EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the protracted crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which led to its dwindling fortunes in recent elections.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a fix. Its hope of bouncing back during the recent presidential election was dashed. Its key leaders are still working at cross purposes. There is no end in sight to the distrust and suspicion.
The crisis at the national level is proportional to the conflict in many state chapters.
Today, the main opposition party suffers from self-inflicted wounds. PDP may have ceased to be a domineering party. Although it loomed larged for 16 years, it is losing its strongholds to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
In Bayelsa State, it suffered a step back in the recent governorship poll. Also, in Kogi, it could not bounce back.
However, it is still a party of hope, if it puts its house in order. Its national leadership is now perceived to be weak because it is being deserted by governors who installed the national officers.
PDP is not benefitting from the experience of party elders. Many founding fathers of the acclaimed largest political party in Africa are dead. Some have left for other parties.
Those who stay behind are sidelined and made to take the back seat in party affairs. Thus, when the platform was enveloped in crisis, crisis resolution became difficult.
The younger elements lack a sense of vision and elders who understood the motivation for the emergence of the national party are considered irrelevant by latter-day power barons in the disunited family. In frustration, they cried out. But, nobody listens to them because they lack financial muscle.
These elders maintain a ‘siddon look’ approach, watching from the sidelines as the new leaders navigate the party ship to an uncertain harbour.
In turbulence, the party cries is desolation, and the antagonistic blocs fighting for supremacy have no solution.
The party, according to insiders, would have performed better, if it operated in an atmosphere of cohesion in the February and March elections.
The PDP came into existence in August 1998. It was formed by eminent Nigerians from diverse backgrounds. They came from the six geo-political zones.
The founding fathers included the former vice-president, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Kano State Governor Abubakar Rimi, the late Alhaji Adamu Ciroma; the late Chief Tony Anenih and the late Chief Solomon Lar.
The coming together of these people, who earlier converged under the umbrella of G-34, was a surprise to political watchers, who believed it was a combination of the progressive elements and ultra-conservatives.
The party came up with a novelty.The founding fathers adopted power rotation as a way of dousing the fear of domination.
They gave operative content to zoning for the purpose of giving the six zones a sense of belonging. Six key positions were identified. They went to the six zones.
The positions are the president, vice president, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker and National Chairman of the party.
Owning to its solid foundation, the party won presidential elections four times. At the height of its glory, its former chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, boasted that PDP would rule for 60 years.
PDP had a misfortune of being initially hijacked by Army Generals, who installed one of their own, Olusegun Obasanjo, as presidential candidate.
After winning the 1999 poll, the former military ruler turned attention to the party, making it an extension of his exalted office. The pioneer chairman, Lar, was shoved aside.
His successor, Chief Barnabas Gemade, left office unceremoniously. He even cursed the party in anger, saying that the fate that would befall his successors will be worse.
Up came Audu Ogbeh. He could not get along with the national party leader. He was kicked out. Only Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd) understood Obasanjo’s military grammar of politics. He survived.
But, his successors were not lucky. Ogbulafor’s tenure was cut short by intrigues. Okwesilieze Nwodo also had a tough time.
He was consumed by his native Enugu politics. The tenures of Acting Chairmen Haliru Mohammed and Kawu Baraje were not impressive. Elderstatesman Alhaji Bamanga Tukur did not get along with the governors. Muazu left after the electoral misfortune of 2015.
Modu Sheriff was considered a big error or mistake. There was hope when Acting Chairman Ahmed Makarfi served as caretaker chairman. It did not last. His successor, Prince Uche Secondus, is now facing the heat.
In 2015, nPDP did an incalculable damage by decimating the platform. Five governors defected to other parties to form the APC.
The recent Kogi and Bayelsa elections won by the APC opened a can of worms.
The victory of the APC, especially in Bayelsa State, the home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan, unsettled the PDP, resulting in soul searching meetings to know why the party failed.
It was clear that, with the role played by Dr. Jonathan and his kinsmen in the Bayelsa election, the PDP house was divided against itself.
The PDP had attributed its defeat in Bayelsa to the role played by Jonathan, accusing him of anti-party activity and destroying the ladder which he used to climb to the top.
The altercation between the former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido and Jonathan on why PDP lost, according to observers, was a sign of crack in the PDP.
Many believe a party with a strong leadership would have resolved the differences between Governor Seriake Dickson and Jonathan before the election. But, the party leadership pretended all was well and believed that Bayelsa Creek House was its heritage.
