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Opinion: PDP-What happened?

Ikedi Ohakim

Following the dramatic resignation of his membership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by President Olusegun Obasanjo, earlier this year, by publicly tearing his membership card, I did a piece in which I tried to situate the action of the eminent Nigerian leader in perspective.

In the article titled, Obasanjo: What happened?,  I opined that it was quite ominous of President Obasanjo to publicly shred the ‘baptismal’ certificate of his son, an aphorism which I deliberately employed to underscore the point that Obasanjo was the father of the PDP and indeed the father of the nation, an oracle of sort.

Coming just some weeks to the 2015 general election, President Obasanjo’s action signalled that he was indirectly predicting the fall of the party.

In the article under reference, I pointed out that President Obasanjo did what he did out of frustration, having continually failed in getting the leadership of the party to understand his body language or heed his advice on how to save the party. I did point out that though Obasanjo might not have couched his language of communication in the most elegant manner, it was our responsibility in the party to try to extract the message, rather than the resort to cajoling the elder statesman, which was becoming the preoccupation of some PDP and presidency officials.

Of course, President Obasanjo was not the only fellow who foresaw the PDP plummeting. The difference was that he was probably the only one who had the candour and sincerity of purpose to put his observations across without flattering those at the helm of affairs.

In appraising Obasanjo’s action of publicly shredding his PDP membership card, I had to inevitably take a cue from his evidently hard stance to lend my own shrill voice that the party was heading towards a crash.

Again, because my piece came even closer to the general election, I was widely criticized for being a dooms day prophesy bearer. Even a top official of the party called for my suspension from the party for anti-party activities. I laughed. I had mentioned that the leadership of the PDP should have been able to prevent the exit of five of its state governors at a swoop.

And that even so, the fellow who was brought in to run the affairs of the party thereafter failed even more abysmally than his predecessor in addressing the issues that eventually led to the defeat of the party. I feel pained on the calamity that befell the party. This notwithstanding, I feel that a quick intervention has become necessary in order to let the party faithful know that in spite of what has happened, it is not yet over for PDP; and that from the ashes of the present ruins may still rise a greater party. I think there is need to let the teeming members of PDP realize that there is still a great hope and that as they say, after rain comes sun shine; the same as to say that there is a silver lining in the horizon. But that cannot happen if we do not first and foremost take stock and to put it in my own native parlance, to determine at what point the rain began to beat us.

Just as in my earlier piece before the general election, I maintain the position that the blame of what happened to the PDP lies squarely on the door of its national leadership. As I noted above, President Obasanjo was not the only fellow who saw the ominous signs. I personally tried to communicate my own observations to the leadership of the party and even to the President himself in various private memos.

To be sure, I am with millions of people all over the world in commending President Goodluck  Jonathan for accepting the results of the presidential election so early and saving Nigerians from anxieties and probably a crisis.

In addition, while I also agree with the human angle theory of the ‘shoe less’ Ijaw boy who came to Abuja and is leaving Aso Rock with his head and that of his entire family intact, I believe that President Jonathan was in a position to achieve more than that. As the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo,

would say, it is not life that matters but the courage which one brings to it. President Jonathan is a courageous man but it didn’t even need raw courage to have been able to save the PDP from the disaster that befell it under his watch. What he needed was not courage but a listening ability and capacity to employ the capability of others.

Unknown to many, the fate that befell the PDP was already dangling like the Sword of Damacles right from 2007. But Obasanjo was able to save the party from that calamity not because he was the wisest and most courageous man but because he has or had the ability to discern the danger. For example, the single act that saved PDP in 2007 was President Obasanjo’s swift move that saw Governor Peter Odili voluntarily opting out of the presidential race for the interest of the party and the nation in general.

For, when confronted with the binary choice of either having Odili as the presidential candidate or having the PDP collapse under him, President Obasanjo in a deft move rallied leaders of the party to persuade Odili, who was already coasting to victory for the primaries, to drop his ambition; not through any presidential fiat but by consensus for the interest of the party and the entire country. That move ensured that the late Yar’ Adua, a Northerner, emerged as the party’s presidential candidate, instead of Odili; and that was what saved the party from what it finally suffered in

2015 under President Jonathan.

Obasanjo was, of course, vilified by the less informed and they were many. How could he return presidential power to the North which had “monopolized” it for several years? Is it not therefore a matter of grave concern that the big price paid by Peter Odili to save the PDP in 2007 was never put into consideration by the party? Odili was simply waved aside in a manner that piqued other well meaning members of the party and which discouraged them from making further sacrifices for it.

