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Rebirth of PDP and the challenge to Buhari


Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO: SEYLLOU / AFP

By which ever means the panjandrums of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were able to patch it up, their national convention, the first since its ouster from power in 2015, has come and gone leaving in its trail the usual post- convention trauma that features some teeth gnashing, some wailings, some threats, real and imaginary and lots of conjectures about what would be and what would not be thereafter.

But nobody, not even the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, can dismiss what the opposition party, the PDP, successfully put up as a non-event. What is left now is to see how the PDP executives under the chairmanship of Uche Secondus, manage themselves from now through to the 2019 presidential election.

With a heavy baggage, naturally there is a lot of pressure on the PDP to remake itself and launder its not-so-admirable image to regain the support and the sympathy of the people before it ventures into the series elections from next year. PDP is counting on disaffected and disappointed people to move in droves from the ruling party  not only to  strengthen its support base but working with a major catch like Atiku Abubakar, to refurbish and recoup the political gravitas that it was known for in the 16 years that  it ruled the country. It remains to be seen how successful it will be in this new enterprise.

But for the growth of democracy, the rebirth of the PDP and the registration of many other parties portends good omen. It promises to usher in the year 2018 as a year of great expectations: one, that Nigeria would not drift into a one party state, two, that there would be one or two strong parties that would pose the challenge from opposition perspectives to the ruling party and keep it on its toes.

For now, the ordinary mortals like us do not need any visit to the clairvoyants or resort to the use of the occult to know that the presidential fight in 2019 will be a straight fight between the APC and the PDP with a slight tweaking in the cast of characters. PDP has no Goodluck Jonathan to parade and it is not certain for now, who will have the good luck to carry its flag. But there is no such cloud of uncertainty over the APC.

APC’s Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent president, is now 75 years old. Despite the buffeting of a recent ill-health, followed mercifully by a miraculous recovery, the man has remained his ramrod self, fit as fiddle with this glowing look of healthiness all around him. As they say, he is good to go and I don’t think the APC will, in clear conscience, be willing to change a winning horse. So Buhari is.

Whoever emerges as PDP’s flag bearer, be it the aforementioned Atiku Abubakar, or Sule Lamido or Ahmed Makarfi, or Ibrahim Shekarau or, for that matter, some dark horse yet to show his face, the contest promises to be the kind of fight that the inimitable Fela Anikulapo Kuti  once  described as roforofo fight.

The 16 years that PDP was in power can be likened to the plague of the locusts. President Buhari’s fight against corruption, one of the three cardinal programmes of his administration, has uncovered monumental fraud on the part of the PDP run government. APC has this in its armoury – a potent weapon to deploy in political war time. In fact, some professional political assassins are already warming up in the social media with ugly facts and figures detailing when, where and how they happen  –  the arms  bazaar  for instance and  the soulless acquisition  of the  Diezani Alison-Madueke property armada just to mention but a few examples.

The prospective voters, who witnessed the efficacy of the looting machine at work over the years under review, will have the added value of being further entertained by the counter –factual narrative of what went wrong, how it could have gotten worse if the old order, presided over by Jonathan, had continued with the remorseless squandering of the commonwealth. Have you forgotten the dire intelligence warning by the American doomsayers which claimed that Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015? Precisely that, according to the change narrative of the APC strategists, was the apocalypse that the Buhari mission in politics had changed during the election – halting the perilous drift into anarchy and doom.

But nobody should be under any illusion that the PDP, veterans of grim battles and dirty wars, would be so plagued by guilt that they would just surrender and allow themselves to be overrun by the enemy they now know very well. That is a warning that the APC must be prepared to take as much as they give in the high end battle for the votes of the people.

It is not difficult to imagine the attack line of the PDP. Even at the most  mournful time when the party was going through its near death experience, torn by factional disputes between one time chairman, Ali Modu Sherrif and his traducers, some members of the party, irrespective of their faction, felt bitter enough to gallantly put up  some tepid fight against the APC government’s unremitting onslaught. Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, the  enfent terrible of modern day politics and the architect of stomach infrastructure, never let a day pass without throwing some tantrums at the Buhari government or the President himself. President Buhari’s fight against corruption, he proclaimed, was discriminatory, one-sided and self-serving. At other times, the war against the Boko Haram insurgents was unwinnable because of the method the Buhari regime had adopted.

He was not alone. Femi Fani Kayode, in his usually acerbic style, deployed all the arsenals he had in the Fani Kayode lexicon to write off the APC administration as if the party and its government were totally incapable of anything fundamentally inspiring. At best the two were noted more for crudity than for finesse and sophistication in their polemics and the engagement in diatribe. The two of them succeeded, in no small measure, in promoting the rise of political lying.

But what the president and his handlers  have to worry about most as we get closer to these days of drama and political fireworks would be the perceived inability or perhaps the unwillingness of the president to walk the talk where and when it matters most. For instance, the issue of corruption is uppermost on his mind and it is therefore very high on his agenda. But when allegations of corrupt practices are levelled against those who are close to him and who should be above board, there is evident dithering and clumsiness in handling it as if to suggest, even if falsely, that he is treating such people with kid gloves. On such occasions, Senator Shehu Sani said the president was given to using deodorants to fight the corruption that is close home and detergents for those not so close.

I remember that many Nigerians clapped for President Buhari when he vowed that he would not allow any corrupt Nigerian to use the proceeds of corruption to buy his way into public office. A vow implemented more in breach than in observance.  Perhaps unknown to him many such people must have found their way to such high public offices despite numerous question marks on their character and integrity.

Even if the APC wishes to query the moral right of the PDP to point any accusing finger at the government when it comes to  issues of morality, the less than inspiring governance style  of the administration, issues of probity and accountability, nobody, at least not the onlookers, would side with the APC when they call to mind the tardiness with which the Abdulrasheed Maina scandal has been handled so far and the less than serious manner the government has handled the herdsmen rampage in the country, a sad phenomenon that is threatening to replace Boko Haram as the most serious security problem  in the country today.

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