Analysts believe that the PDP is without a strong leadership and that, if the situation persists, the party will remain in the delusion that gripped it due to division.
A source, who pleaded anonymity, said the leadership crisis will fester, except something urgent and drastic is done.
Many PDP leaders have opposed the leadership style of Secondus, with many silently passing vote of no confidence on him.
But, Secondus believe that he is doing his best for the party.
To observers, the role played by Jonathan in the Bayelsa election was just a tip of the iceberg.
According to the source, as long as the party does not have the right person to lead it, it would grope in the dark for long.
“It is significant to have someone who can take decisions and stand by it to play its role as opposition”, he added.
Many fear that the party may witness worse situations than what happened during the Bayelsa and Kogi elections in future polls, if it fails to put its acts together.
Since 2015, PDP has not been the same. As Mu’azu left the party without completing his term, the party was thrown into confusion.
Tukur was brought in as the substantive chairman, but his tenure was crises-ridden and a replacement was sought from the Northeast.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State ensured that they replaced Tukur with Senator Sheriff, who they believed could provide money to sustain the party.
His tenure was also full of crisis; the PDP national convention, which was to hold in Port Harcourt, ended abruptly. The Makarfi faction won and Sheriff went to court. The court ruled in favour of Makarfi.
But, before that, Sheriff had tried to pacify Wike and Fayose by promising the duo the vice president slot separately.
The crisis created by Sheriff and his co-travellers was resolved through the Supreme Court’s pronouncement that Makarfi was the authentic National Chairman.
The seed of crisis, which was gradually germinating, was watered when Makarfi was to hand over to a successor.
Zoning is not new in the PDP. Since 1998, the party chairman has never come to the Southwest. During the tenure of Obasanjo, the PDP National Vice Chairman, Southwest, was Chief Olabode George, who later became Deputy National Chairman, South.
According to the plan, since Obasanjo was leaving office in 2007, after two terms as President, it was natural that the then National Vice Chairman, Southwest, should step in as National Chairman. But, the plan was changed by him as he emerged as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT).
Despite warnings by founding fathers, the Makarfi -led executive changed the zoning pattern and neglected the fact that it was natural that the zone that had not produced the party chairman, the Southwest, should be given the opportunity.
Two governors allegedly denied the Southwest the chance.
If zoning was adopted, the chairman would have come from the Southwest, and indeed, from Lagos in the spirit of micro-zoning. At that time, Lagos State had no member in the National Working Committee (NWC). Ekiti produced National Vice Chairman. Osun had National Secretary and Ogun had National Financial Secretary.
The expectation was that the National Chairman should come from Lagos State. Eyes were on George, who had the knowledge of the party and experience for the job.
In the power play that followed, the national chairman was zoned to the South, instead of Southwest, to further weaken and polarise the region and divide its votes at the national convention,
Wike drafted Jimi Agbaje into the national chairmanship race; while another governor allegedly sponsored Rashidi Ladoja.
Prof. Taoheed Adedoja from Oyo State joined the race. Prof. Tunde Adeniran from Ekiti State also joined. So, the Southwest alone had no fewer than eight candidates.
Secondus won at the convention, thus putting the Southwest virtually out of contention. There was no reconciliation afterwards.
The emergence of Secondus, the manner of his emergence and the role played by Makarfi, Wike and Fayose led Professor Jerry Gana and Professor Adeniran to dump the party.
Wike was planning for the 2019 election. He thought Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State governor, who had returned to the PDP from the APC, would emerge as PDP presidential candidate. He wanted to be his running mate.
He did not reckon that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar would make a return to the party. Atiku’s return and interest in the PDP presidential ticket changed the game.
The party went into the 2019 presidential election as a divided house. It was alleged that Wike and his caucus were not too supportive of the Atiku candidacy. Some alleged that they were looking beyond Atiku. They are peeping at 2023.
As the Court of Appeal pronounced that Atiku lost, he congratulated Buhari. After the Supreme Court judgment, “let’s go on national rebuilding” became the slogan.
Today, there is no rigorous opposition by the PDP.
Observers believe that the party leadership is not only weak, but cannot withstand the APC.
PDP has become the victim of the subversion of collective interest by those projecting their self interest.
According to party elders, the way forward is that for PDP to become relevant, first as a political party and second, as an opposition party, it should change its leadership and put politicians with requisite experience and who also have the interest of the party at the helm of affairs.