Yar’ Adua’s tenure was unfortunately cut short by his death and thus bridging the turn of the North which had a legitimate claim to the presidency after Obasanjo, a Southerner. The constitutional inevitability of the Jonathan ascendancy gave him only about two years but by 2011, Obasanjo came into the picture after Jonathan had expressed interest to run for a full tenure of four years. Obasanjo came with the wisdom of his better knowledge of Nigeria and in agreeing that Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should go for his own presidency, insisted that the latter should do only four years, that is, between 2011 and 2015.

It is a fact that cannot be over laboured that President Obasanjo tra versed the length and breadth of the country canvassing support for President Jonathan to be allowed to do another term of just four years and in the process made promises on behalf of the party. Unfortunately, President

Jonathan decided to take another shot at the presidency in 2015 thus putting Obasanjo in bad light especially before the North.

Meanwhile, some discerning strategists in the Southwest, led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, saw an opening and moved in their political machine and began to shell both the Wadata plaza, Abuja, the national headquarters of the PDP as well as the Aso Rock Presidential villa. It is important to point out that the final decision by President Jonathan to run in 2015 was the result of a deliberately designed conspiracy to prod him on to that fatal mistake.

The conspiracy entailed, among other things, the sacking of Bamangar Tukur, the recruitment of Mua’zu as well as the recruitment of some elements, especially contractors, to block people who would have offered the president better advice on the matter and other vital issues. Let me illustrate this with the Oyinlola saga. The Oyinlola saga seems to me a major proof of the conspiracy theory. It baffled even the least discerning fellow why the PDP leadership acted with so much impunity on the Oyinlola matter when it was clearly evident that it was shooting itself in the foot by the way the matter was handled.

Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former military administrator of Lagos state and former democratically elected governor of Osun state was suspended as national secretary of the party in a manner that confounded even the most benevolent apologist of both the presidency and the PDP leadership.

Yet, even after he got reinstated by a federal high court, the party resorted to legal obstacle and judicial rigmarole to ensure that the court order was not implemented till today.

Coming close the 2014 governorship election in Osun state why Governor Oyinlola has a massive following, it was unthinkable that the party could afford to treat him the way he did. Had Oyinlola not gotten that treatment, PDP would have won the governorship election in Osun and with the earlier recovery of Ekiti state, that would have formed a basis for establishing a strong hold for the entire Southwest. I am of the strong belief that the conspirators blocked President Jonathan from seeing the danger in the Oyinlola saga. I will dwell on the conspiracy matter more elaborately in the next part of this series.

The result was what Nigerians and the rest of the world witnessed on March 28, 2015. The North demonstrated in unmistaken terms its resolve to have the presidency back as agreed before the ascendency of the late Yar’Adua, though not cast on stone. The region completed that determination on April 11 2015 at the governorship election. At the end of the political sunami, only two PDP states survived in the entire North made up three geo-political zones, the Northwest, the North-east and the North central.

Thus, from one single act of removing his eyes from the big picture, President Jonathan had the baton of PDP tragically fall off his hands. In a twinkle of an eye, what was known the world over as Africa’s largest political party became a regional party overnight; now restricted to the former Eastern Nigeria. The national chairman, Malam Adamu Mu’azu, did not help matters. With a style of leadership that defied any known tenets in party administration, Mu’azu frustrated several party leaders across the country who genuinely wanted to make inputs on how to save the party.

The national chairman was incommunicado most of the times. He neither accepted telephone calls nor returned. He never replied to letters or memos from well meaning party leaders. For example, none of the petitions written to the NWC, which he leads, on the governorship and National Assembly primaries in the states were treated.

Malam Adamu Mu’azu never addressed any of the issues that were causing discomfiture in the state chapters; but resorted to a style that saw him pick and choose friends from among party leaders and chieftains across the country. In my article in question, OBASANJO: WHAT HAPPENED, I pointed out that the party never reaped any benefits from replacing the former chairman, Bamanga Tukur, with Mu’azu who unfortunately was described by another writer as a product of the grand conspiracy to crumble the PDP. As I pointed out, Mu’azu failed in particular to address the issue that lead to the exit of five governors of the PDP extraction in one single swoop. As a matter of fact, the party lost many more influential and resourceful members especially in the National Assembly as soon as Mu’azu came on stage. Yet, curiously, he continued to bask in the euphoria of the rather mundane nickname of “game changer”. Well, the game has finally changed indeed!

Doubtless, the problem the PDP was confronted with was not limited to the national level. In addition to the obvious flaws in the way the national leadership handled the affairs of the party, it needs no emphasis to state that the party’s biggest setback came from its abysmal performance at the state level which culminated in the perfidy witnessed at the party primary elections in December 2014, beginning with the election of delegates.

List of delegates were changed several times to suit the whims of aspirants who claimed to have the ears of the national chairman. The party primaries were a bazaar. Aspirants were milked by party officials at all levels.

