OLUSOLA FABIYI and FEMI MAKINDE
Fresh pressure is being mounted on the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party on the need to change the name of the party in order to win the 2023 presidential election, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
The pressure is said to be spearheaded by some members of the former ruling party who believe that the party must change its name in order to drop what they referred to as its moral burden.
A similar pressure was mounted on the party before 2015, but was resisted by the party’s caucuses, which argued then that the period for the agitation was too short for it to be considered.
Succumbing to the pressure then was also seen as agreeing with those accusing the party of endorsing corruption which some of its members were being accused of by the All Progressives Congress.
A former Presidential spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe, who is spearheading the name change campaign, told one of our correspondents that the PDP should consider the option if it plans to win the 2023 presidential election.
He said he had started mobilising members of the party with the aim of putting pressure on its leadership to agree with the position.
Okupe said, ‘‘You know that the APC controls 21 states while the PDP controls 15 out of the 36 states in the country. The PDP in its present state and form cannot win comfortably the presidential election in 2023.
‘‘To defeat the APC in 2023, I want the PDP leaders to think of changing the name of the party. They must also make the party itself the arrow head of a national movement to oust the present administration. We should not forget that this is exactly what the component factions of the APC did in 2014.
‘‘I think that if we engage the APC, as presently constituted, in a straight political duel, with 21 state governors against 15 combined with the possible reckless use of the power of incumbency, victory becomes a pipe dream.
‘‘It is the residual power of the populace and the electorate when massively mobilised and unleashed that can bring overwhelming victory that will render power of incumbency and superior executive state control irrelevant.
‘‘As far as I’m concerned, the PDP with its socio-political baggage and insurmountable moral burden cannot muster the moral rectitude, political strength and integrity to lead such a mass movement.
‘‘Therefore, a new party, birthed by former ruling party, with new people, younger elements in society and politicians of other tendencies from various existing political parties, including powerful but dissatisfied elements from the ruling party, is the only formation that will effectively neutralise and overrun the incumbent party.’’
Already, Okupe said he had started collecting names, phone numbers and details of those who agree with what he considered as noble idea.
‘‘The idea is to use the names and the phone numbers to lobby our members and the party’s leadership to give this a serious consideration ahead of the next party’s mid-week convention in May this year,’’ he added.
Okupe said the idea of changing the name was considered before the 2019 polls but was dropped because the South-South and South-East geo-political zones rejected the idea.
He said the APC had destroyed the image of the PDP with lies and half-truths since 2015 when the party ousted the PDP.
Due to this, Okupe said it would be difficult for some politicians to want to associate with a political party whose name had been disparaged.
He, however, stated that with a new name, the party would attract more politicians especially those that might defect from the APC due to the looming implosion in the ruling party.
Okupe said, “We started this before now. We started even before the 2019 elections and out of the six zones; four geo-political zones did not oppose the proposed change of name for the party. The zones are: South-West; North-West; North- Central and North-East.
“The South-East and the South-South vehemently opposed this. There was a committee set up for this and former Governor Liyel Imoke was the chairman of the branding committee, this matter was tabled.
“The two zones which rejected the plan to change the party’s name are emotionally committed to the PDP. If you look at it, the PDP is totally entrenched in these two zones.
‘‘They did not understand why anybody would want to change the name of the party while nobody was thinking along that line in their zones. It is understandable but the situation is not the same in the South-West and other zones.
‘‘But things are getting better for the PDP now because the APC has messed itself up.
“We will continue to push for it. We will continue to consult and see if it is going to be possible.”
In its reaction, the national leadership of the party dismissed the call for the change of name, saying the former ruling party was well accepted across the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbodiyan, who spoke with one of our correspondents, also wondered whether Okupe had formally returned to the party.
Okupe had joined the Accord Party before the 2019 general elections.
Ologbondiyan said, ‘‘Has Dr Okupe formally returned to the PDP? Let him first answer that question. Then on the issue of name-changing, there is no need for that. This is because the PDP did well in the last general elections.
‘‘We believe that we actually won election in many states and at the federal level.
‘‘As far as we are concerned, there is no need for a change of name. The APC is very damaged now and we must also be careful of elements that are not PDP in both character and mind, coming to sell ideas that are meant to polarise us and cause confusion within us.’’
Meanwhile, the National Executive Committee of the party is meeting in Abuja on Monday to deliberate on congresses that are said to be due in 26 states.
The states, according to a document, are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross Rivers, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and Gombe.
Others are Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe.
New executives are also expected in the six zonal chapters of the party.
They are North-Central North-West, South-West, North-East, South-South and South-East.
Before the NEC meeting, members of the National Caucus and Board of Trustees would meet to approve the draft that would be present before the NEC by the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus.
The Monday NEC meeting is conveyed in pursuant to Sections 31(2)(j)and 50 (1) of the party’s constitution.
A programme of activities set out by the party’s leadership made available to Saturday PUNCH also indicated that the party would release ‘‘notice of congresses to its state chapters and end of tenure of executive to all affected states.’’
The party, according to the document, will also begin sales of nomination forms, including ad hoc forms to aspirants on Monday, January 22.
Though there are other activities, one of our correspondents gathered that the state congresses would hold in the affected states on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
The outcome of the congresses is expected to be ratified by the National Caucus, BoT and NEC on April 29 and 30.
Ologbodiyan, who confirmed the party’s programmes, said the Edo State congress would hold first.
‘‘Yes, we are going to have congresses in 26 states, but that of Edo State will come first because of obvious reasons. The tenure has ended and we are also going to have a governorship election there soon,’’ he said.