Sunday Narrative: PDP’s first treacherous year outside government
It is already one year since the All Progressives Congress (APC) seized the reins of political authority from the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Though, the transfer process from the former administration to the present was seamless and by democratic means, after an election had been ascertained and certified by INEC, with testimonies from local and foreign observers, the word seized, though more in use to depict forceful takeover of government after armed confrontation, should be pardoned here, as it best captures the build up and eventual sack of the former occupants of Aso Rock, Abuja. While the PDP, despite its awesome powers of incumbency appeared weak and reluctant in the days and weeks just before the elections, the APC, though lacking the coherence and cohesion of a settled party, was very eager and decisive to capture power. And it did. So, while we roll out the drums and pour eulogies to mark this first year of change, permit me to also look at how the defeated party has managed its misfortunes in 52 weeks.
Many were not surprised that between Election Day, March 28, 2015 and the handover, remnant loyalists of the PDP got the rude shock after their party lost in such gargantuan manner and scale to a fledgling opposition that was barely two years old. The loss was not so much in figures as it is in its symbolism; being dwarfed by the underdog. So, managing post election trauma was a difficult task, as many henchmen retreated timidly into their fractured shell. It was more so after their leader, president Jonathan decided not to surrender the outcome of the election to judicial examination. He left without a whimper and his forces were decimated.
On May 29, 2015, President Buhari promised that his government would abide by the provisions of the constitution. Very cheery news for those in the opposition, in addition to his earlier campaign promise that in his pursuit of corrupt persons, he would draw a line to separate what was done under previous governments from new financial crimes that would be committed under his watch. He said his government would be for all and for no individual or group in particular. Being a man of integrity, Nigerians took Buhari for his words. Members of the PDP began to step forward to reminisce about the good times they had for 16 good years.
Before then, only the governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose demonstrated courage and sufficient sense of loss to mourn their party. He wailed endlessly as a lone voice, crying like an abandoned little child. His fellow PDP governors had different issues to tackle. There were life-threatening tribunal cases in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Taraba; and the body language of the lower tribunals were frightening. So, it was better not to squeal and be noticed. And after men of the Department of Secrete Service (DSS) visited Government House, Uyo, for God knows what, other governors decided to lie low. Some even toyed with enlisting in the change team, just to belong and be protected. Such tales emanated from Enugu and Eboyin. The one in Cross River, who had no serious tribunal case, did a lot to adopt Buhari as his stepfather, since their father in PDP had abandoned them. He is in the habit of commissioning projects and inviting Buhari to cut the tape. His latest is a monorail, which reports allege Buhari has shunned. That’s by the way.
All seemed a bit fair, but unknown to PDP members, the anti-corruption dragnet of the Buhari administration had dug far underneath the dunghill of sleaze to unearth the Dasukigate, a fountain that oiled the PDP campaign machinery. While the digging was ongoing, surreptitiously, some PDP members summoned a meeting to reconcile themselves with Nigerians; and to apologise for taking the people for granted. Arrowhead of the PDP Reform Group, High Chief Aleogo Raymond Dokpesi, chairman of Daar Communication Plc. had no inkling that trouble was coming. He had innocently gone to town to beg Nigerians to forgive his party for fielding Jonathan in 2015, when EFCC took notice of him and dragged him to court. He has left the front line since his encounter.
Since then, one after the other, leaders of PDP have been answering invitations by the EFCC, to explain how much they took from Dasukigate to prosecute the election. That has taken a heavy toll on the party and has nearly drained political life out of it.
Many elders of the party, who should summon courage to assure subdued members and those who are fleeing not to give up hope, had not been in the forefront. Everybody is treading carefully to stay ought of EFCC trouble.
But once the governors had been set free of their tribunal cases by the Supreme Court; and their bye-elections successfully prosecuted, there has been some rebound in the PDP camp. Fayose’s position is now bolstered, which is the reason a frenzy of activities has been activated in their party, for good or bad.
When the young Turks in PDP decide to go for broke and fetched former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff to help pull the party out of the doldrums, many acknowledged it was a risky business. But the debate it generated also showed that the party was not dead yet. It might have been under some intensive care. The elders of the party who did not initiate a reawakening, apart from Dokpesi’s feeble effort, did not like the idea of a Sheriff heading the party. And they said so, but the governors, who have some cash to support their plot, despite lean times had their way. The coming of Sheriff reawakened old sensibilities that had been fossilized and created upsurge in political activism. Some dead woods in the party and others that were asleep came alive.
Sheriff used to be a strong member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) since 1998/99. He was part of the merger talks that birthed the APC, until he left the party a few months to the 2015 elections because of unfulfilled ambition. Some felt such a man could not be trusted with such sensitive position. But to move forward, there were compromises to grudgingly give him a little space until May 21.
Today, there are, at least, three factions contesting for the soul of the party. The national convention, which took place in Port Harcourt, produced a hurried caretaker committee being led by former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi. There is the council of elders of the party, which sat in Abuja same day, which has former minister of information Jerry Gana and former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu as leaders. There is yet the Ali Modu Sheriff faction that insists it is in charge, even though it was sent packing. There is a web of legal entanglement from which the party must free itself.
Having lost the presidential election in 2015, PDP had been left to run rudderless, with no clear leader in charge. Things began to fall apart for the party, as the centre could no longer hold. No president to rein in troublemakers, either with carrot or stick. Former President Jonathan had left the party without any promise, unlike Jesus Christ, who told His disciples to tarry while he sends them a Comforter. Jonathan’s disciples did not receive any order to tarry and be strong until he returns. The man just left and switched off.
In his absence, a lot has happened. Some of his men have returned huge sums that were earmarked to help him procure second term. They took those sums and refused to disburse as appropriate to command votes. Maybe that’s why the man is not talking. He was betrayed and he thinks they all must be punished.
How the PDP gets round this slippery curve is of major concern to watchers. There is no one bigger man to command attention of the disciples. No former president to earn attention and respect. One has torn his party card and now loves to poke fun at his former party; another, of blessed memory is above; while the last one, we were told is in exile. There is no Mr. Fix It and Wadata House is under Police protection. So much in the life of a former ruling party in just one treacherous year!
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