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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

10 influential party chieftains who can help rally PDP into a viable opposition

Following the fall of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the March 28 presidential election, the party will automatically assume the role of opposition at the centre as from May 29 when the All Progressives Congress will assume power.

The 17-year old PDP will also be in opposition in 23 other states controlled by either the APC or the All Progressives Grand Alliance. The governorship elections in Abia, Imo and Taraba are still outstanding. For now it is certain that the PDP will be in power in 13 states, APC in 22 and APGA in one.

Analysts say going by the outcome of the elections, the hitherto ruling party will definitely not be the same again. The PDP, whose former national chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, as well as the outgoing first lady, Patience Jonathan, had boasted will rule for 60 years, is already witnessing mass defections across the land.

In the last three weeks, many PDP faithful have dumped the party for the APC with several others threatening to do so. In Ogun, Jigawa, Gombe, Edo, Kaduna and Delta, the story is the same. For instance, in Ogun 1,237 PDP members reportedly dumped the party.
The outgoing deputy governor of Jigawa, Ahmad Mahmud, the majority leader of Gombe State House of Assembly, Mamman Alkali, PDP candidate in the 2012 Edo State governorship election, Charles Aihiavbere, are some of the defectors.

With the resounding defeat at the polls, there are calls by PDP members that the party should be overhauled. Some have even demanded the resignation of the leadership, notably the National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu. Thus, in the post May 29 era, the following are influential party chieftains who have the charm, the resources and the staying power to rally party members across the country and transform the party into a viable opposition capable of dethroning the APC from power in subsequent elections.

1. Goodluck Jonathan: Arguably, Mr. Jonathan is the greatest beneficiary of the party since its formation in 1998. Though little known before he joined politics, Mr. Jonathan, 58, has been a deputy governor in his home state, Bayelsa and later governor between 1999 and 2007. He was elected vice president in 2007, became acting president in 2010 and president from 2010 till date. He leaves office on May 29, 2015. As president, Mr. Jonathan has been the leader of the PDP since 2010.

However, under him the party’s popularity nosedived. In 2013, for the first time in the party’s history, five governors dumped the party for the opposition in one fell-swoop, a development that compelled many to describe the president as being politically naïve. Not many were surprised the way he was going anyway. Out of power, beginning from May 29, Mr. Jonathan, who is likely to retire to his village, Otuoke (in Bayelsa State) or Port Harcourt, where he spent his adult life before going into politics, would remain a member of the PDP. It is unthinkable that he would defect to another party.

Therefore, he is expected to play a major role in restructuring the party into a formidable opposition force. However, playing this role may be difficult for the president as he might be busy with international engagements. It is expected that by conceding defeat the manner he did and presumably conducting credible elections, international bodies might give him key assignments from time to time. Mr. Jonathan will also be one of those with deep pockets to revamp the soon-to-be-opposition party.

But there are those who believe that Mr. Jonathan does not have the charisma and the political sagacity to provide effective leadership for the party. However, in the absence of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo from the party, Mr. Jonathan will definitely become the number one personality in the party. He is likely to assume the position of chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees in the months ahead.

2. David Mark: He is the outgoing Senate President. Mr. Mark, 67, is another beneficiary of the PDP structure. Before the return of democracy, Mr. Mark, a retired army brigadier-general, had been military governor of Niger State and communications minister. He has been in the Senate on the platform of the party since 1999. He chaired the Committee on Banking and Currency in the Senate.

In 2007, he became the Senate President. He is perceived to have performed creditably in that position. Since he assumed office, stability has returned to the upper legislative chamber. Mr. Mark, who won election for the fifth time in the March 28 election to represent Benue South Senatorial District, has already given indications that he would not leave the PDP. “I have heard by way of rumour in the social media that I am decamping to APC. Social media is awash with that. If I will be the last man standing I will remain in PDP,” Mr. Mark said at a church service to mark his birthday earlier this month.

“The rumour is just an unnecessary fabrication and I even heard that one of the papers yesterday had it as headline. The media men must please make sure they investigate cases before they begin to publish it. Nobody has spoken to me from APC. I have no reasons whatsoever to leave PDP, no reasons. I have risen to where I am on the platform of PDP. PDP has a manifesto and I believe in it.”
Describing those who are leaving the PDP as fair weather friends of the party, Mr. Mark said, “When PDP bounces back in few years in the next couple of elections or next election they will come back again to PDP.”
Clearly, Mr. Mark has enormous resources that he could deploying in helping the party get back on its feet. He has the charisma and is regarded as one of the wisest men in the party told. He has in the recent past helped in the resolving intra-party crisis and reconciling party members across the country.

3. Godswill Akpabio: He is the outgoing governor of the oil-rich Akwa Ibom, a state he claimed to have “uncommonly transformed”. The 53-year old Mr. Akbabio however became a force to reckon with when he became Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum in 2013. He recently won election to the Senate to represent Akwa Ibom North West. Although he will be in the opposition in the upper legislative chamber, Mr. Akpabio will certainly play a key role in repositioning the PDP, especially the huge financial warchest he is believed to have amassed over the years.

