WHITHER THE PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY?
BY DONS EZE
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which metamorphosed from the Group of 34 eminent Nigerians who opposed the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, was the most preferred political party in the country when the ban on partisan politics was lifted by the Abdulsalami Abubakar military regime in 1998, going by the party’s performance in the series of elections that ushered in democratic governance in 1999.
For instance, during the 1999 general elections, the PDP did not only win the Presidency, but also went ahead to garner 76 out of 109 seats in the Senate, and 223 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives. The party also produced 22 out of 36 state governors, leaving the two other political parties at the time – the All Peoples Party (APP), and the Alliance for Democracy (AD), to grapple with the remaining 14 state governorship positions.
The PDP further won the Presidency in 2003, 2007, and 2011, and maintaineid majority position in the National Assembly, all through the period. The party had therefore ruled the country for sixteen unbroken years. The PDP remains the only political party that has not changed its identity, that is, its name, since the present political experiment started in 1999.
The Peoples Democratic Party was however shockingly defeated in the 2015 Presidential Election, and thus became the first political party in the country to lose power to the opposition. It wasted no time in conceeded defeat and thus willingly handed over to the newly elected President.
Since that 2015 defeat of the PDP in the Presidential Election, the party has not been able to find its feet, nor has been able to put its act together. Everything has been going awry for the party. First, the PDP was faced with the problem of leadership, which resulted from the unceremonious exit of its national chairman, who led the party to a crushing defeat.
That was when the party imported a “foreigner,” Ali Modu Sherrif, a former chieftain of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), to lead the Peoples Democratic Party, and the man nearly killed it. When members of the PDP later realized their mistake, they hurriedly put together a caretaker committee to manage its affairs, and later succeeded in putting in place the present executive of the party.
But the present PDP National Working Committee has not impressed us. It has failed to rescue the PDP from its paralysis that led to series of election defeats in different parts of the country. The party lost mid-term gubernatorial elections in states like Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, etc. before the 2019 Presidential Election, which it equally lost, in addition to losing its leadership position in the National Assembly.
As if these were not enough, the PDP begins to lose its members, in droves, to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). These included present and former State Governors, National and State Assembly members, etc. But the leadership of the PDP appears to be unconcerned, indifferent, unperturbed, or not worried about these defections. They would not do anything to stem the tide of the mass exodus from their party. All they do would be to issue one press statement after the other, which never addressed any issue.
This was what happened in 2014, when there was mass defections from the Peoples Democratic Party to the newly formed All Progressives Congress. The leadership of the PDP then, did nothing. They took everything for granted, until the rug was pulled off their feet, which eventually led to the crushing defeat of the party in the 2015 Presidential Election.
Currently, the leadership of the PDP does not seem to give protection to members of the party that are in need, or that are in difficulty, one way or the other, like some vulnerable members of the party, in particular, its governors, who are either intimidated or threatened by the government in power at the centre, starved of funds, or induced with some mouth-watering offers for them to dump the PDP and join the ruling All Progressives Congress. They were always left alone to be grappling with whatever problem they have, which the leadership of the PDP would have assisted, if they were alive to their responsibility.
Since the PDP lost power at the centre in 2015, one would have expected the leadership of the party to do an introspective review of its past activities, find out what actually happened, where they did not do things right, how to make amends, and then strategize on how to bounce back to power. But we did not see them do any of these things, or if they did, it has not come to life. Instead, members of the PDP leadership would be sitting in their cosy offices in Abuja issuing statements, without bordering on what is happening with their party members in different parts of the country.
As far as we are concerned, we do not think that the PDP has provided effective opposition to the ruling party at the centre. The PDP is always reactive to issues, rather than being proactive. They have never been ahead. The PDP has not told us what they would do differently to move the country out of its present state of hopelessness. It does not seem to have any blueprint or programme on how to move the country forward, or if it has, it has not made it known to Nigerians through sensitization and mobilization.
Most members of the PDP appear to be selfish. They are more content in playing individual games, rather than work for the collective success of the party. That is why they always have multiplicity of candidates vying for one office, like what we presently see in Anambra State, where every one of them wants to be Governor.
With the lacklustre performance of the present federal government administration since coming to power in 2015, one would have expected the Peoples Democratic Party to seize the initiative and give the APC an uppercut by drumming into our ears the weaknesses of the administration, and presenting a way out. This would have made many people to start flooding into its fold. But that has not happened and the reverse appears now to be the case, with many people leaving the PDP. The PDP does not seem to have any direction, or compass that points to where it is headed to.
As things currently stand, unless the Peoples Democratic Party wakes up from slumber and puts its house in order, we are likely to witness more exoduses from the party, while its hope of clinching power at the centre may be far-fetched.
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI