by Timothy Godson and Princewill Atasie
On that fateful Tuesday, March 31, when ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s hero of democracy and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential candidate, placed a phone call to General Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the then main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, congratulating him on his victory in Nigeria’s presidential elections, I felt an aura that True Change, has been birthed in the PDP.
Of all Nigeria’s past leaders, Jonathan who emerged victorious in 2011, with a youthful mien and fresh breath of air, showed that a lot can change in the PDP and Nigeria at large.
Under his five and half year’s leadership as Nigeria’s no 1 citizen, freedom of speech and expression was birthed in our body politics. The opposition was allowed an almost absolute freedom to birth and thrive.
Under the leadership of Jonathan, the main opposition APC which was allowed to birth and thrive as a result of the conglomeration of power mongers from the ACN, CPC, ANPP and a faction of APGA, gave the then ruling PDP a run for its money to clinch power at the centre.
But since the APC Presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015, all the gains of democratic dividends such as human rights, freedom of speech and expression seem to be on reverse gear.
Nonetheless, it’s apt to state that now that President Buhari and his party men are playing the Ostrich, now that our gains of democratic dividends such as human rights, freedom of speech and expression et al are on reverse gear, the current opposition party must reposition to set the current administration on its toes.
The PDP must reposition to play the watchdog role, to hold the current administration accountable to the Nigerian people. To achieve this aim, the way forward is re-building the party around Youth and Women emancipation.
Ahead of the general elections in 2019, it is apt to state categorically that neither Hope, Transformation, Change nor Continuity can fly for the Nigerian people. What will appeal to the Nigerian people is a very serious political platform where Nigerian youths and women can have their say.
Having done a periscopic view into the affairs of Nigeria’s major political parties, it is apt to state that it appears the PDP is one political platform ready to thrust the youths to greater heights in its affairs.
Yes, this style of repositioning the party to embrace Nigerian Youths can’t be under-emphasized given the fact that shortly after the President Buhari was sworn in as President, on May 29, 2015, almost all chieftains of the PDP, excluding Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State; National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh and erstwhile Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, all retreated into their burrows.
Together with the chieftains so mentioned, Nigerian Youths stood their gauntlet to expose the hypocrisy, scandals and despotic actions of the President Buhari’s regime, using one arsenal within their reach, which is the social media.
Youths who are members, supporters and sympathizers of the PDP, have in the last one year into the life of the Buhari administration set him on his toes. This has no doubt led to several back-tracks and reversal of unfavourable policies that the President would have embarked upon if left unchecked.
Among the many feats recorded by the PDP Youths, is the exposure of the scandalous padding in the 2016 Budget, which President Buhari presented to the joint National Assembly on December 22, 2015.
When the budget was presented, Buhari described it as a ‘Budget of Change.’
But in a swift reaction, the PDP through its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, issued a statement on December 22, 2015, describing the budget as ‘a budget of corruption, saying by every standard, it is a booby trap against the country.
According to Metuh, who addressed journalists, in Abuja, a breakdown of the N1.84 trillion borrowing captured in the budget shows that Nigeria would be borrowing N5 billion a day for the next 365 days, starting from January I, 2016, without what he termed, a corresponding provision for economic production and a clear repayment plan, adding that the scenario would spell doom for the future of the nation.
The PDP wondered why the N6.08 trillion 2016 federal budget should not be considered a huge fraud, designed to mortgage the future of the country, even as it challenged the Federal Government to a public and open debate on the budget devoid of sentiments of the APC-controlled National Assembly and who are minded against any cuts in their own allocation.
The long and short of the budget debacle shows that the budget was padded scandalously by the Buhari’s administration.
The PDP youths among other IT NGOs like Budgit did not however, fail to analyse the line items of the 2016 budget, thus, further exhuming more scandals.
This is irrespective of the fact that Buhari’s Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Presidential spokesmen, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, came in among other APC chieftains came in defence of the indefensible budget.
APC chieftains like the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, described the budget as ‘the best since 1960.’
Senator Dino Melaye described the budget as a ‘holy budget.’
Other APC offline and online warriors praised the budget to high havens. But when, the scandalous paddings were exhumed by the PDP Youths, the APC warriors retreated into their burrows.
Even till date, the budget logjam is yet to be settled as at 10.00pm on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, (when this article was written).
In short, the PDP Youths have utilised the social media to launch hash tags exposing various mis-governance by the Buhari-led APC administration. This is however, a discourse for another day.
