MUSA A. MUSA
The politics of 2023 is already gathering momentum with various dynamics being played out. It must be established that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is an organic party that dwells on justice, equity and fairness in discharging its responsibilities. The party has been able to withstand the shock in the system despite a depletion of its members, including losing three Governors to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC ) as well as Senators and House of Representatives members in 2021.
The candidate of the party in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who ought to be the face of opposition, was not available, thus creating a leadership vacuum. He was away in Dubai for over two years and unable to recalibrate the needed push for a virile opposition.
But for Governor Nyesom E. Wike of Rivers State who took stop gap measures to rally round the party, through consistent engagements, the fortune of the party would have plummeted abysmally. The seamless leadership change that brought in Iyorchia Ayu also added spice to the hope that the party represents for an average Nigerian.
A lot of people are looking up to the PDP for the desired road map to provide leadership for a country that is apparently at a crossroads.
Governor Wike is reputed to have assumed the role of a strong pillar for the party. He has kept the flag flying even when it seemed the party was headed for the rocks. He has consistently remained steadfast with the party without defecting.
Besides, his strong support for the PDP, Wike’s superlative performance in Rivers State that has earned him the sobriquet “Mr. Project”, is an added advantage for a leader who can make a difference in the life of the people.
The point must be made that some of today’s presidential aspirants (Atiku, Sen Bukola Saraki and Gov Aminu Tambuwal) were part and parcel of the reason why the PDP lost election in 2015 following their defection to the APC. They harped their support for president Buhari on the plank of President Jonathan for abandoning the zoning formula or power rotation . These same people now want same zoning they used against Jonathan to be jettisoned for 2023 election. They pulled the rug off Jonathan’s feet and exposed the party to leadership humiliation. The crumbling of the party became evident. But Governor Wike rallied round other like minds to ensure they halted the pending implosion.
Unable to realise their ambitions in APC, these defectors returned to the fold of the PDP and in line with our doctrine to be accommodating, they were accepted and allowed to run for the 2019 elections. The party made Atiku to fly its flag in 2019, having granted him all the necessary waivers, but he soon undermined the structure on ground and those who were holding fort before his return.
Also, when Governor Tambuwal returned, PDP accorded him similar recognition. He also ran for the presidential primaries in 2019.
Senator Saraki is another prodigal son of the PDP who only wants the platform to achieve his presidential ambition. There is no commitment that he believes in the PDP.
Sen. Bala Mohamed, governor of Bauchi State has also indicated interest to run for the president in 2023. There are indications that he has performed well in Bauchi State but that is not enough guarantee to earn him a ticket of the party in 2023. He was a Senator and minister of FCT but he has no national appeal that will endear him to Nigerians outside his state or Hausa/ Fulani stock.
From available evidence, it is established that the ruling APC will be choosing its presidential candidate from the South. It will only be necessary for the PDP to pick its flag bearer from the South. Let it be a straight fight between the two parties in the South.
Hate or love him , it is incontrovertible that Wike has been constintently reliable and has the capacity to garner not less than two million votes from Rivers State voting population. That alone puts him in a better stead far and above any other aspirants in the fray.
He has been pro-party and openly supported and backed Northern aspirants in 2019, even when some of them were those who defected and almost crumbled the PDP. It is a known fact that he supported Governor Tambuwal’s aspiration in 2019, an honour that should ordinarily be reciprocated in 2023.
Furthermore, there was no Southern aspirant in 2019 because of the recognition that the North should produce the candidate. It is only natural to allow the South to produce the candidate in line with the provisions of the PDP constitution on rotation. The PDP constitution in chapter One Section (3) (C) states that “ adhering to the policy of rotation and zoning of Party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity , justices and fairness “. This is explicit . The party cannot be seen to be jettisoning its own constitution as a party reputed to be formidable, orderly, disciplined and always ready to carry everyone along. The forthcoming 2023 elections will be litmus test for the party .
Governor Wike, in my own view, is more than capable as a team player, to give APC a run for its money.
The PDP must not allow vaulting ambitions of a few to derail its focus at ensuring that the APC is eased out of power.
Ordinarily, the slot for the president in 2023 should be taken for granted to the South-East region. Former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi have thrown their hats in the ring.
Without any intention for malice, Anyim was elected president of the Senate in 2000 by default, out of the unfortunate circumstances after Senator Chuba Okadigbo was forced out of office. Anyim after his Senate presidency in 2023, left the scene and the party until 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan made him Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). What was his impact as SGF? With such exalted office, he could not cut a national image or outlook for himself. Besides, he is not one of the respected political leaders in the South East. Anyim may not be a marketable choice as flag bearer or the face of PDP in 2023.
Peter Obi is a good administrator and had a track record of accomplishments in Anambra State. A good man for the job but can his candidacy muster enough vote from the South East let alone the entire country to win the general election? Your guess is as good as mine. If sentiments were to garner votes, Peter Obi would have been the choice, but sentiments don’t win election but reality does.
In the soyuth – South zone, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State cuts the image of a gentleman; unfortunately, he has not been able to cut a national image or outlook that would have made him marketable across Nigeria. Besides, he is seen as an unpredictable leader and often times plays the ostrich when it matters. Apart from his handling of the 2019 presidential primaries in Port Harcourt, Okowa is at best a provincial leader . A leader must lead from the front.
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State may be a good governor in Akwa Ibom State but certainly not one to wear the garment of PDP presidential outfits . He is little known nationally. He will be a hard sell if given the PDP ticket.
By and large, if the party is to consider loyalty and faithfulness, Governor Wike is at the moment the best choice. It’s time to reward loyalty and do away with self-serving politicians otherwise called “food is ready politicians”.
Today , the Ayu-led PDP must be bold enough to take hard decisions. The party cannot at this point jettison zoning just because it does not favour some people .
The APC has shown its hand in the South for presidency in 2023, the PDP should do same. It is instructive to note that if PDP abandons zoning and allows the race to be open, the PDP would set a bad precedence against its own constitution and will live to reap the consequences of its action afterwards.
. Musa A. Musa writes from Abuja