PDP National Chairmanship: A Case For Borno State
Since January 20, 2011 when its elected Chairman, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo resigned under controversial circumstances, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has literally been adrift. The party which went into the last national elections under the leadership of Alhaji Bello Halliru Mohammed as Acting National Chairman won the April 2011 presidential elections but its overall electoral performance slided down the scale. Following the appointment of Alhaji Mohammed into the Federal cabinet by President Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, erstwhile National Secretary, had assumed duty as the party's second acting National Chairman in six months. With the resignation, last Thursday, of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the party's national chairman after barely a year in office, the need for a full term leadership has never been more urgent.
A lot has been written about the qualities expected of the new leader which from every indication, the North East zone will produce. The party's decision to concede the position to the zone had quickly produced a motley crowd of aspirants, some of which include Alhaji Habu Fari, Hassan Adamu (Wakili Adamawa), Architect Ibrahim Bunu, Alhaji Abba Gana, Alhaji Maina Waziri, Senator Abba Aji, Dr Shettima Mustapha, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Alhaji Gambo Lawan and Alhaji Musa Babayo.
While the zone parades a crop of qualified politicians and technocrats who can mount the leadership of the party, many people expect that the party leadership will this time around concede the position to either Borno or Yobe states, the only ones in the zone that are controlled by the opposition All Progressive Congress. While both states have since 1999 been under the control of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) before the party's transmutation to APC, the ruling PDP has done little to challenge opposition dominance in both states. Now that the dominance of PDP itself is increasingly being challenged across the country, and especially in the North, it can no longer afford the usual lukewarm attitude to politics in Borno and Yobe states.
While the PDP has recently made some inroads into Yobe, it stands a far better chance to claim the political leadership of Borno where it has come much closer to dislodging the ANPP in the governorship elections. In fact the PDP is believed to have won the 2011 contest in which it fielded popular former governor, Alhaji Mohammed Goni. The more intriguing aspect was that Goni's legal dispute against the declaration of Kassim Shettima of the defunct ANPP as the governor was never mentioned for one day, a situation that allowed Shettima to continue as governor.
This technicality, coupled with a questionable relationship that exists between Aso Rock Villa and the self-styled kingpin of Borno politics, Ali Modu Sherriff, has continued to confound party leaders in the state. Is this likely to be a factor in the ongoing Chairmanship contest? Very unlikely, considering that today, PDP is battling for its political life in the face of resurgence of opposition led by the APC. There is therefore, an urgent need to pick the next chairman from Borno state, not only because the others states in the North East are relatively secure for the PDP, but because the party can no longer afford the ongoing sidelining of the state.
At this defining moment when the PDP – Nigeria's foremost political party — stands the chance to either reinvent itself through a new leadership, or risk being relegated to the background, it is important to look at the men jostling for the post. With all respect to the other aspirants, including the recently installed Chairman of Pension Commission, Alhaji Adamu Muazu who is mentioned as a front-runner, this piece focuses primarily on candidates from Borno. Of the lot, Alhaji Gambo Lawan and Alhaji Abba Gana clearly stand out.
Not only does Alhaji Lawan Gambo belong to the younger generation that many have advocated should mount the leadership of the party at this crucial moment, he is probably the only one with a solid national party leadership record. While the others are eminently qualified for the job in their own rights, there is no gainsaying the fact that the PDP is a sick party in desperate need of young, focused, energetic leadership.
The charismatic former Chairman of Maiduguri Metropolitan Council under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), has over the years risen from grassroots political leadership to national prominence. As national Chairman of the Grassroots Democratic Movement, (GDM) during the Sani Abacha era from 1995-1998, he was able to reposition the GDM, considered the weakest of the five political parties of the period. A foundation member of the party and member of its Borno State and North East zonal caucuses, Alhaji Lawan was the Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to the party's National Chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade and later the Director-General of Chief Audu Ogbe's Unity Team Campaign Organisation.
He has repeatedly been called upon to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the party's successive presidential electioneering campaigns, as member of the Campaign Committee of Obasanjo-Atiku tickets of 1999 and 2003, the Presidential Campaign Committee for Yar'adua-Goodluck ticket of 2007 as well as the trail-blazing Presidential Campaign Committee of Goodluck- Sambo ticket for the April 2011 elections. Though his party has never produced the governor of his Borno state, he has remained steadfast and loyal. Except for the period between 2001and 2003 when he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors, Warri Refining and Petro-Chemical Company, he has largely remained in private business.
On the other hand, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Mohammed Abba-Gana, a die-hard supporter of the President Goodluck Jonathan, is also favoured for the position. From Damboa in Southern Borno, he has been the driving force behind the National Council for Peace and Unity which has been on a kind of national crusade to build a national consensus for peace and stability in Nigeria.
A man famed for his modesty, Abba Gana who was raised politically by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, the late apostle of Politics Without Bitterness, has an impressive personally with a passion for good leadership and a strong vision–even at 69. He does not come across as one who courts controversy, but he has never wavered in supporting the 2015 aspirations of President Jonathan even as one of the notable leaders of the core north. He believes that the Nigeria of today should not put primordial or parochial limitations on our citizens in the exercise of their fundamental human and citizens rights, and that includes Jonathan.
His comments in the wake of General Muhammadu Buhari's controversial statement on the conduct of elections in Nigeria also show his impatience with actions that divide rather than unite the nation. The National Council for Peace and Unity which he leads had issued a statement condemning what it said was the escalating crises arising from Buhari's negative rhetoric.
For a man well known as a stickler for rules and procedure, he will bring about the much-needed party discipline, unity and internal democracy that majority of PDP members yearn for. More importantly, he is primed to genuinely reconcile its aggrieved membership across the country. Surely, if Alhaji Gana's antecedents are considered, especially his sterling performance as FCT Minister where he showed exemplary and selfless leadership, the search for the PDP national chairman will be clearer.
Not only will he bring integrity and his wealth of experience as an organizer into the party leadership, his choice will also correct the imbalance in the North East, in which Borno has consistently been relegated when national positions allocated to the zone are to be filled.
Ozoene, publisher of People&Politics magazine, wrote in from Abuja