By The Nation Newspaper
The leadership crisis tearing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) apart is now being linked to the failure of the party to field a Northerner as its presidential flag bearer in the 2015 elections.
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYC), factional leader of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former national chairman, Dr. Mohammed Haliru and several other party chieftains believe the story would have been different today for the PDP if it had given its ticket to a Northerner in that election.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from the Southsouth who completed the first term of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and went on to win re-election in 2011 was the party’s candidate in 2015 but lost to President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner.
The party has not known peace since then with Makarfi and former Borno State governor Ali Modu Sheriff locked in a fierce battle for the chairmanship.
Reviewing the situation in an interview yesterday, Makarfi was confident that the party would have won the 2015 presidential election had it fielded a northern candidate.
Makarfi opined that the ‘gang up’ against the PDP in the North would not have arisen if the party had presented a northern candidate.
He said, the party also became too comfortable that it no longer communicated well with the people to know what they wanted, which he said made it easier for propaganda to be used against it.
The PDP, he said, “ would have won the 2015 presidential election straight away with a northern candidate.
“The reason is that, it would have been impossible to make an issue out of this North, South thing. We would have broken the North’s gang up, so to say, against the PDP.
“Again, we became too comfortable. A little bit of arrogance sometimes. We were not communicating well with the people. Because we were not communicating well, we failed to get what the people were saying, and of course, that made it easier for propaganda to be used against us. And that propaganda went deep that we couldn’t do anything again.”
A former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Dr. Mohammed Haliru is of the same view, insisting the party would have won had it fielded a northerner.
He said the party lost because it abandoned its zoning arrangement and adopted the then incumbent Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan himself said last week that the PDP is now poised to retake power in 2019.
“Yes, we lost the presidential election but that doesn’t diminish us. Every other party still knows that PDP is a leading party,” Jonathan told party leaders who went to present him with the report of the Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee of the PDP.
“Losing the presidency is something temporary. We should be able to get that position back as long as we are able to get our acts together. I am happy that you people are working towards that,” he said.
However, Haliru told The Nation that the North felt shortchanged in 2015 when the party put Jonathan forward as its candidate for the election.
Haliru said that the unfinished first term of the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua was rightly completed by Dr. Jonathan, as specified by the 1999 Constitution, “but since the two terms were meant for the North, the party ought to have fielded a northern candidate to complete the second term (from 2011-2015).”
He said:”Yar’ Adua was not there to contest for second term, so you cannot say the second term was a Yar’ Adua/Jonathan ticket. It was only the first term that was Yar’Adua/ Jonathan, which the constitution provided for.
“But the election of 2011, which Jonathan contested and won, should have been contested by another candidate from the north”.
“We lost because we left the people behind on zoning and rotation. We said regardless of which part of the country you come from, you should know that you have the chance to contest for the presidency.
“Out of arrogance, the leadership abandoned principles and the people feeling abandoned, reacted the way they reacted. So, I am not surprised. It was the abandonment of the principle of zoning that led the people to abandon the party”.
The ex-party chair, who also served as Defence Minister under Jonathan, admitted that part of the contributing factors to Jonathan’s defeat was nostalgia among majority of Nigerians for what they viewed as the performance of the Buhari military government of 1984.
His words: “We cannot deny the fact that because President Buhari’s military government of 1984 was interrupted after a short period of 20 months, people were nostalgic that may be if Buahri was allowed to continue, he would have done better.
“But they forgot that the times were not the same. The problems of Nigeria in 1984 have not remained static and the people that Buhari is working with have not remained static.
“For instance, Gen. Tunde Idiagbon is no longer here. He was the backbone of that government and a number of other people that served in that government are either dead or now too old to serve.
“The nostalgia was for that government of 1984 headed by Buhari but also assisted by others, including Gen. Ibrahim Babangida who had clouts then.
“It was a period where the Head of State was the Alpha and Omega. Even if Gen. Idiagbon were to be alive and serving in this government, he may not have the same influence he had back then because the powers of the leader of government under the military were different from the powers enjoyed by a president under an elected government.
“So all these are factors we cannot forget. They felt that if Buhari could come back in 2015, he would correct everything. But the unfortunate thing is that people did not pray aright.
“Instead of praying to God to right the wrongs, they were saying let Buhari come and right the wrongs. If you take the position of God and give it to a person, God will test that person to make sure that nobody is omnipotent but God Himself”.
Reminded that he was the one that moved a motion at the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting shortly before the election,that paved the way for Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election, Dr. Haliru clarified his position.
According to him, the motion he moved was to allow Jonathan contest the election, but not to make him the sole candidate for the election, as decided by the party leadership at the time.
“That motion was not my motion. I saw the motion on the floor of the house. What people were saying was that Jonathan could not contest. It was not a convention.
“It was a NEC meeting and we realized that if you rule out a sitting president, it could damage the party. But if you allow him to contest, you could defeat him at the convention.
“So I moved the motion that he should be allowed to contest, but not as sole candidate. Sule Lamido (immediate past Jigawa State Governor) seconded the motion.
“If you see the content of that motion, you won’t see anything like sole candidate there. Even though I saw the motion on the floor and I was asked to move it.
