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Wadata: Pray this house does not crash!

By Alabi Williams
10 July 2016   |   5:59 am
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a make or mar situation. If the economic law of diminishing returns works well this time, this could be the season for the PDP, which has flourished menacingly like one of those medieval empires of West African history


The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a make or mar situation. If the economic law of diminishing returns works well this time, this could be the season for the PDP, which has flourished menacingly like one of those medieval empires of West African history, to slow down and critically consider one or two options – get ready to transform into a really democratic formation that is useful to citizens, or go down slowly.

Even that economic law has strong support in nature, that when an organism is given birth to, it would grow from stage to stage until it reaches apogee and begins to decline. The party has almost completed that natural obligation. It was formed, grown rapidly into the biggest party in Africa and has given three generations of leadership to the world’s largest Black population. What else?

But what are the gains for the people, lovers of democracy who had been promised heaven on earth? Have their lives been transformed; are they safer now than they were; are peoples more empowered to enable them hope for a better tomorrow? Or will the PDP remain stiff-necked and refuse to mend its crooked ways, to make democracy work for the people?

The party appears to be making some frantic attempt to mend broken fences all over the place. There are issues in various state chapters; there is misunderstanding between governors and party leaders; there is distrust among leading members because of greed and ego. And it doesn’t look like the party is making any headway. And the opposition is gathering, looking at options it could leverage on to move into centre stage. How did the PDP get to this muddy ground?

The party looks like an over-grown baby, not given the benefit of proper grooming and care, for it to appreciate its great fortunes in a graceful manner. And for being sluggish, nemesis seems to be catching up with it. The PDP seems bent on crashing down because the very pillars that ought to hold it in place had been unplugged. The pillars of every democracy are the people, but here, the people are utterly disconnected.

Like everyone knows, the PDP was formed in 1998/99, by politicians who had been out of job for many years, due to military intervention in civil administration of the country. After they (politicians) had been tossed up and down by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s government, a regime that lied about its commitment to democracy, some of them were made to file out forcefully behind Gen. Sani Abacha, who also did not want to handover to anybody; until it came to a point where the soldiers became coup shy, because all eyes in the global community were focused on Nigeria’s putrid rigmarole. So the soldiers became benevolent and allowed political activities to resume under Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. Thus, Empire PDP was formed.

At formation, the party was a coalition of different political associations and it was huge, modestly, at the beginning. It had the fortune of having many retired generals, many of whom were former coup experts as patrons. Not minding being outside power they (soldiers) still exerted a lot of influence and commanded respect from the political class. They also had plenty of money because nobody searched them when they were forced out or voluntarily abdicated.

They gave money, either directly or by proxy for initial party activities. They also gave the PDP its first presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was also a soldier and former Head of State. Many of those initial governors were endorsed and sponsored by the retired generals.

In 1999, the PDP had more clout and resources to win more governorship slots in more geo-political zones than the other two parties – Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party put together (APP).So, how well did the party consolidate those initial gains for the battles ahead? It did fairly well in the manner of fledgling empires, looking for more conquests.

To ‘sanitise’ the party for its expansionist campaigns, Obasanjo, who became the PDP leader in line with party rules, sent the interim chairman of the party, Solomon Lar on early retirement. He worked vigorously to deny late Sunday Awoniyi, who was a sound technocratic and one of the best at that time, the opportunity to give the party proper grounding on internal democracy. The party leaders installed a man they thought would be amenable to their whims and schemes, Barnabas Gemade.

By 2003, the party had grown stronger and more daring, spreading its tentacles from far away Abuja to overrun the Southwest and put a tottering AD permanently out of reckoning. Only Lagos State under Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu managed to escape that invasion. The PDP went to the North-central and created some confusion in the camp of the opposition. It uprooted too vassal states of Kwara and Kogi from the APP.

In the South-south, the standard bearer was chief Anthony Anenih, also known as Mr. fix it. He went with a stern warning for the opposition to stay clear, as according to him there was no vacancy in his jurisdiction, not because the governors were outstanding in terms of performance, but because they were loyal to himself and the party.

In the Southeast, the PDP was not too sure of the man who was on ground in Anambra, Chinwoke Mbadinuju. So, for it not to be an issue, a Chris Ngige was shopped to temporarily stand in. And the coast became clear in all of Southeast.

In the North, the PDP consolidated its position, did well on all sectors, but lost Kano to Ibrahim Shekarau of the ANPP. Kano was tricky and the leader, Obasanjo made reference to that not too long ago, at a symposium organised by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC). It was more of confession time, when he recalled that he was called upon to intervene as the votes were being counted in Kano, but he decided to let go.

The next four years after 2003 were for PDP very crucial. President Obasanjo wanted to institutionalise reforms that would make corruption less easy for politicians. He proposed reforms in the financial sector, to provide a solid background for that sector. There were also plans to amend the constitution and have a national dialogue. The Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) came on board and got to work. It ran corruption checks on all the governors and opened files for them.

Because they enjoyed immunity while in office, they could only be investigated. So EFCC laid wait for those who were found wanting. But because of that immunity clause, some of the governors did not mend their ways. They were still looting and carrying their states’ federal allocation to European and American banks. Obasanjo lost his cool and decided to facilitate the process of exposing corrupt governors. That was how Joshua Dariye, Alamieyeseigha and Ayo Fayose were smoked out. The fight against corruption appeared to be working, but it was perceived that the President then was using it to hound his political enemies.

The process of amending the constitution between 2003 and 2007 suffered some setbacks. There was the Third Term plot, which became an albatross that frustrated the proposed amendment. The 2005 political confab, which promised to address some of the fundamental challenges of the Federation, also did not fly. It did not fly because too many interests were refusing to be pragmatic. It ended without resolving anything.

When Third Term failed, Obasanjo decided that 2007 would be a ‘do or die’. The PDP went all out, but it had problems without the Southwest. It had problems with two states in the Southeast, but still coasted home with a good overall victory.

But the judiciary intervened and gains the PDP had acquired fraudulently were reversed in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun. 2011 was not that easy because the rigging trick of the PDP had been exposed.

Now 2015 is coming but the PDP is becoming clay-footed; many insurrections are chiseling at the sides of the behemoth. The candidacy of Bamangar Tukur for leadership of the party did not enjoy sufficient consensus among stakeholders. The governors, a critical bloc, never wanted him, but he was foisted on them all the same. The man appears colourless and after one year in office he has not achieved anything substantial, except deepening the crisis in the party. He has not resolved the situation in the Southwest and Adamawa. Other latent contentions will begin to unfold across the states as 2015 draws closer.

To add to the party’s woes, the presidency it foisted on the people is a big headache. For 13 years the federal government had earned huge revenues, but it had grown poverty in like manner. This is a paradox that cannot continue. If it does, that House will crash on everybody.
This narrative first appeared here on March 30, 2013, long before PDP unraveled