Anikpo: Alienating South West, recipe for catastrophe In PDP
For me, there are two major problems in the PDP and any other party in this country. The first is a total lack of ideology that binds members of the party together. The second, arising from the first, is total lack of party discipline.
The second is, of course, the most dangerous because people cannot listen to even their leader in a party; they cannot consider their fellow party members as the struggle is for the self- that is something like, ‘I must be in there and get what I want.’
Before PDP lost the 2015 election, what happened was that a lot of impunity got into the party, including godfatherism and so on. People were just put in positions or contested for positions because somebody said so. You don’t do that in a democracy. Every party has a constitution, which says you run primaries if you are going to contest for election.
So, when this type of impunity arises, many people start getting angry. A lot of people were angry and they no longer listened to the party leadership. For the 16 years that PDP was in power, quite a handful of people appeared to have been alienated completely from the party machinery, so to say. And when you have a large number of people being alienated in a party, it is almost like planting a dynamite in your parlour. There were so many people that were disgruntled and unhappy, and at the least opportunity they had, they all jumped out into the new buzz at the time called the APC.
Nigerians are too materialistic, and there is no party passion that would cause them to remain in a party that no matter what is happening, whether the party is winning or losing; whether you are getting something or not. There should be passion in belonging to a party and discipline, which should manifest in your making sure that anything that will cause trouble in a party is eliminated. But, here, people seem to be very happy creating confusion by insisting that if it is not me, nobody else. So, for me, the PDP has made a lot of mistakes and this is the genesis of their problem.
The PDP barely survived a chairmanship tussle that almost disintegrated it. Did you envisage this?
Why not? Political parties in Nigeria are bedevilled by lack of internal party discipline. They don’t have party discipline because if they had, all that quarrel between Ali Modu Sheriff, and Ahmed Makarfi factions would not have arisen. As a matter of fact, the genesis of that crisis was even laughable. It shouldn’t have even arose, but they allowed it to erupt, and this has shaken the confidence of a lot of people in the party. Both groups still have their camps and if they think that by this convention that they are not going to have an advantage, they will try to create some kind of confusion. I reduce the entire thing to lack of party discipline, and there is no ideological framework from which people are operating.
Will this convention help to mend broken fences?
What is going on now is that all the contenders on both sides of the divide know that whatever happens, they must hold that convention because that is the beginning and the end of the whole crisis, unless there are people, who are bent on seeing the end of the PDP, and you know this can be worked from other parties. You can send people into the PDP to cause all these confusion to make sure that the PDP doesn’t arise. The PDP has a lot of potentials and that is one thing we must acknowledge. Its origin still resonates with a lot of Nigerians, and it still has many Nigerians with integrity. Lets look at how PDP started. It was regarded as a party of a lot of people with courage, who confronted the military, particularly, Gen. Sani Abacha. Those that emerged from the G-34 Group process were highly respected men, who had integrity, and they formed the bulk weight of the PDP at that time. The top social class of Nigeria saw PDP as their party, and they joined it. Unfortunately, they have accumulated within their ranks, a large group of people disgruntled people as a result of not being carried along in a lot of things. Of course, all these things you share within a party cannot reach everybody. There are people, who will be completely eliminated and once you eliminate them, they will be very angry and would want to run to another place. But, the moveback to the PDP seem to have started with the movement of Abubakar Atiku, and I won’t be surprised if more people move. I find out again that people like former President Goodluck Jonathan seem to have learnt from the past, as they are now making measured statements. They have said things that seem to be more of regret. I am sure that they are going to do whatever they can to ensure that whatever internal crisis that they have would be sorted out.
Ahead of the convention, there is this controversy of PDP reneging on its earlier decision to zone its national chairmanship slot to the South West. What does this portend for the party?
