Deputy Editor, LEON USIGBE, writes on the key decisions reached by the 80th meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it bids to continue its poaching of members of other political parties in the run-up to next year’s general elections.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), rose from its 80th meeting this week coming up with decisions likely to have significant bearing on its electoral fortunes next year. The emergency NEC meeting was essentially to prepare grounds for other political party members who have indicated their willingness to join the former ruling party. Principally, the meeting approved that members of the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) be absorbed into the party as a logical follow-up to the discussions that the national leadership of the party had with the intending defectors ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The R-APC led by Alhaji Buba Galadima, a former close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, recently broke out from the ruling APC and claiming to be the authentic APC. It is believed that beyond those that have openly identified with the faction, many prominent chieftains of the APC sympathise with it and may soon declare their stance to join the R-APC in the PDP.
This resolution to fuse the R-APC into the PDP came on the heels of the consummation of an alliance between the PDP and 38 other political parties under the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) intent on ousting President Buhari and his ruling APC from power for what they saw as his gross incompetence in the management of the country particularly, security and the economy. In an apparent bid to regain its status as the biggest political party in Nigeria and Africa and launch itself back to power, the PDP NEC had already authoriseds, in previous meetings, that the party be opened for all intending defectors from other parties and former members of the party who wished to return, all of who must be accepted as equal partners at every level they decide to join. This is a deliberate attempt by the party to poach politicians from other political parties. The PDP itself has no regrets about this.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, confirmed the decision to absorb the R-APC after the NEC when he said: “NEC also approved the discussion members of the National Working Committee had been having with the members of the R-APC. NEC approved the alliance we have had with the 38 political parties and associations and agreed that the members of the R-APC be allowed to fuse into the PDP. We will continue to hunt for members of other political parties.”
PDP has drawn up a template to be adopted by all its state chapters in fusing the R-APC into their systems which gives a certain percentage of the party structure to a defecting state governor even as the NWC insists that it will not impose any structure on the party chapters. The mass defection of lawmakers from the APC to the PDP on Tuesday and the subsequent defection of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state are a derivative from this initiative and could encourage many more APC politicians to join the PDP fold in the days and week ahead.
The PDP is also on track to meet one of the core demands of top APC chieftains who are concerned about the stigmatisation of the party by the ruling party, its agents and sympathisers who have arguably successfully tarred the former ruling party with corruption brush. These prospective important returnees have indicated that they will be more comfortable if the PDP were to change its name and consequently make it harder for the APC to use the corruption toga to campaign against it. Some people have kicked against the attempt at name change as they see the PDP as a brand that cannot just be wished away. But convinced by the argument of the intending defectors, the 80th NEC has resolved to investigate the possibility of effecting the name change and has now saddled a committee on Harmonisation to deal with the matter. Ologbodiyan similarly confirmed this by saying that “The NEC constituted a committee on harmonization and to commence the process of name-changing and rebranding. The names of members of the committee will be made known soon.” It is unclear how soon the name will be changed. But given the fact that name change is an exercise that is time bound by the provisions of the electoral laws, the party should have a new name sooner, rather than later, should it decide on that course of action.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio and Acting Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chukwuka Onyeoma, who spoke shortly before the NEC went into a close—door session, were all confident that the PDP was primed to regain its majority status in the National Assembly, a prediction that appeared to have been proved right with Tuesday’s defections.
Ogun State Senator, Buruji Kashamu, was at the receiving end of PDP NEC’s big stick, expelled from the party for actions unbecoming of a PDP member. Specifically, the NEC accused him of hobnobbing with the APC and working against the party’s interest in the just—concluded Ekiti State gubernatorial election. Expelled with him were Semiu Sodipo, Bayo Adebayo and Segun Seriki, all previously of Ogun state PDP. The party’s spokesman explained the disciplinary action against the three men thus: “The party took disciplinary action against its members who have been hobnobbing with the All Progressives Congress in ways that were detrimental to the interest of the PDP.”
Prior to his expulsion, Kashamu had been in the eye of the storm several times in the party. Before and after the 2015 general election which the party lost, he bogged it down with numerous litigations and one of which was blamed for aborting the planned Port Harcourt National Convention that led to the setting up of the defunct National Caretaker Committee. He was perceived to be the major backer of former National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who most of the party stakeholders never wanted as the party boss. Kashamu also had a running battle with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who never hid his disdain for the Senator’s claim to the leadership of South West PDP. The former president was thought to be unable to share the same political platform with Kashamu whose expulsion may just pave the way for the former president to re-identify openly with the PDP.
Kashamu is fighting back as he believes that in expelling him, the PDP failed to follow due process. His argument: “It is clear from the ill-advised decision that the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee is lawless and undemocratic. No due process was followed as enshrined in the constitution of the party. Since the initial 30-day suspension lapsed on the 9th of January, 2018, they do not have any right to take any disciplinary action against me. This decision cannot stand because Article 57 (6) of the PDP Constitution says ‘Any decision taken against a member who has not been informed of the charges against him or has not been given any opportunity of defending himself shall be null and void.’” The PDP itself announced after the expulsion order that the Ogun Senator has procured a warrant of arrest from “a pliant judge” against the leadership of the party.
Another key decision reached by the PDP NEC was to challenge the outcome of the Ekiti State gubernatorial election which it lost to the APC. The party claims that it has enough evidence to show that the election was manipulated in favour of the APC and is confident that the result will be upturned in the courts.
The 80th NEC meeting decisions are the latest in the process of strengthening the former ruling party for the all important 2019 general elections, which its sees as an opportunity to reclaim power. The party thinks that President Buhari is in a vulnerable position because of his administration’s inability to deal with the poor economic situation of millions of Nigerians. Worst still, is what the opposition party sees as his demonstrable incompetence to halt the spate of bloodshed in the country, which has confounded both the president’s sympathisers and opponents. For the PDP, the APC has become an unattractive election vehicle for Nigerians. Therefore, the 2019 election cannot come sooner enough for the former ruling party, which thinks of itself as rebranded and repositioned.