The war-like tribe of the PDP

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By Obi Nwakanma

The party in government – the PDP – has splintered into two factions: one still “dey kampe” as the “main PDP,” and caucuses around the president, Goodluck Jonathan and the Party chair, Bamanga Turkur; the new PDP has former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as its moving spirit, with a coterie of rebel governors and affiliates opening new offices for the “New PDP” in a move at establishing dual authority within the party.

It is a classic Machiavellian move. As it is suggested in his book, Dell a Arte Della Guerre (The Art of War), to weaken his adversary and gain advantage, the captain of a legion must endeavor with every art to divide the force of his enemy by creating factions and distrust; either in making his enemy suspicious of his once trusted men, or weakening his position by giving him cause to separate his forces. This strategy seems to be working quite well at the moment. Just this past week, the President announced changes in the

Council of Ministers. Nine of the ministers that have served with him all along were shown the door in the reshuffling. Every minister serves at the pleasure of the President and it is his prerogative to appoint whomsoever he wishes to the executive council. However, the knife was thrown in such a manner as would suggest that the heat is on the president to reorganize his “war room.”

As the epochal year 2015 comes upon us, the executive council of the federation is going to assume the character and coloration of a war chamber rather than a governing administration. It is war and the victims of the president’s move are, it has been suggested by close sources, proxies of those affiliated to the new PDP. Loyalty matters and is in question now. But we also see that distrust has built in and is leading towards the condition foretold by Machiavelli. War – political wars especially – are often fought by proxies.

There are many powerful forces lurking behind the scene and acting as puppet masters to the politicians who have discarded any notions of “national interest” and who have now settled down to the gritty question of group and personal interests from which the first principle of power flows in the first place. In a fractured nation like Nigeria, individual and group interests seem now to matter more.

The axial authority leading to power divisions and calculations are now rising to the surface towards 2015 from where they had been momentarily obscured after the elections of 2011. Chief of that interest as articulated consistently by Mr. Atiku Abubakar is to “return power to the North.” The new PDP is thus designed to torpedo the ambitions of President Jonathan and his moves to seek re-election under his party, and force him to “respect the agreements” within the old party to return power to the North after President Jonathan’s full term.

The problem is that Atiku Abubakar who has disclosed these “pre-nuptial agreements” speaks to his own ambition and the urgency behind it to be president. It is outrageous to his group that President Jonathan would seek re-election in 2015. The muster of individuals from the old PDM, one of the key coalitions that formed the old PDP, have sworn to effect that power shift by all means necessary.

They are now working up all the old tricks in the game: factionalisation and the internal bleeding of the party has commenced; fear and violence will soon follow. From the series of consultations in the private meetings from Sokoto to Minna by the movers of this new PDP, designed to seek support for the project, it seems clear that what is at stake is not the PDP alone but the future of the Federal Republic of Nigeria moving forward. But what is also quite clear is that this “new PDP” is in fact not new at all. It is made of the same old bag of wind. The same  people.

The same interests! The same limited vision. We have not heard clearly articulated alternatives to the “old PDP” in the form of a broad manifesto to correct the historical ills that continue to plague this country other than the manouvre to push out Jonathan as its singular political vision and objective. The “New PDP” is in fact rather the double face of the hybrid opposition called the “All Peoples Congress” – made up of many strange bed fellows, political hacks, ethnic bigots; and the same many old hands that have been in the jar.

The “new PDP” has nothing that recommends it to the public as an alternative to the current party in government. It is Tweedledee and Tweedledum. And it is out to fool the plebeians. But a great thing is happening nonetheless: it has brought out the fight in the war-like groups, who might in the urge and necessity to do the other in, reveal the hidden secrets of this nation: who killed Bola Ige, Harry, Dikibo, Chimere Ikoku, and so many of those victims of political executions in Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, when both Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar ran the affairs of Nigeria?

Those remain some of the darkest years of Nigeria’s political development; a crucial moment when the promise of transformation at the end of a vicious military dictatorship quickly turned into a carnival of filth and corruption. The dark orgies of killings and mendacity that marked those years continue to haunt Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan merely inherited them all. The war is on: last week in an interview, former President Obasanjo threw a southpaw at both Atiku Abubakar and Farida Waziri of the EFCC. “Go and ask Atiku” Obasanjo said, “why he cannot travel to America,” implying that the former Vice-President is a “wanted man” in America for corruption.

About the former EFCC czarina,Farida Waziri, the former president hints at the use of the office to run a corrupt protection racket. “She was a disaster,” the former president said in the interview. In a terse and poignant response, Mrs. Waziri said the former president should “respect his age, otherwise I’ll open up on him” to which we say, let it rain. We expect former President Obasanjo to tell the former EFCC boss, “bring it on!” Let these ex-these and thats settle these issues that have made Nigeria more a chimera than a nation.

President Goodluck Jonathan whose good luck has held thus far has been the puppet of the various factions of power. Now, he seems determined to remain in power and possibly chart his own course. The perception that he is not only a weak president, but one without clear-cut programs, ideas and solutions to Nigeria’s myriad problems, persist.

But it is time for him to recalibrate. He must go beyond the old PDP structures and begin a strategic recruitment of bold, strategic thinkers and operatives to rebuild and redirect the tottering gerontocratic structure before it collapses with consequence on his head. Party crises are no new things either: the president should study how Dr. Azikiwe resolved the 1958 NCNC national party crisis and how/why the AG national crisis in 1962 on the other hand ballooned leading to the destruction of the first republic. Those two examples are the crucial realities currently facing him and his bid at re-election.

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