Baring last minute changes, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum is expected hold its meeting under the leadership of its new chairman, the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, on Tuesday, May 11, 2023. Governor Seminalayi Fubara of Rivers State is vice chairman of the Forum.
Providing an insight into what to expect at this inaugural meeting of the Forum, the first since the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, the Director General of the Forum, Hon. CID Maduabum said in a release yesterday, that the state of the particularly recent political, social and economic developments would take centre stage. The director general was stating the obvious when he said that the meeting will also discuss the state of the Forum, the Party and the role of the party’s Governors’ Forum in stabilizing both the party and the nation.
Then a hint: “the new leadership of the Forum may likely unfold their unity and progressive agenda during the meeting”. Of course, it is only by unfolding its agenda that the PDP Governors Forum would convey its readiness to provide hope to millions of Nigerians who are mortified by not only the dire economic and security challenges facing the country but the dangerous resurgence of forces of disunity in the country.
But why is the Governors’ Forum important?
In recent years, beyond their unquestioned status as chief executives of their states, governors have come to assume a very strategic position in the affairs of the state branches of their parties. Thus, as a collective, beyond their states, governors now wield extraordinary powers in the affairs of their parties at the national level.
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Those familiar with the situation will confirm that the prevailing pervasive hold that governors now have over party affairs is in stark contrast with what obtained in the second republic. For instance, though Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was executive President of the country, the chairman Chief A.M.A. Akinloye was the unmistakable leader of the party. It was no less different with the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) where Chief Olu Akinfosile was the chairman not only in name but also in deed or the Unity Party of Nigeria where Chief Obafemi Awolowo held sway.
Those were the days when party leaders provided very strong leadership. Their word was law and their visage sent shivers down the spines of errant party members who sidestepped from the norm. Many of the party leaders had acquitted themselves in various spheres of human endeavour including politics, the professions and business. By the same token, many also commanded some respectful financial muscle and having earned their plaudits as independent actors, could readily call the bluff of any governor.
It is doubtful if that can be said of many a party leader today hence stories of party workers going for months on end without salaries just because governors are at logger heads with party officials. It is trite knowledge that he who pays the piper calls the tune. The reality is that in today’s Nigeria, the ultimate survival of a party depends largely on the willingness of its governors to provide much needed financial, logistical and other institutional support.
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It is against the above background that the recent election of Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed as chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum should be seen as a well thought-out decision that is bound to produce far-reaching positive results in the party and the country.
Since its inception in February 2013, the PDP Governors’ Forum has served as a think tank, a peer review mechanism for the governors, an effective stakeholder platform that, collaborates with such organs of the party as the National Working Committee (NWC) and the Board of Trustees (BOT), for stabilizing the party in pursuit of its vision and mission.
Thus, despite its own occasional upheavals, on balance the benefits of the forum, whether as an internal affair of a party or the larger multi-party national body, Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), far outweighs the disadvantages.
Juxtaposing the emergence of Bala Mohammed within that context, many factors can be raised in justification of the wisdom of the PDP governors, call them the 12 “wise men” who opted for him as their chairman. To understand their choice, one needs to dig deeper into the present circumstances of the PDP.
Going into the last general elections in Nigeria with a torn umbrella (the party’s symbol), that was leaking in several states particularly in Rivers and Benue States, among others, at no time in its history is the PDP in greater need of purposeful leadership, reconciliation and direction.
That internal cohesion becomes even more imperative with the prospect that unless there is a reversal of President Bola Tinubu’s victory, the PDP as the second largest party in the National Assembly would have to rev up its internal administration just as it hones the strategy to provide effective opposition to the ruling All Peoples Congress party (APC).
In the aftermath of the 2023 elections, more than ever before, there is the overarching need for statesmen, across the broad political divide who possess not just the mindset but the capacity to lead their colleagues, albeit in a committee of equals, in averting a shipwreck in which no constituent unit will emerge unscathed. Besides, if the welfare and security of the citizens are the prime purposes of government, then the choice of Bala Mohammed as the arrowhead of PDP’s much-deserved rebirth is both wise and expedient.
Why am I so confident? The first is his track record as a loyal party member. Will things change in the future? I do not know. What is not in doubt is the fact that, to Bala Mohammed, PDP is home and home is PDP.
Bala Mohammed’s loyalty to the PDP was unambiguously displayed in the immediate post-Jonathan era in 2015 when, in the face of what appeared to be a witch-hunt by the government of the day, most of the party’s leaders either fled the country or went into hiding. But he did not. Except for a brief medical vacation abroad, he promptly returned to the country to face all the thorns that were strewn in his path. Working with compatriots and other PDP loyalists, confidence was restored, and the party repositioned and stabilized thereby affording it the space to discharge its responsibility as the formal opposition. How well it was able to discharge the duty is a different matter altogether.
Yet, even as a foremost party loyalist, Bala Mohammed espouses the patriotic principle that neither should opposition or party differences translate to enmity, nor should personal or narrow political party and geo-political interests be allowed to either override the supremacy of the constitution or jeopardize national survival.
In 2010, as the National Assembly prevaricated over succession to ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua, Bala Mohammed then a first-term senator from Bauchi State marshalled a group of patriots, under the umbrella of the ‘Integrity Group’, to propose the Doctrine of Necessity Bill which cleared every obstacle to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s emergence as President. Anyone familiar with Nigeria’s geopolitical permutations will appreciate the risk he took, defying conventional ‘political wisdom’ in support of the constitution of the Federal Republic. Patriotism at its highest.
These are times that call for undiluted patriotism and statesmanship. Bala Mohammed has both qualities in good measure. In addition, his conflict management skills that were often deployed in the past, to manage volatile intra-party crisis will now come into play. Concerned members of the PDP will expect Bala Mohammed to get the G-5 Governors (all but one now ex-governors) and the former national chairman Chief Uche Secondus back into the party’s mainstream. Will he succeed? Only time will tell.
I have no doubt that the PDP and the country stand to benefit from Bala Mohammed’s choice as chairman of its Governors Forum. He is a bridge-builder, a consummate administrator and a quintessential democrat. As a nationalist and statesman, he is unpretentious, bold and forthright.
Besides, at home, not only has Bala Mohammed ensured a stable leadership for the party under the chairmanship of Alhaji Hamza Akuyam, but he has also deepened governance, deploying out-of-the-box acumen that has unleashed an unprecedented developmental impetus characterized by huge democracy dividends in the form of infrastructural milestones, people empowerment, stakeholder inclusion social development and security of lives and property.
The inaugural meeting of July 12, 2023, will provide an opportunity for Bala Mohammed to showcase those qualities that have endeared him to the people of Bauchi State and his colleagues in the PDP Governors’ Forum.