Ordinarily this letter should have been addressed to the National Chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus. But am not doing so because my message or appeal is for every member of PDP, particularly those who wish the party well.
Let me begin by recalling that this same time in 2015, which was also shortly after the National Convention of the PDP, I was inspired to write an article titled “Will PDP survive 2015?”. The kernel of my submission then was that PDP manifestly lacked internal democracy and that it was difficult, if not impossible, for it to give what it did not have. I mentioned that a political party seeking power to rule Nigeria democratically, but could not practice the same democratic principle internally, was bound to fail,because the citizens will be hard put to trust it with democratic governance. Impunity and imposition were the order of the day in PDP at that time.
And did PDP survive 2015. Of course not. With the crushing defeat it got in the 2015 elections, no one can say it did. The aftermath of that defeat was a near total disintegration of the party which played out in the protracted Makarafi/ Sherriff Feud.
After the December 2017 PDP National Convention, I am minded to write again but this time to say that PDP has a great come back chance if it does the needful. Perhaps,I should quickly add at this point that, first of all,I am a member of the PDP. Secondly, I am genuinely concerned about the fortunes of the party. Third of all, as a member of the party I want to remain as objective and dispassionate in my commentaries on the party, as possible.
Therefore, when I say that the party has a great come back chance, I anchor my position on what I consider the relatively successful National Convention of December last year. It was clear to many, even critics, that the convention was internal democracy compliant to a very large extent. No candidate or aspirant was forced to withdraw from the election at the last minute. There was neither imposition nor impunity. To the best of my assessment, Uche Sokonduswon clear and square as the National Chairman. So did all other contestant to various offices.
Those who talk of the circulation of “Unity List” at the venue of the convention as a minus for the election into national offices miss the point. Lobbying is part of democracy and is always better than imposition. The Unity List,in my view, was an acceptable democratic norm- it is called lobbying.
However, a successful convention is not enough to guarantee victory for the PDP in 2019. A lot more should, and must be done, to ensure victory. In this respect, the first post- convention step that should have taken off by now is a tour of the 36 states and FCT by the newly elected National Working committee (NCWC) led by Chairman Sokondus. Some may argue that dousing the anger of those who lost out at the convention should be a priority. I agree. But the two actions can be combined for maximum effect. At any rate, the PDP needs to urgently showcase her popularity to the nation even as she strives to reconcile aggrieved members.
A tour of the 36 states provide a good platform to accomplish this. The massive mobilization of members in each state to welcome the NWC will send a loud signal to all and Sundry: This party is still popular and strong. Then behind the scene, at each state tour, the aggrieved members can be spoken to and appeased, where possible. Let me be clear here, this popularity show is even more important because it can sufficiently intimidate and entice. Even the aggrieved members can be swayed by the sheer profundity of the excise, if well put together.
The other point to make, which is probably more cogent, is the need to extend the rebirth of international democracy in PDP at the convention to the primaries for elective offices, beginning in August this year. As I said earlier, lobbying is part of democracy. People should be allowed to lobby and canvass for who they think should be the best candidate for any position. It is healthy that some arguments are already being canvassed. Some believe that the best way to oust President Mohammedu Buhari from office is by fielding a younger person. Others argue that it is not about age, but about pedigree, resilience, experience and capacity. I am persuaded by the second school.
I am further persuaded to believe that in thinking of an opponent for Buhari in the 2019 presidential election, many well measured factors must come into play. In 2015, the major selling point for Buhari was integrity and incorruptibility. To be fair, he had those qualities. Many Nigerians bought into them and voted for him. To be fair also, almost three years after, those qualities have not put food on the table of a vast majority of Nigerians. Instead, what Nigerians have been served include excruciating poverty, insecurity and a more divisive nation. As a result,Buhari is quite vulnerable and can in fact be defeated, if only the PDP can field the right candidate.
If you ask me I will dare say that, the right candidate is Abubakar Atiku. Here are my reasons. He is well experienced and has weathered virtually all the stormy waters of partisan politics in this country. As a result, he is more rugged, more resilient more tolerant and more accommodating. And if we talk of passing the corruption test, Atiku has gone through it creditably, if he was corrupt, and given his acrimonious relationship with former President Obasanjo, he would, have been in jail by now. Besides, Buhari knowing that Atiku wants to challenge him would have unearthed,by now, whatever corruption in his blood that escaped the eagle eyes of Obansanjo. So on corruption I think he is very healthy.
More importantly, the two major political parties have zoned the presidency to the North. Yes. But does this North include the North East?So far, it appears the North West has been so lucky in hijacking and dominating the Northern slot, even from the military era. Will there be anything wrong in trying someone else from the North East where Atiku comes from?
On the hunger and poverty issue that pervades the land,Atiku comes handy as the answer. He has a long drawn reputation for compassion and generosity. As a private citizen, he has touched the lives of many across the land. He has rescued the poor, fed the hungry and given succor to the needy with his private resources. Will he not do better with public resources at his disposal? And will the current hunger and poverty in the land not be a thing of the past under his watch?
I can also add the well-known fact that Atiku has been building bridges across the ethnic divides in the country almost all his life. Consequently,he has established unassailable fraternal bonds across the length and breadth of Nigeria. I dare add that he understands the complexity of Nigeria and Nigerians better than most other leaders- Yes, I think he will make a better national leader than most people. I enjoin PDP members to reflect, soberly, on these points raised, and do the needful.
Delan Emelumba, is a former member of Imo state house of Assembly. He wrote from Abuja.