By Jide Ojo
Formed in 1998 by a Group of 18 and later 34 Eminent Personalities which cut across different elite class – military, business, political, bureaucratic, the political association known as the Institute of Civil Society was later registered as the Peoples Democratic Party by the Independent National Electoral Commission as a political party alongside the All Peoples Party (later renamed the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party) and Alliance for Democracy. That was in December 1998 after the conduct of the Local Government election of that year.
Since its formal registration, the PDP has come a long way winning a majority of seats at all levels of governance (federal, state and local government) in four out of the five electoral cycles namely, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 before meeting its political waterloo during the 2015 General Elections it fell electorally to its arch-rival and political nemesis, the All Progressives Congress, which was formed in 2013.
Buoyed by its strings of contrived electoral successes, one of the party’s past chairmen, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, in 2008, boasted that PDP would rule Nigeria for 60 years. Unfortunately, because the party did not know how to manage success, instead of 60 years, the party ruled for 16 years. In fact, there are not a few political analysts who are of the opinion that the PDP never genuinely won any election; rather, the party was believed to have always rigged to power. This extreme position may not be altogether true. The PDP, I dare say, is the only true national political party the country has before the advent of the APC in July 2013. The party had been able to win elections in all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria unlike its counterparts such as the AD whose electoral victories were mainly in the South-West zone; the All Progressives Grand Alliance whose catchment area is the South-East zone and the ANPP whose electoral victories had majorly been in Northern Nigeria particularly in the North-West and North-East.
In truth, the PDP’s electoral successes were believed to be largely through electoral manipulations. Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, allegedly referred to the party as the “nest of killers” following a series of political assassinations witnessed ahead of any general election. The PDP had also been fingered as sponsoring political crises which degraded some of the main opposition political parties notably the AD and ANPP. It was alleged that the political machinations of the PDP led to the loss of five out of the six AD-controlled states in the South-West during the 2003 General Election. Only Lagos State under Bola Ahmed Tinubu survived the PDP onslaught. A similar thing happened to the ANPP. From controlling about seven states between 1999 and 2007, the party’s electoral fortunes dipped when two of its governors Mahmuda Shinkafi of Zamfara State and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State were poached by the PDP after the 2007 elections. The party also poached the two governors of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, and Theodore Orji of Abia State.
Opposition political parties were quick to always accuse the PDP of rigging them out at elections. They often claimed that the PDP used money and other state and administrative resources such as instruments of coercion to deal with other political parties. They alleged that the PDP government used the police and other security agencies to intimidate and harass their chieftains and candidates across the country. In addition, anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission were sent after opposition elements during the 16 years of the PDP at the Presidency.
Truth be told, the PDP is never a party of saints. It is a potpourri or amalgam of strange political bedfellows whose common interest was and still is to capture power and share the spoils of electoral victories. The party’s unwritten philosophy is the use of Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means’. A former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ahead of 2007 General Elections, openly said the polls were “do-or-die” for him and his party, the PDP. Those elections were adjudged to be the worst in the political history of Nigeria as both local and international accredited election observer groups were unanimous in condemning the polls as being below international and regional standards.
The behemoth called the PDP is now terribly sick and in the Intensive Care Unit of Nigeria’s political hospital. The party is gasping for breath aftermath of protracted crises that have buffeted it. Though the party has always been embroiled in internal war of attrition due to its high deficiency in internal democratic norms and ethos, the aftermath of the death of President Musa Yar’Adua in 2010, the party in trying to nominate its presidential candidate for the 2011 elections committed a big blunder by nominating President Goodluck Jonathan. This precipitated the current round of internal crisis. Section 7 subsection 3 (c) of the PDP Constitution as amended in 2012, talks about: “Adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.” The alternation of power at the national level was to be between North and South. A northerner was supposed to have been nominated to serve out the remaining one term of President Yar’Adua. Not doing that upset the apple cart.
Many PDP chieftains from the North never forgave those who circumvented the PDP Constitution to allow a Southerner to come to power so soon after the eight years of Obasanjo presidency. It was part of the anger that culminated in the formation of the New PDP in 2013 after former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and seven PDP governors walked out of the special convention of the party on August 31, 2013. Of the seven governors, only Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State was from the South. Five of the seven governors as well as Vice-President Atiku Abubakar were later to join the opposition APC which had been registered by INEC on July 31, 2013.
Since that time, the APC became a Mecca of some sort with exodus of the PDP chieftains into the party.
The PDP never recovered. It was a depleted and divided the PDP that went into the 2015 General Elections. By the time the polls were over, the party lost the presidency, lost its hitherto majority seats in Senate, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly. Out of the 29 governorship elections held on April 11, 2015, the PDP managed to win nine with most of them coming from southern states of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Abia, and Enugu. The other two governorship seats won by the PDP were those of Gombe and Taraba states. It was the party’s worst electoral victory since inception and the colossal loss made the party to haemorrhage the more as members left in droves after the general elections to join the new party in power, the APC.
Now, the attempt to rebuild the party after the electoral fiasco has been largely unsuccessful. Many of the party chieftains have been arrested and are being tried in courts for corruption. The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu-led a PDP post-election review committee to look into the crisis rocking the party and proffer solutions. Unfortunately, the recommendations of the committee have been largely ignored. In the last three years, the party has had about four chairmen. From the time Alhaji BamangaTukur was forced to resign in January 2014 and Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu took over only for him to be forced to resign after last year’s general elections and Prince Uche Secondus took over in an acting capacity and had to be booted out via a court order after which from nowhere a former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, was smuggled in as the new chairman only to be removed last Saturday at the party’s controversial convention in Port Harcourt, River State.
It is patently clear that the PDP is on its way to political Golgotha. However, like a Phoenix, it may yet survive if all the varied interest groups pulling and pushing will sheathe their swords, reconcile and rebuild the party into a genuine and vibrant opposition party which will serve as a watchdog on the incumbent government in power.
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