From ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Kaduna
At the onset of the current democratic dispensation, which began in 1999, the leading opposition party, which was then known as All Peoples Party, (APP), was in control of the North-West zone. Of the seven states in the zone, the defunct APP had four (Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto and Jigawa), leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with Kano, Katsina and Kaduna.
By 2003 however, the tally increased in favour of the opposition, which had then metamorphosed into All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), as it added Kano to its kitty.
At the beginning of 2007, the equation changed, as PDP became the leading party in the zone, as Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna were won by the party. Later that year, Zamfara, which had earlier been won by the opposition fell, through the defection of the then governor, to the PDP, thus, leaving Kano, as the only state in the zone, in the hands of the opposition.
After the 2011 election, while Kano was returned to the PDP, Zamfara was equally returned to the opposition. In the end, of the seven states in the zone, PDP had six, and the opposition, which has since metamorphosed into All Progressives Congress, APC, had just one.
This was the situation until crisis broke out in the PDP last year, which saw two states, Kano and Sokoto, returning to the opposition, through the defection of their governors. As it is now, while PDP controls Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina and Kebbi, the APC, is in charge of Zamfara, Kano and Sokoto.
Interestingly, any party that wins the zone and the South-West zone overwhelmingly, in the 2015 election, may as well win the Presidency.
Although, PDP controls four, out of the seven States, there is no guarantee that all the four states would be delivered to the party, if the party fails to do the needful, by reconciling all aggrieved members ahead of the general election. This much was re-echoed by a few party loyalists, at the Tuesday, March 11, zonal rally of the party, held at the Murtala Square, in Kaduna.
For those familiar with the zone’s PDP rally, the crowd at the venue, could only pass for a state’s rally, as Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, who had earlier lambasted those who defected from the party to APC, ate his words, and begged the defectors to return, barely 24 hours to the rally. He had earlier told those who left the party for APC, that they would “regret” their actions.
If the sudden change of mind was to ensure a large turnout of Kaduna PDP supporters at the rally, the strategy could not have yielded any positive result, as it was impossible for any of the aggrieved members of the party, to return on the eve of the rally. If at all anyone heeded the call, it certainly could not have been for the love of the party, but for the money shared to some party supporters, to induce attendance at the rally.
By 9.45am, the venue of the rally, billed for 10.00am, was still scanty, with the VIP section, having a handful of personalities. Among the early callers were PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh, Kaduna State PDP chairman and former Kaduna governor, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, among others.
The rally only commenced by 11.30a.m, with the arrival of President Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, the party’s National Chairman and the governors from the zone, among other dignitaries.
From the onset, the party from the national headquarters, had tagged the rally a ”Sensitization” one.
But Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, who was the first governor to speak on the occasion, re-focussed the direction of the rally, and tagged it “Unity and Reconciliation Rally.”
Lamido, being one of those angry with the way the party was run under Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, reminded the participants at the rally of the need for the party to put its house in order, by reconciling and uniting all aggrieved members of the party, before talking about 2015.
The Jigawa governor, who spoke for less than two minutes, his shortest speech so far, in recent history at a political gathering, noted that it was imperative for the party to reconcile its aggrieved members and unite them to put the party in good stead, ahead of 2015 general election.
According to him, since those who felt aggrieved left the party, it was important for the party to resolve the lingering problems and unite those left to ensure a strong and united front, ahead of the general election, urging party leaders to exercise restraint, in going about their aspirations.
His words: “We are trying to unite and reconcile the party because of the events of the last six months. Those of us who felt aggrieved left the party. But unity and reconciliation are very important, so that we can unite before we face 2015 elections.”
The only other speaker on the occasion, who re-echoed the sermon preached by Lamido, was the former Kaduna State Governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who also said that if the party could reconcile all aggrieved members and put its house in order, it remains the party to beat in the 2015 general elections.
On his part, President Jonathan, who looked prepared to take the fight to the doorstep of the opposition, declared that the PDP was not afraid of any political gang-up by the opposition, saying that the party would overrun the North-West zone and make all the states in the zone PDP states.