“If I had seen sole candidate in it, I would not move the motion. Jonathan was allowed to contest as an aspirant. The people did not deny anyone of the right to contest.
“There were other people that wanted to contest but the then National Working Committee of the party restricted sale of forms to other aspirants.
“I was not one of the people who felt that Jonathan should not contest. I did not move the motion for a sole candidate because there is no provision for sole candidate in the PDP constitution.
“Even when it is zoned to the south, northerners are allowed to contest. Even when zoned to the north, southerners are allowed to contest.
“Remember our first convention when the presidential ticket was zoned to the south in which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged, the late Abubakar Rimi also contested and he was allowed. The following one, which was also zoned to the south for Obasanjo’s second term, Rimi and some other people still contested. So PDP has no provision for sole candidate”.
Dr. Haliru however, restated Jonathan’s position that the PDP could win the 2019 presidential election if the party could put its acts together.
He said that many PDP members that defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly before the 2015 election are now disappointed by the poor performance of the ruling party in government.
The Kebbi State born party chief hinted that majority of the high profile defectors have already been discussing with the PDP, seeking to return to the PDP.
He continued: “The same people that defected from the PDP and voted for the APC in 2015 to make them win, are now thoroughly disappointed. They have been coming to us.
“They are not likely to vote for the APC ticket again. And then if you look at the election figures, if you remove the five PDP states where their governors defected to the APC, you find that the APC would not have been anywhere near winning the election.
“If you remove the two million votes that Buhari got from Kano. He only defeated Jonathan with about two million votes. So remove votes from Kano, Sokoto, Kwara and Adamawa which used to be PDP states from the votes given to Buhari.
“But now they are all disappointed by the APC. So you can say that it’s PDP that made Buhari win in 2015 because we alienated our people. Now we are reorganising and we are inviting our people back.
“Even the claim that APC won because of merger is not true. If you look at the Southwest, it was 50/50 for the PDP and the APC. Jonathan was almost 50/50 with Buhari in the Southwest.
“And PDP owns the Southsouth and the Southeast. So looking at these figures, one can predict that we will come back to power in 2019.
“The only thing is that if a third party merges, as some people are talking about a mega party. But we will do our best to ensure that PDP is repositioned to offer credible alternative, rather than forcing people to go for a third party.
In a separate interview, Senator Grace Bent, who represented Adamawa South in the Sixth Senate, said: “In all fairness, Jonathan should not have had the ticket, especially when you see the need to go by our zoning policy,” she said.
“With adherence to our zoning formula, we would have been able to look around for a credible candidate from the northern part of the county, to contest for that office.”
Bent said: “With the way things are going in the party now, I am afraid that the issue of zoning is going to be rubbished. Everybody now wants to give it a shot; Igbos are beginning to agitate for it, the North is insisting that they must do their own second term and there is so much agitation.
“For executive office, believe me, I am completely for zoning; it is a must that zoning or rotation must be practiced for executive office.
“For executive office, it is compulsory that we must maintain zoning policy and adhere strictly to it, especially when we consider the complexity of our mosaic nature – our multi-ethnic, multi-religious setting. With such, we do not have a choice.
“That was one of the reasons why president Obasanjo insisted that a South-South person should have a shot at the presidency and that is why he and other party people supported Goodluck Jonathan so that the Ijaws could feel a sense of belonging.
“The country belongs to all of us and no particular group can claim its leadership as an exclusive right. No! We must stand by zoning policy always, otherwise, we are going to create unnecessary chaos in the country”.
The national leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYC) Comrade Shetima Yerima, also blamed ex-President Jonathan for the present crisis rocking PDP.
Speaking by phone Shetima said: “The party wouldn’t have been in the crisis it is currently enmeshed in if Jonathan had allowed a northerner to run in 2015.
“On moral ground, Jonathan should have stepped down and allowed a northern to run based on agreement within the party and other stakeholders. He should have allowed a northerner to contest to respect the agreement. But on constitutional ground that supersedes every other interest, he had the right to contest.
“What is happening in the party shows that they don’t have the love of the people and the country at heart. They are only trying to satisfy some interests in the party. This is what brought us to the state we are today. For me, it is destined that Buhari must be the president of Nigeria. it was destined that Jonathan must disappoint people and go ahead to contest, it was destined that the PDP must make that blunder for Buhari to come in.”
Mr. Austine Medaiyedu, Special adviser to former Governor Idris Wada of Kogi state said :”The truth of the matter is that GEJ was no longer sellable for the Presidential election in 2015.
“He surrounded himself with sycophants who could not tell him the truth. Don’t forget also the accusations of the purported single term agreement he signed and vowed not to run again.
“More importantly, the parallel campaign organisation floated by his wife was one of his undoings. The climax of his failure was the unresolved internal crisis in PDP. Five sitting governors defected to APC and we went into the election without considering the implications. Zoning was another factor for his failure. The PDP refused to zone presidency to the North as widely requested for.”
A chieftain of the party in Ondo State and former media aide to Governor Olusegun Mimiko,Mr Sunday Menukuro maintained that former President Goodluck Jonathan committed a blunder by contesting the 2015 presidential election.
