You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2021 06 30Article 452338

Opinions of Wednesday, 30 June 2021


Is PDP in terminal decline?

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

A little over twenty years ago when the founding fathers of what would become the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were cobbling it together, they had a theory. They argued Nigeria actually had two political parties – civilians on one side and the military on the other – because coups were still common place.

So they dreamt of a party that would be a grand umbrella to accommodate the mainstream political tendencies – north, south, east and west. It was to be Nigeria’s answer to South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC).

But for the last minute departure of a rump that became the Alliance for Democracy (AD), they largely succeeded in creating a platform that had the broadest spread.

ADVERTISEMENTIndeed, so big had it become after a few years in power that its leaders boasted about being the biggest political party in Africa and dreamt of governing Nigeria for an uninterrupted 60-year stretch.

It wasn’t such a fanciful proposition because in order to win the presidency you needed cross-country presence and appeal that the likes of AD, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) or Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) never had. That was until its leaders got consumed by hubris.

Many have argued that without the backing of All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) would never have gotten to power – because their strength in the Southwest provided a leg that complemented Buhari’s popularity up north, creating the national spread that was required to win the presidency. That certainly was the case.

Read Also: Ogun, Oyo workers’ fate hangs in the balanceHowever, the nascent APC was given a massive helping hand by the arrogance of PDP leaders in 2014.

In this country a governor is a major political asset, a mini-president in his territory. Imagine that in one day the opposition which barely counted eight governors within their ranks, suddenly found themselves gifted five in one day! They were joined by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, and sundry others in that seismic move.

Rather than realise they were strengthening an opposition that had little or no room for manoeuvre at that point, then President Goodluck Jonathan and National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, celebrated the exit of those they termed ‘trouble makers’ from the ruling party. It was the beginning of the end.

Imagine if PDP had resolved its internal problems and convinced the defectors to stay. It’s hard to see how the opposition could have seized power without the additional votes, spread and resources that the new entrants brought.

Six years after that landmark where an incumbent civilian president was toppled in widely-hailed polls, the outlook hasn’t improved for the opposition.

First, it had to deal with the trauma of going from 16 years of presidential power to contending with life in the political wilderness. All the evidence shows it hasn’t quite made the adjustment.

Back in 2015, there was no unanimity as to the best way forward in its new life, but many agreed PDP had to reinvent itself. But to do that the party needed honest self-examination as to how it came from defeating Buhari by 10 million votes in 2011 to losing by under three million votes four years later.

They needed to understand that what happened in 2015 wasn’t just an electoral loss but the evisceration of a political brand and that a radical reinvention was called for. Instead of that soul searching, party leaders were more interested in a speedy return to power in 2019 – offering the same damaged goods to a suspicious electorate.

It should have occurred to the party that clear differentiation was required because with nothing setting the parties apart, members could flit from one to the other based on self-interest. Today, the only way to know who has the upper hand is by tracking who’s going where.

In the last one year, three governors have switched parties. In Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, fled to the PDP after he lost the APC gubernatorial ticket. His problem was his erstwhile godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, was opposed to his return. Had they kissed and made up he wouldn’t have moved.

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi and his Cross River counterpart, Ben Ayade, have crossed to the ruling party spurred by battle a for control of PDP power structures in their states.

A fourth governor – Zamfara’s Bello Matawalle, has reportedly skipped to the APC with only the ceremonial singing and dancing left to seal the deal.

This latest defection is distressing for the opposition. Its spokesman, Kola Ologbodiyan, released a statement warning the governor and his entourage that their action amounted to vacation of their offices under the constitution. Curiously, PDP didn’t make these same legal arguments when it was benefitting from Obaseki joining their ranks.

But rather than split hairs over what it can’t prevent, the party should worry about something desperately wrong within its ranks. We didn’t see this sort of stampede into the ruling party when ACN governors were in opposition. So what’s eating their PDP colleagues?

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has a theory: the corrupt are leaving in hope they would be protected from prosecution by joining the ruling party. But that isn’t logical. Former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu, joined APC and many said that it was to terminate his prosecution on corruption charges. In the end he went to jail until the court reversed his conviction. Now, the EFCC is vowing to reopen his case. So much for protection.

The defections may be depressing for PDP, but they are disastrous for an aspiring democracy that could do with a vibrant opposition and alternative governing option.

Very rarely do governments in countries facing Nigeria’s kinds of challenges retain the level of popularity they attained on Election Day. The longer they stay in the power the less popular they become as they take tough decisions. Their misfortune becomes the opposition’s opportunity.

But despite all that’s going on with insecurity, ethnic and separatist agitations, herders-farmers, conflicts, Boko Haram insurgency and the economic recession, the opposition isn’t really putting the government on the spot or positioning itself as a credible alternative. Instead, its ranks are being depleted daily.

It’s almost like some terminal ailment is draining its strength. Unless it can quickly resolve its issues the one-time political leviathan stands in grave danger of being supplanted as Nigeria’s main opposition party by those who can spot the vacuum.