The Peoples Democra-tic Party (PDP) is under massive pressure to change its name as alliance talks intensify between it and some other parties, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) and key political figures ahead of the 2019 elections.
The alliance is aimed at denying President Muhammadu Buhari a second term in office.
The participating groups say a change of name by the PDP is desirable to give everyone a sense of belonging.
But with 13 states under its control, the former ruling party does not want merger, preferring only collaboration that will unite all opposition parties, groups and political leaders.
Nonetheless, the PDP plans to raise a committee soon to work out modalities for coalition with other parties and interest groups like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s CNM.
Some elders and governors elected on the platform of the party have also initiated moves to curb the influence of Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose on the party such that the other groups will not be scared away from working with the PDP.
Highly placed party sources said last night that ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, ex-Governor Sule Lamido, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo are leading the search chart of PDP.
The party is not relenting in wooing Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Senate President Bukola Saraki back to its fold.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is not less busy.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s strategists and some APC leaders are understood to be working on the possibility of reaching what a source called an “accord concordiale” with some PDP governors and respected leaders of the party during the 2019 polls.
One of the leaders that Buhari’s strategists are mounting pressure on is ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau whose return to APC is believed can whittle down the influence of Kwankwanso in Kano.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that PDP leaders are anchoring their plan to oust the APC from power on propaganda and forging a grand coalition against the ruling party.
The coalition part of the plan has seen the party reach out to other opposition parties, the CNM and some key political figures in the six geopolitical zones who are against Buhari’s re-election.
However, it was gathered that the PDP is finding it difficult to rally international support against Buhari, whose integrity is still being trusted by world leaders.
The party is counting solely on ex-President Obasanjo to do the ‘damage’ but the one-man international campaign against the President does not seem to be having the expected result yet.
Findings revealed that a recurring issue in the ongoing secret talks, covert negotiation and lobbying by PDP, is the demand by affected parties, groups and leaders that it should change its name.
Giving an insight into the development so far, one of the sources said:”These opposition parties, some leaders of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) and some key political figures in all the six geopolitical zones are asking PDP to change its name in order to enable more Nigerians identify with it.
“Those interested in the coalition with PDP said the party’s name has been battered because of alleged massive corruption when it was in power for 16 years. They said the electorate might not want to associate with it.
“A few other parties do not want to lose their identities. They want a sort of merger like the case with APC.
“In fact, Obasanjo’s CNM would have loved to identify with PDP but the hijack of the party by some governors at the last national convention foreclosed a wholesale adoption of the opposition party. The CNM would prefer a change of name by PDP for effective coalition against APC.”
The source said the PDP has made it clear to those interested in working with it that it will not change its name or symbol.
The party believes that any change in its identity is an easy technical way of killing it for a new set of ownership.”
A PDP leader said: “The National Working Committee sees the demand for either merger or a change of name as a booby trap to kill PDP by some forces.
“The timeline does not favour a change of name or merger. It is like starting afresh.
“Why should PDP which has about 13 governors lose its name? We believe our party is in a position of strength and should be allowed to enjoy the privilege in a coalition.
“If we go for another name, won’t they say the same people in PDP are in the new party like the case now with the Social Democratic Party?
“You don’t change a party’s name on the basis of losing election
“We are also suspecting that some of those who left the party are plotting to return to PDP through the backdoor. This is why they are giving this condition of change of name.”
The National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan said yesterday that the challenge before the party is “not about the name, it is a perception issue.”
The party has no image challenge, he said when contacted.
He added: “We would allow Nigerians to choose our candidate for 2019 presidential poll; we will not interfere with the process.
“At the end of the day, we will ensure the emergence of a credible candidate who will accord priority to national unity and development and the reshaping of the nation’s economy.”
PDP to raise committee to work out modalities for coalition
In spite of the tethering challenge, it was learnt that the PDP will soon raise a committee to “work out modalities for coalition with parties and groups.”
A member of the Board of Trustees of PDP said: “We are interested in coalition; we will soon inaugurate a committee on how to go about it, what we should offer and what we should reject.
