Art and Culture

PDP’s Summer of Discontent

todayJuly 3, 2022

share close

Postscript by Waziri Adio

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was expected to fall apart after its bitterly fought primaries and the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was expected to be the chief beneficiary of APC’s projected unravelling. That was the script. But it is the script that fell apart, as events didn’t pan out that way. APC’s primaries produced a clear winner who scored more votes than all the other aspirants and voided votes combined, and the party has not gone to pieces, at least not yet.

Ironically, it is PDP that is going through it at the moment. But the signs were there all along. There were ample intimations in the events that predated the primaries and in the outcome of the special convention. But it seems most people missed the omens because they were too fixated on the ruling party or they got blind-sighted by the brilliant show that the leading opposition party put up during the election of its presidential candidate and in the swift and the smooth way it embraced reconciliation after its primaries. Shortly after Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as the candidate of PDP, it seemed that APC had been put on the backfoot, forced to play catch-up. PDP looked battle ready, and cut the image of a united front. Not anymore, at least not in its present state.

PDP is now looking more like a house divided against itself. There had been some whisperings of cracks beneath the surface. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State put this beyond doubt when, in an interview with AriseTV, he called out the party’s candidate on his handling of the selection of his running mate. Others piled in. Atiku responded to the growing discontent with a series of tweets, maintaining that the unity of his party remains a priority to him and that appropriate actions are being taken. Along the line, there were also speculations about the suspension of PDP’s Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, and some rumblings about whether the position is still tenable. Both Atiku and Ayu are out of the country while their party is roiling.

Atiku did not go to Ekiti to campaign for his party in the recent gubernatorial election in which PDP that ruled the state just four years ago eventually came a distant third. This may not be unconnected with the fact that there was no love lost between Atiku and former Governor Ayodele Fayose. It wasn’t a good look nevertheless. Other signs that all may not be well within the party include the scant number of governors that attended the unveiling of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as Atiku’s running mate and the inauguration of the party’s campaign council for the July 16 gubernatorial election in Osun State. The election is another major dress rehearsal for the two leading parties.

Contrary to what some people believe, I don’t think all these upheavals are as a result of Atiku choosing Okowa as his running mate. Selection of running mates is a zero-sum, as only one person can be chosen, and naturally everyone won’t be happy. So, this can’t be the reason why PDP is combusting. I actually think that Okowa is a good candidate. He has legislative and executive experience; he is calm and non-threatening; and he hails from a major PDP state and is someone with Igbo blood from oil-rich Delta State, which gives PDP an opportunity to be in play in its two strongholds in the south: South East and South South.

I also think it is beyond the way Atiku made his choice, though he could have anticipated the reactions and handled the fallouts more proactively and more hygienically. It is also my considered view that the growing and open dissension within PDP is beyond the fact that both the chairman and the candidate of the party are from the north. They have some time to sort that out.

I believe that the now evident disunity in PDP is rooted in two things. The first is its mismanagement of the party’s flagship innovation in Nigerian politics: zoning or the alternation of power between the north and the south. PDP wrote this commitment into its constitution, the first party to do so. The first real test of the party’s commitment to this principle came in 2011, and the second was in 2015. It survived the first because it would have been unreasonable not to expect a sitting president to run for office. 2015 was a different proposition, and zoning was one of the reasons that PDP lost power.

PDP fielded a northern candidate to contest against an incumbent northerner in 2019. It was a reasonable decision, given that the party had to put in a competitive bid. And it sure did with Atiku as its flagbearer. He ate into the incumbent’s hold on the north and made a strong showing in the south. But after two terms of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, and the general sentiment that power should shift to the south, PDP would naturally have been expected to champion the cause of power shift to the south. This is so because PDP literally patented zoning, had got burnt previously for thumping its nose at its own invention, and had earlier zoned its chairmanship to the north, a position filled through consensus.

Even when an argument can be made that the last president produced by PDP came from the south, this is not compelling enough an argument for the party to shred its commitment to zoning. This is especially so because the same aspirants that loudly campaigned for zoning in the party in 2011 and 2015 stood to benefit from a decision to upturn or freeze the zoning principle. In fact, there were speculations that the decision to throw the position open was solely to pave the way for the eventual winner of the primaries. This perception of a predetermined outcome took an even more problematic sectional tone given what eventually played out at the convention ground and the strings pulled behind the scenes by sectional puppeteers.  

To be sure, the emergence of Abubakar will put PDP in strong play in the north especially with incumbent Buhari being term-barred. But that decision which basically translates to denying the south a shot within the party opens up a feeling of alienation in certain quarters of the south, which interestingly is PDP’s stronghold at the moment. Of the 13 states controlled by PDP, only five are in the north (Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Sokoto and Taraba), while the remaining eight are in the south (Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Oyo and Rivers).

The post-primaries hugs and kisses and photo-ops only layered some sheen on deep cracks within. But clearly not fully addressing the feeling of alienation in 62% of the states controlled by the party will always task its ability to pull off a united front. Until exorcised or pacified, that spectre is bound to haunt the party for some time.

The second root of what ails PDP now, and the party’s major challenge actually, is that it has been without a rallying point since it lost power at the centre in 2015. Having been in office for 16 continuous years, PDP is not used to life as a second fiddle. Opposition life is an undeveloped part of its DNA. PDP has really struggled to provide effective opposition. It has also laboured to keep control of its states even with free movements between the two leading parties, and some own-goals by the ruling party.  PDP has been largely rudderless, robbed of magisterial presence of a sitting president or even the avuncular guidance of former presidents. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo made a show of tearing his PDP membership card before the 2015 elections and has not returned to the party, despite entreaties. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is busy with his international engagements and was even rumoured to be flirting with the ruling party.

Nature abhors vacuum. Others stepped in, but more as leaders of disparate factions and tendencies within the party. Sure, it goes with the terrain for political parties to have factions and tendencies. But what the absence of a clear leader does is to magnify the differences and reinforce the significance of the various tendencies and create room for unending one-upmanship in the quest to take control of the party. Even after the primaries, that battle for control is still on and it explains much of what we are witnessing now.

Ordinarily, the emergence of a substantive chairman and a presidential candidate should have erased the vacuum. They should have stepped into the void to serve as the unifying force. But as stated earlier, they are both implicated in the ongoing dissension within the party and have not been on the saddle long enough heal the wounds and pull the different strands into one formidable whole.

Atiku has made a soundbite out of the need to unite the country. Irrespective of whether that is the major priority for most of the voters in the coming election, he cannot unite the country from a party that looks like a house that is about to fall. His charity should start from home. For those who believe that existing political structure is the most salient predictor of electoral outcomes in Nigeria, PDP is the party best positioned to give APC a good run for its money in next year’s presidential poll. But to stand a fighting chance, it needs to get its act together. Luckily, it has time on its side.

Written by:

Rate it

Previous post

Art and Culture

Why Ronaldo is Leaving United this Summer Window

Duro Ikhazuagbe Inability of Manchester United to qualify for Europe’s top club competition, the Champions League, may have been responsible for why Cristiano Ronaldo has asked for transfer away from Old Trafford yesterday. The 37-year-old Portuguese insisted yesterday he wants out  if a satisfactory offer is lodged despite still having one year left on his contract with United. The decision of Ronaldo to leave Old Trafford may have come to […]

todayJuly 3, 2022 1

Post comments (0)

Leave a reply