Any proponent of competitive democracy and any advocate against one-party state would like to see the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) remain strong and vibrant enough to keep the ruling All Progressives’ Congress on its toes. Probably, only a fanatical APC sympathizer would like to see PDP become extinct in the current situation. The role of a strong opposition in a democracy cannot be overemphasized and without opposition, democracy becomes autocracy.
Many neutrals have recently began to have sympathy for the PDP neither because the party deserves such nor because it is showing signs of deserving such any soon, but because it is the only party that is in a strong position to keep APC on its toes-something the governing party itself needs to checkmate complacency. However, the question is: does the PDP have as much sympathy for itself? Apparently it doesn’t, because many of the party’s actions tend to de-market the party rather than promoting it.
No matter how well outsiders wish to see things go for PDP, it won’t be possible if the major stakeholders within the party are not willing to put their acts together. If there were other viable opposition options apart from PDP, majority of Nigerians would most likely go for them and back any among them to become the major opposition party in the country. Alas! There is none and considering what it takes to build a formidable national political party or to transform a dormant one in Nigeria, we can say, there would be none at least for the time being, except if an unforeseen miracle-like situation happens.
After the 2015 General Elections, the question on the lips of Nigerians was: how would PDP manage defeat? Others asked whether PDP would bounce back and if yes, how and when? The problem we are facing in Nigerian politics is that political parties are almost solely judged based on electoral performance. Therefore, in the eyes of many, PDP would only be considered to have bounced back if it takes over from APC at the next polls. From the look of things, PDP itself also narrowly look at things that way. The truth is, if PDP can still remain in existence, strengthen its organs, engage in massive grassroots membership drive and followership, give the nation a rebranded and innovative opposition, retain its states and win some elusive states like Lagos and have a decent presidential election outing in 2019, that would be enough success even if they don’t win back the presidency in the next 8 years. The PDP should not be exclusively looking forward to winning elections, it should think of ways it can set the standards and become the epitome of internal democracy, de-commercialization and de-monetization of politics, inspiring political consciousness and awareness as well as ideology-based politicking.
Is PDP ready to bounce back? It depends on what we take ‘bounce back’ to mean. However, we take it, the answer is, the party has the potential to bounce back, but it is not yet ready. Virtually, all of the actions and inactions of the PDP stakeholders since after April 2015 suggests that they are not ready to bounce back even in the next 16 years. When you find yourself in the midst of a self-inflicted mess, the least that is required of you to get out of that mess is to even believe that you are in a mess, sincerely acknowledge the role you played in putting yourself in that mess followed by genuine repentance.
Time and again, the PDP through many of its notable chieftains still boasts that it is the largest party in Nigeria and it is still the only party that has presence everywhere including the remotest parts of the country. Even a small kid knows this is not true, but such is PDP’s arrogance even as an opposition party. When they were in power, they declared themselves the largest party in Africa without depending on any scientific yardstick. The PDP is presently a regional party confined mainly to the South-South and the South-East and the truth is that if free and fair elections had held in those regions, APGA, LP and to some extent APC would have occupied most of the seats, ‘elected’ PDP members are now occupying. One needs not to wonder why 70% of total annulled 2015 elections by the tribunals across the country so far are coming from the South-South and South-East.
The PDP has been the biggest loser in all the decided cases by the election petition tribunals so far. Instead of the party to tell itself some home truths, galvanize and see how they can salvage the situation to enhance their chances of winning the re-run elections, they are busy accusing the APC and the presidency of influencing tribunal judgements. Would PDP ever accept half of what transpired in Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states as elections if they were not the beneficiaries? PDP is accusing the Presidency of judicial interference probably because that’s what they use to do when they were in power and hence they expect others to be doing the same. It looks like PDP’s game plan is to continue with this propaganda to blackmail the tribunals into succumbing to their pressure and prevent them from doing their jobs adequately. If the party is not careful, some of the victories it recorded in some tribunals might be upturned after the cases might have been carefully reviewed in the appeal and supreme courts.
