Tonnie Iredia: Behold, the PDP of violence and anarchy
by Tonnie Iredia
No one has faulted its claims of being the largest political party in Africa. It accommodates everybody -the rich and the poor; geniuses and illiterates, philanthropists and rogues, diplomats and hooligans…
Some few years back, a bosom friend who wanted to get into partisan politics after retiring from the Federal Public Service pleaded with me to sleep over the subject and come up with the most suitable political party for him. I promptly replied that he had no option but to pitch his tent with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the only national political party in Nigeria. Of course until the recent merger arrangements by some groupings, every other Nigerian political party always operated like a small regional party. For me, my friend was too big to swim in any of the little streams when a big river was available.
I could not have been wrong because the PDP is indisputably large. As the current chairman of the party Alhaji Bamanga Tukur testifies, it is the only party that has a candidate in every election everywhere across the nation. He is correct because during the 2011 Presidential electioneering period for instance, the PDP candidate visited many states to campaign whereas some of his opponents were not seen at all in many states. Indeed, it is usually only the PDP that has party agents in every polling unit during elections.
Again many politicians supposedly in other camps did not only begin in the PDP, they are only away for awhile depending on the vagaries of political weather. The CPC governor of Nasarawa State and that of Labour in Ondo State may be back shortly just as the Bauchi State governor who left came back while his deputy who refused to return was impeached.
In my state – Edo – it is only our Governor whose roots in the PDP are not quite clear. While one school of thought says he begged in vain to contest the governorship election in the state under the banner of the PDP, another school says it was the PDP that struggled in vain to attract him. Head or tail, PDP is involved. Our deputy governor and all other major ACN office holders in our state are certainly PDP by birth.
Thus, that the party is exceedingly large is a notorious fact. No one has faulted its claims of being the largest political party in Africa. It accommodates everybody – the rich and the poor; geniuses and illiterates, philanthropists and rogues, diplomats and hooligans etc. Notwithstanding this rich mix, what is it principally known for? The public by convention has a way of pinning an issue on a political party hence in spite of its many wonderful works, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group of old was known for its free education scheme. Somehow, PDP appears to be living in everyone’s sub consciousness that it is a violent organization
The recent bloody fight in the Rivers State House of Assembly, a purely PDP state was the handiwork of PDP members only – no political opponents were involved. The aggressors and the aggrieved as well as those they were and are still fighting to support are reportedly fellow party members of the PDP. At the peak of the crisis, four state governors, Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) were in Port Harcourt on a solidarity visit to Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The four governors and their host are all PDP governors. They were ambushed on arrival by thousands of protesters who threw stones at them. According to media reports, the protesters are PDP supporters loyal to Chief Nyesom Wike, himself a Minister in the PDP controlled federal government.
It is doubtful if anyone is about to save the PDP from itself because at about the same time of the Port Harcourt embarrassment, PDP members in Ekiti State were engaged in a vicious public fight which left some of their members badly injured. The issue at stake was the selection of the party’s candidate for the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
Why is the PDP so crisis ridden? Interestingly, some of its members are hopeful that normalcy would soon return to the party. Jelili Amusan who until recently was a member of the House of Representatives from Ogun State says he would not be surprised “if, like the legendary Phoenix, PDP rises anew from the ashes of what looks like an unending crises”. But who will kick start the process?
The national leadership of the party which by logic should arrest any ugly incident within the party is according to reports trying to do something. But is the leadership itself sobre enough to effectively handle the situation? It is true that the national chairman a few days after the Rivers crisis called for a truce while reminding his members that “democracy cannot thrive in an atmosphere of violence and anarchy”. In reality however, the chairman has himself been under tension for longer than makes sense – the latest being the south west zonal congress and mini national convention of the party scheduled to hold on August 24 and 30 respectively.
The party had earlier put up a committee led by Prof Jerry Gana to organize the events. But last Monday; the Alhaji Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) through a press statement suddenly halted the activities of the team. The latter is reported to have dismissed the directive and continued with its work thus bringing to the fore a new controversy whose end no one can predict. Is the chairman not party to the composition of the Gana team? If so why is he against it now? Is the team working independently of a sitting chairman of the party? If so, who swore-in the team? Who will blink first and what will be in use – raw force or brainwork?
Irrespective of the answers to these questions, it is time for members of the public who have any business near the PDP secretariat to be watchful of a fracas shortly as well as the possibility of stray bullets as the party has of recent increased its tempo of violence. Oh yes, from its posture in the last one year or so, it is as if the PDP is in hot contest with the National Union of Road Transporter Workers (NURTW) as to who should lead in the game of hooliganism in the nation.