How Internal Wrangling Rendered PDP A Weak Opposition
The PDP, so far, has failed to provide the much needed opposition to the APC due to the internal wrangling within the party. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH and ANDREW ESSIEN examine how the PDP has fared so far as the opposition amidst the failure of the APC to deliver the much needed change.
Last year was a watershed moment in the nation’s checkered political history. The impossible came to reality, the incumbent president losing his seat to the opposition, a feat that seemed impossible some years ago. The Peoples Democratic Party, which prides itself as the biggest political party in Africa and has held sway as the ruling party since the return of democracy in 1999, suddenly found themselves on the other side of the political divide. The PDP, not only lost the presidency, but also their majority status in the National Assembly. The Party that has once boasted that it will rule for 60 years suddenly found itself in the cold with corruption cases hanging around its neck and its credibility questioned by Nigerians.
Instructively, opposition, in the world, is considered as healthy and good for the polity in a true democratic setting. This is so, especially when the opposition engages the government of the day in constructive criticisms on the polity. This has paid off in many developed countries where the ruling parties perform excellently based on the fact that they are always being kept on their toes. In developed democracies, a virile and strong opposition has been given credit for the high level of governance in those climes.
Taking a cue from the United States of America, the Democrats and Republicans, in most cases, take turns to rule and when either of them is not in power, the party of the day is kept on its toes with constructive criticism.
It will be recalled that prior to formation of the APC in 2014, the country lacked a true opposition as other political parties in the country since 1999, bore a semblance to an opposition but lacked the numbers and structure to rival the ruling PDP. All that changed with the formation of the APC, which is the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress For Progressives Change (CPC). Nigerians, especially those of the younger generation, got an insight on what and how the opposition can put the government on its toes.
The APC, then the opposition party, with its candidate, Buhari in the wake of the 2015 polls, campaigned vigorously with the slogan, ‘Change’, a mantra which Nigerians keyed into immediately. The electorate embraced what was peddled before them as a new paradigm shift from the old political norm in Nigeria by the APC which promised to deliver change to Nigerians and take the country to the Promised Land. On that premise, President Buhari coasted home to victory in the last general elections.
Out in the cold, the PDP, in the twilight of day started fighting quarrels within itself on how to come to terms with swallowing the bitter pills of reality, that it was assuming the role of the opposition for the first time. Since then, the party has been taking on the ruling APC on issues, including those with the minutest fraction of an inch.
Waking up to the reality of its opposition status, PDP spokesman, Olisa Metuh promised that Nigerians will see a different brand of opposition, promising to put the government of the day on its toes with constructive criticism.
According to him, the PDP is a political party built on values, tradition and utmost respect for democratic tenets and their manifesto and ideology which centre on national peace, stability and prosperity and shall uphold these at all times. In this wise, the PDP as always, will continue to work in the general interest of the Nigerian people.
“We will not resort to insults, blackmail and lies with the aim to distract or ridicule the person or office of the president. However, we must state in very strong terms that we will not allow them to lead the nation astray. So we will firmly oppose any anti-people policy and programmes as may be introduced by the APC.”
“We will do this by presenting sound alternatives in such a manner that Nigerians will be the utmost beneficiaries especially on issues that will lead the nation in the path of national unity and development.”
Keen observers of the polity have said that a year after the much needed change mantra, Nigerians are yet to see the change and instead their lives have changed for the worst.
The new narrative is an increase in crime rate in the country due to the hardship in the land. The media is awash of stories of people exchanging their children for food, people stealing pots of soup and epileptic power supply which has gone from bad to worse, the inflation rate is at the highest it has ever been with unemployment on the increase as most companies and industries are laying off workers due to the lack of economic policy of the government. The minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun said recently that Nigeria is technically in recession.
The APC is also finding it hard to manage its success as seen in the crisis in the National Assembly. Since the inauguration of the National Assembly on June 8 last year, they have been moving from one crisis to another with both leaders of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and the House Of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara slammed with charges of forgery and budget padding. Some Nigerians have called on them to resign in the wake of the allegations.
However in spite of the failings of the APC, some well-meaning Nigerians believe that the PDP on the other hand should not be taken seriously. They warn that, while the PDP continues to play the opposition role by putting the government of the day on its toes, it should also not play the ostrich, as the mismanagement of the economy by the same opposition party left Nigeria in its present state. They agreed with the federal government that prudence, sacrifice and determination should be the watch word as Nigeria begins the journey into its Utopia.
The PDP also has been rocked with series of crisis as emphasis has now been on how the party will reorganise ahead of the 2019 general elections than keeping the government on its toes.
Analysts posit that the PDP, so far, has failed in its role as the opposition party in the country as the party is suffering a credibility problem. Pundits noted that the playing up of the last administration’s weakness and shortcomings by the opposition was the catalyst for APC’s success in the last general elections.
It is not in doubt that the party has not shown pragmatism in playing its new role of opposition occasioned by the way its faithful have been leaving the party, usually in their droves, to the ruling APC. The recent power tussle almost finally stripped the party of whatever sympathy and goodwill it was struggling to hold unto.
The PDP is unarguably in a fight for its life as its members are still parting in droves all in a bid to hide from the EFCC as well as find greener pastures. Men and women, who flaunted and danced with ‘the umbrella’ are beginning to live in denial of their romance with the hitherto acclaimed largest party in Africa. The PDP is truly in a precarious situation as the opposition role it assumed, is indeed, a new rope and a handful to it. It is between the rock and the hard place, the devil and the deep blue sea, its make or break season. It has to get it right if the future of opposition politics in Nigeria will ever see a new dawn.
The leadership crisis bedevilling the party is going from bad to worse as the principal actors have been going from one court to another in a bid to take control of the party.
Ali Modu Sheriff, who was brought in to salvage the party is turning out to be the undertaker of the party because when you thought the party was back from the precipice, another ugly incident would rear its head, threatening the existence of the party.
It is pertinent to note that the Ahmed Makarfi -led faction has vowed to go on with the scheduled convention in Port Harcourt in spite of the court order sacking the faction.
Political observers opine that if the PDP convention eventually holds and a new, credible and tactful leadership for the party emerges, Nigeria and indeed Nigerians, will now witness what arguably is a robust opposition politics, the kind akin to those in the period of our heroes past. The PDP itself may then be ready for the onerous task of opposition, the way it is supposed to be.
Analysts believe that a robust opposition will provide for an alternative to Nigerians should the ruling party step out of line just like the PDP did when it held sway which is what a maturing democracy needs. Others posit that if the party can survive through the course of the convention, rejuvenate itself by electing leaders with the needed credibility to steer the affairs of the party, then a new dawn of opposition politics may just break on the political firmament of the country.
But like a clog in its own wheel, the process towards a virile opposition has received knocks and blows from within. A lot of members are still not comfortable with the structure of the leadership and are thus opposing any step it takes even as some others desiring to chair the party, are causing the delicate balance to be threatened.
Other analysts say that that the party still has a long way to go and until they overcome the internal wranglings and find a way to control who has one ambition or the other, coupled with its level of fluidity, so much so that members can defect at any time, the PDP cannot be said to be ready for opposition politics.
Until the rejuvenation process is completed, the PDP is not yet ready to be a threat to the APC, which arguably holds title as the undisputed opposition movement in the country, and was greatly rewarded at the last general elections.
Nigerians are however hopeful to seeing how the PDP would pull away from the plethora of troubles and albatross of predicaments overwhelming it, as well as upswing to its new status as the major opposition party in the country. Meanwhile, time is of the essence if this picture will be finished in time for the 2019 elections, which is barely two years away.