In this report, Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor of The Nation, examines how far Senator Bukola Saraki-led National Reconciliation Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can go in restoring peace and unity to the troubled party ahead of the next general election.
Last Thursday, the National Reconciliation Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, met with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and governors elected on the platform of PDP. According to sources, participants at the meeting took stock of the progress made so far in its reconciliation efforts ahead of future elections.
“The meeting also discussed states and zones battling internal crises and how to resolve such crises. The botched zonal congresses of the party in about three zones last weekend, among other developments, informed the meeting. The governors and other stakeholders, present, offered advice to the Saraki committee and the Uche Secondus-led NWC on how to tackle the crises.
The Nation also gathered that the meeting examined the preparedness of the frontline opposition party ahead of the 2023 General Elections. “Various groups and individuals at the meeting presented their perspectives on the strength of the party in their respective domains. The parley then took a look at the preparation of the PDP for future elections, especially the 2023 General Election,” our source added.
The meeting was held amidst growing concerns by many party chieftains and members over what they described as the worrisome internal crises rocking the PDP in various states and zones across the country. “Happening at a time when a national reconciliation committee is in place and reportedly working hard to unite the party ahead of future challenges, these new crises are worrisome,” a party chieftain said.
Similarly, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, last weekend called for unity among members of the PDP if the party does not want to disappoint Nigerians. Atiku, in the statement by his media office, called on the party members to respect the supremacy and internal democracy, which he said, could only guarantee a successful future for the party.
Like Atiku, many other party bigwigs have been expressing concern over rising wave of crises in the party. Cited as examples are the face-off between Governor Rotimi Makinde and former Governor Ayo Fayose in the Southwest, the no love lost situation between contending camps in Bayelsa PDP, the disagreements in the Northwest, among numerous others.
But the National Reconciliation Committee under former Governor Bukola Saraki assures worried party men and women that PDP will be united and strengthened sooner than expected. Speaking recently, Saraki insisted that the committee is set to reposition the party across the country so as to sack the current APC administration in future elections.
Last December, the national leadership of the PDP instituted the Senator Saraki-led National Reconciliation and Strategic Committee. Also in the committee are a former Senate President, Pius Ayim, ex-governors Ibrahim Dankwambo from Gombe State, Liyel Imoke from Cross River State, Ibrahim Shema from Katsina State and former House Minority Leader, Mulikat Akande.
Secondus, during the inauguration of the committee, left no one in doubt that the party places high hope on the committee to help it deal with many of its current challenges. “We have carefully chosen men of integrity and those with the best skills in the country to solve the problem of our party. We have absolute confidence in them to carry out this assignment.
“We also believe that reconciliation is a major assignment in our party. And as you are aware, the country is falling apart; Nigeria requires the leadership qualities domiciled in our party to show the pathway for the next general elections in 2023. The country is in dire need of men of high integrity who will prepare our party and our people for the 2023 General Elections,” Secondus said back then.
Accepting the challenge on behalf of other members of the committee, Saraki warned the NWC not to interfere in the work of his committee while requesting the cooperation of all party stakeholders. “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. 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 support of all stakeholders. 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, Mr. Chairman,” Saraki emphasised.
To say the committee has been making efforts to mend the many broken fences within PDP is to say the obvious. After spending about a month to, according to its members, assess the tasks needing to be done and deciding on the approaches to use, last February, the committee commenced widespread consultations and negotiations in its bid to unite and reposition the opposition party.
Just last week, Saraki led his members to meet ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. Speaking after the two-hour close-door meeting with the ex-President at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the former Senate President said, “It is a very useful deliberation; we informed the former President why we are here. The purpose of the committee and that it is important as an elder statesman.
“The president is someone who has been in our party before and someone committed to unity, to the success of this country. We are very hopeful for the future of this country; we are very hopeful that everybody will have a sense of belonging. I think it is important that we all must come to the table and discuss. We can tap into a lot of resources, even on the issue of security, there are a lot of people with a lot of experience that we can make use of.”
But sources told The Nation that members of the committee spent the better part of the two hours urging Obasanjo to return to the PDP and support it in its bid to return to power in 2023. It was also gathered that while the former President was quick to express his disappointment in the Buhari administration, he wasn’t ready to consent to the request that he rejoin the PDP immediately.
“Baba (Obasanjo) listened to the committee very well and it is very correct to say he discussed his disappointment with the current administration with them. Both parties expressed great concerns over the state of the nation at the meeting. But Baba didn’t say he will return to the PDP. At best, he told Saraki and his team to continue the good work they are doing while he waits to see what happens next,” an associate of the former President told The Nation in Abeokuta on Thursday.
