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The south-east and other fallouts from the PDP convention

The south-east and other fallouts from the PDP convention
November 03
12:32 2021

The PDP convention which began on Saturday, October 30, 2021, and ended in the early hours of the following day saw a total of 21 people elected into the party’s national working committee – with all but three of these positions being by a consensus arrangement.

It should be recalled that following the crisis that rocked the Uche Secondus-led national working committee of the party, the PDP had suspended Secondus and announced a special convention to elect a new set of national officers – a decision challenged by the suspended national chairman who argued that the conduct of the convention would abruptly end his tenure that is due to expire in December. He failed in his bid to stop the convention.  

There are a number of fallouts from the convention:

One, the PDP must be applauded for holding a largely rancour-free convention that saw 19 of the 21 available positions won (or allocated) by consensus. In fact, that three of the candidates persuaded to step down for a  favoured candidate by the powerful governors refused to do so helped to legitimize the consensus arrangement as it would seem to suggest that it was arrived at through persuasions and negotiations and not through fiat.

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Two, though in the euphoria of its successful convention, the party audaciously promised to unify the highly divided country, it missed a golden opportunity of making this promise more credible by taking the optics game to the next level. For instance, ethnic watchers will be quick to notice that both the party’s national chairman and secretary are occupied by Christians. It is of course understandable that with these positions zoned by the party to predominantly Christian states, chances of Christians emerging were quite high. The point however is that given the current environment in the country in which ethnicity and religion have acquired a special salience in the last six years, a little tinkering with this arrangement would have given the party a special bragging right in the optics game and would have made its promise to unify Nigerians if it produced a successor to President Buhari more credible. In fact, apart from the position of national women leader, the convention resulted in a highly gendered image of the party as it largely turned itself into a men’s club.  It is of course true that the 35 percent representation the party promised women is more practicable at the level of political appointment. However, there was nothing that stopped its consensus arrangement from including women and physically challenged people – just as it rightly supported a 25-year-old to emerge as its national youth leader. One would have thought that in deciding to go for a consensus arrangement, the party would have tried to include as many demographics as possible. There are group dynamics in politics and the more groups that are seen to play prominent roles in a party, the better positioned the party will be in playing the optics game.

Three, a very interesting question is why, at the convention, no one from the south-east, which has been clamouring to produce the president in 2023 had any posters or distributed flyers to indicate putative interest in being the party’s presidential candidate – as the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto, did through their surrogates. This has led to the legitimate question of whether the zone expected the presidency to be handed over to them on a platter when no one has shown remote interest in contesting.  However contrary to the general perception, the fact that no one from the south-east has shown open interest in contesting on the platforms of either the APC or the PDP (currently the two parties with the structures to win the presidency in 2023) may not be conclusive evidence that there is no viable candidate from the zone or that no one is nursing that ambition.

It could also be that putative candidates from the zone are merely bidding their time or have learnt from our political history of the dangers of showing one’s hand too early in the game. It is important to underscore that based on our political history, front runners and those quick to announce their candidacies rarely win the crown.  For instance since the current wave of democracy  started in 1999,  apart from Buhari, the presidents were more or less foisted on Nigerians through the invisible hand mechanisms of powerful political power brokers: Obasanjo was penurious in prison from whence he was brought out  and backed to become the president;  Umar Yar’adua (who rarely stepped out of his Katsina state as governor)  was never reckoned for the highest office in the land until Obasanjo surprised everyone and zeroed in on him; no one thought Jonathan could be considered a running mate to Yar’adua until fate not only handed over the position to him but went ahead to make him the president.

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Similarly in the second republic, Shehu Shagari who emerged as the presidential candidate of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was never in the reckoning as he admitted that his ambition was just to become a senator. In the same vein, the late Alexander Ekwueme failed in his bid to be the governorship candidate of the NPN in Anambra state and was never among those being mentioned as possible running mate to Shehu Shagari when the party surprised everyone and picked him. Even in Babangida’s truncated third republic all the big names that showed interest in being the president never made it to even contesting in the election as they were all disqualified. Abiola who later contested and won the election was not given the crown and in fact lost his life fighting to reclaim the mandate given to him by Nigerians.  It should also be noted that in our political history, Abiola was the first and so far the only man of substantial wealth to win the presidency. If history repeats itself in 2023, we can conclude that some of the current front runners for the presidency in 2023 may end up being disappointed. In essence, that no one from the south-east has so far shown open interest in running on the platform of either the PDP or the APC does not necessarily mean that there is no chance of the zone producing a successor to President Buhari if the powerful power brokers in the country decide to look in the zone’s direction. 

Four, will power shifting to the south or to the south-east assuage the separatist agitations in the zone as some have argued?  I do not think so.  It may temper it but will be unlikely to stop it – just as Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, becoming a two- term president (1999-2007) and Yemi Osinbajo becoming vice president in the current Buhari presidency merely tempered but not stopped the south-west’s agitations for sovereign national conference, restructuring and Oduduwa nation. As a matter of fact a geopolitical zone that produces the president is usually on the spotlight as it often tends to shield or defend its own from the inevitable attacks that come with the office. This often mutates into ethnic/regional acrimony and profiling between the zone that produced the president and others.  We saw this play out with allegations against the Ijaw and the south-south under the Jonathan presidency and with the current profiling of the Fulani under Buhari. In essence, while the south-east producing the president will be good for nation-building, inclusive politics and optics, it is also more likely to make the ethnic group, even more, a target of hate and profiling especially as there appears to be already a perception problem with the zone. 

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Jideofor Adibe is a professor of political science and international relations at Nasarawa State University Keffi, and founder of Adonis & Abbey Publisher (www.adonis-abbey.com), a London and Abuja based publisher of academic books and peer reviewed and indexed academic journals as well as the online newspaper, The News Chronicle.  

Adibe can be reached via [email protected] or 07058078841 (text only)

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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