PDP’s “Rebirth” And Okupe’s Prognosis By Nkannebe Raymond
The other day our man Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President GEJ and a hardline critique of PMB and his APC in the period leading to the just concluded general elections was in the news. Whether in a bid to prove detractors who think he has a failed medical career wrong, or out of sheer love for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), our man took to his Facebook page to prescribe what seems like a prognosis to the diseased body of the PDP yet to come to terms with its woeful performance at the last elections which has culminated into their dwindling relevance and risking political obliteration.
The former spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo and a onetime governorship aspirant in Ogun State, after expressing delight in the formation of a body headed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi in a bid to increase the party’s membership base said “…The time has come for the PDP if it must remain politically relevant to embark on a total overhaul and reform itself. It must engage Nigerians in a new coalition for the sole purpose of putting our dear country on the path to true, real and the enduring change that will come once and for all and establish us as a major global player, not pretenders that we presently are…” He further said “the PDP must reform itself lest it dies, God forbid a painful and insidious death…” – and concluded by saying, “At the end of the day, the APC may not meet the expectations of Nigeria or may in fact fail outright over time, but PDP as it is presently constituted will not be an acceptable alternative to the majority of Nigerians now or in the future.” The Medical Doctor turned Politician concluded his medical prognosis thusly, and it has since become the subject of news in both print and online media.
It is indeed something of applaud that somebody in the PDP at least understands what is at stake and what the party must do if it can begin to become a major player in the Nigerian political tournament once more. The case of the PDP is the quintessential story of the biblical servant who refused to invest the talents given to him by his master but instead hid it in a safe place, and when the day of gathering came, the master lambasted the servant for frittering away the goodwill and trust reposed in him. That docile servant in the biblical account is what the PDP represents.
Sixteen years ago, she found herself at the dawn of democracy being the most organized political party with a wide array of political big weights and money bags and sauntered upon the headship of a nation in an election that was marred by irregularities but which was pardoned by Nigerians as a result of the bigger picture of democracy. So it could be said that the party really got its mandate on a platter of gold unlike how the present ruling party rode to the center of government.
Like the proverbial apprentice who does not know, and cannot understand the dwindling fortunes of his master’s business, led luxurious lifestyles at the detriment of the business, the PDP not knowing the difficulty involved in a party engaging the minds of the people to woo their votes spent all their goodwill and social currency in frivolities and always bought their way at periodic elections with foreign currency to consolidate its hold on power.
They even boasted like gang of robbers enjoying their bootie in a beer parlor with prostitutes massaging their balls that they would rule Nigeria for at least fifty (50) years as though it was their sole goldmine to devour. That is, they saw Nigeria as a domestic property, a sex slave of sort and rode her rough shod all they can oblivious of the dark days that lay ahead for them. Some analyst are of the view that the total amount of money lost to financial misappropriation in the sixteen (16) years of the PDP cabal could be used to build Nigeria into a modern day nation with the full complement of facilities and institutions that define a modern city but with the PDP, if you are not talking how to siphon money, you are talking nonsense.
It is not surprising therefore that an opposition party crept like a snail and before long morphed into a large coalition and with the massive support of Nigerians who have suffered sixteen (16) years of arguable misrule and governmental neglect, swept the party and its umbrella, off the seat of power and till today, it continues to suffer from a posttraumatic stress, not yet haven come to realty with what beat it. And you won’t blame Nigerians. They have agonized too much at the hands of accidental characters with stupendous wealth but with little or no understanding of Statecraft, but instead saw it as a means of consolidating their ill-gotten wealth. And so they rose to the occasion, making Abraham Lincoln wherever he may be, proud in the process by proving that the ballot is stronger and more potent than the bullet in election matters. The rest is today history, as the cliché goes.
Since the Political Tsunami of March 28th, the cookies have continued to crumble without stop for the party. And the ruling APC do not seem to make their burden light. But have continued to compound their woes by revealing all sorts of shady deals and other hideous gimmicks of the PDP when they had their day, so that Nigerians would know how much they were wrecked by the PDP apparatchik; thereby making the task of the PDP re-inventing itself akin to the twelve labours of Hercules in Greek mythology. A development which has seen the PDP almost lost without bearing to retrace it steps. This must definitely be trying times for the prodigal former ruling party. It was some of these developments that good Okupe must have observed before coming to the rescue with his ‘medical sermon’ the other day.