4. Sule Lamido: He is the outgoing governor of Jigawa State. Mr. Lamido was a founding member of the PDP. He was a member of the G18 and 34, which fought the self-succession plot of former Head of State, Sani Abacha. The G34 later metamorphosed into the PDP. He contested the governorship election on the party’s platform but lost. He was to serve as foreign minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration between 1999 and 20003. He assumed power as governor in 2007 after staying four years out of political office. However, his party lost the state to the opposition APC both in the recent presidential, governorship and legislative elections. It is believed that Mr. Lamido, will be one of the rallying points of the PDP in the post-Jonathan era.
However, some can bet that it will not be so as his heart is allegedly in the opposition while his body remains in the PDP. Those who hold this view may not be far from the truth. Mr. Lamido was among the seven PDP governors who canvassed a new order in the ruling party under its former chairman, Bamanga Tukur. The others were Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Rabi;u Kwankwaso (Kano), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), who was later impeached. However, when five of the G7 governors dumped the party in 2013 for the APC, Messrs Lamido and Aliyu remained in the PDP. Mr. Lamido, 67, might be the PDP point man in the North.

5. Adamu Mu’azu: He is a former governor of Bauchi State. He assumed duties as national chairman of the ruling party in January 2014 when the party was in turbulence. Popularly called the “game changer,” the fortunes of the party appear to have further dimmed under him. For the first time in 16 years, the PDP lost woefully in a general election. Under Mr. Mu’azu’s watch, the party lost the presidential power to the APC in the March 28 election as well as several PDP states in the north. It is on record that despite his boast that the PDP would win 24 states in the governorship election, the party lost its earlier strongholds, namely Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Bauchi (his home state), Benue, Plateau, Niger, and Adamawa. Although, there are calls for his resignation, Mr. Mu’azu instead has been assuring that the PDP would bounce back. “We are humbled by the 28th of March decision of many Nigerians and promise never again to let you down. We will reform our party,” he said. “We have learnt some very useful lessons with the March 28th elections and we want to assure Nigerians you will see a new PDP.”

6. Liyel Imoke: Mr. Imoke, 54, is the outgoing governor of Cross River. He was a senator in the botched Third Republic. He has also benefited hugely from the PDP in this dispensation. He had served as power minister in the Obasanjo administration before becoming governor in 2007. Although many expect he would remain relevant in the rebuilding process of the party, there are those who believe his below average performance as governor may rob him of the moral foundation to be a credible PDP salesperson.

7. Olusegun Mimiko: The Ondo State governor started out on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy. He served as health commissioner in the state. He later moved to the PDP and became SSG before he moved to the centre where he served in the Obasanjo administration as Housing minister. However, he defected to the Labour Party on whose platform he ran for governor in 2007. Although the PDP was declared winner of the election, the Court of Appeal later ruled that it was Mr. Mimiko that won the election. The governor, who is serving out his second term next year, has since returned to the PDP. It is believed that his return to the PDP was in anticipation of getting a federal appointment if the party returned to power. Although, the APC won the presidential election in Ondo State, Mr. Mimiko is likely to stick with the PDP and might play a key role in reforming the party. He might be one of the key figures around which party members in the Southwest could
rally and seek direction.

8: Ken Nnamani: He was Senate President from 2005 to 2007. An indigene of Enugu, Mr. Nnamani is currently the Chairman of the Governing Board of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission. He is a respected PDP member and could be the rallying point of the party, particularly in the South East.

9. Jide Omokore: He is a chieftain of the PDP. He is businessman from Kogi State with interests in oil trading and exploration, marine, haulage service, steel, dredging engineering and property. Mr. Omokore had once been profiled by Forbes Magazine as “High net-worth billionaires in Nigeria.” He once donated N50m to the Kogi State Government as aid to victims of the flood disaster in 2012. Although he is not known to have occupied any political office, he has been of immense support to the ruling party. Mr. Omokore is tagged in some quarters as a business front for some public officials but that could not be proved at this time. He is one of the party’s most consistent financials. It however remains to be seen whether he would continue to fund the party now that it is in the opposition.

10. Olusegun Obasanjo: Like Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Obasanjo is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the PDP machine. In 1998, he was brought out from prison where he was serving jail term for alleged coup plotting and was elected president the following year. Mr. Obasanjo ruled as a democratically-elected president from 1999 to 2007. He had been military head of state from 1976 to 1979.

After he left power, he became Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees but quit the position in 2012 in order to “have a bit more time to devote to the international demand on me.” He further said resigning from the position would afford him more time “to give attention to mentoring across the board nationally and internationally in those areas that I have acquired some experience, expertise and in which I have something to share.”

Mr. Obasanjo however shocked many in February when he directed a fellow PDP man in Abeokuta to tear his membership card thereby signalling his exit from the party. The action was the peak of his anger with the party he was once led. Before his membership card was torn, Mr. Obasanjo had virtually stopped attending meetings of the ruling party apparently because of his grouse with Mr. Jonathan who he once wrote a letter criticising his style of governance. He is currently not a member of the PDP neither is he a member of the APC, which at some point wooed him. However, there are indications that he might return to the ruling party. After a meeting with Mr. Jonathan at the time, the outgoing governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, had assured that PDP would beg Mr. Obasanjo to return to the party.

“When a father is angry with his children, the children should beg him. Baba is more than a party man. He is an icon, a national symbol and a leader and inventor, a creator of all the institutions today in Nigeria from the president to the governors, who are his own sons, are all his creations.”

“And so when a father is angry with his children, we will only say we are sorry to him. But then, we cannot be renounced for whatever it is…….We might have made some mistakes, but abandoning us is not the solution because the country is first before anything else. So, he is our Baba even up to the president.”

It is not clear however if the party has begged the former president. Should he return to the PDP, Mr. Obasanjo will be one of the rallying points in the quest to revamp the party ahead of future polls.

Do you know of any other PDP leaders who are key in strengthening the party as a viable opposition platform? Tell us your nominees.

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