I think the PDP delegates’ choice of Uche Secondus as Chairman is a strategic bull’s eye in the circumstances. I know that this would be presented by some as a loss for the South-West, but I don’t think so. I am not a PDP man, but I would have preferred my friend, Professor Tunde Adeniran to win, not because he’s my friend, but because I think he’s the most credible of all the candidates pound-for-pound. He’s an even-handed no-frills intellectual heavyweight who has the stature and ideas to reposition the party and make it fit for purpose. But this is politics and I can understand why in the circumstances Secondus emergence is the best result, if, as we know, the presidential ticket has been zoned to the North.
I think Governor Ayo Fayose may have supported Secondus for personal reasons. Having declared his intention to contest the PDP presidential ticket, he knows the party will not give it to him, but this is just a bargaining gambit. The eleven PDP governors’ choice of Secondus is first to test their strength as a block and
From this result, it’s obvious that the PDP has kept the vice presidential slot open to only the South-West and the South-East. Electorally speaking a choice from the South-West to match the APC would be the most reasonable. The South-East can be rewarded with the Senate presidency if the PDP wins back the national parliament, including getting some high-powered ministerial positions, while they strategise for the presidency to be specifically zoned to the South-East after one or two terms of the president of Northern extraction likely to emerge, if such a person is of the PDP. Okay, I’m not a fan of zoning and all that stuff, but I believe if it’s the consensus, it should be adhered to. So, the South-East can quickly concede the vice presidential slot to the South-West and extract a firm promise from the South-West, the North and the South-South to zone the presidency to the South-East in any subsequent presidential election, depending on whether the incoming president serves one or two terms if PDP were to produce him.
This will work very well for PDP because they do not need to campaign much in the South-East and the South-South as these are traditional PDP constituencies. President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC have done nothing to win them over and are not likely to do so before the election. The party would then expect their presidential candidate to fight for the Northern vote with Buhari and for a South-West vice presidential choice to fight Tinubu and Osinbajo in the South-West. I think Fayose’s calculation is to be that candidate and if that happens, I can see how that will make PDP very competitive in the South-West because Fayose as a Vice President is more likely to be a more powerful and more influential Vice President than an Osinbajo.
So, the party reconciliation machinery should be cranked up now to reach out to all aggrieved parties, as is to be expected after such a keen contest. Secondus must be humble and magnanimous in victory; he should display the openness he displayed when he was briefly leader and keep it that way. He must concentrate his efforts on ensuring that the party is not factionalized by carrying all major party leaders and political tendencies along. He cannot show partiality in any way and while he must try to always cooperate with the governors who obviously are the party’s main source of support at the moment, he has to always show with his actions that the party’s interest is paramount. They must expect the APC to attempt to destabilise them and it’s obvious where they would be targeting as the party’s soft spot. They will look to explore the seeming present disenchantment with Secondus choice in the South-West and thereby use that as a basis to factionalize the party because they know a disunited PDP will be no match for the APC during the election. They will attempt to use Buruji Kashamu and a few others for this purpose. But, South-West party leaders must resist this. Rather, they should work within themselves to present one candidate for the vice presidential slot.
If Fayose wants the position, he will have to reach out to all PDP leaders in the South-West and humbly plead his case while assuaging their hurt feelings over this election outcome. He must explain to them why having the slot of a powerful Vice President well negotiated with a Northerner as President is better than that of party Chairman. If the other leaders are united and want someone else for the post, then they will have to reach out to Fayose to convince him to back their choice. As a governor, he does have power, but it must be noted that he would be leaving office this coming year, so his successor (if PDP) might hold all the aces, even if he’s a Fayose choice. The only thing is that such a fellow might not have properly consolidated before the presidential primaries. Whatever the situation though, Fayose would still have a huge influence in the PDP in the South-West, so there is the need for everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet. They should know that what really undid them in their quest for the chairmanship was the multiplicity of candidates from the South-West contesting. They should have gone with one candidate. If that had happened, Fayose would not have had the opportunity to undermine them to protect his own ambition.
Having said all the above, let me state that in truth, where the president comes from has largely been irrelevant in Nigeria because in our experience it does not translate to anything meaningful for the ordinary citizens of his home base. True, his family, friends and the elite from his side of the country might enjoy some prominence within his administration (overtly or covertly), but it actually means nothing on the ground. Perhaps, this is because of the kind of poor leaders we’ve had so far. While it is unfortunate that our electoral politics has been constructed in such a way that we have more or less through zoning made ethnicity the most qualifying factor ahead of merit, I would pray for a true national leader to emerge, a leader who will show that where he comes from does not matter, but rather what he does as President of one Nigeria with his positive footprints all over the country in terms of achievements. Buhari’s clannishness and nepotism is not a great example.
Anyway, I think it’s all okay for the PDP now. Let’s see how the next few days and weeks pan out. Nigeria needs not only a viable opposition, but a new, thinking and working government at the centre. If the PDP reorganises properly, they could win back the trust of Nigerians and return to power more experienced and better ready to deliver the democratic goods and manage the expectations of a free society.