The way PDP has been lamenting its defeat in the 2015 elections is very funny. How many times have PDP actually won elections? If free and fair elections had been taking place, the party would have since become history, probably since 2003 or 2007. PDP should cherish the fact they still exist with some relevance. They have spent the last 6 months lamenting and advancing reasons why they lost, whereas they knew deep in their hearts that the party seldom wins any election post 1999.
Almost two years after, the PDP has continued to call the people that left the party as betrayers, traitors and ingrates. Uptill today, they have failed to move forward on this. The party has refused to accept responsibility, not to talk of addressing the issues that led to the exit of such people. The PDP has forgotten that it has been the biggest beneficiary of defections since 1999. Arguably more than 90% of all defections from 2001 to 2010 have been in favour of the party and none of the then opposition parties refused to move forward and plan ahead because of this.
Another disgusting habit of the PDP is boasting and crediting itself with Nigeria’s 16 years of uninterrupted democratic rule. This is childish and akin to a scenario where the military begins to boast and ask Nigerians to thank it for not carrying out a single coup since 1999. PDP are fond of making vague statements; nothing could have happened to Nigeria’s democracy with or without PDP. In fact the PDP-led Federal Government should be blamed of threatening democracy by supervising some of the worst elections in Nigeria’s history. If we may ask, how willing was the PDP government to allow the 2015 elections hold? How can a party known for one of the worst records on internal democracy entrench any democracy elsewhere?
Some PDP chieftains who have not completely lost touch with reality like their colleagues have admitted that the party has done so many political wrongs even if they refuse to agree that the party had failed to bring any meaningful development to the country. In short, the believe PDP has done very well in terms of governance. The question we should ask them is, between infrastructure, power, health, employment, Security, Agriculture and poverty, what single sector can the PDP point out to have achieved 75% success to justify the money it spent in 16 years? Where then is the development? PDP’s mistake is that, they keep judging themselves on inputs instead of results.
One other issue is PDP’s over celebration of the emergence of Ike Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President in an APC controlled government and citing it as ‘first in Africa’ and an indication of good things to come. First and foremost, what would have been the chances of Ekweremadu in that election if all 109 senators were around in the Senate Chambers when the election for the post of Deputy Senate President took place? Would he have contested? Hardly. Therefore, PDP cowardly took advantage of a situation courtesy of APC’s blundering and misjudgement. Morally, PDP should not have allowed any of its members to contest for any principal office in the National Assembly because in its 16 years rule, it gave no one any chance. It seems, PDP wants to become a ruling and an opposition party at the same time. This is evident as, it also wanted the Deputy Speakership of the House. One thing PDP doesn’t understand is that it is shooting itself in the foot. With the party holding the Deputy Senate Presidency, it is officially part of the Federal Government and must therefore partly bear the burdens of its wrongs.
It is a welcome development that the PDP organized a National Reform Conference that is aimed at rebranding and reshaping the party for future challenges. The problem however is that the aim of the conference seems to have been defeated already. Instead of PDP to concentrate on using the conference for self-assessment and rebranding strategies, speakers took turns and wasted useful time and energy in using it as an opportunity for bashing the APC and the President. There would be many upcoming tangible things to criticize Buhari’s government on and there would be ample time to do so, but PDP seem to be in a desperate hurry as if that is what will help it reclaim past glory.
The APC is the least of PDP’s worries currently. APC has many shortcomings and it will gather many more baggage as the journey continues, but no matter how bad the APC becomes, Nigerians may likely stick with it in 2019 if PDP refuses to truly reform itself and move away from its past. PDP should deal with itself and Nigerians would do the rest by dealing with APC. The PDP must be ready to present itself as an alternative which Nigerians can trust in the event of an APC failure. The PDP should look inwards and try to reform, re-shape and rebrand itself from a party with the image of impunity and cheating to that of justice and fairness and thereafter re-present itself to Nigerians. This would be better than mocking reality and the continuation to live in denial.
Mallam Amir is on Twitter: @AmirAbdulazeez