Charting a way forward for the PDP, it is pertinent to look at where the party is coming from.
Recalling the history of how the PDP was formed in 1998, it is apt to state that the state of the nation prior to 1998 was described as near comatose.
The human rights record of the military administration was appalling. The nation’s economy was on a steady slide to a disastrous perdition. There was near hopelessness and uncertainty. In the political terrain, the nation was served with strange concoctions that would have ultimately led to national suicide.
In the international arena, Nigeria which once stood tall as the giant of Africa was reduced to an inconsequential midget with the suffocating tag of a pariah nation tightening round her neck.
Hitherto brave men and women became cowards overnight, groveling at the throne of the one who had wished to become the absolute emperor of Nigeria.
For each passing day, the light of hope dimmed in Nigeria. The height of despair was achieved when the five registered political parties aptly described by the late Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige as the “five fingers of a leprous hand” strangely adopted a serving soldier and the incumbent Head of State, General Sani Abacha, as their presidential candidate.
The conventions of the ‘parties’, which were supervised by the goons of the regime, were sad symptoms of a decadent nation on the brink of disintegration.
The regime capped up this comical idea with an unprecedented show of self-amusement in a forum of waste tagged “One Million Men March” where politicians, respected ones at that, professed to the whole world on national television that no other human being in a country of over 100 million people was qualified to rule the country. What a calamity. What a damming verdict on a population known for its industry, resilience and ingenuity!
This was the state of affairs in 1998. The nation was passing through a phase described by some analysts as “the dark ages”. At a point, it seemed no one could stand in the way of this rampaging dictator who was bent on entrenching himself in the country.
While this sordid state of affairs was holding sway, a group of politicians under the auspices of the All Politicians Summit convened a meeting in 1997 to discuss the way out of what was fast becoming a festering dictatorship. That meeting, led by Dr. Alex Ekwueme was brutally dispersed by the security apparati of the Sani Abacha’s regime.
Dr. Ekwueme undeterred by the brutish antics of the regime continued rallying key political figures of different ideological persuasions under a new platform called Institute of civil society.
In the midst of all this confusion, a group of political leaders, 18 of them in the first instance and later thirty-four decided to “dare the lion in his den”.
This group known as the G-34 later formed the nucleus and rallying point of the associations that formed what is today, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
These elders then with youthful miens played their part in the formation and building of the PDP.
They saw to it that the PDP held the reins of power at the centre for 16 years. No doubt, progresses were made. Nigeria under the PDP transformed into the largest economy in Africa and the 3rd fastest growing economy in the world.
Nigeria’s decrepit infrastructure across various sectors of the economy- telecommunication, roads, housing, airports, medicine, engineering et al was remarkably improved upon.
No doubt, there were challenges and hiccups, but they are not insurmountable.
Howbeit, now that the party is out of power at the centre, there is no doubt that for it to relaunch itself as a credible alternative to the already fumbling APC administration, it must be re-built around new breed of politicians with untainted records of integrity.
If the party is to be taken serious by Nigerians who are already in despair and in dire need of solace barely one year into the administration of the Buhari-led APC administration, we reiterate that it must carry the youth along.
From my research, it is apt to state that major stakeholders in the PDP, including the national chairman, Senator Alimodu Sheriff (SAS); ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; PDP Governors Forum led by Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ben Ayade (Cross-Rivers); Emmanuel Udom (Akwa-Ibom); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa); Ibrahim Dakwambo (Gombe); Darius Ishaku (Taraba); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi); current PDP National lawmakers led by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Minority Senate Leader, Godswill Akpabio; ex-Governors; ex-Ministers; ex-National and State lawmakers; current and former members of the PDP NEC and BOT, are all in tune with the decision that the PDP like never before, needs the Youths now or never, to reposition ahead of its political future in Nigeria.
Therefore, ahead of the party’s national convention billed for Saturday, May 21, 2016, and given the fact that the PDP NEC has approved the recommendations of the Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Zoning Committee, this is a clarion call for all the above-mentioned stakeholders to close their ranks irrespective of the musings or ill-feelings the zoning arrangement may have caused.
There is need to encourage and support the candidature of vibrant PDP Youths, who have thrown their hats into the ring, to contest for various offices. This is even in line with the recommendation of the Sen. Ike Ekweremadu 2015-Post Election committee, which advocated for active participation and encouragement of the youths in steering the affairs of the party.
