PDP: Battling with fading influence

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A former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State, Afolabi Ige, examines why the party failed to manage its achievement when it was the ruling party for 16 years.

Nigeria returned to a hard earned democracy in 1999.

Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) emerged as the 1st elected civilian president from one of the three political parties that shrugged it out at the February 1999 presidential election.

The foundational characters of the PDP was made up of the finest grade of the Nigeria political elite who has just survived the Abacha onslaught mysteriously and was united by their common plight as politicians who stood against the transmutation of Gen. Abacha from rulership in khaki uniform to rulership in civilian babanriga.

It was difficult to ignore or reject the experience, statesmanship credential and the international exposure and acceptability of Obasanjo at that time particularly with his ethnic background in relation to the festering war against the perceived domination of the Nigeria polity by the Hausa/Fulanis occasioned by the gruesome annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won squarely by Obasanjo ‘s Yoruba/ Egba kinsman, Bashorun MKO Abiola who later died in government custody shortly before the commencement of the transition program. While President Obasanjo could be said to have applied the Yoruba large-heartedness, fairness and equity in the administration of the country, he indisputably employed and institutionalize the use of military tactics in the internal politics of his party and inter-party politics of the country. The PDP therefore became the signpost of the Nigeria nascent democracy and set the tone of politicking in the country having ruled the country consistently for sixteen out of its eighteen years unbroken democracy from 1999-2015.

Before 2003, signs of the tide has begun to manifest as one after the other the big political gladiators and founders were shown their way either to permanent silence or out of the PDP- the Solomon Lars the Sunday Awoniyiss, the T.Y. Danjumas; most of the respected voices had became cracked and military brigandage had taken over PDP. Military war strategist and their apologists took over the toast of the Nigeria nascent democracy plotting ambush and take over by tsunamis against the internal control of the PDP and by extension of their operation a crack down on the opposition party within the national polity. By the time of 2003 general election, the two fledging opposition party had already fallen to the military tactics of the PDP sheriff. AD lost 5 out of the 6 southwest states under its control to the PDP in the 2003 election while the APP lost 4 out of its stronghold of 7 states also to the PDP. Nigeria became virtually a one party state and PDP became an haven of impunity .

Immediately after the 2003 election, all the governors, 90 percent of whom were PDP, borrowed a leaf from the leadership at the centre and began to experiment the emperor style in all the states. Following the imperial president’s footsteps. Within Obasanjo’s eight year presidency, PDP had changed its national chairman four times expiring Chief Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Chief Audu Ogbe to finally settle for President Obasanjo’s man-friday, Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd). If the 2003 election tsunami was done by ambush , the 2007 election was by real arm twisting and a garrison “do or die” affair. Marked by the unpreparedness of a president who was busy plotting a constitutional change to give him a fresh three terms erroneously called “3rd term” which failed at the eleventh hour due to the non-cooperation of his sitting veepee who had galvanized majority lawmakers against the constitutional change plot; irregularities became the defining character of the 2007 election to the extent that the man who got produced as president through the process, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory affirmed that the process was deficit in credibility and embarked immediately on massive electoral reforms post Obasanjo years. It thus became that post 2007 general election in Nigeria, all a daring claimant need do is to shout to the court particularly in the southwest states, that “I lost election because I contested with a PDP candidate” and the courts will grant his or her prayers. This was the foundation laid for the PDP in her first 8 years of existence.

At the exit of OBJ, coupled with the poor health of President Yar’Adua which eventually claimed his life 2 years into his tenure, the PDP Governors went tiggerish with their claws on the presidency as the powers behind the throne. The illegal PDP Governors Forum became an albatross on Nigeria polity with no voice of descent even from the oppositions simply because it was about sharing more resources and cornering more powers by the states at the expense of the federal and local governments. By this time voiced opposition to the PDP has been restricted to the ever virulent southwest where the ACN itself a regional variant of the PDP gangsterism ideology was holding sway by being smarter and appealing to legalities.

Politically, movements between the ANPP, ACN and PDP, for instance, at a time became mere transverse from less populated part of a hell to the brightest and most populated part of it. Thrice did GMB tried perspiringly and thrice did the PDP machinery dealt devastating blows on the election of GMB even with his talakawa ardent followers in their droves. The PDP was indeed the whipping cane of indecorous opposition until the opposition became wise by hard experience and cluster together to fall the PDP elephant in 2015 just in the same manner the G-34 came together against Gen. Abacha in 1997/98; thus voiding and terminating the 2007 Ogbulafor testament that PDP will rule Nigeria for 60 years unbroken.

Bequeathed with such a prodigious background with the finest and our most resilient ilk of our political elite and with the opportunity of holding on to power for sixteen whole years unbroken and at a time the economy was most blessed in history, only to find itself clutching to straws of the demagogues in its nineteenth year is a very sad commentary not only on Nigeria but Africa’s inability to manage and control success; most importantly its inability to discipline its own self.

From Vincent Ogbulafor to H.E. Nwodo, H.E Alhaji Bamanga Tukur , H.E. Adamu Muazu, H.E. Sen.Ali Modu Sheriff and H.E. Sen. Ahmed Markafi, the PDP kept the tradition of holy and esteemed appearance reserving their number one position for men who have tasted power and authority and hence, can command the respect of those so occupying within the party but that tradition was broken ala cartel in the just concluded December 2017 national convention. The party handlers seemed to go for the broke by doing away with niceties, administrative and political management experience and went for an “omorogun” ( a war pestle) as a choice. An “omorogun” is the Yoruba name for the mixing pestle for flours, which major characteristics is its non-refusal when its owner beckons, unreflective of the very hot water.

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