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2023: Can PDP governors reposition party for victory

Published by The Nation on Sat, 01 May 2021


In a bid to consolidate their political future, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors have seized the initiative to reposition the party ahead of the 2023 general elections. With what they perceive as complacency on the part of the partys national leadership, the governors are making moves to stave off possible defection of their colleagues to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) before the poll. GBADE OGUNWALE reportsPeoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors appear to have seized the initiative to reposition the main opposition party ahead of the 2023 general elections. Apparently, they are worried by the complacency of the partys national leadership. Coming together under the aegis of the PDP Governors Forum, they have resolved not to leave anything to chance. Specifically, some of the governors who are currently serving their second and final tenure are apprehensive over their political future in the event of the PDP losing the Presidency again in 2023. Similarly, their colleagues who are serving their first term in office are also worried by the prospects of losing re-election to stronger political adversaries in their respective states. Since politics is a game of numbers, the first task before the body of governors is to ensure that their number is not depleted in any way before the next general elections.Led by Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the PDP governors are worried by unconfirmed media reports in recent times suggesting that no fewer than three of their members may be on their way to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) any time soon. The governors, it is said, are apprehensive over the implication such defections may have on its electoral fortunes ahead of the 2023 general elections. Consequently, the need to take measures to stave off such a looming political tragedy has become more expedient. With the defection to the Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi to the APC in November 2020, sources said the governors have vowed not to take things for granted. Also, it is still fresh in their memories how the defection of five serving governors among other chieftains to the APC in 2013 caused the PDP to lose the Presidency and many of its states to the APC in 2015 general election.All eyes on Zamfara, Bauchi, Cross RiverSpecifically, the PDP governors are worried by signals from three of the 15 states controlled by the party at the moment. Top on the list is Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle. The PDP benefitted from the crisis that rocked the APC prior to the last general elections in Zamfara. The APC had cleared all elective positions in Zamfara. But, it eventually lost them to the PDP, after the Supreme Court ruled that the ruling party had no valid candidate in all the elections in the state. That was how Governor Matawalle, who was the PDP governorship candidate for the election, became governor. Matawalle may have reasoned that with a shaky political structure, he stands little chance of getting re-elected in 2023.With the formidable political structure of his predecessor, Abdulaziz Yari, and that of ex-senator, Kabiru Marafa, both of the APC, Matawalles re-election in 2023 appears to be hanging in the balance. This must-have lent credence to the governors rumoured defection bid even though he has continued to deny any plan to defect. Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed also facing a similar predicament. Opposing political forces in Bauchi APC are reportedly mobilising to scuttle his re-election bid. Some of the big names among his adversaries are said to include two former governors, Adamu Muazu and Isah Yuguda who have pitched tents with the APC to teach Mohammed a lesson. To forestall that eventuality, the governor may be considering joining the APC. His public utterances and body language in recent times give credence to speculations that he is romancing with the APC. So far, Mohammed has not denied or admitted any move to defect to the ruling party.Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade is also being rumoured to be toying with the idea of dumping the PDP. The governor is said to be at loggerheads with his immediate predecessor, Senator Liyel Imoke over the control of the partys state structures. Ayade, who is serving his second term, is said to have complained that he is being undermined by Imokes domineering influence in the party. Sources close to the governor say he considered Imokes alleged influence over the Cross River PDP as a threat to his political future. Like his Bauchi State counterpart, Ayade also has yet to confirm or deny the rumour of his purported plan to join the APC.Reconciliatory movesCompetent sources said the rest of the governors has intervened in the three states on a case by case basis. They were reported to have pointed out the possible legal implications of the defection of the Zamfara governor to the APC. One of the sources said: The governors drew Matawalles attention to the implications of the judgment of the Supreme Court that awarded PDP victory in the state. Recall that the apex court had ruled that the APC had no candidate in any of the categories of election in the 2019 polls in Zamfara. They pointed out to him that going by that judgment, he cannot join a political party that the Supreme Court had ruled out of the 2019 elections without losing his seat completely. They impressed it on him that the apex courts judgment still subsists till the next election and that he cannot remain a governor on the platform of a party that had no candidate for the current election circle.In the case of Bauchi, the PDP governors were said to have advised their Bauchi colleague to make peace with Muazu, Yuguda and other political forces with links to the PDP, instead of engaging in confrontation with them. In what suggests that the Bauchi governor may have taken the advice of his colleagues, recent unconfirmed reports indicate that both Muazu and Yuguda may have started initiating moves to return to the PDP with their teeming supporters. In the case of Ayade, the governors were said to have assured the Cross River governor of their support, collectively