Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The 2023 general elections is still four years away. But within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), issues relating to the 2023 electoral activities, especially who will be the party’s presidential candidate are putting party leaders on the edge.
Last December, the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees( BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin , announced that the board is exploring the possibility of a consensus presidential candidate for the party in the 2023 contest.
Curiously, few days later, Jibrin alleged that his life is under threat for not saying that the party will zone its presidential ticket to the North East, which produced the opposition party’s presidential candidate in the 2015 polls.
Since the Supreme Court threw out the petition of the PDP 2019 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the February 23, 2019 presidential election, issues as to which zone will produce the party’s 2023 presidential candidate have dominated discourse among PDP leaders.
Party chiefs are torn between whether the PDP should maintain its 2019 zoning formula or review it in 2023. Presently, there is no consensus among party leaders on the issue. The PDP had zoned its 2019 presidential and vice presidential tickets to the North East and South East respectively.
However, the PDP National Working Committee ( NWC) has repeatedly said that talks about where the presidential candidate will come from in 2023 is premature.
The PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus, told journalists in Abuja, last week, that the major preoccupation of the opposition party at the moment is the rebuilding of the party. He noted the party will come out with a position on the zoning formula in due time.
“Today, we are more concerned with rebuilding our party. When the time comes for the nomination of a presidential candidate, the party will come out with its position. You know the constitution allows everybody, whether you are from the North, whether you are from the South to contest.
“No one is going to stop anyone from contesting even when it is zoned to a particular region. So, every person still has a right to contest. If you are qualified and desire to run for the office of the president, you are free to contest,” Secondus had stated.
However, analysts say there are several factors that will most likely define the 2023 contest for the opposition party.
The Atiku factor
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar was the PDP presidential candidate in 2019 general elections and lost to President Muhammadu Buhari, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress ( APC).
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict, on the 2019 presidential poll, which affirmed the victory of President Buhari, there have been speculations on Atiku’s next political move. On his part, the former vice President has kept his plans very close to his chest.
Atiku, while reacting to the Supreme Court judgment had stated that “As a democrat, I fought a good fight for the Nigerian people. I will keep on fighting for Nigeria and for democracy, and also for justice…I was a democrat, I am a democrat, and I will always continue to be a democrat.”
Party stalwarts are divided on what role the former Vice President will play in the PDP in the run-up to the 2023 polls. While some believe that he should take yet another shot at the Presidency, others believe that he should jettison thoughts of seeking the party’s presidential ticket in the next general election, especially as age is not on his side. Atiku would be 76 in 2023.
Those in this school of thought believe that Atiku will better serve the interest of the opposition party in the 2023 polls, by assuming leadership role in the party’s BoT.
A PDP member of the House of Representatives, told Daily Sun that those championing this idea, believe that the party stands to benefit immensely from Atiku’s leadership of the BoT, as the opposition party needs a strong character like the former vice President, who can look members of the party in the face and tell them the truth.
However, whether or not Atiku decides to seek the PDP ticket in 2023 or play any other role in the opposition party in the run-up to the 2023 general elections, his action will have some implication on the party.
Crisis in state chapters
One major hurdle the PDP would have to cross in the march to the 2023 general elections is crisis in its state chapters across the country. At the moment, no fewer than six chapters of the opposition party across the country are enmeshed in one crisis or the other.
The PDP chapters currently being ravaged by crisis include: Lagos, Edo, Bayelsa, Kano, Plateau, Ogun among others.
Already, the BoT have set up reconciliation committees to go round the troubled states, with a view to resolving the differences.
Jibrin told journalists recently that: “We have also directed the BoT Committee on Peace and Conflicts to visit Edo, Kano, Lagos, Osun, Bayelsa and other states which are in conflict with a view to make peace between them.”
He added that: “All we need now is consultation and dialogue in solving our problems and not dismissal or suspension. All members must respect the dignity and supremacy of the party.
“Reconciliations should continue in the units, wards, local government council, states and nationally.” Whether or not these peace moves will bear the expected fruits is yet to be seen.”
Pundits say the ability of the party to resolve the crisis satisfactorily will to a great extent, affect its electoral fortunes in the concerned states and the country at large.
PDP Governors Forum
Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, PDP governors have to a great extent determine who gets what in the party and shape of things generally. And there is no indication, that this is going to change any time soon.
Therefore, analysts say whatever role the opposition governors decides to play in the affairs of party in the run-up to the 2023 will have serious impact on the fortunes of the party in the next general elections.Though there are currently 14 PDP, only a few of them are known to actively involved in the affairs of the opposition party.
While some are ambivalent, others are speculated to be hobnobbing with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), ahead of the 2023.
There is also the issue of unity of purpose among the PDP governors. Recently, there were reports that the opposition governors are at daggers drawn over the PDP 2023 presidential ticket.
However, the opposition spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, in an interview with journalists dismissed the reports as untrue. He insisted that there is no crack among the governors.
Nevertheless, the incoming chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, said the forum under him will seek to unite the governors and the entire party. This is apparently in a bid to ensure that the party is more formidable
“In foisting of peace among governors and indeed the entire party, I assure you that we are going to use this platform to bring everybody on board. We will bring former governors, former ministers that served in the party. They are very resourceful, they are our leaders and they have a lot to contribute for the development of the party and our country. So, we shall relate more closely with them towards rebuilding the party and, of course, deepening our democracy in Nigeria,” Tambuwal told journalists after his unveiling as the new chairman of the PDP Governors Forum.
PDP threatens boycott of 2023 polls
As part of preparations for the 2023 polls, the PDP at its 88th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the PDP recently, resolved to set up a Review and Assessment Committee to do a postmortem on the 2019 general elections.
The committee is expected to submit a position paper to the opposition party on the 2019 polls, apparently to guide it going forward.
Secondus said the party’s participation in future polls will be contingent on the recommendations of its Review and Assessment Committee on the 2019 polls.
The PDP chairman, while receiving a term from the International Republican Institute ( IRI), which visited the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, last week, said the opposition party might not participate in the 2023 general elections, if there are no electoral reforms.
“One of the areas we are looking forward in our country is our electoral processes and laws. We believe that they are antiquated now, they needed amendment. We need to improve on our voting patterns and the reporting of results from voting point and the transmission processes.
“ They are all embodied in the electoral processes and amendment., without that, it will be difficult for us to think about contesting any election because previous experiences have been terrible and horrifying. The people in government with INEC and security agencies in collaboration to deny the people their right. If people do not have the right to vote, what is the essence of election? People must come out of their houses to register and vote. They must have the right to go out there to vote and then be safe,” he stated.
Secondus added: “We are setting up a review and assessment committee review as a post-mortem of what happened in 2019. And would there be any need for us to participate in future elections? If there is no need, we will inform the leaders of our party, show them the facts and figures, people who have ben killed, people who went to vote, if you cannot be guaranteed that you can go and vote and come back safely, what will be the need in 2023 to come and vote?”
For the opposition party, the road to the 2023 presidential poll is full of so many challenges and mines, which it must navigate successfully to be able to achieve its desired results.