Would the PDP Prince Uche Secondus break the jinx of the second term ceiling or suffer a similar fate as his predecessors? That is one crucial question that stakeholders would confront during the 2021 Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) National Convention.
That is if he does not fall before then in the orchestrated high wire politics characterizing the build-up to the 2023 general elections.
Apart from what becomes of the national chair, there are other considerations being weighed by PDP stakeholders in the aftermath of the recent off-season gubernatorial polls in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
Right from its inception, no PDP national chairman has enjoyed more than one term in office, especially after the garrison political era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when the office turned into a musical chair of sorts.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, Engineer Barnabas Gemade, Dr. Okwy Nwodo, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and the Walin Bauchi, Adamu Mu’azu, belong to the club of former PDP national chairmen that were forced out of office in dramatic fashion before the fullness of their mandates.
The magnitude and direction, particularly the nationalistic stature attained by PDP was made possible by the sterling leadership styles of late Dr. Alex Ekwueme and former governor of old Plateau State, Dr. Solomon Lar.
In the immediate aftermath of the party’s fall from the pinnacle of grace and political glory in 2015, former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, tried his best to return PDP to the path of stability, strength and national acclaim after its traumatic and prolonged leadership crisis.
It was perhaps against the backdrop of the yeoman’s job of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee and the caliber of those jostling to take over at the 2017 National Convention of the party that most PDP stakeholders demanded rather that the committee handed over to its board of trustees.
However, followers of PDP politics believe that the oldest party’s downward slide in party management and regress from principled and democratic ideals actually started when the late Sunday Awoniyi was stopped from mounting the saddle as national chairman due to a strange interpretation of the party’s zoning principle.
Although Awoniyi hailed from the Yoruba-speaking area of Kogi State, most PDP faithful then were agreed that the argument that he should not be national chairman given that Obasanjo is Yoruba was merely to cover the fact that then-President Obasanjo did not want a strong character as chairman of the party.
Intriguingly, Awoniyi was also one of those who stoutly opposed the tenure elongation plot that would have facilitated the former president’s possible election into the office for a third term.
As a political party, PDP has gone through thick and thin in its more than 20 years of existence, 16 of which were spent at the commanding heights of national politics and democratic governance of the country.
On the immediate aftermath of the 2015 electoral defeat of the party, the clash between Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the mainstream stakeholders of the party, represented by Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, revealed some symptoms of morbidity.
Some of the state governors elected on the PDP platform started manifesting signs of divided loyalty to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). While Senator Sheriff and some of his supporters left for APC, some governors sympathetic to their cause remained.
As such, after the prolonged litigation by the factions, the Makarfi NCC began the process of weaning the party back to cohesion, such that the platform was made feasible for the 2019 general elections.
But, with the recovery came fresh challenges. By the time PDP announced dates and programmes for its national convention, it was obvious that everything was being done to set the stage for the 2019 election.
This occasioned some unexpected challenges, especially the contentious issue of zoning cum micro zoning. Although the protest by some national chairmanship aspirants from the Southwest caucus of the party was subdued, the spasms of discontent remained.
Profs. Tunde Adeniran, Jerry Gana and others decided to defect to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) after agonizing over the conduct of the convention and PDP’s decisions on zoning.
The emergence of Secondus as national chairman from the December 2017 convention was later to throw up fresh zoning concerns at the build-up to the party’s presidential primary in Port Harcourt.
At the end of the day, those against micro zoning had their way as presidential aspirants from the three geopolitical zones in the north contested for the party’s ticket.
Even Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was earlier primed for the ticket to divide Northwest votes with President Muhammadu Buhari of APC, ended up as the first runner-up.
For the Fourth Republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who clinched the party’s presidential ticket, the rigours of pacifying special interests and reconciling aggrieved PDP faithful left him deflated.
Fresh challenges emerged shortly after the presidential running mate was chosen, in the former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi.
While some PDP stakeholders from the Southeast geopolitical zone, especially the state governors, kicked that they were not consulted prior to Obi’s selection, some second term governors gradually recoiled from an active interest in the party.
To cap the grim outlook of the party, not long after the issue of selection of vice presidential candidate was papered over, the Southeast began moves to commit the presidential standard-bearer, Atiku, to one term in office if PDP won the election.
But Atiku was said to have expressed the belief that his choice of Mr. Peter Obi was enough expression of his respect for the people, arguing that talking about commitment to a single term amounts to putting the cart before the horse.
Those who threw up the idea explained that it was meant to pave the way for a Southeasterner to succeed him (Atiku) in 2023 and to douse their fears that the zone might have to wait till 2027 to have a shot at the presidency should Atiku wins the 2019 election.