Last Saturday, August 31; exactly on its 15th birthday (as PDP came into being on August 31, 1998), the utterly sick and ulcerous PDP underwent its baptism of fire. Its cancerous limb suffered an amputation that has left the remaining part of its debilitated body writhing in a spasm of unsure health. The fate of what is left of Africa’s largest party, which many of its carefree leaders had boasted would rule – not govern – Nigeria for the next 60 years, after the blow, which it suffered last weekend, has become unsure. But only those who do not appreciate that PDP is in a critical situation are either dreamers or its members who are still living in a fool’s paradise.
That expected blow came when, in a well-choreographed act, a big rump of the ruling party walked out of its special convention at the Eagles Square at Abuja and convoked at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre where they declared that they had driven a six-inch nail into the coffin of the 15-year old party and had out of its ashes, founded the “New PDP”.
If the dramatic act had been orchestrated by ordinary members of the party, Nigerians would have seen it as a mere comical relief and had a good laugh. However, only the deranged would laugh at a political act enacted by some of Nigeria’s most astute political minds, led by no other one but Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and one of Nigeria’s most gifted political minds. For, it was the Turakin Adamawa, who had walked out of the convention ground, followed by a throng of weighty supporters, amongst whom were seven PDP state governors, even as Governor Akpabio was singing his own praise, as the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum. It was obvious that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, hardly knowing it, was presiding over a hollow ritual, having automatically become a general of a badly depleted army.
The split of the PDP did not come to many political observers as a surprise because the act had been long in coming, even as those who would have had the responsibility of checking what would be the systematic denudation of the ruling party, wallowed in undeserved self-confidence and did not take steps to stop the inevitable. The party has been going through some jaunty rides since President Jonathan assumed power or more accurately, before then. The issue of the zoning in the party, which some elements in the party from the North had canvassed vigorously should have been revisited, as Jonathan wanted to contest at the expiration of the Yar’Adua ticket, which he completely glossed over, even as the president emerged the overwhelming candidate of the party and won at the 2011 election.
However, there are some prominent Northern PDP leaders, who have been alleging that before he secured the wholesale support for his candidacy, President Jonathan had assured and undertaken that he would run for only one term of four years and allow the post to be zoned back to the North. The president’s men have continued to insist that no such thing happened and had, in fact, dared the North to produce any document to that effect, which is a mistake, as most political undertakings are never reduced in black and white on paper, as they are usually made to remain at the realm of gentleman agreements. Rather, the president has not shown much effort at placating the North, even as his clansmen have continued to threaten everyone else that Nigeria would go up in flames if their son did not get the second term at the presidency, no matter how.
Since President Jonathan got to power in 2011, the PDP has continued to act as if the alpha and omega as its essence is to work for the maintenance of the power status quo, with the staunch removal of anything that would look like an obstacle to the ambition of a few people in the party. The coming at the helm of the party by Dr. Bamanga Tukur, last year, rather than grow the prospects of the party, seriously injured them. It did not help that the new chairman refused to accept the power and influence of the state governors in the affairs of the party and in the overall power-wielding equation in the country. It was obvious that the Presidency saw the position of the chairman as coinciding with his own short and long term ones, which seem to have their ultimate destination at 2015.
The PDP might not have fared that badly had Bamaga Tukur’s rumoured personal interests not loomed too large too early in the day. It was alleged that because he would want to create the leeway for his son to become the next governor of his home state, Adamawa, he had started very early in the day to tamper with the structures of the party in that state, most probably to install those who would be amenable and work for his interest and that of his son. As the saying goes, it is only a tree that would see that it is being assailed and keep silent. The governor, Murtala Nyako, a former military governor and one time head of the nation’s Navy, schooled in the theories and practice of warfare, was a very wrong man for Turkur to take on in such a battle of interests. It can be easily surmised that the fight, which Tukur started with Nyako in his state, that has people like Atiku Abubakar, was the first main injury that the PDP inflicted on itself.
That injury took a life of its own and festered uncontrollably, as the PDP chairman grew more drunk with powers, as weeks and months went by, obviously supported by the seat of the federal power. Tukur also prosecuted a battle against the party scribe, who was elected at the same time as he was and won. Without bothering that Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the party’s general secretary, was a candidate of both the governors and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Tukur fought him till he was shown the way out through a perfidious sleight of the judicial hand.
