The New PDP: To Defect Or Not To Defect? By Niyi Akinnaso
The breakaway of a splinter group, now known as the New Peoples Democratic Party, from the PDP during its last national convention on August 31, 2013, is the opening glee to the long political drama of the 2015 presidential election. The way the leadership of the mainstream or Old PDP handles the grievances of members of the New PDP will have a significant impact on the remaining scenes of the unfolding political drama.
This is particularly true of the choices and decisions being made by the leading protagonists in the drama, namely, President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the leader of the PDP, and Chibuike Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State, whose troubles with the party heightened after he won the chairmanship election of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. Incidentally, the six Northern PDP governors who voted for him then are with him in the New PDP. It remains unclear which protagonist will come out on top, the current precarious position of the New PDP notwithstanding.
Having been rejected as a political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission and dismissed by the Appeal Court for lack of legal status, the New PDP is increasingly being shunned and taunted by the Old PDP. Their meetings are disrupted by the police. As if being pushed out of the PDP, they are told often and again that they can join the All Progressives Congress, if they want. No wonder then that the so-called reconciliation meetings have come to naught, despite Jonathan’s reported attempts to break their ranks by meeting separately (some say secretly) with some leaders of the New PDP.
Simultaneously, however, members of the New PDP are being courted by the leaders of the APC to join their party. They now have to make a choice between going back to the Old PDP or quitting the party completely by defecting to the APC. In deciding on what to do, will the group be able to move forward as one or will some members yield to pressure from the Presidency? Whatever choices they make as individuals or as a group could be the most important political decision towards the 2015 presidential election, if not their political future.
But, clearly, the most important choice confronting the New PDP now is the one between two evils, one (PDP) well known and the other (APC) yet unknown. Hamlet’s to-be-or-not-to-be dilemma in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name provides an interesting archetype in classical literature. Hamlet mauled over the choice between the pain of life (in his words, “the sea of troubles”, the slings and arrows”,”the heart-ache”, and “the thousand natural shocks”) and the fear of the uncertainty of death (“the dread of something after death”), including possible damnation of suicide.
True, the analogy is incomplete in the sense the PDP is not analogous to life as such nor will the New PDP members literally die by joining the APC. It is true, however, that the PDP is regarded as evil, not only by members of the New PDP but by the country as a whole. Many would say that it has held the country to ransom for 14 odd years, during which we have witnessed infrastructural decay, escalating corruption, unprecedented unemployment, worsening insecurity, educational decline, and incessant trade disputes by teachers and doctors.
Yet, from all we know, the PDP leadership forsakes dissent and ignores noble suggestions, which is partly why members of the New PDP do not feel comfortable with the party. Besides, how can anyone hope to realise his or her political ambition in a party that anoints candidates or sidetracks legitimate winners of party primaries? Given the persecution the New PDP members are already going through, it will be foolhardy for them to return to the Old PDP. If they do, they will become second class members and perpetually held in suspicion. Besides, they will have to suspend their 2015 political ambition. For some of them, it could spell political death.
A former Governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, has become a symbol of the conflict. Having been ousted as the Secretary of the party’s National Working Committee, he joined the New PDP and became its Secretary. In the meantime, the Old PDP had chosen another Secretary. However, in a dramatic twist, the Appeal Court recently ordered Oyinlola to return as the party Secretary.
The coordinated resistance to his return is indicative of the disdain and suspicion with which members of the New PDP are held by the Old PDP. Just consider the various labels employed by the PDP spokespersons in describing them: rebels, turncoats, defectors, and so on. Besides, the haphazard manner in which the reconciliation meetings have been executed so far speaks to a half-hearted approach that may yield no fruitful result.
So, does that mean that the New PDP should join the APC? The answer is not that simple. At the level of political manipulation and candidate imposition by party leaders, there isn’t much to choose between the two parties. True, the APC governors in the South-West have been revitalising their states, although some amidst much controversy, it remains to be seen whether the APC will be a better alternative for the country. Its fortune may well depend partly on the people’s yearning for change, in fact, for anything other than the PDP, and partly on its choice of a presidential candidate.
Whether the APC will be a better alternative for defectors is yet another matter entirely, especially given the wait-for-your-turn policy of Nigerian political party leaders. However, the New PDP defectors might be treated differently, partly because they are high profile politicians and partly because they are being courted. Nevertheless, their fate may well depend on their bargaining power before they agree to defect.
There are interesting lessons to learn from all this about Nigerian politics and politicians. To start with, it is clear that the New PDP is not fighting over ideological differences. Nor is the PDP leadership fighting over ideological purity. The truth is that ideology is not a popular concept in contemporary Nigerian politics. OK, the APC at least sells a liberal agenda of progressivism. The PPD does not even pretend to stand for anything other than power. No wonder then that the in-fighting within the party is all about access to power. In particular, the leadership of the party does not want any member of the New PDP to occupy any key position that could be exploited to Jonathan’s disadvantage in his bid for reelection in 2015.
Now, you may ask, where do you and I belong in all this? We are completely off the radar because Nigeria’s is the politics of self-interest, not public interest. Accordingly, the APC is not courting the New PDP because its leaders found ideological allies or politicians with a track record of sterling achievements. Rather, they are being courted in order to boost the party’s chances of grabbing power in 2015. Many observers see the defection of the New PDP to the APC as the possible death of the former at the centre. It may well depend on how both parties manage their affairs, including presidential party primaries. Whatever the case is, we are in for a long drama.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to email@example.com