Findings by our correspondents revealed that the visit to Obasanjo is part of efforts to reconcile the warring factions of the PDP in the Southwest. According to reliable sources, Saraki and his men will soon commence a tour of Southwest states to resolve the lingering crises that have polarised the party in the zone. Sources claimed Saraki had personally met with Governor Makinde and former Governor Ayo Fayose as well as some other prominent stakeholders of the opposition party in the zone on the way forward for the PDP.
The Nation learnt during the week that the committee has scheduled some peace meetings which are strategic to ensure that the botched zonal congress of Saturday, March 6, 2021 in Ibadan, which is to be rescheduled by the NWC soon, is held successfully. “It has become compulsory to reconcile leaders of our party in the zone if the PDP is to make any meaningful impact in the Southwest,” a member of the committee said on Thursday.
Last month, the committee met with the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party in its bid to unify and reposition the party ahead of the 2023 General Elections. Board Chairman, Sen. Walid Jibrin, said the BOT was confident that the PDP would come out stronger and united to win the 2023 elections. “We have given them 100 per cent support to carry out this assignment. They are fearless.
“We trust Saraki. We know he is the kind of person that cannot be bought by anybody. So we will fully support him and will continue to give him our support 100 per cent,” he said. On his part, Saraki said the meeting was fruitful. “It is a good sign and the work has just begun. We are going to reach out to everybody, everybody matters. Everybody has a role to play.
“Yesterday was with former governors and deputies. Today we are meeting with BOT. We are reaching out to former leaders of the National Assembly, founding fathers. Next week, hopefully, we are having sessions with women and youths and will bring them together in the issue of reconciliation and more participation and other issues.”
Before then, the committee met with former President Ibrahim Babangida in Minna. Saraki said the purpose was to “explain the mission of the committee to the key stakeholders, solicit their support, seek their advice and get their buy-in into the strategy for moving forward.”
Similarly, the committee had held a meeting with former President Goodluck Jonathan at his Maitama Abuja office. “We are starting off with our former President and we are here to let him know what our plans are and also to hear his own views and advice on what we need to do and how to do it as well as how we need to strengthen the party and reconcile aggrieved members in order to bring about unity and focus in our party,” Saraki said after the parley.
The former President told the members of the committee that he had no intention to defect from the party that made him Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and President. Explaining that he became inactive because the party did not involve him in its activities; he promised that now that the party had deemed it fit to approach him, he would make his resources, experience and contact available in rebuilding, repositioning and refocusing the party.
While observers of developments within the party are divided in the progress made so far by the reconciliation committee, the party says it is now more united and stronger and as such ready to take over from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) come 2023. Its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, stated this during a television interview during the week
He said: “In one zone out of six, we are having contestation of power that is leading towards disagreement which is already being reconciled by the Sen. Bukola Saraki-led reconciliation committee. Our party is a hope of Nigerians as we speak today. The acts of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping have subsumed our nation. It shows clearly that Nigerians are thinking of who will rescue our nation.
“The PDP is ready and prepared to take over the mantle of leadership through the ballot box in 2023.” He noted that the feud between Former Ekiti Governor Ayo Fayose and Oyo Governor Seyi Makinde is being resolved by the Saraki-led committee. He added that Saraki has met with Ogun PDP party leaders, Ekiti leaders and various interventions are being made within the party.
But a chieftain of the party from Osun State, Hon. Adeoye Alabi, former spokesperson of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Southwest, said,“ The moment the party announces that the presidential ticket of the PDP will be zoned to the south, most of the crises rocking the party will cease. It is actually the aggrieved members of the party who need to be pacified. And it is that resolution that can pacify them for now,” he said.
For Comrade Michael Ijasan of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), the Saraki committee represents the best chance of the PDP to bounce back. While applauding the committee for its efforts so far, Ijasan warned that leaders of the party must be ready to subsume personal interest for general interest. “And I can tell you that is not the case as it is today in the PDP.
“For us in the CUPP, we are eager to see the PDP bounce back and lead the opposition to dislodge the current administration in 2023. It is doable but the leaders of the PDP must give Saraki and his people a chance to reconcile all and sundry. The National Chairman and others need to allow for a level playing ground for all stakeholders in the party.
As rightly expressed by the BoT chairman of the party, Senator Jibrin, the success of the PDP’s bid to put itself in order and bounce back to reckoning before Nigerians return to the polls in 2023strongly depends on the party’s ability to reconcile its warring factions and get the support of the masses. This perhaps explains why many Nigerians are interested in how far the Saraki-led committee can go in restoring peace and unity to the troubled party ahead of the next general election.
Source: The Nation