Edo: Whetting PDP’s appetite for 2023

LAST weekend’s victory in the Edo State gubernatorial election has seemingly strengthened the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) outlook in the run up to the 2023 general election. From the miserly 10 states it won in 2015, the PDP has brought five more under its umbrella by the 2020 gubernatorial election, chipping away at the dominance of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), which had 21 states in 2015.

Out of the 29 states where governorship elections held in 2019, the APC won 15 and the main opposition party improved its standing to 14 governorship seats as it snatched Zamfara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Oyo and Imo states from the APC. The PDP, in that election, lost Kwara and Gombe states to the APC over whom it still managed to retain a net edge of two states. Despite losing Imo state later through the Supreme Court with the nullification of the election of Emeka Ihedioha as the elected governor of the state and his unexpected replacement with Hope Uzodinma of the APC who had come a distant fourth at the election, the party regained one more state with the decamping of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from the APC to the PDP.  Obaseki was in the PDP for a short period before the poll, but he was able to trounce his APC rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, at the poll. Stemming from the victory last weekend, the main opposition with 16 states now under its belt believes that it is in a stronger position to mount a substantial challenge for the presidency in 2023.

Losing power in 2015 had left the PDP in virtual disarray and its teeming supporters distraught. That was the period Prince Uche Secondus stepped in and briefly acted as the national chairman of the party, inheriting the ruins of the debilitating defeat to the then new coalition, APC. The party contrived to recruit the former Borno Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff to become the national chairman, brushing aside the stiff opposition from elements within it who considered the former Senator an outsider that could not be trusted. Sheriff had only recently decamped for the APC when he was invited to lead the PDP, but many members thought that he was not the right man to salvage a party at its lowest ebb following the loss of power. He stayed in office with the backing of some powerful state governors. However, his attempt to be re-confirmed as the national chairman at the party’s national convention fell flat giving birth to a rival national caretaker committee.

The leadership crisis that followed from that coupled with the PDP’s fall from grace threatened to wipe it off the Nigerian political firmament as the Sheriff’s NWC became embroiled in an epic battle with the former Kaduna state Governor, Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee. A bitter legal tussle ensued that only terminated with the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Makarfi’s national caretaker committee as validly constituted.  Makarfi set the tone for the rebuilding of the party by seeking to reconcile its disgruntled elements, instituting reform agenda and conducting another national convention that brought the current NWC under Prince Secondus into office in 2017.

The recent improvements in the electoral fortunes of the PDP is attributable to the meticulous reconciliation and rebuilding efforts that started with the national caretaker committee but crystallised under the present national leadership.

The NWC has significantly advanced the reconciliation efforts. Firmly in place now is an enhanced conflict-resolution mechanism, based on a decentralised process of decision making. This quickens conflict resolution and has, to a substantial extent, curtailed the incessant decamping of members while at the same time encouraging those who had earlier left the party to return, the most recent example being the former governor of Delta state, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who has announced his return to the PDP from the APC. The reconciliation effort is said to be anchored on the principle of equality of members. This means that no matter how late someone may have joined or rejoined the party, the individuals are accorded equal opportunities with its longstanding members. The party’s national leadership, beyond pursuing this policy to create a level playing ground, is also intent on discouraging imposition of candidates at any level as well as the manipulation of party primaries, which has been the major source of acrimony among members.

The main opposition party’s NWC has also recently re-engineered the way it responds to issues affecting its members in the National Assembly. The national leadership says it now accords priority to matters that concern its legislative caucuses in a bid to retain their close-knit relationship among the members themselves and with the party.

It is also hoping that it can maintain the new synergy among its state governors on the one hand and the synergy between the governors and the party leaders on the other, which has accounted for the recent run of successes. It is the party’s belief that this synergy came handy in the Edo state election, which saw virtually all the state governors physically mobilizing support for Governor Obaseki’s re-election. Whereas there were rumors of some APC governors opposed to the party’s candidate in the election, the reversed seemed to have been the case in the PDP.  There was spontaneous jubilation in many of the PDP states when it emerged that the party had clinched victory in a Edo state. Observers believe that it is indicative of the oneness of state governors elected under the party.

As the party works towards the October 10, 2020 Ondo State governorship election, its leaders are beginning to see a silver lining over the 2023 general election and are, therefore, more conscious of consolidating its achievements prior to the polls. Of the two major political parties, only the PDP now controls states in every geopolitical zone in the country.

Apparently with 2023 elections in mind, the party has intensified its success consolidation efforts by seeking to enhance the complimentary roles of all its organs with a view to being fully prepared as it is increasingly confident about its chances of displacing the APC.

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