Nearly 3000 delegates of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory [FCT] would converge at Eagle Square in Abuja tomorrow for the party’s National Convention to elect new leaders. It is not surprising that the undercurrents and scheming ahead of the convention have dominated discourse in the country’s major news outlets in the last several weeks.
PDP’s convention would be historic because those elected would take over the mantle of leadership from the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee. They would then manage the party through the 2019 general elections. The Makarfi committee has done a lot to stabilise PDP since its Supreme Court victory over the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction. While the crises lasted, it denied Nigeria a viable opposition party.
Mid last year the Makarfi-led caretaker committee set up a committee to zone the 21 available positions between the North and the South. The committee, headed by Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, submitted its report in July 2016. It zoned to the South the positions of National Chairman, Deputy National Chairman 1, National Treasurer, National Legal Adviser, National Youth Leader and National Organising Secretary. Other positions zoned to the South include Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Deputy National Woman Leader, Deputy National Auditor and Deputy National Financial Secretary.
Positions zoned to the North include Deputy National Chairman 2, National Secretary, National Financial Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Auditor and National Woman Leader. Others are Deputy National Treasurer, Deputy National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Youth Leader, Deputy National Legal Adviser and Deputy National Secretary. While presenting the report Umahi said, “After robust deliberations on proposals presented by members, the committee proposed that all positions should be keenly contested for among the major zones they are zoned to.” He said this will open the space for full participation of members. He specifically said the party’s chairmanship was zoned to the South bearing in mind that the party’s National Convention in Port Harcourt on May 21, last year had zoned the presidential ticket to the North.
There are three geo-political zones each in the North and South. The various offices allocated to each region would therefore be competed for among the geo-political zones in that region. There are clear indications that all is not well with this arrangement, especially in the South over the issue of micro zoning. At present, there are eight chairmanship aspirants, six from the South West and two from the South South and the issue of who becomes the chairman is already threatening the relative peace in the party amidst allegations that some powerful forces are relentlessly trying to impose a certain candidate.
Anything short of a transparent convention that would be acceptable to all PDP members could nail the party’s coffin and make it difficult for it to recover from the debacle of 2015. The death of PDP which controls eleven states at present would also deny Nigeria a viable opposition party, which is badly needed in a democracy. PDP has a huge credibility problem arising from its sixteen years reign in 1999-2015 and it has a lot of work to do to regain Nigerians’ trust, beginning with this convention. Besides, without functional and vibrant political parties, Nigeria’s democracy is in danger of being hijacked by sectional organisations. PDP leaders and convention delegates must rise up to the occasion tomorrow. PDP’s spokesman Prince Dayo Adeyeye has also alleged that “overzealous elements” in the APC government are planning to disrupt PDP’s convention and he appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari “to investigate the issue and stop the plot in order to save democracy in the land.”
Though this claim is unsubstantiated, we call on security agencies to give the PDP convention adequate protection. Tomorrow’s convention is important not only for PDP but for all Nigerians because we need both a dynamic ruling party and a vibrant opposition party for our democracy to thrive.