From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Since his emergence as PDP’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu has told anyone that cares to listen that his desire is to restore the lost glory of the opposition party. Specifically, for the new PDP helmsman, the vision is to return the opposition party to power, with majority of seats in the two chambers of the National Assembly, as well as control more than 20 governorship seats, in 2023.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled the next general elections for February 2023. Nevertheless, nomination of political party candidates for the various elective offices will be done this year.
Expectedly, 2022 will substantially define the outcome of the 2023 polls, for both the opposition party, the ruling All Progressives Congress ( APC), and other political parties.
Therefore, for the PDP, 2022 is a very crucial year in its quest to bounce back as the ruling party at the next general elections, after it lost the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
Analysts believe there are two major issues the PDP must address this year if it must achieve its desired electoral victory next year. This includes reconciling all aggrieved party members and resolving crisis in the state chapters, as well as resolving all the issues pertaining to the zoning of its 2023 presidential ticket.
The PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that one of the priorities of the opposition party in the New Year is ensure that there is peace across all strata of the party.
State chapters of the party currently embroiled in crisis are Edo, Anambra, Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Niger, Kebbi and Kano states, as well as the North West chapter.
Ologunagba noted that already the party had set up a 24-member Peace Committee to reconcile all the warring members, beginning from the Ekiti State chapter.
The peace panel, according to him, is chaired by the the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, and consists of eight members of the National Working Committee ( NWC), seven governors, seven Board of Trustees (BoT) members, and the leadership of the party’s caucus in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
He noted that the PDP, in the New Year, would continue with its peace initiative, especially as two governorship polls are scheduled to hold in Ekiti and Osun states later in the year.
“The party, rising from a successful national convention, began a process of reconciliation. Just like in every association, where you have conflicting interests, we try to reconcile them. We have two off season elections this year in Ekiti and Osun states. The party and the national working committee decided to resolve all the crises in the states. We have started work already with Ekiti. So much has been resolved. So much has been achieved,” Ologunagba stated.
Ayu, while speaking at a stakeholders meeting with members of the party in Ekiti State last December, noted that the NWC, after its assumption of office, resolved to sort “out whatever problems we have in the state chapters so that we will have a united and formidable force to go into any election, including the forthcoming presidential election and other national elections in 2023.”
According to him, “We think there is a need for dialogue with critical stakeholders and the party is going to do just that, so that by the time we are going into the elections, whatever election we are going into, we want to go into such election as a united force; a force that is capable of fighting and winning elections.
“The mood of the party is that of a party that will fight together as one united force and hopefully, we should be able to recapture as many states as possible; as many members of the national and state assemblies as possible.
“We are very certain that the reconciliation process which we are going to carry out in virtually every state will enable us to unify the party at the ward, local government and state levels because we believe that as a family, no single individual can go out there and win an election, even if you are a governor.
“The governors must work with their colleagues, and critical stakeholders right from the ward. Every other party leader in every state must be prepared to work as a team player because party politics is like football; it is not tennis but a team game and it’s only when you work as a team that you are assured of victory.”
Also, the PDP is expected to take a decision on the zoning of its presidential ticket for the 2023 general elections. The National Executive Committee (NEC) had last October deferred decision on the recommendation of the PDP 2019 Election Review Committee. The committee headed by the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, had recommended that the party’s 2023 presidential ticket be thrown open to all qualified aspirants.
The Bauchi governor, while presenting the committee’s report had noted that every qualified Nigerian should be given the chance to vie for the party’s presidential ticket in a free and fair primary.
“In line with certain unwritten conventions of the nation’s history, many people think that, for fairness and equity, the North East and South East geo-political zones that have had the shortest stints at the Presidency, should be given special consideration in choosing the presidential flag bearer of the party for the 2023 elections.
“While we admit that this is a strong argument, we should not lose sight of the fact that Nigeria is endowed with many capable and very experienced leaders in every part of the country…
“Therefore, we think that every Nigerian, from every part of the country, should be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate, through a credible primary election; as a way of institutionalising a merit-based leadership recruitment process for the country,” Mohammed had stated.
However, the report had continued to generate tension in the opposition party with PDP leaders from the North and South expressing divergent views on the issue.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, while speaking at the PDP 94th NEC meeting, said where the president comes from has never been an issue in the county.
“Where the President comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria. It will not be the solution to the problems of Nigeria. There is no such thing as a President from Southern Nigeria or a President from Northern Nigeria. There is only one president; a president of Nigeria, for Nigeria and by Nigerians.
“The Peoples Democratic Party has the right to determine its rules on how the party should be governed. The people of Nigeria also have the right to determine who governs them,” Atiku stated.
However, a presidential aspirant and former President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Sam Ohuabunwa, told journalists recently in Abuja that zoning of the presidential ticket, is imperative to ensure inclusion.
“If you don’t zone, you are going to perpetually keep people as slaves. And if you want unity, you must bring inclusiveness.
But if you say there is no zoning, or no rotation after President Buhari, somebody from Katsina could also become president, because the moment it is not Kastina, you have started rotating. And I will tell you how the rest of Nigerians will take it,” Ohuabunwa stated.
Ologunagba, amidst discordant tunes on whether or not the 2023 PDP presidential ticket should be zoned, said the opposition party had commenced discussions and consultation on the issue.
The opposition spokesman noted that after the consultation, the PDP would come up with a position on the zoning controversy, taking into cognizance the interest of the party and the country at large.
“The party has not taken a decision. This is part of the ongoing consultation. There is an ongoing discussion and consultation within the party. At the appropriate time, whatever decision the party has taken, whether it will be zoned or not, will be made known,” Ologunagba posited.
As the PDP struggles to build consensus ahead of the 2023 polls, analysts believe that its success or failure in the next general elections would depend on its ability to resolve crises in the various state chapters, as well as the zoning controversy, to the satisfaction of stakeholders.