“So far, it is clear that unless we team up with Nigerians and groups of like minds, it will be difficult for PDP to defeat APC alone.”
The source also confirmed that the party might still need to “do more work internally” by checkmating some of its leaders like Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose.
“We are aware that we have internal challenge especially the overbearing influence of some leaders like Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose. They operate as if they own PDP,” he said.
“Some elements in CNM and a few incoming coalition partners have also told us to return PDP to its democratic structure instead of allowing Wike and Fayose to be behaving as if they have the party in their pockets.
“At a point, we will all mobilize support for the party leadership to assert itself. We know some PDP governors are equally uncomfortable with Wike and Fayose’s attitude. You will see what will happen soon. We want to win in 2019, we won’t bow to the whims and caprices of some party leaders.
“By the time we enter into negotiation stage with groups and individuals, the overriding interest of the party will take the centre stage.”
What party has in stock for Saraki, Tambuwal
The source said the PDP is “ready to bend backwards for the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki if he is ready to defect to APC.”
Saraki, according to him, has been “advised to forego his presidential ambition” and PDP “won’t mind returning him as the President of the Senate because the performance of the 8th Senate, which he is heading, has been outstanding in terms of bills already passed.
“You can see why PDP is giving him a major backing. But we have not got any commitment from him.”
Saraki has however not shown any sign of defection from PDP to APC in spite of the fact that the main opposition party is his major pillar of survival in the Senate.
The source ruled out the possibility of the party giving its presidential ticket to Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State who is being actively wooed by some PDP governors.
The source said the best the PDP can offer Tambuwal is re-election ticket as governor.
“Except for a few governors who wanted us to woo Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from APC based on his democratic credentials, most of our leaders and governors are not keen on him because of his likely imposition by some PDP leaders,” he said.
“We are open to Tambuwal but let him go and seek re-election as governor on the platform of PDP if he is fed up with APC.
“Tambuwal is a presidential material for the future even though Wike will not want to hear this from our governors and leaders.”
Search for credible presidential flag bearer intensified
Party leaders and governors are gauging the mood of political leaders across the six geopolitical zones on a credible PDP presidential candidate.
A member of the National Caucus of party named ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, ex-Governor Sule Lamido, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo as those currently topping the search chart.
But he said Atiku has an edge on account of his “solid and enduring structure,” and a major obstacle: Ex-President Obasanjo.
His words: “His only problem is ex-President Obasanjo who might fight him to a standstill. The alternative is for Atiku to eat his vomit and beg the ex-President.
“We underrated Lamido until our leaders went for a rally in Jigawa during the week.
“The rally was an eye opener that this 2019 poll is going to be tough. The performance of Dankwambo has been appreciable too. He has age and vision on his side as well.
APC working on its own strategy
Strategists of President Buhari and the APC are not sleeping either.
An APC source said: “One of the windows being explored is the ongoing reconciliation being coordinated by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. We know that the President and the party would have to shift grounds to reunify some APC leaders.
“The outcome of the reconciliation will determine many things.
“We have also identified fluid states and tough election battlefields and how to make amends. Along the line, some PDP governors and leaders have faith in President Buhari’s aspiration for a second term and we are trying to consolidate on this.
“It will be akin to what the famous politician, the late Chief K.O. Mbadiwe described as ‘accord concordiale.’
“Even within the APC, some strategists have identified those who may glorify PDP by defecting to the opposition. In such states, we are working on Plan B in the light of the vote margins between PDP and APC in the affected states during the 2015 general elections.
“One of the PDP top shots, which the APC has extended its olive branch to, is ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (of Kano) who had always been an ally of the President until the two leaders had a political disagreement (not personal problem).
“The strategists of the President are prevailing on Shekarau to forgive and forget. He is yet to respond to overtures from these strategists. If he does, Kano will become winnable without Kwankwanso.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “We know that the headache of PDP is getting a credible candidate like President Buhari. We are awaiting their choice or any party’s choice in order to define the battle.”