By Dirisu Yakubu
In politics, two years is an equivalent of a month or less. In this clime, politicians perpetually seek new ways of repositioning themselves ahead of a big test; one capable of shaping the life of a nation and its people. Although the next general elections are not due until 2023; governors elected on the platform of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have hit the road on what promises to be a long, bumpy ride to power, particularly at the centre, should Nigerians decide to give the party’s governance blueprint a trial once again.
In Makurdi, the Benue state capital recently, the governors under the auspices of the PDP Governors’ Forum converged outside Abuja for the first time in the COVID-19 era, to take a critical look at Nigeria under the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari. Unlike the days of yore when the opposition was virtually left for elected party officials, the governors mounted the podium at the banquet hall of the Benue Government House to lament what they called the squalid conditions Nigerians have been made to live with in the past five and half years of the All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration.
From economy to security, they tore Buhari into shreds, even as they accused the ruling party of using intimidating tactics to woo some of its members to join its ranks. This came at a time the Zamfara state governor, Bello Matawalle was rumoured to have perfected plans to quit the PDP for the ruling party; a claim later dismissed by the governor who noted that his affiliation with the party that brought him to power, was rooted in deep personal conviction.
Ahead of 2023, the governors with the full complement of the National Working Committee and the Reconciliation and Strategy Committee headed by Dr Bukola Saraki, immediate past President of the Senate, are wooing Nigerians in their numbers with their position on restructuring even as they continue to point out what they see as artificially inflicted woes on the nation by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
Reading out the contents of a communiqué reached at the end of its Makurdi meeting, chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal chided President Buhari’s handling of critical issues threatening to jeopardise the fragile peace in the land.
“We condemned the alarming drift of Nigeria which if allowed to continue, will make Nigeria a failed state under the watch of the All Progressives Congress, APC, government. They (PDP governors) expressed deep concern and alarm at the deteriorating relations between various groups in Nigeria. The governors are deeply worried that indeed, all our fault lines and differences are being stretched to the limit by a government that clearly lacks the capacity to govern. The meeting agreed that this has given rise to ethnic and tribal tensions, religious divisions, and various forms of social and political cleavages. The governors concluded that Nigeria is in dire need of leadership at the federal level to avert the looming disaster.
“The meeting was similarly alarmed that security of lives and property of Nigerians are no longer guaranteed under the present government as a result of leadership incompetence and mismanagement of the nation’s affairs. While noting that governors have a role to play in the handling of some of the worsening situations, they regret that their hands are tied behind their backs as the entire coercive authority in the country is monopolised by the APC federal government. The time has come to take advantage of the ongoing constitution amendment process to decentralise the security architecture of Nigeria and involve states and local governments. ,” Tambuwal said on behalf of his colleagues.
“Consequently, the governors reaffirmed their conviction that an urgent devolution of powers and restructuring of the country in a way that brings together various groups and tendencies in the country appears to have become imperative and timely now as Nigeria cannot afford another civil war.
“The meeting further condemned the intimidation of sitting governors by the APC administration using all sorts of weapons like security agencies, unequal access to federal resources, promotion of divisions in the opposition political parties with fake promises and falsehoods. We significantly condemn the double standards that are applied by the APC-led federal government to intimidate PDP controlled states. To this end, we call on Mr President to lift the so-called ‘No flight Zone’ and other intimidating tactics, imposed on Zamfara State as similar measures have not been extended to similar states with security challenges like Kaduna, Borno, Katsina, Yobe and others. This is mostly politically motivated to ensure that the governors move over to APC,” Tambuwal said on behalf of his colleagues.
APC internal governance model faulted
Nigeria, Africa’s largest country requires a time-tested and credibly run political party to nurture and sustain her democracy. This remains the position of PDP governors who argue that with the absence of a valid committee to run its affairs, the ruling party shouldn’t be trusted with the horrendous task of running the affairs of the country beyond 2023.
Hear Tambuwal: “The meeting noted that the APC has been unable to even have a democratically-elected National Executive Committee as required by the Nigerian Constitution. A political party that operates by military fiat with an appointed and unelected executive committee at all levels from ward to national has no business running the affairs of our country. APC cannot deliver democracy to Nigeria; even to constitute a Board of Trustees has been an impossible task for the party since its inception. We are surprised that the APC is interested in playing politics and jockeying for power in 2023 when they have done an abysmal and terribly poor job of their current mandate.
Return of Gana, Audu, Nwoye, others
Ahead of 2023, the PDP recently made a good harvest of prominent, A-list politicians who for one reason or the other, left the party to seek pasture anew. In Makurdi at its North Central Zonal Congress recently, Governor Samuel Ortom had the singular honour of receiving into the fold of the party, former Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana; ex-Minister of State (Interior), Humphrey Abah; erstwhile chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council and a one-time Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Gambia, Ambassador Esther Audu as well Tony Nwoye, the APC governorship candidate in Anambra state in 2017.
All returnees vowed in Makurdi to mobilise men and resources for the party in their respective domains to ensure victory for the PDP in the next election cycle.
Matawalle’s non-defection and miscellaneous matters
Few hours to the Makurdi Congress, the media was awash with claims of the imminent defection of Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara state to the APC. A statement purportedly from the governor circulated, particularly in social media, describing protests against the President in London as enemies of Nigeria. With anxiety renting the air at the time, Matawalle joined his colleagues in Benue, where he participated in the governors’ meeting in its entire duration.
From the South-South came Governors Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) and Duoye Diri (Cross River). Also in attendance were Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Ishaku Darius (Taraba) as well as Baba Tella, deputy governor of Bauchi state who stood in for Governor Bala Mohammed. One after the other, they promised to work harder to impress Nigerians in their respective domains on the need to vote out the APC in 2023.
Push for electoral reforms
More than any group or agency in the land, the PDP Governors’ Forum is arguably the most vociferous advocate of electoral reforms in the country today. At every forum, they call on the President to sign the 2018 Electoral Amendment Bill into law to guide the prosecution of the next general elections.
Across the land, Nigerians are voicing their frustrations on the nation’s electioneering process, particularly as it concerns free, fair and credible elections. With controversy continuously trailing the use of card readers for accreditation; the PDP has times and again insisted that an amended Electoral Act which makes instant transmission of election result real-time will help address the manipulation associated with the current system.
Time will tell how consistent the party will remain in its quest to engage the APC on issues that matter ahead of the 2023 elections.