Do you believe in miracles? And do you even believe that miracles still happen? Well, if you don’t, ask the elements loyal to the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s centre-right political party which prides itself as the largest political party in Africa.
Just for emphasis, miracle is when the unusual happens, when convention and routine are broken, when that which was dead bounces back to life. It is a long winding definition which you can stretch to the esoteric. But Nigeria’s PDP is no stranger to miracles; to bucking the trend. In the beginning of the Fourth Republic, it was the largest party, controlling majority of the states; majority of the National Assembly and state Assemblies. It was the undisputed national behemoth suffused in a halo of aristocratic hubris. They even boasted they will rule Nigeria for 60 years, 150 years and even till thy kingdom comes. Oh yes, it was the big umbrella that sheltered every manner of mankind; from the good to the bad, the hoboes, the guzzlers and the goblins. That was its first miracle: that a party which started out with others could spread very fast nationwide while its contemporaries were still striving for mastery of the often treacherous Nigerian political landscape.
But like a conceited turkey cock, PDP’s self-inflicted pride ruptured the party’s arteries and the dominant party became the dominated in 2015, holding on to only 12 states in a 36-state Union. By the law of inductive effect, it also lost its grip on the national and most state legislatures. This, again, is a miracle; an amazing political feat, albeit a negative one.
The party is not done yet. It conjured another miracle on February 16, 2016 when it appointed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as its national chairman. This is a political stunt and only the PDP could have done this. It is akin to building a foundation with straw or erecting pillars with reeds. Sheriff’s candidacy was a weak proposition. The controversy surrounding his political odyssey with regard to the flowering of Boko Haram insurgency in his Borno State and the fact that he was a clear outsider in the party ought to have vitiated his choice; but the PDP, a party fated to miracles, decided to give Nigerians just one more from its miracle kit. But not all ‘miracles’ are miracles. Something happened afterwards. The party died. The king that was to rule forever died just before midday on his first day on the throne.
An attempt to revive the party via a convention in May 2016 in Port Harcourt succeeded in driving heavy nails into the coffins of the behemoth. The party is dead and it should be allowed to rest in peace in its grave. So we all thought. Pessimism grew into despair. Yet, some diehard faithful of what would have been a matching opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were reluctant to leave the graveyard of their once-upon-a-time ruling party. They stayed by the grave, unwilling to give up. They wailed, they cried. They bemoaned their fate wondering what might have been. But they had faith in the ability of their party to recreate itself; to do the unusual and conjure a miracle. And they were right. True to type, the once-dead party sprang back to life again. On July 12, this year, the Supreme Court gave life back to the party via a unanimous judgment in which it described Sheriff’s eternal dalliance with litigations just to cleave to power as “infantile desperation”. About 10 cases in different courts under 12 months was all it took Sheriff to keep PDP in the grave. But all that was annulled by the unanimous judgment of the apex court read by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour which reinstated former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, as the chairman of the party. Case closed. The revival of the PDP was another miracle from the locker of the miracle-working party.
Yes, there are many party faithful who refused to quit the grave of the PDP knowing it would sprout from the ashes of death but two personalities stand out: Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State and Ayodele Fayose, his Ekiti State counterpart. They are the undisputed heroes of the second coming of PDP. Nigerians were worried when PDP was cast into the grave not because they are members of the party but because the death of PDP meant the death of virile and vibrant opposition to the ruling APC. Democracy thrives when there is vibrant opposition without which governance is reduced to unitary system.
The APC has fumbled and deceived Nigerians these past two years because there was no strong opposition to rouse it from its make-believe world of working for the good of the people when in actual fact it has impoverished the people and set them on edge. During the PDP years, it was the opposition that tagged Goodluck Jonathan clueless; that pressured the PDP to give a daily update on the health status of ailing President Umar Yar’Adua at that time, that dubbed the PDP government a failed government because it could not guarantee regular power supply and curb heady crime wave across the nation among other ills.
Now, it has been over two years of the APC government and the opposition is not asking it to account to the people. As you read this it has been exactly 76 days since ailing President Muhammadu Buhari had been away in London and nobody is asking question. The opposition parties are busy fighting for their own lives. Crime is on the resurgence: kidnappers, killer herdsmen, ritual killers of the order of the Badoo, and brazen highway robbers have occupied the centre stage. Not a whimper, nay a whisper from the opposition parties. Only the APC is challenging the APC and things have really gone from terrible to horrible. This is why Nigerians heaved a huge sigh of relief at the miracle of the rebirth of the PDP. But they have Wike and Fayose to thank; the two terrible terriers of the national polity. Like them, hate them but you cannot deny their voluble audacity and gritty gumption. They are endowed with the Jewish chutzpah, the Yiddish spirit that denotes boldness propelled by supreme self-confidence.
Wike and Fayose are the architects of the resurrection of the PDP for while the party was in the grave, it was their voices that resonated across the land, daring the Potentate in Abuja and jarring their terrified colleagues out of their closets where they had taken up temporary tenancy for fear of the feudal lords. But the villain in the whole saga is Sheriff and his cheap recruits who paid little or no regard to the rule of law. They simply desecrated their own constitution and they really should be ashamed of themselves going by the strong words deployed by the Supreme Court justices to describe their vile actions.
The rebirth of the PDP is good for the nation’s democracy. Nigeria cannot afford a democracy without strong opposition too early in the day. Team Makarfi must do both the needful and the expedient. It must carefully weed out the dark horses in the party and avoid the booby trap of impunity which precipitated its first fall prior to the 2015 general elections.
But first, let the shadow government of PDP commence a regime of robust opposition asking the relevant questions and providing critical alternative ideas for the APC government which appears even more clueless than the Jonathan government. This graveyard silence from the opposition parties makes democracy sick.