By Hakeem Baba-Ahmad
“Whether the knife falls on the melon, or the melon on the knife, the melon suffers.” African Proverb.
Following the meeting with party leaders and PDP governors as well as two former PDP governors who re-affirmed their full and final defection, President Goodluck Jonathan was reported to have summoned an emergency meeting of top guns of the party on Monday night.
If there is an equivalent of a war cabinet, you could say the President chaired one, in the circumstances under which the party finds itself. It is logical to assume that the meeting received reports on the insistence of five nPDP Governors to stay with their new party, the APC.
It is also likely that a critical review of the state of the party in the light of the loss of five governors would have been undertaken by people who should know what it means. It is not difficult to guess that champagne bottles were not opened in celebration at the end of the meeting.
All in all, these are not the best of times for the PDP. Hear what the N0.4 citizen, a loyal member of the party said while complaining over the appearance that President Jonathan’s administration encourages corruption.
“A list of manifestation of corruption, especially in the public sector of Nigeria is legion, ranging from direct diversion of public funds into private pockets, contract over-pricing, bribery, impunity, nepotism, general financial recklessness, fraudulent borrowing and debt management, public assets stripping, electoral fraud, shielding of corrupt public officers, among others.”
In case you think the Speaker of the House of Representatives was reeling out generally – familiar permanent residents, here is what he says specifically about Jonathan’s portion: “Take the subsidy probe, the pension, the SEC probes and recently the bullet proof cases. After the House of Representatives did a diligent job by probing and exposing the cases, you now see something else when it comes to prosecution.
In some cases, you have government setting up new committees to duplicate the job already done by the parliament. Take the bullet proof cars case. The NSA, with all the security challenges confronting the country, should not be burdened with a job that can be handled by the anti-corruption agencies…
By the action of setting up different committees for straight-forward cases, the President’s body language doesn’t tend to support the fight against corruption.”
There is a clue in these comments which suggest why the Jonathan administration tried so desperately to stop Tambuwal from emerging as a Speaker.
Lai Mohammed, the spokesman of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, cannot, with all his dexterity in the language, better Tambuwal in this informed critique of the administration. This, language and stuff, is from a man who knows what he is talking about.
He is not nPDP, although the defectors will love to have him in their ranks. He hasn’t denounced his party; just his leader and the manner corruption is becoming its biggest achievement, an issue every Nigerian weeps over.
He says the minds of 98% of Nigerians who believe that Transparency International was too generous to Nigeria for not making it the most corrupt nation on earth permanently.
It cannot be easy for the President to have people in the position of the Speaker speak in this manner. This is not about executive-legislature conflict, an issue which is inherent in all democracies.
Language like these are damaging blows, and they are more damaging when you are already under a lot of stress. Governors are raising their voices over the sharing of national revenues, basically alleging lack of transparency and even hinting at some illegality.
Non – PDP governors say they have evidence that they are being deliberately short-changed in disbursement of revenues, and the motives are patently political. With more governors now joining the ranks of the opposition, the demands for answers on the management of the national economy, generation and allocation of resources and responses to corruption will be more difficult to ignore.
Ignoring all these simultaneous setbacks is one option which the PDP has. It can ignore the defected governors, put up a brave face, and try to engineer the emergence of alternatives to them.
This will be a very demanding and expensive venture. While it may have the resources, handling the matter of undermining the defecting governors as an Abuja project is fraught with difficulties.
How will it deal with the long lines of competing members who are already taking up semi-permanent residence in Abuja and setting up structures in many parts of their states ready to be anointed as PDP leaders? What strategies do you adopt to separate defecting governors from the millions who may defect with them? How do you stop more PDP governors from defecting?
The PDP also has the option of ignoring the roots of all its current problems. It can ignore the quarrel over the propriety of a Jonathan candidature in 2015, and hold up Governor of Niger State, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu as evidence that it is no longer an issue in most parts of the North.
It can ignore the issues over the emergence and conduct of party chairman, Alhaji Babanga Tukur, particularly now that his worst critics are in the other camp.
It can ignore the legion of evidence that the administration is soft on corruption, and re-hash the refrain that corruption did not start with, and will not end with Jonathan. It can ignore the Speaker, ignore ASUU, ignore crude oil theft, ignore reports of the committee on Stella’s cars, ignore clamour for facts behind the Apo killings, ignore Boko Haram, ignore calls for higher levels of openness over the state of the nation’s economy and ignore the opposition.
Or, the PDP can take a very hard look at itself, and ask why everything appears to be coming unstuck. If it does that, it may realise that the damage of the nPDP defection is very serious indeed. Apart from the possibility that the nPDP have left the door open for others to walk out, and the PDP is making no efforts to prevent them from doing so, it needs to look at the geo-political impact of their action.
The PDP is now very much a minority in the North, and its size will very likely shrink as more politicians realise that it will sink with their ambitions. APGA is tightening its grip in the South East, playing the ethnic card with complete lack of inhibition. If PDP drops a pin in the South West, it is more likely to rest on the head of an APC supporter than hit the ground. APC is making it difficult for PDP followers in much of the North to show up with their traditional demeanor.
There are potentially successful attempts to build bridges between Muslims and Christians in the North to prevent the traditional exploitation of ethno-religious cleavages. The opposition could make much of the North a no-go area for the PDP. With the West, much of the East and large portions of the South-South in the opposition, the PDP could be obliterated in a credible election in 2015.
It will be unfair, however, to assume that someone, somewhere in the strategy circles of the PDP is not thinking all these scenarios through. If President Jonathan and the PDP have not already given up on designs to continue to rule the country, it will be reasonable to expect some resistance against its damaging slide.
The party can re-invent itself, literally. It could come to terms with the fact that it is running its course, and improve its intra-party democracy, re-engage Nigerians and assure them that it is serious about fighting corruption and insecurity. It could show appropriate respect for democratic values and the electoral process, and work hard to win elections, rather than rig them.
It may even acknowledge that it has massive issues around its leadership which could cause serious problems for it and the nation. Who knows, it is possible that the PDP will even take its place among Nigerian political parties and fight for supporters and voters on the records and credibility of its leaders, and nothing more.