In the states, officials imposed arbitrary levies on aspirants even after they had paid the officially prescribed fees. In a bid to meet the standard set by the party, aspirants borrowed money from sundry sources; many disposed of their priced assets and property. The citizenry watched with dismay as delegates were lavished with hundreds of thousands of naira, in some cases millions, by aspirants in a bid to win the delegates over. The governorship primaries in the state were far from credible, throwing up candidates whom the electorate, including members of the party, rejected

right from day one.

And with a baffling indifference or outright connivance, the national leadership looked the other way as aggrieved aspirants complained, asking for the right thing to be done. Without prejudice to the fact that I was a major participant in the governorship primaries in my state, Imo I can state without any fear of contradiction that I had never, before December 8, 2014, witnessed the

type of governorship primary elections as the type we had in Imo state. The result is what we saw: the strongest supporters of the party dumped its governorship candidate to support that of the rival party. Whether they were right or wrong is beyond the scope of this article but there can be no doubt that the situation would not have degenerate into that had the national leadership, especially of the NWC, not compromised itself.

The result of that was witnessed during the presidential and governorship elections in the form of the apparent apathy of former aspirants and their supporters. The refrain was, “it serves them right”. As it is today, the party faithful can no longer wait for the sack of the leadership of the party at the national level and some state executives. Personally, I join other well meaning leaders of the party in demanding for the immediate resignation of the game changer, that is, the national chairman, Malam Adamu Mu’azu.

The party should be handed over to a new leadership which will begin to prepare it for the next election. I liking what happen to a football tournament. After every bad outing, a new coach is usually brought in to prepare the team for the next tournament.

The next source of PDP’s predicament was the shooting down of the zoning policy. Before 2011, it was a well known fact that the cardinal policy of the party was zoning. In the preamble and the aims and objectives of the party’s constitution, it is clearly stated that the party would be built on the

principle of zoning. But that principle was killed in 2011 at the Green Chambers of the National Assembly when, against the party’s policy and expectations of Nigerians, a Northerner emerged Speaker of the House of Representative, a position zoned to the South west; with a fellow from the

Southeast clinching the Deputy Speaker position.

Without a doubt, that was when the real trouble began for the PDP. Unfortunately, President Jonathan and the party leadership could not stop what happened in the House and that was the beginning of problems for his presidency. The resultant effect of the killing of zoning was that the PDP threw up many “wrong candidates” in the just concluded general election.

Wrong, not in the sense that they were not qualified but in the sense that their candidature went against the wishes and aspirations of the people. Put in a different language, what PDP suffered was not a rejection of it by the people but a rejection of the products it presented.

Needless to say, had the PDP presented a Northern candidate in line with the expectation of the people of the North, the Southwest and even parts of the Southeast and South-south, it would have still retained the presidency.

In the next part of this series, I will deal more elaborately on this. Which takes me back to my earlier assertion that all hope is not lost for the PDP, provided the proper things are done and quickly too. In spite of the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the PDP is still in a good stead to play a big role in the building of our democracy. Going back to the football tournament metaphor, the PDP definitely is a more experienced club than the APC which is less than three years old in the game. To be sure, some of its leaders are among the most experienced and seasoned individual players but as a team, it is yet to blend. Still, I believe it will not be difficult for the party to form a crack team from amongst its members to face the imminent challenges squarely.

With the discovery of Shale oil in India and China and crude oil in North Africa which is closer to Asia, the demand for our crude will be near zero in the next one year even when account is taken of the fact that Nigeria’s Bony light is being sold at a discount. As it is, the next twelve months will be very traumatic for the national economy.

Back to the PDP, however, my advice to the party members is that they should remain in the party to rebuild it and represent it for another tournament. Those fortune hunters leaving now are doing so at their own peril and it is even a disservice to the nation. In my humble view, the outgoing president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, should see the task of rebuilding the PDP as the challenge of his life. It would be wrong for him to over stretch himself in the glory of the current praises being showered on him for effortlessly conceding the loss of the election and in the process saving the country from an imagined crisis. That was quite great of him but the bitter truth is that the PDP baton dropped from his hand at a most critical point in the life of our country. Still, there is a lifting up for him and the Peoples Democratic Party.

For our dear nation at large, it ought to be stressed that we cannot afford to spend all the time clapping our hands and dancing around over “change”. The change is here and now that we have it what is required is action. Every Nigerian is expected to join hands with the new team to push in the same direction. But the potential game changer, I dare say, is to unleash the economic power of millions of our youth who sang and danced the music of change but who unfortunately are currently locked out of the national arena due to joblessness.

About Global Patriot Staff

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