For Atiku, a cautious approach to PDP convention politics

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

Would former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who last week found his way back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), be able to play any significant role in dousing the tension within the party following the intense politics of picking its national chairman?

This is the key question on the lips of many members of the PDP and political analysts as the party decides the colouration of its leadership in the much-awaited make or mar elective national convention less than 48 hours away.

At the moment, material resources and political machineries to be deployed by key contenders in the contest have been fully prepared while gladiators dig deeper into their trenches even as intense horse-trading normally expected at times like this, is increasing tensions of inter-zonal and inter-regional relationship in the country’s major opposition platform.

The front runners for national chairmanship of the party, including former Acting National Chairman, Uche Secondus and former Education Minister, Professor Tunde Adeniran, appear not set for any shift in positions or compromise of any sort.

To Adeniran, who seems to enjoy strong support from the North, nothing else will be acceptable except his emergence. Adeniran’s support base in the North has insisted that the position should be exclusively reserved for the Southwest.

The arguments of Adeniran’s northern supporters were premised on the earlier 2016 gentleman’s agreement, which Southern leaders of PDP reached in Port Harcourt, that the Southwest geo-political zone be allowed to take the chairmanship position. They said the agreement remained valid since that caucus has not met to take any contrary position since then.

For Secondus who enjoys massive support from his South-South base, the Southeast and a fraction of the North, the position of the convention that the chairmanship be opened to all the three zones in the southern region remains sacrosanct. The Secondus group believes that any attempt to micro zone the position to a particular zone amounts to a breach of the decision of the August 12 convention.

Also, a sizeable number of governors particularly from the South-South and the Southeast as well as the only PDP governor in the Southwest have pitched their tents with Secondus.

What role for Atiku?
With this scenario, attention is gradually being shifted towards Atiku regarding which way he is likely to go. Although the former Vice-President has not openly declared his position on this, the Professor Jerry Gana-led northern PDP elders who have been mobilising support for the Southwest believe that he will most likely pitch tent with them.

There is however a school of thought that is suggestive of Atiku playing a cautious role. With his eye strongly on the Presidency, Atiku is believed not to easily pitch tent until all issues are carefully sorted out. In fact an opportunity presented itself in Abuja on Monday where the former Vice President was expected to demonstrate his position on the development.

The Jerry Gana group had put together a meeting where Atiku was expected to be in attendance. The meeting was to start at 9 p.m but when at 11.30 p.m, the former Vice President did not show any sign of gracing the occasion, the conveners dispersed.

However, 24 hours later during an emergency courtesy call on the national leadership of the PDP, Atiku announced that his strongest desire was that internal democracy should be allowed to thrive. He also reminded the caretaker committee that: “those of us who founded this party, founded it on the principles of democracy, good governance, unity of this country and the prosperity of its people.”

Atiku also asked all stakeholders to ensure that lessons learnt from the party’s loss at the 2015 election were not lost adding that members should be guided by that experience. According to him, every major stakeholder should make sure that leaders build an all inclusive party in which every part of the country will have a sense of belonging and sense of participation.

He said, “To achieve all these, there must be sacrifices, understanding and compromises in the process. One thing that I will never compromise is the internal democracy process in any given political party.”

When The Guardian attempted an opinion survey on the likely outcome of the exercise, one of the former leaders of the party who craved anonymity said, “But you should know that Atiku knows fully well that at this stage of the life of the PDP when it does not have a President, the only group that sponsors and controls the party is the group of governors.

“Atiku equally knows that it is not impossible for these PDP governors not to have a common interest as far as the race for the position of the chairman is concerned. The most plausible consideration for him would be a very witty and painstaking consideration of all the interests at play.”

As things stand, there appears to be a kind of serious political networking among governors and key financially committed members of the party to ensure that the decision of the governors to provide a direction for the party along a Secondus chairmanship is respected.

Of course, activities of this group have aroused loud protest from the Jerry Gana Northern PDP elders to the point of convening a meeting to announce its decision to favour the Southwest.The Gana-led elders are now pitched against another group of northern youths led by former Adamawa State Acting Governor, Umar Fintiri and a former House of Representatives member, Sani Kutigi who wanted the chairmanship position reserved for the entire southern part of the country. The youths dissociated themselves from the resolution by the northern elders that the Southwest occupies the position.

They condemned what they called “obnoxious and objectionable plot by some party members from the North who have purportedly micro-zoned the National Chairmanship of the Party to the Southwest in a bid to accord undue advantage to a preferred aspirant.”

The youths said the Gana group “lacks any authority or voice to speak on behalf of the North as a homogeneous entity and it is therefore on its own. Their action is hereby rejected and totally condemned. Majority of members from the North dissociate themselves from this misadventure, which portends unintended consequences if left unchallenged.

“It is a slap on the face and an insult on the face of Southern Nigerian Politicians/Leaders that few Members from the North can sit down and determine Who to elect.”Contrary to the position of the youth group, the PDP Northern Elders and Leaders Forum urged PDP delegates from the region to vote only for aspirants from the Southwest zone.

A communiqué issued after a meeting of the group reads in part: “As we head to the national convention, the forum showed keen interest on the position of the national chairman. After extensive deliberations, it was resolved that in the spirit of fairness, equity, carrying every part of the country along, giving every geo-political zone a sense of participation and inclusion in the affairs of the PDP, we strongly support the quest of the Southwest geo-political zone to produce the next Chairman of the party.

“In line with our resolve to rebuild and reposition the PDP, we urge delegates from all the northern states to abide by this decision and vote for only aspirants from the Southwest in the national convention, in the best interest of the party. This is without prejudice to the right of aspirants from other geo-political zones to contest.”

The duo of former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau and former Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Hon. Margaret Icheen, signed the communiqué.

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