As things progressively fell apart in the PDP, the falcon released by the party leadership stopped its ears against the falconer, even when those who were not even involved with the party saw the drift from kilometres away. The only people, it seemed, that did not see that the party was going towards the way it went last week were Tukur, President Jonathan and those who were benefitting from the drift. They were not even able to read Obasanjo’s threats, tantrums and loud complaints from time to time portended. Rather, the PDP under Tukur got more reckless, as days and weeks went by, culminating in its toleration of the disaster that was the election of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum, where the election, roundly won by Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, was subverted and donated, undeservedly to Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state. Unless PDP chieftains have become too insouciant as to have stopped bothering about the pulse of public sentiments and opinion, they would have known that the NGF affair had brought both the party and the Presidency to the nadir of national public consideration and respect.
Following closely was the political imbroglio in Rivers State where Wadata Plaza has unabashedly supported the rogue faction of the PDP in the crisis, which has pitched the government in the state against the Presidency and the mainstream party, which has non-creatively been backing the wrong horse in the conflict. As if the unnecessary and high-handed suspension of Amaechi was not injurious enough, the party went ahead to suspend Governor Wamakko of Sokoto State at a time when the party should be putting its house in order, in view of the threats being posed against it by the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The fact that the action of some PDP governors, who openly started speaking and acting against the goings-on in the party and openly stationing themselves on the side of Amaechi and his faction of the NGF, did not ring very big alarm bells in the ears of the PDP was the surest indicator that, as a Nigerian proverb affirms, “when a dog is threatened by death, it can no longer perceive the aroma of its favourite food”.
Even when the once-eminent members of the PDP started forming other parties like the PDM and VOP, the PDP and its leadership, like a death-bound hunting dog was still unable to hear the flute call of its master. Instead of using the recent initiatives of such efforts by the likes of Obasanjo to put its house in order nor the opportunity offered by the last bungled special convention to patch up its many yawning cracks, the PDP decided to sink deeper into the quicksand to which it has dragged itself. One of the latest causes of the conflict in the party was the effort of the Tukur leadership to handpick officials during last year’s and last weekend’s convention and foist on the party individuals, which some people felt would be most amenable to the advancement of some narrow interests.
Pundits had seen last Saturday’s special convention as that which would have offered a golden opportunity for the party to remedy its previous faux-pas and create a broader elbow room to enable it heal many wounds. But not PDP! It had become too far woe-begone that it went ahead to enact even worse acts at the special convention, eliminating candidates, handpicking delegates and short-circuiting every attempt that would have made the party better and more-inclusive. Those and many subsisting sins became enough excuses for those who had been waiting at an ambush to spring the master-stroke that saw to the effective split of the PDP, a party with an overwhelming good will that had taken off like a blistering rocket, only to flutter down like a weightless feather.
What is obvious is that the people, who have set out to put out the PDP like a candle in the wind as from last week, have undertaken a very big task at hand. The PDP might be dying and almost totally dysfunctional but let nobody write it off as yet. Nigerian politics has not yet become ideological and is not likely to become for a very long time. The only ideology remains that those who wield the hand that shares the spoils of office remain those around whom more feet would patter. There is an Igbo proverb, which states that the goats follow those, carrying the fodder. The PDP might be putrid and dysfunctional but until 2015, President Jonathan and his party would still be carrying the national cake, which they will continue to distribute at their whims. That will remain its strength and redeeming grace.
However, the way and manner the PDP has carried on so far leaves much to be desired and unless it takes very giant steps to re-invent itself very quickly and fundamentally, it might learn, to its chagrin, that the 2015 on which it is hanging its hopes might turn out to become a very huge mirage. To do that, it needs to do a huge surgical exercise of its organs, starting, of course, from its apex, which most antagonists insist, is where its main problems reside.
And for the benefit of the ordinary Nigerians for whom the ‘giant achievements’ President Jonathan reeled out last Saturday is a laughable mirage, it is a welcome development for such split that happened to PDP last Saturday to take place. It is also to their interest that such other challengers like APC to get stronger and put their best feet forward. Who knows, it might be competitions from those alternatives that would bring better deals to our lives.
What is life without choices, after all?