As Nigeria’s democracy rolls into its third uninterrupted decade, the question on every lip seems to be whether the once-ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can ever rediscover itself to pose any threat to the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Of course, the answer to that question lies right inside the very fabric of the PDP. This is of course amid the party’s disposition to self-destruct, and in the hordes of moles and fifth columnists parading as party leaders, and spawning unnecessary controversies and diversion.
At the dawn of democracy in 1999, many parties cropped up but could not survive beyond the election of that year which produced former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. The party held sway and became so strong and almost unbeatable, despite several attempts by others who wanted a taste of power at various levels.
The party survived several implosions that almost broke the very fabric that held it together till 2015 when several parties came together to merge under the All Progressives Congress which eventually, untied the winning strategy of PDP and equally beat them to their own game to the surprise of many.
The leaders of APC, after going through the rigours of a merger in 2014, set aside their individual differences and elected Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential flag bearer of the party for the 2015 presidential election. The losers of the primary set aside their differences to work together for the party even as they were PDP in colour but a gathering of different minds bent on ‘seizing’ power … To the APC, Buhari was a better candidate with a mass appeal.
The then incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his PDP co -travellers were so sure that the gathering of minds in APC can never stop them from re-electing the man from Otuoke for a second term, after the successes of the 2011 elections that saw him emerge due to the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Their calculations were faulty, many members who felt aggrieved that they were not handed the flags at various levels for the state and National Assembly election, governorship and yes, the presidential primaries of the party sabotaged the party, while some members openly canvased, worked and organized for the APC to win and enthrone Buhari.
Indeed, most PDP members like kids being dealt with by hunger pangs could not piece it together. They abandoned the party and began working for the APC albeit discreetly.
The PDP was literally ganging up against itself. It continued to drift and without a Captain to guide it ashore.
Today, with attention gradually shifting to the 2023 general elections and the off-season elections in between, the PDP is still drifting.
The recent elections in Osun, Ekiti, Kogi and Bayelsa states are pointers that the party may not get it right if the members, whose party (the PDP) was at the receiving end, continue to justify rigging, cheating and the brigandage that characterized the elections in those states. And even at the level of the judiciary where what many may regard as flimsy technicalities are being used to justify the elections in favour of the ruling party.
Rather than condemning the electoral heist for what it is, some PDP leaders are buying the APC narrative of internal wrangling in the PDP to justify the rigging out of their party, and blaming fellow party members of losing the elections. This is even when every independent observer of the polls is insisting that the votes were not allowed to count.
More so, it is no longer a hidden secret that some of the state governors are taking it to another level. They want to ride on the back of the alleged loss of election to, not only become the new local/regional champions who decide what happens in their own state, but also in their neighbouring states. It’s a deadly manifestation of an otherwise healthy sibling rivalry. And it is driven purely by a selfish quest for power.
This brings to the fore the alleged destabilising roles being played by some members of the party including Governor Wike of Rivers State. It is obvious that what they cannot take in their domain, they are indirectly trying to force it down the throats of others just to curry favour from the government at the centre.
For, how can one describe what happened in Bayelsa, for instance, especially in the days leading to the September 4, 2019 governorship primaries there?
The Bayelsa scenario creates a classic example of how a party that genuinely desires to regain power should not go about its business. For some curious reason, certain party chieftain got carried away with a selfish desire to undermine Gov. Dickson’s rising profile that they forgot that the battle was against the APC.
Rather than face APC, all of PDP’s was targeted at itself, cheered on by the scheming APC and a power-drunk, money-spraying Wike.
This is fuelled by the fact that the romance could be a conspiracy to dislodge the leader of the ruling party in the South-South and enthrone a new leadership through the back door. And in all, the Minister of Transportation Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, could be the fall guy. Indeed, Amaechi’s position as leader of APC is seriously under threat by Governor Wike, his former Chief of Staff.
Again, it may not be in doubt that long before the last presidential primaries in Port Harcourt, Wike has been covertly working for the APC. In all, he wanted his candidate, Rt. Honourable Aminu Tambuwal to pick the ticket against the popular choice of former Vice President Abubakar Atiku.
In Bayelsa, they tried to decide for the governor, who is serving out eight years of two terms, who to succeed him. That it was proper to deny the outgoing governor the courtesy of picking who to succeed him in February 2020. Not even former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted Dickson to play any role in the choice of the party’s choice of his successor. They made so much noise about Dickson hurting the party by not handing the governorship ticket to Timi Alaibe, even as they turned a blind eye to the disaffection it would have caused if Alaibe, who returned to the party on the eve of the primaries, was handed the ticket ahead of people who had remained in the party since inception.
But the inordinate ambition is not restricted to the unwholesome meddling in the affairs of sister states, Wike also wants to choose who becomes what in the party and the National Assembly. The case of Ndudi Elumelu and Kingsley Chinda in the quest for who emerges the minority leader in the House of Representatives readily comes to mind.
The 2023 elections in Nigeria may be three years ahead, but the jostle for power may have begun no sooner had the Independent National Elections (INEC) concluded the conduct of the 2019 Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly elections in several states minus those with off season elections.
For the governors who know full well that there won’t be a return to the government House in 2023, the jostle for who may eventually mount the saddle of governance in the states began just days after the 2019 governorship polls.
Indeed, there are tales of succession ringing all over and many have been playing slaves, getting closer than close to the incumbent for possible anointing, while parties in opposition are yet plotting takeover. In some states, including oil rich River State, the quest for dominance and the struggle to dislodge that may have started long before the last elections won by Governor Wike.
Several names have been propping up amongst whom is Sir Austin Opara, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives under Governor Bello Masari and even the former Senator Magnus Abe who threw his hat into the ring during the last APC primaries and a host of others. There is this strong belief that the Ikwerres and its upland neighbours are not ready to give up, neither are they ready to allow any other ethnic group from within the state taste the powers of being the governor of the state for now.
Sydney writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.