Let’s first admit the complexity and the difficulty involved in actually describing what historically constitutes the party PDP or what group of people can be seen to constitute PDP and over what time. This complexity is more so when we continue dwelling on the assumption that PDP was responsible for destroying this country in the preceding 16 years before APC. One looks back and discover that many of the major actors that participated in this so-called destruction are either not the major current drivers in the party or are comfortably within some camps that tend to make the most noise about this destruction. Should we then hold the current PDP composition absolutely responsible for this 16 year destruction?
If you consider the fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo who served as president for eight out of those sixteen years in question and that his two directly anointed and imposed candidates completed the remaining eight, later abandoned the PDP pretending not to be party to all that was wrong with the party and what it turned Nigeria into, then you will really understand the complexity of passing a definite verdict on this particular present PDP and other related issues.
The PDP recently conducted a convention to elect its national leaders for the first time not as a Ruling Party but as the major opposition party in Nigeria. Now, everyone expected the party to make deliberate but collective and calculative sacrifices to lay a solid foundation for a decent outing in 2019. Though the party influencers may see their choices in that convention as justified, but many outsiders may not think so.
The PDP, whether freely and fairly or not decided to have its National Chairman from the South-South at the expense of the apparently unprepared, unorganized and indifferent South West, a decision some say will help strengthen the support base of the party. After coming out of a long legal battle necessitated by string of crises, many expected the PDP to make a better if not a perfect decision irrespective of personal interests.
The decision not to have their chairman come from the South-West will be a very costly one likely to cause them an already unlikely victory in 2019. The party may have just set itself on a long walk to trouble; a walk that may last for probably more than the period it spent at the helm of affairs in this nation. To make things worse, the old traditional fraudulent PDP ways of doing things were still alleged to have manifested in the just concluded elections. With the power, patronage and money the party uses in the past to compensate and unite warring factions no longer available, the PDP will be likely enmeshed in another cold running internal battle which the current reconciliatory effort may likely fail to address into 2019.
The South West is the political capital of the ruling APC and by extension of Nigerian politics. It is the second most populated geo-political zone in Nigeria after the North-West, it is also the most politically sophisticated. A strong Olusegun Mimiko-like PDP National Chairman from that zone would have been far much better than an Uche Secondus coming from a zone where PDP are under the illusion of having absolute control. It is very important to note that the PDP support in the South East and South South is largely exaggerated. If all post 1999 elections in those two zones were averagely free and fair or at least as credible as in other zones, the story would have been much different. Now with the party out of power, this illusion will be met by a brutal reality in 2019.
One major disadvantage facing the PDP is the inability of Nigerians to prioritize credibility of candidates and policies over party politics and sentiments. The fact that many people who participated in destroying Nigeria are now calling the shots in APC wouldn’t change an already uncertain electoral fortune awaiting it in 2019. Ponder on the fact that five out of the six PDP House of Representative Speakers that served between 1999 to 2015, are now in the APC. Roughly, one third to half of the PDP ministers and governors that served in the same period are either in the APC or elsewhere.
The signs of open desperation already exhibited by early leaders to hand over the presidential ticket to journeyman Atiku will also likely tear the party apart. The likes of Sule Lamido who endured through thick and thin to identify with the party will never take this lightly. The sellability of Atiku and the dearth of a better powerful alternative to him are problems in their selves. A good acceptable flag bearer for the PDP that will match President Muhammadu Buhari who is likely to contest will be very difficult to find and even a good Ike Ekweremadu-like running mate from the South East may not make much difference.
In all of this, the ruling APC will be the biggest winners and Nigerians will be the biggest losers. 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.
There is a reason why well-meaning Nigerians wish good for the PDP. Many neutrals have sympathy for the party 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 be motivated. We know the experience we went through when an almost unopposed PDP were in charge.
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.
Virtually, all 2019 calculations do not currently favour the PDP, but we don’t know what the immediate and long term future holds. However, the part must prepare itself for defeat as much as it is preparing for victory. One thing the party should be thankful for though is that the culture of free and fair elections appears to have come to stay in Nigeria.
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, things the ruling APC have promised but largely failed to do so far.
– Twitter: @AmirAbdulazeez