By Simon Imobo-Tswam
All is now set for the PDP National Chairman-elect, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, to take over the mantle of leadership at the PDP National Secretariat, Abuja, better known as Wadata Plaza. It is just a matter of days now.
From his emergence via a historic consensus as well as the groundswell of public endorsements that have followed his advent, it is clear that Dr. Iyorchia Ayu is the right man for the job. But more than this, he comes into office immensely qualified and eminently prepared.
As an academic, journalist, trade unionist, administrator, politician and foundation-member of the PDP, no one can doubt Ayu’s qualifications for this office. And as someone who has seen it all in the gilded palaces of power i.e. board chairman, senator, senate president, a cabinet minister many times over and across dispensations, nobody can question Ayu’s eminent preparation for the headship of Africa’s largest opposition party, the PDP, at this material time.
With Ayu’s solemn vow to return PDP to the ideals of its founding fathers, it is safe to say that PDP is poised to return to its winning ways sooner than later.
And the significance of his coming is not lost on discerning people or those with a recollection of history, both within and without the country.
In 1998, Dr. Ayu was among the very few courageous Nigerian patriots who stood up to the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s self-succession agenda.
At that critical junction of Nigeria’s history, Ayu joined forces with other patriots like Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, Prof. Jerry Gana, Malam Adamu Ciroma, Chief Bola Ige, Alh. Abubakar Rimi, Alh. Sule Lamido and Sen. Francis Ellah to form the G.9. Of the original G.9, it’s worth pointing out that only the incoming National Chairman, Prof. Gana and Sule Lamido are still alive. The G.9 became the nucleus of the G.18 and what metamorphosed further into the now famous G.34.
The G.34 took upon itself the burden of wrestling power from a draconian military dictatorship, and returning it to the people. And even though Abacha died in the process, the G.34 continued its push under the successor-regime of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar until Nigeria returned to democracy on May 29, 1999.
Although democracy returned to Nigeria in 1999, it was, to a large extent, only in complexion as the soul of the democracy was still military or militarized. In other words, the G.34 had fought the military to return Nigeria to a Democracy, but the military had given Nigeria a mutation, a cross between a military dictatorship and a democracy i.e. Civilian rule!
The President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was a retired general and former military Head of State; the Vice President, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, was a retired Customs Officer and the President’s Chief of Staff, Abdullahi Mohammed, was also a retired general and ex-National Security Adviser.
But that was not all: arguably the most powerful cabinet minister in that dispensation was the now late Chief Tony Anenih, an ambassador of the police establishment to the Nigerian civil society. When he left the cabinet, he became the Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT).
At some point, even party itself came under the superintendence of Amadu Ali, a retired colonel and education minister under Gen. Obasanjo in the late 70s.
Between this quartet or quintet as the case might be, all hopes of steadily moving Nigeria from a civilian government into a full-blown democracy remained expensive illusions. It wasn’t long before our politics became “a do-or-die affair,” with the impeachments or threats of impeachments sweeping across the country like a tsunami. And the Press promptly gave our democracy a name: Garrison democracy!
The aberrations, the disruptions, the overthrow of party supremacy, the persecutions, the alienation of the party from the people, the detachment of the government from the governed, the turnover of party chairmen at the Wadata Plaza and the arrogance of power were not part of PDP’s founding ideals as an inclusive and democratic, mass, political movement.
The foregoing would later consume the PDP, just 16 years into her presidential incumbency, but the seeds were sown in the PDP Class of 1999. In fact, even without the spectacular lies of APC in 2014/2015, it’s likely the PDP would have imploded sooner or later!
At some point, even Dr. Ayu, who was one of the midwives of the PDP, who also ably directed the presidential campaign of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and had just exited Obasanjo’s second-term cabinet, was arrested on “terrorism” charges in late 2006! Of course, those trumped up charges died premature deaths when subjected to judicial scrutiny.
For someone who had outsmarted the draconian arbitrariness of the Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha juntas, outwitting Team Obasanjo was no big deal.
Today, it is the lot of PDP to, once again, rescue Nigeria from the chokehold of another civilian regime trying to look like a democracy. And the lot falls on the shoulders of the enigmatic, cerebral, thorough, strategic and calculative Ayu.
And, where in 1998/99, Ayu was saddled with the director-generalship of the Obasanjo campaign, he is today coming in as the National Chairman of the PDP. Knowing his historic mission at this critical juncture of Nigeria’s history, Ayu believes that: With PDP, Nigeria shall rise again.
However, being a deep and strategic thinker, Ayu understands something fundamental i.e. that to rescue Nigeria, the PDP must, first, rescue herself. This is why the first thing he did, upon emergence as national chairman-elect, was to rally his NWC members to organize a two-day, national retreat in Abuja from 23-24th Nov., 2021. It is instructive that the theme of the retreat was “Rescue and Rebuild Nigeria.”
The very successful retreat made valid observations, and consequential recommendations that, if implemented, will see the PDP reformed, reinvented, repositioned and reinvigorated.
This is the only way it can commence its historic task of rescuing Nigeria from the vicious grip of crass mediocrity, gross incompetence and disruptive nepotism – all of which have contributed in pushing Nigeria to the brink of a failed state.
It is common knowledge now that, after the false alarm of Jan.1, 1994, Nigeria has in 2021 become a real “Beggar-and-Debtor-Nation,” apologies to Sani Abacha). The added danger that threatens to do in Nigeria is the specter of becoming a Banditstan i.e. a Bandit-Nation. That is why the PDP appears to have a date with history, Come 2023.
And Ayu, as the centre of gravity of the incoming NWC, is poised to be the midwife of that history – for he brings to the table team-work, democratic consolidation and strategic planning. But more than these, he is taking to Wadata Plaza vision, out-of-the-box innovations, intellectual rigour, ideation and ideological mooring – things not seen too much in our political engagements. The quality of the resource persons at the retreat is indicative of this leadership shift.
As a journalist himself, and one who understands the synergy between messaging and mobilization, Ayu knows that 2023 will be about the acknowledged disaster that is the Buhari presidency. He equally knows that PDP’s messaging will focus on the inglorious centres of gravity of that disaster, to wit: the collapsed security, the collapsed economy and the collapsed hopes of the citizenry.
But being the quintessential power-player that he is, and one who plays by the subterranean rules, PDP, under him, will effectively dismantle APC’s propaganda machine and possibly topple her inverted pyramid of lies.
But there will be more to PDP, going forward, than just media engagements. The game-changer is here to stop the circus of endless blame-games and executive surrender.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, join me to usher in the brand new PDP National Chairman, Dr. Christopher Iyorchia Demenongo Ayu.
• Imobo-Tswam, a public space commentator and Team Leader at Executive Writers Ltd., writes from Abuja.