THE REINVENTION OF THE PDP
By Anthony Opara
It would by now have dawned on serious members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP that there is serious work to be done to reinvent the party and get it ready to wrest power from the bungling All Progressive Party (APC).
On July 12 the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land upheld the claim of Senator Ahmed Makarki to the Chairmanship of the party against that of Alhaji Modu Alli Sheriff who had held brief until a National Convention of the party that took place in the Rivers State Capital elected elected Makarfi to manage the affairs of the party for a season. Alhaji Sheriff, the former Governor of Borno State then approached several courts including the Court of Appeal all in the bid to make permanent, the temporary position given to him by elders of the party to keep the party following the loss of the party in the 2015 general Presidential election. In that election, the candidate of the APC, M,uohammadu Buhari defeated the incumbent President Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Dr Jonathan did not even wait for the conclusion of the counting of votes before calling to congratulate the winner and by that singular act, doused tension in the land which was then most palpable.
All that is now history. The task before the Makarfi executive is to reinvent the party, correct its past mistakes, and position it as a viable opposition to the ruling APC which is enmeshed in internal crisis despite its controlling the government.
The PDP was once described as the largest political party in Africa and one of her former Chairmen said the party will rule for the next seventy years. The party was in power for sixteen years with former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo as the first elected President in 1999 when he took from General Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over after the sudden death of General Sani Abacha who had sacked the Interim National Government hastily put in place by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who had himself singularly torpedoed the June 12 1993 Presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola and nearly drove the nation to the edge of war.
General Obasanjo thus began another experiment at civilian rule after the military held sway and prosecuted a civil war in the bid to return the people of the East into the federation. General Obasanjo who played a significant role during the war later inherited the office of head of government after the failed coup in which some officers sought to violently take over the government. The coup failed but another soldier who played a significant role in the war, General Murtala Mohammed was killed.
With the second coming of General Obasanjo, Nigerians expected him to use his experience to set the nation on a sound footing and right the wrongs of the past. General Obasanjo was in power for all of eight years but his government was noted for not walking the talk and at the end he is best remembered for his rather expensive gamble to govern for another four years after spending eight years. It took the Senate under the headship of Ken Nnamani to frustrate his efforts but he managed to foist on the nation a man who, arguably, loved the nation but was incapacitated by his poor health condition and so his government was unable to do anything significant as his inner circle used all kinds of subterfuge to keep him in power but all this failed as he died in office and Dr Goodluck Jonathan took over.
Many people believe that Dr Jonathan gave the office his best shot but his undoing was his political naivety and moral weakness such that he allowed his aides to get away with blue murder such that corruption became the order of the day in his nearly six year rule. He was chosen as Vice President to President Yar’ Adua on account of his mien as a man incapable of upsetting the status quo. The man who had gone round to campaign for the office was Dr Peter Odili, Governor of Rivers State who was stopped at the convention when Obasanjo made his deft move that produced Yar’ Adua, and when Chief Anthony Anenih sought to bring in Dr Peter Odili as Vice President as a way to pay him back for his failed efforts in becoming the President, Obasanjo also overruled him. Many still believe that if Chief Obasanjo did not interfere, Dr Odili would have emerged as the candidate of the PDP in the 2007 election but all that is also now past talk.
The PDP that went into the 2015 election was a party broken into factions and the Chaiarman of the party, Alhaji Muazu, the former Governor of Bauchi State was not loyal to the president and appeared to support the plan of the north to wrest power from the PDP at all cost. This became very obvious when Alhaji Muazu travelled out of the country just before the presidential elections! The Ekiti Governor Ayodele Fayose brought this to the fore when he asked the president the whereabouts of his party chairman who ought to have led his forces against those of the APC. The north with obviously more political education outplayed the PDP and managed to elect the nearly 80 year old former Military Head of state who had left the scene about 32 years ago and had remained largely unelectable countrywide even after he had made his third attempt at becoming president.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Dr Jonathan government tried its best but as already stated the efforts were drowned in the gale of corruption which had riddled his government. Now that the Supreme Court has given the party another chance or opportunity to reinvent itself, the so called largest party in Africa should not take Nigerians for granted and pretend that all is well. The way they lost most of the states especially those in the north is a pointer that a lot went wrong and this was worsened by the imposition of candidates in the preparations for the elections. They lost in many places because people needed to teach them a bitter lesson in party management. There were flagrant violations of party regulations coupled with the imperial attitudes of the Governors who literally became Lords and Emperors and dictated who got what in the states. Its no wonder then that most of their Governors ended up in places like the Senate as they arm twisted the executives to give them Senatorial tickets as a form of retirement benefit and settlement. They became god fathers and in the process destroyed internal democracy in the party.
The Markafi leadership should restore all the organs of the party and make them work in the interest of the party which was nearly destroyed by the Sheriff phenomenon that made it difficult for the party to present candidates in many instances and which also led by party stalwarts decamping to the APC or forming new political parties in extreme cases. A good example is Chief Raymond who like Chief Abiola of blessed memory literally made his media outfit, the African Independent Television, available to the party and carried serious stinging campaigns against the APC leaders as former Lagos State Governor Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu as well as the APC Presidential Candidate, Mohammadu Buhari.
Some Nigerians who spoke to the Difference Newspaper opined that the party owed the country an apology for sixteen years of misrule adding that the Makarfi executive should start from there and then woo their members who had decamped back into the big umbrella. They reason that the party should not judge their current popularity on the basis of the recent victory in the Osun West Senatorial race won by the PDP as to all intents and purposed Senator Ademola Adeleke did not win because of the PDP but largely on account of his late elder brother – an APC stalwart who had died in very suspicious circumstances – and what more Senator Adeleke was of the APC and only decamped to the PDP when party elders in the state decided to hand over the ticket to Senator Hussain who had stepped down for Isiaka Adeleke when he had decamped from the PDP to the APC.
The PDP should start from the scratch to rebuild the party and see it emerge as a true opposition party and if the APC continues to bungle the affairs of state as they are doing now, then the PDP may win back the government at the center. The road to 2019 is open and its anybody’s game.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan