PDP And The Crisis Within
IN his monumental novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe scripted several lessons, which could be useful to the disintegrating clan in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In one of those witty interventions, the maestro warned that the man, whose palm kernel was cracked for him by benevolent spirits, must learn how to be humble.
Put another way, the literary giant was calling on people and entities that stumble on good fortune to use humility and sobriety as antidotes to the pitfalls awaiting such success.
However, in politics, especially the Nigerian variant, in which subterfuge, grandstanding and outright arrogance are the names of the game, pitching the message of reflection and self-examination, is definitely a hard sell.
Nothing demonstrates the importance of this attributes more than the current self-destructive trajectory of the erstwhile ruling party. Less than five months after the excruciating defeat suffered by the party in the March 28 Presidential election, the centre can no longer hold.
The vibrations and vituperations emanating from within the party are confirming the projections of those who pronounced its’ demise long ago.
Interestingly, if the PDP was a party peopled with a good number of serious and thoughtful minds, it would have looked inwards, taken the feedback from the Nigerian public, and reinvented itself.
The party, it appears has decided not to take that painstaking route of self-examination, towards revamping itself. While it held power, the more the Nigerian public cried about the massive corruption and impunity that sprung from its lax philosophy of governance, the more the party wallowed in arrogant posturing.
As Nigerians groaned about poverty, the collapse in the educational sector, the terrible decay in the health sector, as well as other unsavoury human development indices, the PDP, the then pre-eminent national party was too flat footed to move to respond to these national challenges.
The PDP celebrated some tokenisms, and the few accidental benefits of its disastrous governance. With a sense of hubris, the PDP dared the Nigerian people when it swore to cling on to power for a period just four decades shy of a whole century.
In other words, the gladiators in the PDP were driven by the false notion that they and their interest approximated the interests of all Nigerians.
The PDP was, therefore, the Nigerian State, and the Nigerian State, existed, not to guarantee the well being of the Nigerian, but to service the tastes of the party.
But Nigerians who know the very bright beginnings of the PDP would struggle to come to terms with how it degenerated into what it is now. The PDP’s formation was headlined by statesmen, many of whom played frontline roles in nation building.
Former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme for instance was one of those courageous voices that spoke truth to the Sanni Abacha junta over its phoney transition programme in which all other voices were snuffed out of the political process.
Ekwueme later emerged as the first Chairman of the party, while Jerry Gana was the first party secretary. PDP then had a broad membership drawn from academics, and businessmen and proved especially popular with retired military folks, including former Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo, who later emerged as the PDP Presidential candidate for the 1999 election.
It was with this mix of statesmen and retired military top shots that the PDP quickly became the country’s dominant party. As soon as it took power at the centre, PDP began to manifests signs that alarmed the nation.
First, the young Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari who claimed he was a product of the University of Tronto in Canada was found to be a certificate forger.
The scandal resulted in his resignation, only for the PDP to find a soft landing for him. Salisu Buhari was given a Presidential pardon, and reintegrated back into the system.
The National Assembly was further rocked by scandals like the furniture allowance debate, the Evan Enwerem affair, and the rams’ scandal that resulted in the impeachment of Chuba Okadigbo as Senate President.
The turnover of leaders in the legislative arm was so high that the term “banana peels” crept into the nation’s political lexicon as a way of describing the perpetual instability that characterized the lawmaking arm.
The impunity superintended by the PDP got to its height in 2003, when a sitting governor, Chris Ngige of Anambra State was abducted on the orders of his political godfather, Chris Uba.
In the arena of political competition, the PDP regime supervised chaotic elections that were marred by vote rigging, ballot box snatching and outright cooking of election results.
If the 2003 elections were described as flawed, the ones that followed in 2007 were universally condemned for not representing the votes of the Nigerian people. It was so bad that the beneficiary of the elections, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had to admit that the elections were flawed.
It was on the basis of this admission that he put in place a process towards reforming Nigeria’s electoral architecture. All these notwithstanding, the Nigerian people, were forgiving enough to vote in Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP as President in the 2011 general elections.
Jonathan’s mantra, a ‘breathe of fresh air,’ fired the imagination of many Nigerians. Jonathan was overwhelmingly accepted because Nigerians reckoned that he was not tainted by the dirty deals that had defined the Nigerian system for over one decade.
Also, the astonishing story of his rise from being a shoeless Otuoke village boy to the pinnacle of political power in Nigeria resonated with many Nigerians, who saw his story as theirs.
But as soon as he mounted the saddle, President Jonathan allowed political jobbers and influence peddlers to crowd the ordinary people out of his schedule.
On his watch, insurgency, and corruption burgeoned, but the President was somewhat reluctant to engage. A lot of times, Jonathan seemed out of pace with the realities of Presidential decision-making.
This was even clearer when some rebellious heavyweights in the PDP were busy plotting to team with his opponents in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The President vacillated, and never came up with a coherent strategy to engage those openly scheming to pull the rug under his feet. Unfortunately, the Nigerian people who would have provided him cover in those difficult times had turned their backs, no thanks to the dyspeptic and quarrelsome figures that pretended to be managing his public communication.
By the time the President Jonathan realised what was happening around him, it was an unprecedented defeat that stared him in the face. On March 28, Nigerians gave a resounding referendum on the 16 years of the PDP.
And like fish out of water, the PDP is confirming the position of close watchers that stridently talked about the clay footing on which it stood. Workers, who did not cough for 16 years when the going was good for the party, are now in the open trying to be sanctimonious.
Nigeria is, perhaps, the only place where such opportunistic stunts are taken seriously. Nonetheless, after pushing itself to the brink of disaster, there are many who are asking what next for Africa’s former largest party.
That question has been somewhat difficult to answer because PDP has not shown any readiness to deal with the hangover of March 28. There is no sober reflection; neither has there been an attempt to do any form of soul searching.
Many close watchers have advanced the view that immediately after the defeat, the party should have applied the brakes and interrogated itself to find out where it went wrong.
Instead, it has continued with the destructive bravado of the last 16 years. None exemplifies this unreflecting posture than the party’s National Publicity Secretary, who has continued to dish out inelegant commentaries that now provide Nigerians with some comic relief.
In the end, there is no doubt that the PDP as presently constituted has no temperament to play the role of opposition. A party that has been so fattened by free government resources and patronage would find the role of opposition, which requires strategy and energy too demanding to handle.
The party’s supporters moving into the new governing party in droves are already signalling the herculean task before the PDP. Perhaps, it is about time Nigerians begin shopping for a real opposition party.
For the PDP, it is also time to choose between going into oblivion or shaping up to meet the challenges of the times. If it chooses the former option, it would have to get fresh faces to market itself. Good enough, with 13 governors, 49 senators, a good number of House of Reps members, the party while can stay afloat.
PDP also has an abundance of fresh faces, including Ben Murray Bruce, Donald Duke and a host of others, who could help give it a facelift in these times of self-inflicted lacerations.