PDP: Intrigues over party’s leadership

Nine months after the conduct of the presidential elections and more than three years to the conduct of the 2027 general polls, peace has not returned to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The party, which lost the February 2023 presidential election to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has yet to recover from the aftermath of the loss, as key stakeholders have yet to come to an agreement on the leadership of the party.

The crises and intrigues that trailed the outcome of the presidential poll are stalling the emergence of a substantive chairman of the party since the exit of the former chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu.

It was gathered also that some key actors in the party, who are predominantly serving and former governors, former ministers and former members of the National Assembly, are battle ready to seize control of the party.

Though the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has urged feuding parties to withdraw cases from courts, Saturday Sun gathered that the lingering crisis may not be resolved soon in order to pave the way for a new leadership.

Multiple sources told this newspaper that until issues raised by serving and former governors are resolved, peace may not return to the party soon.

One of the sources said amidst the moves to resolve the teething issues, former and serving governors are planning to form a new coalition that may produce the party’s next national chairman.

The source said the new coalition has already succeeded in producing leaders of the minority caucuses in the National Assembly who are expected to play pivotal roles ahead of the planned national convention of the PDP in Abuja.

He said a former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who also served as governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011, has been positioned to clinch the position of the national chairman of the PDP.

The source, a prominent member of the party who pleaded anonymity, said Saraki may agree to run, since he has been promised that he will emerge unopposed.

He said if Saraki emerges chairman, the development may alter calculations and plans by some hitherto established camps to have a strong run ahead of the 2027 general elections.

The crises rocking the party have persisted since former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the presidential elections in 2015 to Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC).

Though a series of attempts had been made to address the teething issues, it appears all efforts have failed to yield the needed results.

The crises, which berthed after Jonathan’s exit in 2015, also threw up new pillars of the party, predominantly governors. In the absence of a central government, governors funded and controlled the party.

Its first litmus test was in 2019, when it presented candidates as an opposition party. Its performance was abysmal, as it failed to regain power at the center and reclaim key states it hitherto controlled before its defeat in 2015.

Unable to resolve the crisis after the 2019 general elections, the PDP again approached the 2023 general elections divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Like in 2019, it failed to clinch the presidency and also failed in reclaiming more states.

The source said: “A new leadership will likely happen in the first quarter of next year. The coast will be clear on those who will really control the affairs of the party when the party has its convention.”

Meanwhile, the party has said it will choose a substantive national chairman to replace its former leader Ayu, at the appropriate time and in accordance with its constitution.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who stated this in a telephone interview with Saturday Sun on Friday, noted that the PDP as a “party of law, order and process,” would always be guided by its constitution. Ayu, a former Senate President, was ousted as PDP national chairman in the aftermath of the 2023 general election, following his suspension from the party by his ward in Benue State. The former chairman’s suspension was later affirmed by a Benue court.

Since then, the PDP Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagum, has been presiding over the affairs of the opposition party.

The PDP spokesman, however, was not forthcoming on the “appropriate time” the party would choose its substantive national chairman, saying that the PDP has been running well under the acting national chairman.

Ologunagba said: “The position (of chairman) is not vacant. We are following what our constitution says. When there is a removal or resignation of chairman, the deputy chairman will act. Our constitution does not envisage a vacant position.

“We are going to follow our constitution with regard to the election of a substantive national chairman. The constitution is very clear on the way to go. It is a party issue. At the appropriate time, the party will make that decision.

“The party is running well and we are going to follow our constitution, in all aspects, as it relates to the positions in the management of the party. ”

Meanwhile, PDP Presidential candidate in the 2023 general election, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has refuted insinuations that he was at loggerheads with governors elected on the platform of the party over national chairmanship position.

Atiku, who spoke through his media aide, Paul Ibe, said the reported rift between him and the governors were mere insinuations. His words: “There is no bickering. We have responded to that issue. All of that are insinuations.”

Similarly, the PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Abdullahi, told Saturday Sun that there is no bickering between Atiku and the PDP governors. Abdullahi said: “it is contextual. It depends on how people choose to see it. But contestation of ideas is a normal thing in politics. That is why it is called a political party. People will always come with their ideas with the hope that it will be what will prevail ultimately. Not anything acrimonious.”

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