By NBF News
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Obasanjo & Lawan
As the Peoples' Democratic Party prepares for its national convention slated for February, to elect new set of national officers, stalwarts of the party interested in calling the shots at Wadata Plaza have been  shuttling across  the country  to convince party faithful to endorse their individual ambition, ahead of the convention.

At its 57th National Executive Committee meeting held last December in Abuja, the acting national chairman of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje told the party chieftains that the party was yet to decide on the zoning of  national offices,  as consultations was still going on.

But in spite of the refrain of consultations that would precede the party official pronouncement, discerning PDP members know that there exists an understanding to allow the north- east geo-political zone take the position of national chairman of the party-which perhaps informed the array of politicians, from the zone who have hit the ground running and are campaigning, albeit, informally for the leadership of the PDP.

The list include, former governor of old Gongola State and Chairman of African Business Roundtable, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Dr. Mohammed Abba Aji; former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Muazu and the former national chairman of Grass root Democratic Movement, Alhaji Gambo Lawan.  Others who had also declared their interest are former Minister of Petroleum under the Ibrahim Babangida military regime, Senator Jubril Aminu and former Defence Minister, Alhaji Shetimma Mustapha.

While it will be uncharitable to pick on any of these PDP big wigs, as an upstart, or green horn in party administration, the fact remains that among the pack, only one can flaunt experience in party administration: the urbane Gambo Lawan who managed, successfully the Grassroot Democratic Movement, [GDM], one of the political parties that participated in the General Sani Abacha transition to civil rule programme.

To prove that he is ready for the strains and pains that attend the quest for and occupation of the office, Lawan has confronted, on a weekly basis, the hazards of air and road travels in his deliberate efforts to touch base with elements whose critical support he would need to actualize his chairmanship ambition.  That initiative to consult widely with stakeholders across the geo-political zones has its attendant physical and financial strains, but it has paid off politically.

He has leveraged on his vast network to rekindle old political flames.  He has reached out to the highly and lowly placed persons in the party in the spirit of promoting collective ownership of the party leadership.

That he has sustained the level of consultations, across the country also point to the fact that he has the physical stamina to withstand the rigour of the office of national chairman of a party as big as the PDP.  It will be interesting to see how the other aspirants in their seventies will muster the energy to traverse the length and breadth of the country, to galvanise support for their aspiration.

Two power blocks exist to influence who gets the chairmanship slot in the PDP: the presidency and the Governors elected on the party platform. It has been the practice right from the garrison days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when the then ruling president appropriated the party national secretariat; the governors took charge under the late Yar'Adua, when Vincent Ogbulafor became the party national chairman. Again, the power game between the presidency and the governors cost Prince Vincent Ogbulafor the position of national chairman, as he was removed from office by President Goodluck Jonathan as acting president; the same President Jonathan who brought Dr Okwesilizie Nwodo to office  removed him.

As the party prepares for a new set of national officers, the template has not changed-- the President would prefer a national chairman with unwavering, absolute loyalty, while the governors would insist on a national chairman who reveres them, as party leaders in their respective states.

At its last National Executive Committee meeting, the acting national chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje restated the growing concern of the PDP National Working Committee over the pervasive lack of discipline in the party and warned that the party disciplinary committee would soon be reconstituted.

''Only a system that wants to crumble will allow indiscipline to overwhelm it.  The PDP NWC will not allow it; you may have noticed that there is no indiscriminate grant of waiver. It has been abused in the past by those who unleashed invectives on our party, only to come back to seek elective offices on our platform.''

This declaration of paradigm shift can only be realized, if the party stakeholders ensure that an experienced man in party administration mounts the saddle.

In his on-going consultations, which have just been punctuated with the commencement of distribution of a formal letter of intention to vie for the office to party leaders, Lawan is said to have assured stakeholders of his commitment to the unity, discipline and internal democracy in the party.  Many people he engaged with, according to sources, were convinced that he would fit the bill as the next National Chair given his political pedigree.

With the possibility of the North-east zone, to which the position has been ceded, agreeing to narrow the choice of the National Chair to Borno State for strategic political reasons, Lawan thus becomes one of the five aspirants from the state who will put at stake their chances for consideration as either a consensus candidate from the state or an elected candidate from the state through a shadow election or any other process that is considered apposite.

• Abdullahi Yusuf lives at First Avenue, Gwarimpa Estate,  Abuja