An aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, has called on leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, not to elect Ali Modu Sheriff the party’s chairman.
Mr. Okupe said electing the controversial Borno politician would mean repeating the mistake the party made in adopting Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate in 2015.
The PDP has been plunged into a protracted internal crisis as Mr. Sheriff, who is its substantive chairman, insists on contesting for the position at the national convention scheduled to hold on May 21 in Port-Harcourt.
Mr. Sheriff’s prominent loyalists, including the party’s national secretary, Wale Oladipo, said the former Borno State governor, who was appointed in February, should be allowed to lead the party into the 2019 elections.
“Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is the right man for the job,” Mr. Oladipo said in a text message to PREMIUM TIMES. “He has my absolute support.”
In a post on his Facebook wall on Sunday, the authorship of which he confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Okupe, who served Mr. Jonathan as a senior special assistant on public affairs, said the leaders of the opposition party are on the verge of repeating the errors that relegated them from a 16-year political dominance.
“The argument that because the party is weak in the north if the chairman is zoned to the north it will strengthen the party in that zone is a puerile argument,” Mr. Okupe wrote. “It is not supported by fact or history.”
Citing the historical precedent of two late politicians, Obafemi Awolowo and Adisa Akinloye, Mr. Okupe said politicians have their unique appeals that set them apart from each other, adding that only a genuine engagement with the party’s political base could help reverse its misfortunes.
“When Awolowo was alive, there were great politicians in the West, but he was of such stature that if the ruling party then appointed one national chairman per state in the west it would have amounted to no political strength or gain whatsoever. It was this type of sentiment that led to the zoning of the chairman of the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) to chief Adisa Akinloye, no doubt a political Juggernaut, but still could not produce the desired result,” Mr. Okupe said. “What we need to strengthen the PDP in the north is, excellent and stellar performance of PDP governors in the north and the south, diligent and committed efforts by local party leadership and passionate and courageous; genuine and dutiful; engagement of the leadership of the party at all levels with the grassroots in the zone.”
Mr. Okupe also reminded PDP leaders of the failure of Adamu Mu’azu, who resigned as chairman in May 2015 after presiding over the party’s biggest electoral disaster in history.
“It is for the same reason that the fact that Alhaji Adamu Muazu, a northerner, and a two time governor of Bauchi state, could not help the fortune of the PDP in the north or even his state Bauchi,” Mr. Okupe said. “Presently and for some time to come, General Buhari is the most popular Northern politician and leader alive. He stands and will likely stand shoulders taller than any politician in APC or PDP in that region.”
The Ogun State politician added that, because they were in charge of the presidency, he and his colleagues within the PDP underestimated the northern public’s determination to see the post of president returned to the north.
“In retrospect, it is regretful that based on the expedience circumstances of incumbency, we committed a politically fatal error of robbing the north of their turn to have the Presidency in 2015, and we paid dearly for it,” Mr. Okupe said. “We didn’t know the northerners will be so tenacious in their determination to ensure that they have the presidency back and that is regrettable,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
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