That is the same party indiscipline I was talking about. When you have a party that cannot obey its own rules, of course, it is a recipe for catastrophe, honestly. If you recall, even the election that Goodluck Jonathan contested against Muhammadu Buhari in 2011, many people said that they had an understanding that he was going to do one term and handover. Of course, we were not there to know, but many people were insisting on it saying it was a decision they took. And because he violated it, a lot of people were against him. Now, if the South West was given that promise that they would have the national chairman and that is now violated, it will be most unfortunate. I have heard somebody say that they in the South West are not going to play second fiddle to any group, and that it appears that they are being sidelined. In fact, if the chairmanship, which they were hoping they would get eludes them, they are not going to be happy and they will work against the party. That is what the natural tendency for most people is when they get very angry over such things, unless there is another way of pacifying them. And as for what it portends for the PDP, absolute chaos. Don’t forget that the politics of this country has always run on this kind of ethnocentric affiliations. So, once they galvanise their people to believe that they were being cheated out, then of course, they will react. Many of them, especially top ranking officers of the party will turn against the party. So, it portends a lot of crisis and chaos for the PDP.
Can the PDP possibly wrest power from the APC in 2019?
The chances are 50-50 because the same cankerworms in PDP are also in APC. If they are able to get their acts together, they are going to give the APC a big surprise, and you will find before that election, more people are going to move to the PDP. Let me tell you, there a number of people in APC who are mere irritants, the way they talk seems to irritate a lot of people and many of them who can’t stand that kind of situation, and don’t want to be insulted will leave. If APC thinks what it has is such a holy alliance of saints, I don’t think so. They have same cankerworms that equally exist in the PDP and it is eating deep into the party right now. Because of the internal contradiction within the APC, they will handover power to the PDP on a platter of gold. That is what I see playing out. What the PDP should be doing is to put its acts together. What I see might play to the advantage of PDP is the emerging contradictions within the APC. And they are arising. I am not a party person. I am pure academic. My assessment of the entire APC is simple, I am not impressed with their performance.
What are the pitfalls that PDP should avoid ahead of, and after its convention?
They must adopt teamwork, for now, PDP has too many people that are on their own. Everybody feels big and everyone wants what he or she says to count, and this is a cumulation of all that has happened over the years. A lot of people have been senators for too long, some have been two-term governors, and have accumulated a lot and once a person gets to a position of prominence, he begins to think himself big enough to be ignored. PDP must avoid the situation of ignoring anybody. They must not let anybody have this feeling that he is being sidelined or marginalised. It still has a more mass appeal than the APC, especially in the South. Forget the change mantra, which seem to have worked the magic for the APC. PDP made a lot of mistakes, alienated a lot of people and lost the 2015 election. These are things they must avoid. They need to get everybody together. It is not that difficult. They need to set up a committee for conflict resolution because no matter the level of conflict it can be resolved and that is what they require now. Resolve all the conflicts, get everybody together and talk with one voice. They should mend fences and realise that if their party wins, it is for the good of everybody. All these personal struggles are not necessary. Sheriff and Makrafi, for instance, have already made it in life. They should sit down together and dialogue. Each side should concede something for the advancement of the party. I am convinced that if they do this, they will win as a party. Another thing is that if it is true that the South West was promised the PDP national chairman slot, for goodness sack, they should be allowed to have it. If they don’t, it will spell doom for PDP.
PDP has zoned its presidential slot to the North. Will this be advantageous to it?
PDP still has some credible persons in the North, who can face President Muhammadu Buhari squarely. It depends on how they play the politics. You have to realise that in this country it doesn’t really matter who you bring out. There are people within the PDP in the North, who are well known with a lot of integrity. Atiku has moved in and he is positioning himself for the ticket. Some other persons have already indicated their interests. I think PDP can get a candidate of northern extraction, who can still win the Presidency simply because the APC is not any much different from the PDP in anyway and you can see that the ranks of APC are already cracking. Once it accumulates a large number of people, who are feeling very unhappy with the party, the process that led to the collapse of the PDP will set in. Unfortunately, the parties don’t have any conflict resolution mechanism inbuilt to ensure that when there is any little disagreement it does not conflagrate into a conflict and crisis situation. The internal contradictions within the APC will pull the party down, and those people who had earlier migrated to that party from the PDP will find reason to start going back to the PDP, which depends of course on how vigorous the PDP raises its own rhetoric. The PDP chances are just 50-50 not because they are doing anything wonderfully new, but because APC is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, or what they said they would do.
What is your advise to PDP governors?
I think that the PDP governors, who have had the advantage of being in such position of leadership ought to sat down together and have a heart to heart talk on what they should do. For me, I will tell them to forget the self, win the election, then you can and talk about who gets what. But if you are in the process of fighting for what you want to get, you end up losing the election. They should learn to play as a team, which they are not doing right now.
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