According to him: “PDP is the only party that whatever is happening to it, is happening to Nigeria. PDP is the only party that you can say ‘is for the people, by the people and of the people.’ We have been told that some people are ganging-up in different names. I can assure you that this is not the first time that there has been a gang-up.
“From 1999, there was a gang up. Two, three political parties came together. They brought a presidential candidate, who was a one-time Secretary to the Federal Government. The gang up failed.”
Describing the APC as a disaster, waiting to happen, President Jonathan further said: “And I tell people that if you put oil in a container, then pour kerosene in that container, then pour sulphuric acid in that container, you bring petrol and pour in that container and then hydrochloric acid, what do you think will happen to that container? Disaster!
“The gang up will fail. It is just as you mix acid and other things in a container. It is not a new thing. They will continue to gang-up, but it will fail. And ask yourself – look at the history of great political parties all over the world. They don’t change every day like rocks going through metamorphosis.
“Look at the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. The ANC is over 103 years old. It is older than Nigeria as a state. It is still ANC today. So when you see a party changing names anyhow, you should know that that is not where to go.
“The PDP is committed to being stable. And PDP is taking us to where we shall go. PDP is the right place to be, PDP is a truly democratic party. It is the party that anybody can rise to be anything. It is the party that gives me and you the opportunity to be what we want to be. So continue to support the PDP, continue to be with the PDP, continue with your commitment to our great party, don’t be worried.
“PDP remains committed to the development of the country. And let me re-assure you very, very sincerely that the PDP is still the party of the North-west zone, and intends to remain so. Come 2015, PDP is going to retain this zone. We will continue to retain Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi states.
“Kano is a PDP state, but some people want to take the state from us. We don’t know where they are taking Kano State. But with Shekarau and others joining PDP, we will take Kano back. Kano State will surely come back to PDP.
“The same thing with Sokoto State, PDP will take over Sokoto, and will continue to rule Sokoto. The only state that has never been in the control of the PDP is Zamfara State. But it is a friendly state, and we have been assured that we will win Zamfara come 2015,” President Jonathan boasts.
Vice President Sambo, on his part, promised the President that all the defectors from the zone would return and that the party would retain its rightful position in the zone, in particular, and in the country at large.
Describing Jonathan as an adopted son of the zone, Sambo further said “President Jonathan has been keeping promises he made to North-West zone. He has been addressing the challenges of the zone in the area of power, agriculture, education and the transformation of the region’s economy.”
In his remarks, the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu attributed the success so far achieved in uniting the party to God.
He said, “People call me the game changer. I am not the game changer, I am just the National Chairman of the party and whatever success I have achieved within the short period is by God’s power.”
On his part, former Governor of Sokoto State, who recently defected to the PDP from the APC, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, called on the former Head of State and APC leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, to decamp to the PDP.
According to Bafarawa, it was only on the platform of PDP that General Buhari could serve the people of the North and Nigeria in general better.
Also speaking on the occasion, Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih said the Kaduna rally was not a campaign rally, because the party had no Presidential Candidate yet, adding that, at the appropriate time, the party would come back to zone to solicit their votes and electioneering support.
He therefore tasked the youth to be law abiding and embrace peace and unity before, during and after the 2015 general election.
While demonstrating his understanding of the sermon, as preached by Lamido, on the occasion, Chief Anenih, further urged party leaders to eschew their differences and embrace unity and reconciliation that would foster unity in the party, saying “without unity, peace and reconciliation, there will be no PDP and no Nigeria. Please develop the spirit of give and take and embrace peace and unity.”
Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, on his part, assured the gathering that PDP governors, under his leadership would work assiduously for the success of the party, come 2015.
But he almost raised another agitation when he talked about the completion of a 300-bed hospital in Kaduna, a project started by Sambo, but which has remained abandoned.
All the PDP governors from the Zone, including the Sokoto State deputy governor, were at the rally. The governors are those of Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa and Kebbi State.