The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which styles itself as the largest political party in Africa, metamorphosed from a group of 20 patriotic Nigerians who came together during the dark days of military rule in the country to challenge the planned transmutation of former maximum leader, General Sani Abacha, to a civilian president.
Led by the indefatigable former Vice President, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the group later transformed itself to a political party following the lifting of the ban on party politics by the military administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in 1998.
Many people had thought Alex Ekwueme, a man imbued with wisdom and intelligence, integrity and strong will, and with impeccable democratic credentials, to wear the PDP crown for the 1999 Presidential election. But that was not to be. Instead, the military establishment both serving and retired, brought out one of their own, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who had just been freed from Abacha’s gulag, and gave him the crown.
Obasanjo still backed by the establishment, contested and defeated the then All Peoples Party (APP)/Aliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Chief Olu Falae. He ruled for eight years, from 1999 to 2007, and when the plan to extend his tenure failed, he hurriedly gave the ticket for the 2007 Presidential election to a dark horse and sickly former Governor of Katsina State, Umaru Yar’Adua, ahead of other frontrunners like Peter Odili and Ahmed Makarafi.
In spite of Obasanjo’s ubiquitous presence, Yar’Adua did not find it easy winning the Presidential election, which was characterized by several irregularities. Nevertheless, with barely two years in office, Yar’Adua died, leaving the stage to his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, who completed the remaining tenure.
The decision by Goodluck Jonathan to seek a fresh mandate in 2011 was not without controversy as some people believed that under the zoning arrangement of the PDP, the North ought to have been allowed to produce a candidate to run the election so as to complete two terms for the zone. In the end, Jonathan however still won the election.
During the 2015 exercise, the PDP with the so-called theory of “offer of first refusal” in mind, that is, where the incumbent of an office would be given first consideration to run for the second term, decided to give the ticket to President Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner. This was contrary to strong objections raised by some influential members of the party, which had resulted to some walkouts during its national convention.
On the other hand, the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC), was wiser. It gave its own Presidential ticket to Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner. The result was that almost every northerner, irrespective of political party affiliations, voted for the APC Presidential candidate. And the PDP lost that election.
Now, the PDP, in its wisdom, has zoned its Presidential candidate for the 2019 election to the North. Over half a dozen eminent personalities from the zone have indicated interests to contest the ticket.
They include former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, former Minister, Taminu Turaki, former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, his predecessor, Ibrahim Shakarau, as well as former Jigawa Governor, Sule Lamido.
There is also the rumoured Presidential ambitions of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and his predecessor, Attahiru Bafarawa.
With the 2019 election coming up in less than six months, who then wear the PDP Presidential crown among these eminent personalities considering the fact that the APC already has a formidable candidate in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari?
How will the PDP choose its Presidential candidate without courting some crises as had happened in 2014? Will it be by imposition, where a tiny clique will just sit down somewhere to decide the fate millions of Nigerians, or will they allow the people to decide their preferred candidate?
There is no doubt that if the PDP is hoping to win the 2019 Presidential election, its candidate must be a person with a big war arsenal, a person with huge resources and who has tentacles all over the country. It will not be something based on sentiments or emotions but on objective situation.
The APC presently controls the nation’s treasury. They have the Police, they have the Army, they have the security agencies, they have the EFCC, and they probably have the INEC. All of them will be fully deployed at their service during the 2019 election, and they must make sure that they use them maximally, no matter what it takes.
The PDP once controlled these institutions. That was why President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed surprise that former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to him in the 2015 election. Whether President Buhari will do the same if he loses in 2019, is not what one can say with certainty.
In other words, the PDP should gird its loins and realize that the battle ahead is not going to be easy. It is not going to be a tea party. It is a battle which must be prosecuted with all seriousness if they hope to make a headway.