Opinion – PDP’s self-inflicted injuries, lessons for APC

APC is undoubtedly, enjoying the show. It is the prime beneficiary of the inanities of INEC

By Emeka Alex Duru

Each time the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stumbles into injuries, mostly self-inflicted, I recall my piece in Daily Independent Newspapers as Group Politics Editor, titled, “PDP: Imminent implosion of a Behemoth”. The outing was informed by my observations at the March 2012 convention of the party in Abuja, in which the then President, Goodluck Jonathan and his henchmen threw aside all democratic norms to impose Bamaga Tukur on the party as its national chairman. Other offices of the party were parceled out to cronies. When the write-up was published, Olisa Metuh, the then national publicity secretary of the party and beneficiary of the Abuja bazaar, took offence at me – in fact, dismissed me as prophet of doom. He even threatened reporting me to my employers for severe actions, which I of course, dared him to do, if he felt he had the capacity.

That impunity in Abuja was a particular indiscretion by the PDP that saw the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and then five governors of the party – Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamako (Sokoto), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Rotimi Amaechi and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), leaving its fold for a splinter new PDP (nPDP) and eventually flowing into the fledgling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The impact of their defection was felt in the 2015 general election, where PDP suffered a crushing defeat, losing the presidency to the APC, the first time of such by an incumbent in the annals of the country. I reached out to Metuh. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, I reminded him of my article and his reactions. The phone went dead at his end. Metuh is no longer a member of the party.

PDP has not recovered from that fatal crash and may not. If anything, rather, the party is losing more in footholds and essence. In virtually all states of the federation from Sokoto, through Kaduna, to Ogun and Imo, the party is enmeshed in one crisis or another. As we write, it is on the verge of losing the governorship position and almost all the elected offices in Plateau, unless there is a redeeming judgement from the Supreme Court. The confusion in the State chapter of the party heightened on Tuesday, with the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Moses Thomas Sule, and his Deputy, Hon Gwottaon Fom, resigning their positions. Many attributed the development to the sacking of Governor Caleb Mutfwang Manasseh and some PDP lawmakers in the state assembly, by the Appeal Court.

The Appeal Court, had held that the governor was not a validly sponsored candidate by the PDP during the March 18 election. It argued that the party violated a Court order that a valid Congress be conducted in the 17 local government areas of that state, by conducting Congress in only 5 local government areas, and as such is a nullity. Similar infraction occurred in Imo in the run-up to the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections, which denied the party’s candidate for Imo West (Orlu) Jones Onyeriri, participation in the exercise.

For the PDP as a party, impunity and crass indiscretion, seem to be matters of culture and attitude. That was what played out in the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as its presidential candidate in the Jos 1999 presidential primaries, against laid down criteria. Obasanjo did not help matters by not knowing where and when to draw the line. Consumed by his trademark self-righteous disposition, he carried on in typical village headmaster style, trying to whip every one into line. In the process, he appropriated the entire levers of the party’s decision-making processes and began to enthrone members to offices and dismiss same at will.

Obasanjo’s untoward grip on the party commenced with a programmed exclusion of the original members of the party. Such chieftains as Dr. Alex Ekwueme, second republic vice president, late Abubakar Rimi, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Sunday Awoniyi, and Solomon Lar, former Plateau State governor, key members of the fabled Group of 18 and later Group of 34 (G-34), which provided the nucleus for the formation of PDP, were systematically elbowed out of contention in the party.

With these key figures virtually schemed out of PDP affairs, Obasanjo practically took charge of the party. In the process, he dispensed with successive national chairmen at will. Barnabas Gemade and Audu Ogbeh were among his victims.

The former president equally made efforts at emasculating the legislature by playing games with the leadership of the senate. Evan Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Adolphus Wabara, easily came to mind as those Obasanjo orchestrated their fall in the so-called banana peel politics.

It was the same nauseating arrogance that made erstwhile national chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, snigger that PDP would be at the helm of affairs in the country for 60 years. Jonathan attempted furthering the recklessness but was caught up in his games. It may thus look convenient to accuse the PDP of being the architect of its uncertain fate.

But we cannot exonerate the courts and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), of the misfortunes of the PDP and other opposition political parties. These are two critical institutions that should serve as the guardrails of democracy in the country. They are supposed to serve as checks to the excesses of the politicians. But they are deeply involved in the morass currently plaguing the state. They are fast losing their reputation as the impartial arbiters. Most of the pronouncements by the courts since the elections, including the Supreme Court, have left Nigerans in shock. Rather than living up to the billing as the last hope of the common man, the courts are now markets for the highest bidders and avenues for favouring privileged ones.

The INEC under Professor Mahmood Yakubu, is of course, a lost case. Any day the man (Yakubu) remains as the national chairman of the commission, constitutes a serious minus for the development of democracy in the country. For Nigeria to get it right, the present INEC should be disbanded and credible officials recruited to fill the slots.

APC is undoubtedly, enjoying the show. It is the prime beneficiary of the inanities of INEC and partiality of the courts. But what is not certain is how long the sordid dance would last. It is also not certain if the APC is drawing lessons from what the PDP is going through. It is also not known, where the country’s democracy is headed for, subsequently, with the charade going on.

* DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos. (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)

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