal congresses of the party poses to the reconciliation process.
When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) inaugurated the Senator Bukola Saraki-led National Reconciliation and Strategic Committee (NRSC) on December 2, 2020, the agenda was to rescue the party from total collapse. The committee was also charged to unite members and strategise on the best way to return the party to power.
The committee has been at work in the past one month in its bif to reposition the party by meeting the meeting with aggrieved members in order to avoid losing another bigwig like Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
No doubt, the Saraki committee has made some appreciable progress, the greatest challenge before it would be the expected fallout from the upcoming zonal congresses of the party scheduled for Saturday, March 6. Observations have shown that there are internal crisis and supremacy contest in many zones of the party. For instance, it is a known fact that Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, have polarized South-West PDP over who controls the party structures in the zone.
As it stands, the faction in support of Governor Makinde has nominated Amb. Taofeek Arapaja for the position of National Vice Chairman, while Fayose’s faction settled for Eddy Olafeso, the immediate past national vice chairman of the party. In the South-East, the party has drastically lost its grip over the zone with the recent defection of Governor Umahi.
So far, the party is only in control of Enugu and Abia states in the zone with APC having the same number of states with it, while All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) controls Anambra State. For now, APC is seriously poaching PDP members in the South-East even as the main opposition party is also contending with internal crisis resulting from the recent defections. Political watchers have also alluded to the fact that there are discontents in almost every chapter of the party in the zone.
There is lack of unity, cohesiveness and members are willingly joining forces with other political parties to wreck the party. There are also rumours that the remaining two states in the zone may jettison the party before the 2023 general election.
Apart from the states it lost to other parties, some of its members who started with the party have also left for other parties. This is why the committee has enormous work to do in the South-East and the outcome of the zonal congress may embolden those waiting for a reason to defect to other parties mostly ahead of the Anambra State governorship election.
In the North-East, the 2023 ambition of some top politicians in the zone is tearing the party apart with the governors battling to control the zonal structure of the party. For example, the presidential ambition of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has caused a rift between Governors Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Umaru Fintiri (Adamawa) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba). With factions and divisions across the zones, it is expected that the zonal congresses of the party may create more issues for the Saraki-led committee.
But so far, the committee has met with former President Goodluck Jonathan to halt his rumoured romance with the APC. The former president, after the meeting, as-resured the committee that he had no intention to leave the PDP. Jonathan said only he withdrew from the party’s activities because it failed to involve him in its affairs.
He noted that since the party has considered him as a force by approaching him, he would make his resources, experience and contact available in rebuilding and repositioning it. The Saraki committee has also met with with the PDP caucus in the Senate. The meeting enabled the senators the opportunity to bare their minds on events within the party and what needs to be done to move forward.
On Wednesday, February 17, the committee had a meeting with former governors elected on the platform of the party from 1999 to date. The ex-governors advised the committee on what to do in order to restore members’ trust and confidence in the party again. The former governors in attendance included Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Peter Obi (Anambra), Ahmed Makarfi and Ramalan Yero (Kaduna) and Boni Haruna (Adamawa). Others were Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada (Kogi), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi) and Achike Udenwa (Imo). Saraki, who spoke after the meeting, said: “The party set up our committee. Part of our terms of reference is to consult with key stakeholders. Yesterday, we met with our former President. Today, we are consulting with our former governors, who are our key stakeholders.
“Monday, we met with one of our former presidents. Today, we are consulting with our former governors, who are key stakeholders and leaders in their states. There is no way we can talk about consultations and unity of the party without consulting them. We have been here for two to three hours.
We had a very useful and productive meeting.” According to Saraki, all former governors of the PDP had all renewed their commitment towards the party to go and strengthen the party in their states and the national level to ensure that the party was well prepared ahead of the next elections in 2023. He said the former governors had pledged to bring about the areas of grievances, which is normal in any party, as leaders to help unify and bring people together, where there are problems and issues.
“I’m very encouraged, because a lot of them have a lot of experiences and resources, but felt that they’re not as involved in some of the issues that are ready to now work actively. And we’ve promised as a committee to keep them busy and brief them on what is happening in the party, get them involved in some of the workings within and outside the party, that people look to with respect.
“We want to see them to be more active, because their silence sometimes might be misinterpreted. But they’ve promised me and the committee that, there’ll be more active workers of the party. You’ll hear more of their voices that they are available for comments on national issues. And so we can see at the caliber of some of them here.
If they’re working at full blast, I think it will help the fortunes of the party,” he said. To consolidate its efforts, the committee met with the members of the PDP Board of Trustees members on Thursday, February 18. Likewise, on Friday, February 19, the committee also met with former military President Ibrahim Babangida. Apart from the consultations, the committee is also making efforts to douse tensions in the party with meetings with warring parties.
So far, the Saraki-led committee had intervened in the crisis between Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Ben Ayade of Cross River State. It had met with Governor Bello Mutawalle of Zamfara State, who expressed frustration over the attack on him by fellow PDP governors over the new mining rights granted to his state.
The committee has also announced its readiness to begin a tour of South-West states to resolve the lingering crises that have polarised the party in the zone. It will also use the opportunity to visit former President Olusegun Obasanjo to discuss the progress made so far and tap from his wealth of experience in crisis management. Already, Saraki and members of his group have personally met with Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, former Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose and Olafeso, on the way forward for the party in South-West ahead of the congress. Likewise, the committee still intends to meet with the PDP Governors Forum headed by Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, the PDP House of Representatives Caucus, speakers of the states’ Houses of Assembly under the PDP control as well as some selected elders.
Source: New Telegraph