PDP: A Party In Search Of Fresh Direction
By May 29, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has ruled Nigeria in the last 16 years will become opposition party.
This is fallout of the party’s dismal performance in the just concluded general elections which it lost the presidential seat for the first time to the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since the elections were concluded, and it dawned on all PDP members, including President Goodluck Jonathan that PDP will now be in opposition, there has been blame-game going on among the party’s major stakeholders.
While some have blamed the party national leadership led its national chairman and former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Mua’zu for the party’s loss, especially in the North, others have apportioned blame to the PDP governors and the presidency.
Many have also attributed the party’s loss to lack of internal democracy, arrogance, persistent crisis, and specifically, the zoning palaver that rocked the party under President Jonathan.
PDP And Its Endless Crisis
Since the PDP was formed in 1998, the party has been synonymous with intra-party crisis. It started at the party’s Jos Convention in 1998 where Chief Olusegun Obasanjo emerged the party’s presidential candidate against Chief Alex Ekwueme.
Many of the party’s founding fathers including Ekwueme saw Obasanjo’s emergence as a coup by the retired military general who hijacked the party machinery from the outset.
Under Obasanjo’s administration, the party witnessed more crises than ever imagined. From the state level to the national, it was war of attrition and battle of survival in the party.
All sorts of undemocratic practices such as adoption, imposition, consensus, affirmation, proclamation and others were introduced in the party’s politics the provisions of its constitution.
Democratic tenets and processes were relegated to the background. Politics became a do or die affair. Political godfatherism was promoted and celebrated. Founding fathers of the party were either sidelined or expelled, while political jobbers took the front seats.
Serving governors of the party were illegally impeached with the support of the presidency. Everything appeared to be possible in the party then, especially if you were in the good book of the presidency. It was business as usual then as the party managed to trudge on.
Obasanjo’s failed third term bid and political differences with his vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar nearly grounded the party.
Atiku alongside other members of the party who were not in Obasanjo’s good book were deregistered ahead of the 2007 general elections.
PDP And 2007 General Elections
Ahead of the elections, Obasanjo’s body language indicated the presidency would be retained in the South. So, the likes of then governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, his Cross River counterpart, Donald Duke and others joined the race to succeed Obasanjo.
But suddenly Obasanjo made a u-turn and in the fulfillment of the party’s zoning principle beamed his searchlight at the Northwest zone for a successor. That was how former governor of Katsina, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua emerged president of the country on the party platform with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as his vice.
Under Yar’Adua, every reconciliatory moves in the party failed to achieve any positive result. At the peak of Yar’Adua’s health saga, crisis erupted in the party and lingered. Jonathan later succeeded Yar’Adua in office after his demise, but the North opposed Jonathan’s bid to contest election in 2011.
Jonathan’s Presidency, PDP And 2011 Elections
It was disclosed that the North initially opposed Jonathan’s presidential ambition in 2011, arguing that the North should be allowed to complete the remaining four years. But after alleged deal with President Jonathan that power will return to the North in 2015, the North agreed to support him. With this, the party went into the election and emerged victorious.
Ahead of the just concluded general elections, crisis erupted in the party again between the state governors, and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led national leadership of the party. The crisis led to the defection of the party’s five governors to the All Progressive Congress (APC). After so much pressure, Tukur resigned his position. As his replacement was former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Muazu.
Prior to the 2015 presidential primaries, the governor of Niger State, Alhaji Muazu Babangida Aliyu disclosed that there was an agreement of one term between President Jonathan and the North in 2011. Muazu’s position was collaborated by former president of the country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. But President Jonathan denied such and challenged them to provide the document.
Jonathan against all expectation was chosen as the party’s presidential candidate for 2015. Some Northerners like Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido and others were pressurized to shelve their ambitions.
PDP And 2015 Polls
Despite the vigorous and unprecedented campaign mounted by the PDP and President Jonathan during the presidential election, President Jonathan lost the contest to the APC candidate, General Muhammad Buhari (rtd). PDP also lost massively in governorship and national assembly elections. While APC has taken control of 22 states, PDP is in charge of 14 states now.
Not many PDP leaders saw the calamity that befell the party during the elections. Having survived successive crises before now, the presidency and the party leadership went into the election with confidence that they will emerge victorious.
Some schools of thought have alleged religious and ethnic conspiracy between the North and Southwest as being responsible for PDP’s loss. Others were of the view that what was responsible for PDP’s loss was the failure of the President Jonathan to abide by the alleged one-term agreement deal with the North in 2011.
Move To Reposition PDP
The presidency, state governors and party leaders have begun moves to reposition the party, an insider party source told The Guardian yesterday.
Speaking on the recent call by the PDP governors for the members of National Working Committee (NWC) to resign, the source revealed that the call has the backing of the presidency that is not happy with the party leadership before and after the polls.
“The governors, presidency and party stakeholders want the NWC members to resign to enable them pick acting national chairman from the party’s strongholds now namely South-South or southeast zones.
“Another reason for the call borders on alleged financial misappropriation by the members before and after the election.
“It was alleged that before and after the elections, each member parted with huge sum. The development is putting the party in a financial strait. The governors and the presidency are not happy with the members on the development. It is for this obvious reason that they want the members to resign before May 29.”
On why the governors want the members to resign before May 29, a governor from the Southeast yesterday alleged that there is massive looting of the party treasury before and after the poll.
“We need to check the ugly trend and reposition the party for better performance. The earlier the NWC members resign, the better for us because we need to reposition the party before President Jonathan leaves office on May 29,” the governor said.
On the alleged plan by the governors to install one of them as the acting national chairman, the governor denied the allegation, describing it as a cheap blackmail by the NWC members. The governor alleged that the party leadership failed in its responsibilities during the elections.
When asked whether the President is in support of their moves against the members, the governor said the President Jonathan remains the leader of the party today.
If Muazu and his members resign, who will provide leadership and direction for the party to play the opposition? This is considering the fact that PDP leaders from the party’s strongholds are not familiar with being in opposition, having been in the mainstream politics for long.
Another problem that may confront the party is the massive defection of its members to APC. Some of the elected PDP governors in the South-South, Southeast and Northeast may likely defect to the APC on any slightest differences with their predecessors who are also their godfathers.
In the days ahead, providing leadership and direction for the once ruling and largest party in Africa will be a very challenging task for the remnants in the party. How the party leaders will succeed or fail in carrying out the onerous task will determine the future of PDP in Nigeria.