What is the game plan and those involved?
Investigations revealed that the PDP and the various parties would have metamorphosed into a mega political party if the leadership of the main opposition party in the country had succumbed to the pressure to change its name before now.
It was gathered by Punch that the majority of the leaders of the PDP were, however, positively considering the option of a name change as a sacrifice the former ruling party would make in order to defeat the APC in 2019.
A source within the party confided in Punch that the PDP might cease to exist within the next few weeks as negotiations were at an advance stage to dissolve it into a new group that would emerge as a mega party.
He said, “What the PDP leadership is planning will not be like the merger that led to the formation of APC. We will not apply to INEC for a change of name. The time is too short to do such things and we should be careful to avoid the arrangement being frustrated.
“We have new political parties which have not done anything wrong to offend Nigerians. Our thinking is that the PDP and the coalition of other political parties will fuse into the party.”
The Vice-Chairman of the PDP in the South West geopolitical zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, confirmed to one of our correspondents that heavyweight politicians and groups, who left the PDP before the 2015 elections, were pressing the party for a change of name.
He stated that the Kawu Baraje-led new PDP group for instance, was strongly disposed to the renaming of the party in order to win the confidence of the electorate.
Olafeso added, “We have spoken with many of them (new PDP) and they are desirous of returning to the PDP. The outcome of their engagement with us is a possibility of a name change.
“My opinion is that the alphabets – PDP – did not offend Nigerians but since the coalition is pressing for it, that means we all have to make sacrifices to change this ineffective government.
“If there is the need for us to do certain things to accommodate other parties, we are willing to make the sacrifice. We all must collectively work together to salvage this nation.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in an interview with Punch on Friday, said the report of the Liyel Imoke’s committee on the issue (consulting other parties), which is expected to be submitted on Wednesday this week, would determine whether the name of the former ruling party would be changed or not.
He said the party would take a decision based on the panel’s submissions.
Ologbondiyan explained that the issue of a name change was not the idea of the PDP but that of former members who said they would not want to return to the old PDP which they left.
He said, “In order to address their concerns, the party set up the contact and integration committee led by a former Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, to liaise with individuals, groups and political party leaders who want to either return or join the PDP.
“It is the outcome of the committee’s findings and report that will form the basis of the party’s decision to either adjust its name or retain the current PDP.
“The party will have to look at the legal implications. The committee will submit its report latest by Wednesday next (this) week except if it is extended. The report will be subjected to legal scrutiny and advice.”
The PDP, on Saturday, reiterated that the suggestion that it should change its name was not its idea.
On Saturday, Ologbondiyan told Punch in Abuja that as a party, the PDP was not considering a change of name, but that other parties, which demanded a coalition with it, had insisted that the former ruling party changed its name to accommodate their interests.
The spokesman explained that the Imoke committee had been holding a series of meetings with groups and individuals which he declined to name.
In response to questions about the calibre and the number of people so far approached by the PDP to join the coalition, he said talks were still ongoing.
Ologbondiyan added, “The Liyel Imoke-led committee is working very hard to achieve the goals set for it and we are confident that the outcome of its work will be positive.
“The committee was scheduled to submit its report on Wednesday this week, but based on a request by the committee, the party has granted it a two-week extension to enable it to conclude its assignment.”
On the issue of a name change, he stated, “The people who want to join us are the ones suggesting that we make adjustments to our name, not a total change of name.
“The committee is meeting with individuals and groups who are willing to join us.
“I don’t want to pre-empt the committee’s report; what I can say is that the doors of the PDP are open to all who are interested in rescuing Nigeria from the very difficult position we are in today.”
When contacted on the telephone, the Chairman of the African Democratic Party, Chief Okey Nwosu, said he was not aware of the condition given to the PDP.
“I don’t know the meetings they have been having with Baba (Obasanjo) and his group. So, the ADC is not meeting with the PDP but some critical stakeholders in our party may have been meeting with them,” he added.
Punch attempts were unsuccessful to get a response from the leader of the defunct new PDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, on comments made by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, rubbishing the seven-day ultimatum issued by the defunct splinter group and the talks with the PDP.
Calls to his mobile were not returned. A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report on Saturday.
El-Rufai had, last week, said President Muhammadu Buhari would win the 2019 presidential election without the nPDP.
Punch had exclusively reported on May 13 that major opposition parties and third force elements were holding joint and separate talks with a view to forging an alliance and fielding one presidential candidate in 2019.
According to the report, the parties that are participating in the ongoing discussions include the PDP, the Olusegun Obasanjo-backed ADC, and the Chief Olu Falae-led Social Democratic Party.
The Nigerian Intervention Movement, co-chaired by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Dr. Abdujalil Tafawa-Balewa, is holding alliance talks with the Coalition for New Nigeria, a coalition of 35 political parties.
Also, the Chairman of the CNN, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, who is also a former National Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council, confirmed to Punch last week that over 35 parties were holding talks in order to form an alliance.
He confirmed that although the PDP was a member of the CNN, party (PDP) officials were making overtures to the coalition for the purpose of forging an alliance against the APC in the 2019 general elections.