Sometime, it’s easy to lose perspective in a moment and forget how Nigeria came to this sorry state. The truth is, what political parties and leaders do while they are trying to get power is not necessarily what they do after they have it. That much is clear from the underwhelming performance of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in six years, and the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP) in the 16 years it was in power. And you begin to ask: why? Is it as a result of lack of vision, incompetence or the lack of capacity to make the all-important switch from ambitions to translating power so accumulated, to reality? Without a vision, a political party or leader cannot go beyond advancing narrow intetests. The outcome is that the country is almost paralyzed once the goal of acquiring power has been achieved.
That’s the trouble with APC and PDP. Last week we began by asking the question: How will history judge APC and PDP? It bears repeating that no one or political party can truly lead without first acquiring power and master how to use it to make better things happen to the country and the people. The trouble, however, to borrow the words of American presidential historian, Robert A. Caro, ‘is that the combination of the two skills is rare’. If that has been the problem with APC, it’s no different from the PDP. Indeed, it has been a dizzying season for the main opposition party. Visualise a doughnut without a hole. What do you see? PDP without crisis is just like a doughnut. It’s a seed of a broken family. The present internal crisis trying to tear the party apart tells it all.
Formed in 1998, and dubbed the “largest political party in Africa”, the party arguably emerged with so much promise for the country. But its history in 23 years has had a momentum of classic drama, a familiar smell, a downward trajectory that breaks the heart and tears the umbrella that supposed to be a shelter and unity for a common good. In fact, the history of the party, particularly as it concerns the position of its national chairman gives little crumb for comfort. Consider this: From 1998 to date, PDP has had 14 National Chairmen. This means an average of 18 months for each. Check out the names: Dr Alex Ekwueme (1998), Solomon Lar(1998-1999), Barnabas Gemade (1999-2001), Audu Ogbeh (2001-2005), Col. Ahmadu Ali (2005-2008), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor (2008-2010), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo (2010), Dr.Haliru Mohammed (2010), Alhaji Kawu Baraje (2011-2014) , Dr. Bamanga Tukur (2012-2014), Adamu Mu’azu (2014-2015), Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff (2015-2016), Ahmed Makarfi (2015-2016) and Uche Secondus (2017- date).
What’s responsible for this high turnover of its National Chairman? Lack of internal democracy and lack of vision. When a party lacks internal cohesion, and vision, it lacks the oxygen to sustain success and the political life to move the nation forward. In the midst of the confusion, it may settle for second best, and continues to to wander in the wilderness of opposition. What you see in PDP today, the near implosion, simply mirrors, what political scientists call internecine war of attrition between “party track and the popular track”. The interplay of these two contending forces, if not carefully managed, could result in implosion.
The man on the vortex of the storm right now, is Secondus. The storm had been brewing for sometime time. It began to rain early this month when some members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) resigned in one fell swoop. The umbrella was taken off Secondus’ head. He became embattled. The elders of the party rushed to save a imminent danger. Secondus was given a reprief. He was saved by the bell. Only just… A national convention where the party will elect new officials, will hold in October, no longer in December when the tenure of the present NWC is supposed to elapse. The decision to hold the national convention in October, is seen as a middle course approach to resolve the festering crisis. But it will be hard to see how Secondus will survive after the Convention, unless he’s a cat with nine lives. But, politics is the art of the possible. Nevertheless, this may be beyond him.
Make no mistake about it: PDP is in “Catch 22” situation, a tough call to sail out of trouble. Secondus has been accused of sundry misdemeanors , just like almost all his predecessors before they were humiliated. Among other things, he has been accused of financial malfeasance, lack of leadership, competence, and effectiveness in providing the kind of opposition to the underperforming APC. His trauducers also say he has become more of a divider than a uniter in the party. Besides, they have accused him of lacking a cross-functional team spirit to rally people around the party, and that he doesn’t know how to build collective, viral intelligence in people, and the managerial virtue called social capital, reasons his critics say, were responsible for the defections of three governors elected on the platform of the party, to the ruling APC. But amidst this firestorm of allegations, Secondus insists he has done nothing wrong to warrant the kind of treatment he is getting, even from his own state governor, Nyesom Wike.
These allegations may be smokescreen to get him out. In that regard, I don’t see Secondus surviving too long from now. You know why? It’s in the history of PDP. It’s part of it’s DNA. It mirrors the fate of some of his predecessors. How did Gemade, Ahmadu Ali, Ogbeh, Nwodo, Bamanga Tukur, and Mu’azu end? None left with his honour intact. The same wolves that consumed them are hovering over Secondus to take his head off the chair at Wadata House. Recall that in 2010, a splinter group emerged from the crisis in the party led by former Senate President, Ken Nnamani after being suspended by the NWC of the party. Nnamani is now in APC. But he, it was, who led the “rebels” then calling for reforms in the party. They called themselves, the “Reform Group”, but the party called them “renegades”. Any keen observer of the present situation in our politics, will tell you that PDP has not done well in providing the needed opposition. Rather, it seems to have lost focus of what is required of a main opposition party. That is why anger is eating deep like acid among its members. The leadership, for many, has come short of the skills to exploit the deficits in the ruling party. I believe, it was in that context, that, in 2013, two years to the 2015 elections, five governors elected on the platform of the party raised the alarm on the ugly state of affairs in the party.
The governors were: Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Murtala Nyako(Adamawa), and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto). The aggrieved governors carried their grievances to three former Heads of state, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babaginda and Abdulsalami Abubuakar in Minna, the Niger state capital. They told the three leaders that if efforts to reform PDP failed, “we will help to bury the party “. The Jonathan presidency dismissed their complaints as mere “grandstanding”. Didn’t the outcome of 2015 presidential election vindicate them?
The truth is that PDP needs genuine reforms ahead of 2023 elections. To have a realistic chance of ousting APC, it must put its house in order. Politics doesn’t favour subtlety. Based on its woeful performance so far, APC has no realistic chance of remaining in power beyond 2023. Sadly, Nigerian politics doesn’t follow the natural curve, where the voters determine the outcome of elections. That’s why the ruling party is bent on not making electronic transmission of results be part of 2023 general elections. That’s also why former INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, is advocating for the emergence of a “Third Force” to oust the two leading political parties. How this can happen in the short time before 2023 is hard to see. But such proposition is an idea for the future. Opinions differ in the crisis in the PDP. But this much is clear: PDP has a lot of lessons in power and its past missteps to learn from, or face an implosion that it may not recover from. That will be unfortunate. To leave Nigerians in the hands of APC and its leaders that have acquired power just for the sake of it, using it to bend people to their will, will be a pain too hard to bear.