Mention must be made of Vibrant and Courageous Youths like Edo-born Barrister Anthony Ogbeide Ehilebo who is running for the position of the Deputy National Legal Adviser, a position zoned to the South-South; Ekiti-born Lere Olayinka and Ogun-born Segun Sowunmi, who have both thrown their hats into the ring, to contest the position of the National Publicity Secretary of the party, a position zoned to their zone, the South-West. Another Courageous Youth is Kogi-born Deji Adeyanju, who is contesting the position of Deputy National Publicity Secretary, a position zoned to the North-Central, among others.
For the fact that these young breed of politicians have washed their hands, a pre-requisite to qualify them to dine with the elders, as well as sail where the elders have sailed, it is therefore expedient to boost their morale by making the contest open, transparent, free and fair.
At this juncture, it’s apt to briefly introduce these new breed of politicians with untainted records, with the CV at my disposal at the time of writing this article.
Who is Barrister Anthony Ogbeide Ehilebo?
Barrister Anthony Ogbeide Ehilebo, born some thirty years ago, is an enthusiastic, reliable and determined card carrying member of Nigeria’s only national political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Barr. Ehilebo was born into the family of Sir and Lady Ehilebo, a Knight of St. John and a retired executive of the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, in Igueben Local government area of Edo State.
Ehilebo in 2005, graduated from the prestigious University of Buckingham, Buckingham England, where he bagged LLB in law.
From 2005-2007, Barr. Ehilebo cut his teeth in law and the business environment in the United Kingdom.
In 2008, Ehilebo came back to Nigeria, where he attended the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, and was called to bar in 2009.
He is also a Principal Partner at Ogbeide Associates, a law firm established in 2009 and known to have handled high profile cases, none of which it has lost.
As a young and vibrant student in Buckingham University, UK, Ehilebo forayed into students’ Union politics in the university.
In 2002, he beat other major contenders to emerge the President, Nigerian Students Society, the largest student body of the university.
On his return to Nigeria, Barr. Ehilebo joined the PDP Youth Circuit, where he held the position of the pioneer National Programmes Coordinator.
As the pioneer programmes co-ordinator of the PDP Youth Circuit, Ehilebo developed and initiated all programs of the PDPYC in Nigeria which included the youth political mixer with the e-womens wing of the party.
He is the pioneer secretary of Rethink Nigeria, a PDP affiliated youth group which submitted a position paper to the National Conference in 2014 for the inclusion of young people in both elective and appointive positions.
Same year, Ehilebo also served as a member of the PDP national Conference Committee, a constitutionally recognized organ of the party which looked into contemporary issues within the party.
In 2016, he served as a Member of the PDP constitutional review committee, as well as a member of the PDP standing committee on finance.
Barr. Ehilebo has featured in several political magazine and breakfast pogrammes on national radio and television stations among which are Ebony Life, Rubbin Minds and Sunrise Daily, on Channels TV; Focus Nigeria, on AIT.
Barr. Ehilebo has been described as one of the top ten powerful young politicians in Nigeria, by Ynaija, a youth magazine.
Anthony Ehilebo is passionate about youth participation in politics and has advocated this stand with dedicated passion, using various platforms, including through opinion articles and position papers.
Who’s Lere Olayinka
Lere Olayinka, a thorough bred journalist is currently the special assistant to Ekiti State governor on public communications and new media.
Before he was appointed by Governor Fayose, Olayinka was media aide to PDP national vice chairman (South West) and former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni.
His former boss, now a member of the APC did not deter Olayinka’s love for the PDP, as he stayed on and contributed particularly in shaping narratives on social media which saw to the emergence of Gov. Fayose as Governor of the state in 2014.
Olayinka was once allegedly beaten to pulp by security aides to former Governor Kayode Fayemi for a story he posted on Facebook which read: “#Fayemi’s Tipatikuuku Teachers’ Competency Test failed again!#
“For the 4th time, teachers in Ekiti State defied Gomina Fayemi’s order. No one is writing his competency test slated today. I just left Ola-Oluwa Muslim Grammar School, Ado-Ekiti, the place is being manned by GUN-WIELDING MOPOL with some teachers “gisting” directly opposite the school. The teachers are also raining curse and abuses on Gomina Fayemi and the ASUSS chairman, who directed that its members should write the exam as against the NUT directive.” This was in October 2012.
