By Ibrahim M. Hamman
Barely two weeks to the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that promises to avail itself the latitude to elect officers to run the affairs of the National Secretariat for the next four years, the question on the lips of many Nigerians is; who leads the largest single party in Sub-Saharan Africa?
In preparation for the election of the National Chairman, there appear to be some level of desperation among some contestants as posters, souvenirs, handbills and gigantic billboards adorn strategic locations in major cities of the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, ostensibly in search of blessings and support from their teeming supporters, nationwide.
The contestants for the exalted seat of National Chairman, who are all from the North-East Geo-political zone have been engaged in epic political battles to curry favour from the President, State Governors, National Assembly members, Ministers and other stalwarts of the party. This is meant to submit themselves for proper evaluation, so as to secure the peoples’ mandate to lead Nigeria’s ruling party.
The level of anxiety and desperation is becoming apprehensive as some whispering rumour, meant to fly a kite by some reactionary political marauders and spin doctors has now been raised and elevated to Olympian height. The media is in the forefront of accepting this rumour hook, line and sinker that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has anointed one candidate among the number. I think it is a fatal error of judgment to subject such an important issue of national importance to trivialities, bearing in mind that the current democratic tempo might be an exercise in futility if the process is influenced by a President who professes to a reform agenda. The reform agenda presupposes that it would no longer be business as usual.
Although we are in a political system that remains grossly predictable and one, that is characterized by shallow understanding of the system, one might be tempted to read the lips of President Jonathan and may be, subject the issue to the court of public opinion, that this convention would be a radical departure from the past, as the will of the people would be allowed to prevail.
As the days to the convention draws nearer, opinion appears to be divided on who the cap fits. Most contenders have gone underground for strategic thinking, better assessment and possible evaluation of vote-catching mechanisms. Policy thrust, principles, manifesto and political background are some of the contending issues that would work for them in getting the sympathy of their compatriots. For now, there are over ten contenders and pretenders to the position of National Chairman of the PDP. So, who wears the crown?
At almost 80 Years, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, a former Governor of defunct Gongola is submitting himself for election to the position of National Chairman. A seasoned politician with International clout, Bamanga belongs to the old school that could find it difficult if not impossible to fit into the current reform agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Adamawa born politician who was a governor, over 30 Years ago, and one that walks with the aid of a ‘walking stick’ does not have the energy, drive, vision and foresight to lead a party that rules a nation, currently faced by huge political and socio-economic challenges. Bamanga has served this country in different capacities and I think the ovation is loudest, bearing in mind that at four scores and may be, more, his memory retention would be fast declining to meet the tempo of modern politicking.
His ability to bring desired changes in the party structure to face the challenges of globalization in internal democracy might be a mirage. In terms of political sagacity and relating with the new breed politicians, Bamanga would record low points as he lack the vitality and vigour to run a vibrant party like the PDP. Among the low points of Bamanga is that he is seen to be a candidate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Bamanga does not seem to enjoy the support and confidence of his State Governor, Murtala Nyako.
Dr. Musa Babayo
Although Babayo is the current acting National Secretary of the PDP, he is however seen by many as a colourless politician that speak from both sides of the mouth. Believed in many circles to be a candidate sponsored by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Babayo according to dependable sources does not enjoy the support of even his colleagues at the National Secretariat to contest for the position of Chairman.
He is believed to have the support of his State Governor Isa Yuguda, who is also adjudged to be a non performer. Babayo, despite his position at the national level, has lost substantial political relevance at the grassroot. Infact, at the last presidential election, Babayo is reputed to have lost his polling unit and local government to the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in his native Azare.
Although it is alleged that under his leadership, the PDP suffered series of crises and loss of confidence, it is the considered opinion of many party stalwarts that Babayo and Prof. Rufai Alkali should have resigned their appointments on moral grounds so that their current positions does not influence the outcome of the forthcoming elections.
Dr. Shettima Mustapha
It is the opinion of seasoned politicians in the land that Dr. Mustapha is a very decent, intelligent and articulate politician of the old school. He has vision and is highly respected as a transparent technocrat that served the nation in many capacities, but age, just like Bamanga, does not favour him. He taught in the University and served as a two-time Minister of Agric and Defence. With all these attributes, Dr. Mustapha’s problem arises from the fact that he comes from a State that is not PDP- controlled. As an individual, he does not enjoy nature’s magnanimity due to age, to be strong, vibrant and dynamic to face the rigours of long political meetings of the present set-up.
Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji
Abba-Aji came into politics from the academia. As a former Senator from Borno, Abba–Aji served former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as his Presidential liaison officer to the National Assembly. Although, nothing much is known about his political antecedence, Abba Aji might not likely be in the good books of the president, as he was reputed to have brought serious controversy between the presidency and the National Assembly when Yar’Adua was on his deathbed.
Accused by many for inconsistency and lacking in vision, Abba Aji is best remembered for his role in trying to deny President Jonathan the latitude to become acting President. He is believed to enjoy the support of Vice President Namadi Sambo as a fall back position, if Musa Babayo fails in his bid.
Of all the contestants, Abba Aji and Babayo seems to have spent the largest funds in media and publicity as their advert placements in several newspapers and gigantic billboards costing several millions of Naira adorn Abuja, the FCT and environs.
Ahmau Adamu Muazu
Adamu Muazu as a former Governor of Bauchi State has age and tremendous political goodwill working for him. He seems to have character with optimum characterization of managing all scenarios.
With a record of solid personal achievement trailing him when he was Governor of Bauchi State, Muazu is one of the founding fathers of the PDP. During his 8 Year tenure in Bauchi, Muazu changed the face and character of governance as his diligence, industry and ruthless pursuit of excellence has brought him many friends and foes, alike. Very amiable and friendly, and one with less controversy except the one generated by his bosom friend and Governor of Bauchi Mal Isa Yuguda. Yuguda sees Muazu’s shoes as too big a size, and the only option is to bring him down with a view to denying him a position of Chairman of the PDP. Muazu, as a middle aged politician who governed a state under the current dispensation for eight years, commands a lot of goodwill from the present crop of governors in the system. With tremendous managerial skills that has the capacity to bring the governors and the presidency to work together for the common good of the country, Muazu has the capacity to resolve outstanding conflicts and also, reposition the party to meet the desired objectives of the President’s reform agenda. As a well educated politician the former Governor of Bauchi stands tall amongst the other contenders and a serious candidate to beat.
Prof. Rufai Alkali
Rufai, is also an academic that ventured into politics. Either by design or daint of destiny, Prof. Alkali has no solid political antecedence apart from being a lecturer at Unimaid and the Nigerian Defence Academy. He is currently the spokesman of the party who attempted to contest for governor of his home state, but suffered monumental defeat at the primaries. History has it that as a spokesman of the party, he was full of contradictions that brought serious problems to the party. He lacks the capacity to even defend major decisions of the party and could not be in a good frame of mind to improve the fortunes of the party if elected Chairman. He is reputed to have suffered worse image problems as he lacks diplomatic skills to convey issues.
Nothing much is known about Gambo Lawal as he is not a consistent politician that keeps to a party. He dances with the wind, as he is reputed to have been jumping from one party to another in search of the proverbial greener pasture. No record to show achievements apart from being a Chairman of a very tiny party under the late General Sani Abacha. It is believed in many circles that one of Gambo’s major sponsors is Chief James Ibori, the former Governor of Delta state, who was one of his soul mates during the Abacha regime.
Architect Ibrahim Bunu
Bunu’s major political achievement was being a minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Though one of the founding fathers of PDP in Borno, Bunu, an Engineer, is seen in many areas as a conservative and highly arrogant politician, that cannot successfully fit into the reform agenda of the President. Though very intelligent with sound track of knowledge of the political space, Bunu’s ability to accommodate political controversies and excesses of political exigencies seems to be weak. Bunu has charisma and courage and seem to enjoy good relationship with the presidency. Just like Shettima, Abba-Aji, and Gambo, Bunu is also from Borno state.
Adamu Bello was a former Minister of Agriculture. He is from Adamawa state and seen in many quarters as an opportunist that came into the race, courtesy of former President Obasanjo. He is passive in the political process of the country at large and Adamawa state in particular.
Ibrahim M. Hamman writes from
Bendel Street, Garki, Abuja.
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