Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The beginning of the end of PDP?

Formed in 1998 by a Group of 18 and later 34 eminent personalities which cut across different bourgeoisie class – military, business, political, bureaucratic elites, the political association known as Institute of Civil Society was later registered as Peoples Democratic Party by the Independent National Electoral Commission as a political party alongside the All Peoples Party (later transmuted to All Nigeria’s Peoples Party) and Alliance for Democracy. That was in 1998 December after the conduct of the Local Government election of that year. Since its formal registration, PDP has come a long way winning majority of seats at all levels of governance (federal, state and local government) in four out of the five electoral cycles viz. 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 before meeting its political waterloo during the 2015 General Elections it fell electorally to its arch-rival and political nemesis, All Progressive Congress which was formed in 2013.

Buoyed by its strings of contrived electoral successes, one of the party’s past chairmen, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, in 2008 boasted that PDP will rule Nigeria for sixty years.  Unfortunately, because the party did not know how to manage success, instead of 60 years, the party ruled for 16 years. In fact, there are not a few political analysts who are of the opinion that PDP never genuinely won any election; rather the party has always rigged to power. This extreme position may not be altogether true. PDP, I dare say, is the only true national political party the country has before the advent of APC in July 2013. The party has been able to win elections in all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria unlike its counterpart such as Alliance for Democracy whose electoral victories were mainly in the South West region; All Progressives Grand Alliance whose catchment area is South East region and ANPP whose electoral victories had majorly been in Northern Nigeria particularly in North West and North East.

In truth, PDP electoral successes had largely been through electoral manipulations. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka allegedly referred to the party as the “nest of killers” following series of political assassinations always witnessed ahead of any general elections. PDP has also been fingered as sponsoring political crises which degraded some of the main opposition political parties notably AD and ANPP.  It was alleged that the political machinations of PDP led to the loss of five out of six AD controlled states in the South West during the 2003 General Elections. Only Lagos State under Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor survived the PDP onslaught.  Similar thing happened to ANPP. From controlling about seven states between 1999 and 2007, ANPP electoral fortunes dipped when two of its governors Mahmuda Shinkafi of Zamfara State and sa Yuguda of Bauchi State were poached by the PDP after the 2007 elections.  The party also poached the two governors of Progressive Peoples Alliance, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State and Theodore Orji of Abia State.

Opposition political parties are quick to always accuse PDP of rigging them out at elections. They often claim that PDP uses money and other states and administrative resources such as instruments of coercion to deal with other political parties. They allege PDP government uses the Police and other security agencies to intimidate and harass their chieftains and candidates across the country. In addition, anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission are sent after opposition elements under the 16 years of PDP presidency.  The party was severally accused of electoral heist with opposition elements always making a heavy weather of stolen mandate by PDP.

Truth be told, PDP was never a party of saints. It is a potpourri or amalgam of strange political bedfellows whose common interest was to capture power and share the spoils of electoral victories. The party’s unwritten philosophy is the use of Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means’. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ahead of 2007 General Elections, openly said the polls were ‘do or die’ for him and his party, PDP.  Those elections were adjudged to be the worst in the political history of Nigeria as both local and international accredited election observer groups were unanimous in condemning the polls as being below international and regional standards.

The behemoth called PDP is now terribly sick and in the intensive care unit of Nigeria political hospital. The party is gasping for breath aftermath of protracted crises that has buffeted it.  Though the party has always been embroiled in internal war of attrition due to its high deficiency in internal democratic norms and ethos; however aftermath of the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010, the party in trying to nominate its presidential candidate for the 2011 General Elections committed a big blunder by nominating President Goodluck Jonathan. This precipitated the current round of internal crisis.  Section 7 subsection 3 (c) of the PDP Constitution as amended in 2012, talks about:  “Adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.” The alternation of power at the national level was to be between North and South. A northerner was supposed to have been nominated to serve out the remaining one term of President Yar’Adua. Not doing that upset the apple cart. 

Many PDP chieftains from the North never forgave those who circumvented the PDP Constitution to allow a Southerner to come to power so soon after the eight years of Obasanjo presidency. It was part of the anger that culminated in the formation of New PDP in 2013 after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and seven PDP governors walked out of the special convention of the party on August 31, 2013. Of the seven governors, only Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State was from the south. Five of the seven governors as well as Vice President Atiku Abubakr were later to join the opposition APC which had been registered by INEC on July 31, 2013. Since that time, APC became a Mecca of some sort with exodus of PDP chieftains into the party.

PDP never recovered. It was a depleted and divided PDP that went into the 2015 General Elections. By the time the polls were over, the party lost the presidency, lost its hitherto majority seats in Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly. Out of the 29 governorship elections held on April 11, 2015, PDP managed to win nine with most of them coming from southern Nigerian states of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Abia, and Enugu. The other two governorship seats won by PDP were those of Gombe and Taraba States.  It was the party’s worst electoral victory since inception and the colossal loss made the party to hemorrhage the more as members left in droves after the general elections to join the new party in power, APC.

Now, the attempt to rebuild the party after the electoral fiasco has been largely unsuccessful. Many of the party chieftains have been arrested and are being tried in courts for corruption. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu led a PDP post-election review committee to look into the crisis rocking the party and proffer solutions.   Unfortunately, the recommendations of the committee have been largely ignored. In the last three years the party has had about four chairmen. From the time Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was forced to resign in January 2014 and Alhaji Adamu Muazu took over only for him to be forced to resign after last year’s general elections and Prince Uche Secondus took over in acting capacity and had to be booted out via a court order after which from nowhere former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was smuggled in as the new chairman only to be removed last Saturday at the party’s controversial convention in Port Harcourt, River State.

It is patently clear that PDP is  on its way to political Golgotha. However, like a Phoenix, it may yet survive if all the varied interest groups pulling and pushing will sheathe their swords, reconcile and rebuild the party into a genuine and vibrant opposition party which will serve as a watchdog on the incumbent government in power.