Dating back the pre-2015 election period, Governor Fayose had always broken the super-information highway by his press releases issued through Lere Olayinka, especially those taking critical stance of Buhari.
That the Buhari’s administration has been set on its toes especially in the area of national issues and economic policies, kudos must be given to Lere Olayinka for his very punchy statements issued on behalf of Governor Fayose.
Who’s Segun Sowunmi?
Mr. Segun Sowunmi is another head fit for the job of the PDP’s national publicity secretary.
Like Lere Olayinka, Mr. Segun Sowunmi, has formerly served on appointive position in the PDP.
He was former director-general of Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation, in Ogun State and a member of the PDP, in the state.
Before this position, he had once served as media aide to ex-Ogun State Governor, Chief Gbenga Daniel.
Sowunmi is a brilliant and thorough bred politician, who critical stances on national issues is worth mentioning.
Sowunmi, for me and other political observers, came to limelight, when he gave the then opposition spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed a run for his money on a political tv show on Channels TV.
I am sure Alhaji Lai Mohammed would never forget that day, as he was found fidgeting when Sowunmi punctured all his arguments on the manner of change the APC was bringing on board at the centre.
With the myriads of fumblings by the ruling party at the centre today, many are now recalling with nostalgia what Sowunmi’s points were on that fateful day.
Who is Deji Adeyanju
Prince Deji Adeyanju is many things to different people.
He cut his political career as a student union leader at the Bayero University Kano, BUK.
He hails from Ayere community in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, North Central Nigeria.
As a grassroots politician, his people are rest assured that their genuine “interest” which is always the permanent thing in politics will be well protected and represented.
He is a dogged, articulate and fearless communications expert, attributes that have led many to regard him in high esteem and look up to him as the face of the new opposition in Nigeria’s politics.
Impeccable people are people who never tried anything as impeccability is not the trait of any human, but when it has to do with political media strategy, he is almost impeccable consequently attracting several local and intellectual panegyrics.
A businessman who runs a private Media firm “Who is Who” that consults for many politicians and that has also recorded tremendous successes on many fronts, his intellectual sleeves are many and they include international trainings and courses abroad on New Media, one of the most outstanding being the Professional Certificate Course on New Media and Political Awareness at Albion College, London (2012), and London Graduate School (2013).
He has also written many articles on the many political happenings in the country, fearlessly challenging the dictatorship of the current ruling party.
He is a public commentator and a member of the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes. He is also the publisher of the book: “Sam Ode”: Lessons to the Youth of my Generation”.
Having served in various capacities in the party, he worked in the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan and was one of the leading voices that defended and campaigned for the former president during the last presidential election.
He also worked as an administrative staff at the 2011 PDP Presidential Campaign Organization and was also a member of the 2015 media committee of the party’s campaign organization. This is in addition to the fact that he has worked with various members of the party’s leadership in the past and was an aide to two former national chairmen including the immediate past chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, who he served as aide on new media. He coordinated an army of social media influencers and supporters of the party during the last presidential election.
His mobilization skills, effective management of human and other vital resources cannot be over emphasized. An unequivocal faithful party man, he stood and is still standing with the party even when the chips were down in the PDP after the 2015 election mishap coupled with unprecedented political clamp down on the party by the ruling party which prompted many political juggernauts to go into compulsory hibernation. He has, however, remained vocally unwavering and steadfast.
He has been in the fore-front of political progress in PDP and has been on ground for every single election PDP participated in ranging from LGA to Governorship elections no matter the distance and inconvenience with a mandate of ensuring that PDP does not only win the elections but also the confidence of the citizenry. In this regard, he has remained a success story.
A man with unimaginable quantum of content, capacity and passion (CCP), this is one man that would help to take PDP to disneyland. Little wonder he is fondly called Mr CCP (Content, Capacity and Passion) by people who have worked with him.
The grassroots man, being so fittingly and eloquently described above, who doesn’t believe much in luck, but believes more in hard work, in convincing, in delivery and in capacity, the dogged and fearless Mr. CCP is the current PDP director of new media and he is by name Mr. Adeyanju Deji
Without much ado, it is apt to state categorically once again, that the time is now for the youth to be allowed a chance to reposition the PDP.
Timothy Godson is a political commentator. He lives and works in Anambra State.
Atasie Princewill is a social media activist. He tweets from @flashyjack.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.