THE ANENIH LEADERSHIP ROLE IN JONATHAN'S ENDORSEMENT
At its 66th meeting, held on Thursday, 18th September, 2014, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), unanimously endorsed Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as its sole candidate for the 2015 presidential election. This declaration ratified the earlier decisions of other organs of the party - the Governors Forum, the Caucus and the Board of Trustees (BoT).
By this decision, the PDP has put its house in order in respect of competition for the position of its presidential candidate. Remarkably, only a few days before the NEC meeting, there were still indications that the PDP convention to select its presidential candidate would be a competitive one, with the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, rejecting the consensus of the North-West Zone, to call on Dr. Jonathan to contest.
In the amazing and unpredictable way of politics in Nigeria, the same Sule Lamido was visibly present at the meeting and did not raise any objection. The other person, who could have remotely challenged Dr. Jonathan's candidacy, was Dr. Babangida Aliyu, Governor of Niger State. Interestingly, he was the person who presented the resolution of the Governors Forum.
With this landmark decision, the PDP appears to have exorcised all the demons that had plagued it in the last two years. It would appear that the crisis which became manifest at the party's Special Convention of 2013 and which led to five Governors leaving the party, has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. To all intent and purposes, the PDP has stepped ahead of all other parties in the race for the Presidency in 2015. It has given itself the chance to consolidate its efforts, unite its members and re-invigorate all its organs for the challenges ahead.
Smooth and seamless as the decision to endorse President Jonathan may appear, it took a great deal of advocacy and political manoeuvring to achieve. It was, in the end, the actualization of the Chairman of the Party's BoT, Chief Tony Anenih. He was the first major political figure to moot the idea of automatic second term ticket for President Jonathan.
When Anenih first raised the idea of automatic ticket, it was borne out of a perspicuous appraisal of the pernicious consequences of contested primaries on the party and its capability to meet the challenges of the opposition. In an address delivered to the Governors of the South-South and other party leaders in Asaba, as far back as May 12, 2013, Anenih had declared as follows: 'our party primaries have, over the years, been the most serious sources of rancour and disunity in our ranks. Almost two years are devoted to pre-election processes for political offices and another two in managing post-primaries/election bitterness and disunity. More pernicious is the fact that we invest so much resources and energy fighting ourselves in the primaries that should have gone into the larger battle against our political rivals. We cannot continue this tradition of internal warfare.
'We must not live under the illusion that we can fight ourselves to the finish and hope that we can continue to have enough energy left to win elections. Chief Anenih was very explicit in recommending the need for the PDP to consider a selection process that would not leave the party bruised and incapacitated: We must evolve a new system of selecting our flag-bearer at the Presidential and Governorship levels that would preserve our unity and reserve our energy and resources for the greater battle for political power. We must seriously consider this in order to avoid frictions and acrimony in the overall interest of our party and the nation.'
This suggestion was crystallized in another speech delivered at a Dinner for selected PDP Leaders in Abuja, on May 30, 2013. Here, Anenih declared yet again his preference for the idea of automatic ticket, emphatically: 'I do not see anything wrong, if the PDP considers automatic tickets for the President and its Governors who have performed well and are seeking for a second term. It is my view that with the outstanding performance of President Jonathan in the areas of Power, Rail and Water Transportation, Road Construction, Aviation Reforms, Education, Agriculture, Job Creation, etc., the party should not find it difficult in granting him the opportunity to serve a second term, if he so desires.'
Given this clear evidence of Anenih's advocacy of the idea of automatic ticket, it is inevitable that he should be acknowledged as the author of the PDP NEC decision to endorse President Jonathan as the party's presidential flag bearer in 2015.
Although he was criticised at the time he raised the idea, even by people in his own party, it is to his eternal credit and glory that he did not waver that this was the best option for the party. This great man who has already established a legendary reputation for bridge-building and conflict resolution - which has earned him the epithet, 'Mr. Fix it' - can now rightly claim to be one of the greatest political visionaries and strategists in Nigeria. It is to be noted that the consensus approach, which he has consistently advocated and has now been adopted, is the highest forum of democracy.
By this acceptance and adoption of Anenih's idea of automatic ticket, the PDP strongly positioned to avoid all those negative consequences of competitive primaries which informed his advocacy. These include heavy investment of resources by aspirants, tension and acrimony arising from personal attacks, rancour and disunity within the rank and file and fragmentation, resulting from aggrieved members leaving the party.
Happily, the PDP will be saved these negative and debilitating post-primaries syndromes. Indeed, as things stand, the party is set for victory, particularly as the opposition parties are yet to deal with their own demons. Anenih is a classic case of the pen being mightier than the sword; his idea, controversial as it first appeared, has helped to vanquish the selection demons in the Peoples Democratic Party. Surely, history will be kind to Anenih for this phenomenal achievement.
Written by Chukwuka Ezendiaru.