PDP Presidential Primary: A Post-Convention Review
In project management, a post-Implementation review (PIR) follows the completion of a project to evaluate if project objectives were achieved, effectiveness and lessons for the future. This is one differentiator of successful project managers/managers/administrators from the pack. However, in the Nigerian project, we often tend to overlook positive developments. We often take progress for granted. We fail to evaluate and study successes but tend to focus more on failures and in the process, we easily forget and fail to learn and internalize success factors.
I would not go hard on Nigerians in this respect because a person or people besieged with obstreperous problems most often drift into the realm of obliviousness to minor improvements. That is the predicament of Nigerians. But believe me, Nigeria achieved a milestone in partisan politics with the successful People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) national convention and presidential primary held in Port Harcourt, the Garden City, Rivers State. Prior to the convention, there were controversies ranging from disagreement over the location of convention with some of the 12 PDP presidential aspirants opposed to Port Harcourt. There was allegations that Governor Wike was scheming to impose his preferred candidate, Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto State on the party and the location suspected as an ambush to perfect his plans. Nationwide, palpable tension pervaded the length and breath of the polity. Citizens and the international community held their breath, poor visibility on who was going to emerge victorious from a dozen candidates in the contest presented a conundrum. Added was the innovative online and offline campaign, candidates touring states and regions to woo candidate, such that even political pundits were left in the dark as to who was in lead. This was the most closely contested presidential party primary since 1999.
On the morning of the primary, I wrote an “Open Letter to PDP Aspirants” in which I stated that forlorn Nigerians feared that:
“PDP would implode after the convention, because of the suspicion that aggrieved aspirants would seek refuge in other parties”.
I appealed to the aspirants to embody the spirit of sportsmanship and call for unity and beckon on their supporters to queue behind the eventual winner. Nigerians were expecting a rancorous and barefisted affair in Port Harcourt and there was fear that the convention would be marred by violence but to the astonishment of all; a transparent, free and fair election unfolded before the full glare of Nigerians with the convention streamed online and live on TV.
Nonetheless, there was unsubstantiated allegation of dollar rain as aspirants jostled to win over delegates. However, the veracity of those allegations cannot be established as there was not even one out of about 4000 delegates who could confirm in confidence of receiving any amount or provided any dollar notes to prove any inducement. However, it is standard practice for aspirants to provide delegates with logistics such as hotel accommodation and allowances to cover their period of stay for the convention. Going forward INEC need to propose laws which will ensure that political parties cater for their delegates such that it will reduce delegates’ dependence on aspirants, by so doing we can reduce delegates’ inducement to the lowest level and engender issue-based party primaries.
Nevertheless, the just concluded PDP presidential primary has raised hopes for our democracy. As one commentator noted, if Nigeria was a public listed company, the successful convention would shoot up its share price because of increased confidence and credibility in the PDP brand. The pessimism before the convention is well captured in this exquisite article in The Nation, “PDP presidential aspirants and Balarabe Musa’s unkind cut” where the writer quipped: “the PDP is so crestfallen and too dilatory to face the task fate has appeared to assign them in these uncertain and troublous times”. However PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has proved naysayers and doomsayers wrong and has emerged from its convention stronger.
Worthy of mention is how the aspirants conducted their campaigns devoid of acrimony and even though they were going head-to-head in pre-primary opinion polls, they behaved like siblings, no hurling of insults which pervades Nigerian politics since the bellicose All Progressive Congress (APC) came into national prominence from a coalition in 2014. The campaign of Dr Abubukar Bukola Saraki stood out, his #GrowNigeria vision was the most resounding online and offline. His campaign resonated with young people and his acceptability and approval rating has since soared, despite coming third place in the primary. Gov Aminu Tambuwal who The Economist magazine described as ‘bland’ in an article where they seemed to have endorsed him was the underdog and dark horse looming who caused the biggest upset. He came second while the strong man, prodigy and enigma of Kano State and North Western Nigerian politics, Alhaji Musa Kwankwaso came fourth. All the contestants after the convention congratulated the winner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is now the PDP presidential flag bearer.
Governor Nyesom Wike must be commended for ensuring a secured and peaceful environment and subsequently his mein even in the face of defeat of his preferred candidate is worthy of emulation. He has since taken to social media to drum support for H.E. Atiku. The unsung hero of the convention is the amiable and affable Gov Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the indefatigable governor of Delta State. Many have suggested in delirium that he be given INEC to manage and that Prof Mahmood Yakubu should go and take lessons on how to conduct free, fair and credible elections from him. Nigerians are hilarious.
Indubitably, the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee and Board of Trustees of the PDP are indeed leading a renaissance of the PDP which has been dismissed as comatose (a direct consequence of the unprecedented defeat it suffered in 2015) prior to its convention. The party is getting its mojo back and Nigerians are beginning to give the party a chance as a bolstering opposition. Foreign research organisations have predicted it would defeat APC in 2019 presidential election but the success or failure of its convention was one of the fundamental enablers and caveats.
Finally, with the successful completion of PDP convention and primaries in states and LGAs which were far more credible and peaceful than other parties, even the ruling party, the lines are falling into pleasant places for the PDP and it’s placed in pole position to defeat the APC in 2019. It’s all PDP for the taking. More importantly, its convention like the 2015 elections have yet become a reference point for successful national convention for political parties in Nigeria. It is imperative we learn and improve on PDP’s successful convention as part of the post-convention review.