He noted that the people had been fed up with his administration and should have allowed a Northerner to run for the office.
“He should have allowed natural justice to take place by not re-contesting the election. It was out of picking the better devil out of two that the eminent academic, Prof Wole Soyinka supported the incumbent President,Muhammadu Buhari because the people had no choice,” Menukuro said.
Menukuro however expressed optimism that the PDP crisis would soon be over and would get back to power in 2019.
Factional chairman of the party in Kwara state Prince Sunday Fagbemi said the Jonathan candidacy in the 2015 election was responsible for the defeat of the party.
Prince Fagbemi who is loyal to Ahmed Makarfi PDP said: “Candidly speaking the fortune of PDP would have been enhanced if Dr Goodluck Jonathan had not contested the last presidential elections.
“If PDP had fielded a northern candidate all retired military officers would have voted against Buhari because many of them know his background.
“The outcome of the elections showed that many northern PDP members, even in states that we had super ministers mobilised for APC or were unconcerned.”
A former youth leader and state chairmanship aspirant of the PDP in Enugu State, Sir Tony Nwachukwu said the failure of PDP in the 2015 presidential election was caused by making Jonathan the flagbearer.
His words: “ýFormer President Goodluck Jonathan should not have featured as PDP Presidential Candidate in 2015.
“His resolve to contest destabilized PDP and the divide sustains to date. It is unfortunate and regrettable.”
Ntufam John Okon, immediate past chairman, PDP, Cross River State, said: “Those things are past issues, but we felt that we should give him (Jonathan) an opportunity to run, but like you noticed he was not acceptable to the nation and that is why he lost the election.
“So it is already a gone matter. I was part of his delegates, to give him opportunity to rule. I believe we would have done better if Jonathan had nominated somebody from the north.
“But then, what if a candidate came from the North and Jonathan did not support him? It wouldn’t have been better too because he was the sitting president. And normally in our experience you give the president a second term to be able to do it. Just like I said, he was not well received by the nation and that is why we lost the election. So we have learnt.”
However, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide said that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the 2015 Presidential election because the party’s decisions at the state levels were unpopular and selfish.
The foremost Ijaw group said the party breached the principles of internal democracy during their various primaries in states.
The President of IYC, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, said the party imposed candidates at various electoral positions in the state including the governorship level compelling its members to vote against the party at the general elections.
He insisted that former President Goodluck Jonathan despite his popularity was a victim of protest votes caused by the greed and insensitivity of PDP cabals.
He said: “The PDP was busy imposing candidates while the opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was getting stronger. When you see that the opposition was getting stronger as a party you should have come up with a strategy of making sure that the will of the people in your primaries prevailed.
“But almost all their primaries had issues and APC was clever to wait for them. Anywhere the PDP failed, the APC took advantage and that was what happened.
“If Jonathan breached the party’s zoning principle, how come he got over 12 million votes? Jonathan lost narrowly because the party failed to allow internal democracy prevailed when they were carrying out primaries.
“They were imposing unpopular candidates. In a lot of places the APC won, the candidates didn’t even spend money. They benefitted from protest votes”.
The party’s publicity secretary in Bayelsa State,Jonathan’s home state, Mr. Osom Macbere,is also of the view that the PDP lost the election because its members especially from the North betrayed Jonathan.
Macbere, a lawyer, insisted that it would be foolhardy to blame Jonathan for PDP’s misfortunes, when it was an open secret that almost all the structures of the party in the north supported President Muhammadu Buhari because of their tribal loyalty.
He described the current crisis rocking the party as the Karma resulting from the betrayal against Jonathan and advised the party to deal with its self-inflicted injuries instead trading blames.
He said: “Overtime, the people of the north have been known to be lacking in real party loyalty. They are only loyal to their tribe and during that period, their loyalty swayed from Jonathan to Buhari because they wanted to support their kith and kin.
“Their actions were guided by ethnicity and tribalism because Jonathan was not their own. How would they have though that any President would not have to run in an election where he was the first candidate.
“The man was a sitting President and wouldn’t it have been abnormality for a sitting President to have chickened out running to protect his office simply because of any consideration other than his qualification?
“So, they were just being ethnic, parochial and tribalistic in their thinking that he ought not to have run. If Jonathan were a northerner, that line of reasoning wouldn’t have been pertinent.
“Jonathan was not a northerner of their own extraction that was why they betrayed him. They wanted him to concede his right to run to one of their own and because he didn’t do that he was betrayed.
“So, Jonathan didn’t lose because Jonathan was not a popular candidate. He lost by dint of high level betrayal from his own party men and women from the north.
“The crisis is PDP is still the crisis of the betrayal that they had done to Jonathan and the karma that follows every situation where propriety is never the order of the day.
“Had they not betrayed Jonathan, all that we are enmeshed in now wouldn’t have been there. So, the betrayal, the treachery and the tribalistic and ethnic thinking of the northern cabal was the reason Jonathan failed and remains the reason the party has been in crisis up till now.
“Their primordial thinking that everything that has to do with political power is the exclusive reserve of the north has not been helping matters in our polity.”