But we are not done. The APC has quite spent its Honeymoon in recriminations. Blaming and revealing all the rot of the PDP days, threatening to probe everything under the sun including Mama Patience and Jonathan’s marriage if the need arises as though Nigerians weren’t aware of same before voting them out. But is it enough for the APC to repeat the PDP script and justify same with the PDP days as has since become the norm among their voltrons and spin doctors? How long will Nigerians condone the mantra of: there is a lot of damage done by the previous administration. We have to start almost from the scratch to get this Nation on course again, easily bandied by APC enthusiasts and the Party top brass? Have they too soon forgotten they campaigned on the platform of no less a word but “Change” and even promising by their carriage to wave a magic wand where possible once elected? And are the sins of the PDP too grave to be pardoned by Nigerians or the injury they left in their flight too deep as not to be healed with time? Within the answers to these posers lies the chance(s) for the PDP to be able to put its house together once more and wrestle powers from the APC. And assuming they want to do so, how do they go about it?
As it stands, the party must as a matter of urgency hold its national convention and select substantive leaders of the party with the requisite leadership qualities whose mandate shall be: getting PDP back into the minds of Nigerians and making it an enviable bride at forthcoming elections. Such leadership through its internal organs should work for the harmonization of the party across all states and eschew factionalism in any of its branches; for an army divided against itself cannot put up a good battle and would fall to any enemy. The PDP must understand that much of what it suffers today were due to the failure of the house to keep its members united, or how could one explain the drama that led to the mass exodus from the party during the days of the famed G7 governors? PDP for all intent and purposes could pass as a metaphor for intra party skirmishes over the years and this same intra party squabbles in no less a measure contributed to its precipitous fall.
If Nigerians will have to take the PDP serious again, then the governors of the states under its control presently must perform and be seen to perform above their APC counterparts in all indices of governance. There is no better way to prove to Nigerians that they have undergone the baptism of fire and are now “born again” without coming up or having to show Nigerians what they are doing in the states under their control as that could be the only way to usher in Nigerians into their new philosophy in the business of governance. If anything, to cast a doubt about APC in the minds of discerning Nigerians. The present antics of criticizing everything done by the ruling APC will come back with no dividends for the party but it will only cast them in bad light and prove to Nigerians that they do not pose a better substitute.
Okupe has said that the APC as presently constituted shares little or no difference with the PDP. I quite agree with the man but Nigerians with their proclivity for patient with their leaders would want to give the APC their own chance to see how they would dance before contemplating any change. So the PDP must come up with better ideas to prove that they represent a better choice to influence Nigerians to mull over them again.
The youth of this nation have proven to be the decider of elections as shown from the statistics of the last general election. Nigerian demographic records indicate that over half of Nigerian population, perhaps sixty percent comprises the youth between the ages of 18 and 35?so the bulk of voters are the youth. In this age of social media, the youth matters because they are the most savvy and adept at using it to mobilize support for or against a candidate. The PDP therefore should work out modalities to penetrate the minds of the youth constituency through engaging commentary and debates about the project Nigeria and its actualization.
Assuming they want to do this, I think they have their rhetoric already cut out for them: we have been there, we have seen our flaws and this is how we want to make amends and which is why you have to give us another chance to make things right. The party through its National Working Committee (NWC) can organize periodic leadership workshop in major universities across the nation to engage Nigerian students in dialogues that have vistas of collective good for both man and country. By doing so, they would have left lasting impressions in the minds of these young generation of Nigerians.
Nigerian politics/democracy, whether anyone likes it or not is gradually deviating from the era where money buys everything including the ballot. Despite the millions of dollars spent by the PDP in the last elections, Nigerians still managed to vote according to their conscience and used the paltry sums given to them in exchange for their votes, as transport fare to their polling units. Better political ideas have always been a better currency in the market of leadership. The PDP should therefore look to the youth as the epiphany or the panacea out of their political Golgotha. Yes the youth!
