AYO ESAN in this report writes on the distrust and mutual suspicion among powerful individuals and various caucuses within the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has led to its dwindling fortunes in recent elections.
These are not the best of times for the Peoples Democratic Party. There are warring hues and cries everywhere. Factions are emerging in feverish paces threatening to sever the stability and the peace of the party.
From the furthest reaches of the north to the swampy mangroves of the South, PDP is basically torn asunder, bereft of any pacifying glue.
Alas, the party leadership appears aimless, adrift, without purpose, stripped of any unifying vision. Such is the present fate of the party that once boasted to rule the nation for 60 years . All is now but a puff dream.
Its fortunes in the recent elections has shown that the once domineering party, which bestrode the political firmament of Nigeria like a colossus for 16 years, is losing areas considered as its stronghold to the All Progressive Congress, APC, which defeated it in 2015; making it to be in opposition for the first time in its traditional stronghold.
Many of the founding fathers of the PDP, which at inception prides itself as the largest political party in Africa, are dead; few have left for other new parties and the remaining few that are left are taking the back seat in the running of the affairs of the party.
The few founding fathers of the PDP who are still remaining in the party have chosen to take a back seat in the running of the party affairs due to frustration from the younger elements, who believe they have all it take to manage the party. But these elements have forgotten the Yoruba adage which says even though the youth may have more clothes than the elders, he can’t have more rags like the elders.
These elders maintain an arms akimbo posture or what is termed ‘siddon look’ watching the young hawks distort the vision of the founding fathers of the party and pave the way for the declining fortunes of the party in the major electoral contests in the last few years.
The PDP was officially formed in August 1998 by eminent Nigerians with diverse background and from across all geo-political zones, prominent among the founders were late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President; late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former governor; late Alhaji Adamu Ciroma; late Chief Tony Anenih and late Chief Solomon Lar, among others.
The coming together of these people, who earlier converged under the umbrella of Group 34, G-34, was a surprise to many political watchers who believed it was a combination of the progressive elements and the ultra conservatives. The founding fathers of the party also adopted power rotation as a way of dousing the fear of dominance by one region over others. And with such solid foundation, it was not a surprise that the party dominated and ruled the country continuously for 16 years.
At a stage, its leaders were boasting that it would continue to win the presidential election and control the federal structure for 100 years. But that was not to be as it lost power in 2015 after a faction from it, which styled itself new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, and which also included five of its then serving governors, joined forces with other political parties to form the APC.
The recent Kogi and Bayelsa states elections won by the APC exposed the underbelly of the opposition party and opened a can of worms within the PDP family.
The victory of the ruling APC, especially in Bayelsa State, the home state of former and immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, unsettled the PDP, resulting in series of soul searching meetings, to fathom the reasons the party lost in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
But it was clear that with the role played by former President Jonathan and his kinsmen in the Bayelsa election, the PDP house was divided against itself in the election.
The PDP had attributed its defeat in Bayelsa State 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 Sure Lamido and former President Jonathan as to why PDP lost the Bayelsa election, according to discerning observers, is a sign of an open crack within the PDP.
Many believe a party with strong leadership would have resolved whatever differences that were noted between Governor Seriake Dickson and President Jonathan before the election, but the party leadership pretended all was well and believed that Bayelsa State’s Creek House is its to occupy.
Political analysts are in agreement that the PDP is presently without a clear leader and that if the situation remains so, the party will remain in the delusion that gripped it due to internal division.
A source within the party, who pleaded anonymity, said the leadership challenge facing the party will fester, except something urgent and drastic is done.
Many PDP leaders are said to have openly opposed the leadership style of Uche Secondus, the party’s National Chairman, with many passing vote of no confidence on him.
Political observers believe that the role played by Jonathan in the Bayelsa election was just a tip of the iceberg, and they also add that the genesis of PDP crisis is legendary.
According to another source within the party, who pleaded anonymity, 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 in order to play its role as opposition”, the source volunteered.
The PDP source maintained that the party will witness worse situations than what happened during the Bayelsa and Kogi elections in future election if it fails to put its acts together.
