At the recent elective convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which took place at the Eagle Square, Abuja, the Southwest was handed the shorter end of the stick. The zone left the convention ground in the morning of December 10 far more desolate than it went in the previous day. Even persons far removed from the horse-trading that characterized the meeting were wondering what went wrong?
Despite their rancorous and disparate preparations, it was still thought the Southwest presented the best materials to clinch the position of national chairman. With contenders like Chief Bode George, Professor Tunde Adeniran, former governor Gbenga Daniel and Chief Jimi Agbaje, onlookers were hopeful that at least, one of them would clinch the job. In terms of field experience and commitment to their party, these were some of the best from the zone. Hope for the zone was bolstered in the nick of time, when one after the other, six aspirants from the zone abandoned the stage for one of them, Prof. Adeniran, to battle two other candidates from the South-south zone, chief Raymond Dopkesi and Uche Secondus. If the zone had followed up that gesture with a final round of rigorous networking and shrewd bargaining, perhaps, the outcome would have been different. But that was not the case, as Elder Bode George, who had abandoned the race more out of anger, put in more effort to disparage the exercise, than attempt to save the day for Southwest. He seemed to be full of vitriol, because the affirmative action (micro zoning) he had campaigned for was not granted. Even when the field was forcefully narrowed for the zone, the chief did not see any advantage in it.
The proceedings of the convention were shown live on African Independent Television (AIT) and those who had the time to monitor it, especially from newsrooms, must have felt a jolt, when in between the counting and final announcement of results, both Adeniran and Dopkesi raised some noise, alleging that the entire process was sham, and announced their rejection of a result that was yet to be announced. Their grouse was that a purported ‘unity list’ had blacklisted their chances and they were certain that it was a lost case. They decided to rubbish a primary that seemed very okay from the outside.
The last time I commented on preparations for the December 9 convention was on October 8 this year. I was so sure then, that the chairmanship was for the Southwest to grab, that I took for granted an Uche Secondus. I made very peripheral reference to Dokpesi, who at that time was yet to roll out his campaign train. To me then, the body language of the leadership of PDP was loud and clear, that the next chairman of the party should come from the Southwest. What was not dictated to the zone was putting its house in order before going to Abuja. The PDP has not been the best of parties going by the governments it fathered from 1999. Yet, the party has displayed some sense of fairness in the sharing of principal offices to accommodate all geo-political interests. Right from inception, they have managed to spread their umbrella well, so that not too many people are left out there in the cold. The policy, however, does not have outright support in the Constitution, which renders it susceptible to manipulation.
The failure of the Southwest to have the PDP chairmanship is first of all because the zone did not present a common front. By the time each aspirant went to Minna and such places, to seek blessings of Gen. Babangida and other kingmakers, it was clear everybody wanted to go solo. Efforts to have all Southwest contenders sit down and do their own mini primary did not work. I’m sure that was the energy the South-south needed to become stubborn.
The zone also suffered the usual backstabbing and treachery that is synonymous with naija politics. Each time the three major tribes sit down to plot power sharing, intrigues and conspiracy are usually well put to use. And more often than not, one zone has to be the fall guy for others to thrive. If you trace it to the first and second republics, there is always conspiracy of two to weaken the third. That is the only reasonably explanation I can give to the events of December 9 in the PDP.
It seemed the Southwest was eager to learn from the past in 1998/99, when parties were formed to usher in this dispensation. They searched for allies and found none in the PDP and the All Peoples Party (APP), later All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). They came back home and formed the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The AD was formidable and was able to win roundly in the six states of the Zone. Again, the desire to play at the centre, where free oil monies are spent with reckless abandon was too strong to resist. So, it was easy for feckless politicians to desert the AD and trooped to PDP. In the eight years that Obasanjo was PDP president, there was hardly anything tangible the zone could point at as profit, apart from individuals picking contracts they never executed, thus enriching themselves for a moment.
Altogether, in its 16 years of the PDP government, when the Southwest substantially rented itself for exploitative cuckoldry, you could hardly say yes, here are the benefits. Whereas, in the few years that the Southwest governed itself substantially in the pre-independence and early years of self-rule, there were huge gains, part of which are still very visible today. The essence of the comparison between now and before is just to underscore the continuous waste each time the Southwest offers herself for part time political harlotry.
When the PDP commenced its decline, after the Obasanjo years, the party’s zoning formula for higher offices was distorted. All the time the Speakership of the House of Representatives was zoned to the Northwest, nobody tampered with it. After Dimeji Bankole finished his term, the speakership was to remain in the Southwest. Mulikat Akande-Adeola made a good bid for the seat, but conspiracy within the Southwest denied her and the zone that opportunity.
The loss of the chairmanship seat by the Southwest at the PDP convention is not the first time the zone will have fingers pushed into its eyes. It was like retribution, when the attempt by the zone to produce Speaker (Femi Gbajiabiamila) under the All Progressives Congress (APC) was pointedly frustrated by other interests of other zones. At the end of that exercise in June 2015, leader of APC in the zone, Bola Ahmed Tinubu suffered bloodied nose. His calculations for the two houses of the National Assembly suffered permanent disability. That was not all. Tinubu’s other projections in Kogi and Ondo were supplanted. Were he not to be a tested and rugged player, his corner-men would probably have considered throwing in the towel.
My submission is that Nigeria of today is every inch a fraud and anyone going to do battle at the centre must first weigh the cost and build an arsenal. It is the same thing for zones or geo-political groupings. The Southwest has not benefitted much from hobnobbing the PDP and APC. The zone is not respected politically because blacklegs are right there to do the zone grievous damage. Southwest was far more respected in 1998/2003 than it is now, a mere trading outpost for a handful of politicians. And I will send same warning to Southeast and South-south, that without cohesion at home, Abuja does not pity stupidity.
Now that the scales have fallen off their eyes, I hope PDP politicians of Southwest extraction, as well as their brethren in APC will pick a few lessons from their disastrous outings in Abuja.
By Alabi Williams