and individually, to ensure that the party structure is not taken away from him. They were also reported to have had extensive consultation with Imoke on the need to accord the governor his dues as the party leader in the state. The two-party chieftains were implored to embrace existing conflict resolution channels in resolving their differences. This, they argued, is to avoid Cross River becoming the only state in the Southsouth that would fall into the hands of the APC.Offensive against APCAt an enlarged meeting of the Governors Forum in Makurdi, Benue State, recently, the governors declared that the ruling party lacked the capacity to govern the country effectively and raised the alarm, warning that Nigeria is fast drifting into a failed state. The governors had expressed deep concern over the deteriorating relations among the various ethnic groups in the country and the failure of the APC administration to stem the ugly tide. In a communique read by Tambuwal shortly after the meeting, the governors lamented that fault lines and differences among different ethnic groups in the country were being stretched to the limit under the APC administration. That added that the actions and inactions of the ruling party and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has deepened ethnic tensions, religious divisions, and various forms of social and political cleavages.Nigeria, they observed, was in dire need of leadership at the federal level to avert a looming disaster. They said security of lives and property of Nigerians are no longer guaranteed under the APC government, as a result of leadership incompetence and mismanagement of national affairs. They deplored a situation in which state governors are helpless in the face of festering insecurity as the entire coercive authority in the country was being monopolised by the Federal Government. They, therefore, called for the decentralisation of the security architecture in the country and the involvement of states and local governments in security matters. They called for urgent devolution of powers and restructuring of the country in a way that would bring together the various groups and tendencies, warning that the country cannot afford another civil war.Among other far reaching demands, the PDP governors called on President Buhari to cause the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to send a new revenue allocation formula that allocates more resources to states and local governments to the National Assembly for immediate action. The communique stated in part: It is a scandal that 21 years after the 1999 Constitution came into being, no new revenue formula is in place. Furthermore, the meeting called for a more transparent and accountable running and operation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).The forum roundly condemned what it described as the intimidation of its members by the APC administration at the federal level. They accused the Buhari administration of using all sorts of weapons like security, unequal access to federal resources, and promoting divisions in opposition political parties with fake promises and falsehoods.Double standardsThe governors further said: We significantly condemn the double standards that are applied by the APC-led Federal Government to intimidate PDP controlled states. To this end, we call on Mr. President to lift the so-called no flight zone and other intimidating tactics, imposed on Zamfara State as similar measures have not been extended to other states with similar security challenges like Kaduna, Borno, Katsina, Yobe and others. This is mostly politically motivated to ensure that the governors move over to APC. Taking another swipe at the ruling party, the governors said the APC has woefully failed to sustain a democratically-elected National Executive Committee as required by the Nigerian Constitution.The governors added: A political party that operates by military fiat with an appointed and unelected National Executive Committee from the ward to the national level has no business running the affairs of our country. The APC cannot deliver democracy to Nigeria; even to constitute a Board of Trustees has been an impossible task for the party since inception. They flayed what they described as the ruling partys obsession with jockeying for power ahead of 2023, even when the administration has done an abysmal and terribly poor job of their current questionable mandate.Describing the APC administration a disaster, the PDP governors said it is distressing that Nigeria is now officially the country with the highest unemployment rate in the world, at 33 per cent. The governors said: This is following on the heels of yet another unenvious feat of being the country with the second-highest poverty rate in the world. For APC, it is indeed a race to the bottom. The opposition governors assured Nigerians that help was on the way, saying that the PDP is primed to offer effective leadership to the country. They enjoined Nigerians to give the party a second chance in 2023, saying that the PDP remained the only effective vehicle to salvage the country. The partys governors commended themselves for what they described as their innovative approach to governance in many fields, especially infrastructure, education, health, women and youth initiatives, with timely delivery of developmental projects, across the country. They added: It is these legacy projects being undertaken in many PDP-governed states that will be presented to Nigerians as our scorecard at the appropriate time.Analysts are of the view that losing the Presidency again in 2023 may sound a death knell for the struggling opposition party.They posit that it is yet to be seen how far the governors can go in getting the PDP back to reckoning. Governors at the meeting, which was chaired by Tambuwal included Samuel Ortom (Benue); Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom); Douye Diri (Bayelsa); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); and Nyesom Wike (Rivers). Also in attendance were Seyi Makinde (Oyo); Darius Ishaku (Taraba); Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); and Godwin Obaseki (Edo). While the Bauchi State Governor was represented by his deputy, Baba Tela, Governor Mattawale arrived in Makurdi shortly after the meeting had ended.
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