Tracing the genesis of the PDP crisis, it can be argued that it started in 2015 immediately the party lost election at the centre.
In 2015 when the former PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, left the party without completing his term, the party was in confusion as to who would complete the term.
Bamanga Tukur was brought in as the substantive chairman, but Tukur’s tenure was crises-ridden and so they needed someone else from the North East.
For whatever reason, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and former Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State ensured that they replaced Tukur with Senator Alimodu 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 finally decided in favour of Makarfi who eventually completed the term.
But before that happened, Sheriff had tried to pacify Wike and Fayose by promising the duo the Vice President slot separatelt.
The crisis that was brought on PDP by Sheriff and his co-travellers was resolved through the Supreme Court’s pronouncement that Makarfi was the authentic National Chairman of the party.
The seed of crisis, which was gradually germinating was further watered when Makarfi was to hand over to a successor.
The zoning method is not new in the party and in the history of the PDP since 1998, the party chairmanship had never come to the South West. During the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the PDP National Vice Chairman, South West, was Chief Olabode George, who later rose to become the Deputy National Chairman South.
According to the plan, since Obasanjo was leaving office in 2007, after two consecutive terms as President, it was natural that the then National Vice Chairman, South West, should step in as National Chairman, but for whatever reason it was changed by him as he emerged the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of the PDP.
Despite stern warning from founding fathers of the party, 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 South West, should be given the opportunity.
So, Wike and Fayose, for selfish reasons, denied the South West the opportunity. Fayose said it openly that the South West didn’t need the party chairmanship because of selfish interest.
The zoning method was made so specific, the chairman was not only meant for South West, but it was micro zoned to Lagos State. At the time Lagos State had no member in the NWC; Ekiti had National Vice Chairman, Osun had National Secretary and Ogun had National Financial Secretary and Lagos had nothing.
It was therefore obvious to discerning minds that the National Chairman of the PDP must come from Lagos State and everybody believed that Bode George had the knowledge of the party and experience and so should be given the job.
In the power play that followed, the party national chairmanship was zoned to the South instead of South West and to further weaken and polarize the South West and divide its votes at the national convention,
Wike drafted Jimi Agbaje into the national chairmanship race; while Fayose brought in Rasidi Ladoja and in fact paid for his form.
Prof. Taoheed Adedoja from Oyo State joined the race and so was Prof. Tunde Adeniran from Ekiti State; thus the South West alone had no fewer than eight candidates
Secondus was given a free reign at the convention, thus putting the South West virtually out of contention. People who do not have defined mission, grand plan or selfless interest to ensure that the party comes back to reckoning took over.
The emergence of Secondus, the manner of his emergence and the role played by Makarfi, Wike and Fayose led many founding members of the party like Professor Jerry Gana, Professor Adeniran, among others to dump the party.
Wike was then planning for the 2019 election. He assumed it was going to be Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State governor, who had then returned to the PDP from the APC, who would emerge PDP presidential candidate, with him as his vice presidential candidate. 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 not as a solid unit, but with a divided house. Wike and his caucus were not too supportive of the Atiku candidacy. They were looking beyond Atiku and were looking at the 2023 election to perpetuate the same game plan.
Presently Fayose is battling corruption cases and immediately the Court of Appeal pronounced that Atiku lost, they congratulated Buhari. And after the Supreme Court judgment, they said let’s go on national rebuilding.
Even at that, one cannot see much rigorous opposition. As far as they are concerned, Atiku’s ambition was dead on arrival. So, they are looking at another game plan for 2023. And sadly for the party, nobody is speaking out
Observers believe that the present managers of the party are not only weak, but they can’t be perceived as political juggernauts. They are believed to have subverted the interest of the party for personal interest.
On the way forward for the party, political analysts and watchers of political events in the country believe that the PDP, to become relevant, first as a political party and second as an opposition party, it must change its leadership and put politicians with requisite experience, who also have the interest of the party as managers.
They also believe that PDP must bounce back and mend the noticeable cracks within it and start playing the role expected of it as the main opposition party.
Whether or not the PDP will be able to do all of these, put its house in order and return to winning ways remains to be seen.