The APC rode to leadership on the wings of “change”. Well, that mantra after being stolen from the Obama revolution, I think is now over flogged. In other words, its breasts have fallen like those of an eighty (80) year old woman. PDP should do their political homework to come up with a better catchy word or phrase that would inspire the minds of Nigerians and capture the party’s agenda. The current chant of “power to the people” I think is too elementary. Of course, in any democracy, power belong to the people, at least in principle. There is no profit in telling them you will give them power. That phrase for me is lifeless, without a soul and cannot spur a political revolution, as you cannot give a people what belongs to them. APC borrowed the word “Change” and it has worked for them perfectly as it did for Obama before now. PDP must consequently, come up with another, which encapsulates their agenda and would have the prospect of sticking like bees to honey comb.
Opposition politics no doubt demands patience, tenacity and doggedness and is not an exercise in undue fastidiousness, vulgarity and unnecessary garrulity just to be heard. Two days ago, the National Publicity Secretary, Olisah Metuh in a press conference embarked on a journey to educate us how the APC has made the economy worse in three months and how it has shown that it has no spectacular ideas on how to steer the ship of state right. He said and I quote: “In the last three months under an inert and poorly coordinated APC led government, our nation’s economy which before now held record as the largest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world suddenly plummeted as officially evidenced in the lull in the capital and money market sectors which have lost billions of Naira; spiral rate of inflation and stagnation in domestic and foreign investment with investors scared away due to uncertainty arising from lack of economic direction, an apparent confusion in the polity”, the estranged parrot of the party twittered among other things. But as was expected, Nigerians called his bluff, asking what they did while they were in the saddle and questioned the much touted Nigerian Economy being the best in Africa under the PDP days which had no bearing in the living conditions of the average Nigerian.
If the foregoing is how the PDP intends to go about the onerous task of opposition to the ruling APC which control the Media to a great extent, then we are afraid they may remain in that position for a very long time. An opposition government is a shadow government which presents better alternatives to how things ought to be done and not one which revels in quintusian campaigns just to rub shrew on the face of the government of the day even when the need do not arise. Such antics smacks of bankruptcy of ideas and cannot be contemplated as an alternative by an informed electorate.
The earlier PDP realizes they would have to play opposition politics for a very long time (a friend of mine said at least 12 years), before it can pose any threat to the APC, then the better for them. But how they carry this “cross” however long it tarries, would be the necessary test of their character and the yardstick for measuring whether they can ever become the bride of choice to Nigerians again.
Okupe said the PDP was created as a coalition to wrest power from the military, and the APC was a merger of several interest groups set up to wrest power from the PDP. I also agree with the man. It then follows that the PDP may as well ruminate over a merger with other mushroom political parties to give the APC the fight it deserves.
It is on the strength of the aforesaid, that Okupe’s prognosis resonates and finds apt expression. Whereas Nigerians have voted the PDP out, we have not ruled them out as an organized political front which may never walk again. Even the Prophet Ezekiel in the Bible prophesied that “Dry bones shall rise again”. The PDP therefore, can still rise and walk again. The only question extant is: how and when do they intend to rise again? Nigerians may have voted “Change” over a bogus “Transformation” at the last polls but we cannot imagine the consequence of a democracy without a virile opposition. Indeed! It is better that such a state were not a democracy.
The danger of a tepid and puerile opposition we dare say is best imagined than lived. Imagine a situation where the PDP continues in its self-destructive path, chances are that the APC government as a Human Institution, could lapse into lethargy since the threat of an alternative platform, if you like, a government in waiting, would have been destroyed. But that is even the milder of two potential dangers. The more serious scenario is the prospect of Nigeria descending into full blown dictatorship. It’ll be infantile in the extreme as some are wont to do, to dismiss such a possibility unless one is too naïve to realize that without a virile and patriotic opposition, an ex-general’s regimental background could overshadow his democratic credentials.
So in essence, PDP owes itself a duty to rise again like a phoenix from the dead and reassert itself, and also owe Nigerians an obligation to pose a strong and enviable opposition to the APC to allow our democratic space its full complements and dress democracy here, in its boilerplate apparel.
Nigerians and indeed the world are watching to see how the party fulfills these two pronged obligations. But in doing so, Okupe’s “Medical prognosis” I think must be taken hook, line and sinker!
Raymond Nkannebe is a Lawyer and Public Affiars Commentator. He can be reached via: Raymondnkannebe@gmail.com