By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
The PDP needs salvation. It can start by changing its image. It cannot allow the perception that it is the party that is soft on corruption linger. It cannot be the party preaching “all have sinned”. It must seek righteousness. But in the meantime it must find some vocal Pharisees. It has too many sin soaked and resigned publicans in the front pews. It should be the party now preaching not just the rule of law but the virtues of accountability and probity. Holier-than- thou is an indispensable disposition for any party in the opposition in a corruption infested country.
The PDP got power on a platter. And lived the life of one on whose laps success fell fortuitously. They thought themselves exceptional and gloried in that which chance bestowed on them. They thought they were the greatest party in Africa. They predicted their longevity in power because they were ‘ordained’ to rule . In a religious society, God is in everything. Even rigged elections. The electorate was poor, hungry and desperate. And even Bishops did not put themselves beyond being hired and bought . With hands in the public till and hearts filled with impunity, politicians’ fantasies mushroomed. They had so much to share and they preoccupied themselves with frivolities. Everyone flocked to the umbrella for shade , for succor, for vanity. Disenchanted members always came back before they had finished leaving. No one wanted to be drenched by the rain. Opposition politics in any African country is fraught with risks and frustrations. State institutions, perennially weak and pliable, cannot distinguish between the ruling party and the state.
But the tomorrow not foreseen came too soon. The public managed to get fed up with familiar corruption and wastefulness. Crude oil prices slipped in time to make PDP’s prodigality especially conspicuous and repugnant. Amiable and generous PDP. Sixty was devalued to sixteen, presumptuousness was cut to size, they lost . And relinquished power “in the interest of national unity”
Life in the opposition was always going to be difficult for a butter fed and gluttonous party. Sheltered since birth, the PDP was not accustomed to lack. Opposition politics is grueling but will test the sinews in times of economic recession. That which had lubricated frictions and soothed chafed nerves is now in very short supply. And that which converted potential criminal prosecutions to family affairs has been relinquished. The PDP must endure. Tantrums won’t help. And dirty linens must be washed indoors. Such spectacles are not good entertainment now. Nigeria is awash with comedians and PDP has vigilant enemies in high places. No one is interested in the similarity between Sheriff and Shugaba nor in what took Fani Kayode to exile in Ghana. The party must rebuild. ‘Agberos’ are good, they do necessary dirty works and throw vulgar darts. But the party needs respectable leaders. Governors who talk before thinking and spend more time beating chests than reading cannot be the face of the greatest political party in Africa. A national party cannot be mistaken for the Avengers of the Niger Delta.
The sins of the past have been exhumed and trouble has been visiting and liquefying hearts. The witch hunting cries have not scared the hawks. Rather than allow the picking off of the chicks one after the other, a collective bargain could yield a life saving political compromise. And that is why Jonathan should leave Cote D’ivoire. And sit over his chicks like a mother hen. A stitch in time can save a frayed umbrella. Let the messiah who saved 170 million by a single phone call , be a good herdsman. Let him take responsibility for all that has happened and stand for his herd. Let him concede egregious mistakes were made. He can attribute them to the perverted political traditions that have existed since Lord Lugard. The public will understand the ‘all have fallen short of glory’ argument if it comes with substantial atonement. After all Abacha still has his rank and his name on national monuments. Is there any thief in any Nigerian prison who took more than him? He collected more than all of them put together. A comprehensive restitution in exchange for amnesty can be arranged. This is Nigeria, a land of possibilities. Prime Minister Cameron can say what he likes. This country needs all the money it can lay its hands on, borrowed, returned, repatriated. And the PDP needs fresh air. And Jonathan’s supporters do not want their idol defaced.
PDP’s survival is in Nigeria’s interest. One party democracy is a dangerous proposition. And not even one party led by a General who dashes after thieves like a vigilante. So those who have started procuring court injunctions from their local government areas and factionalizing the PDP are unpatriotic. Conflicts are natural but things must not fall apart. It’s good the party has retained a firm grip on the South-South and South-East states. These grips are important. Political parties in Nigeria are funded with monies siphoned from government coffers. Lagos played such a crucial role for the opposition in yesteryears . It could be the turn of Rivers now. If it ends well, then its well.
There will be difficult times ahead . Elaborate democratic rituals should be circumscribed. The era when delegates converged in Abuja with great expectations and marched around the eagle square like contractors are gone. There was a reason why the defunct AC did things in-house, most times. Soon, the PDP will learn that internal party democracy is good but it’s a luxury the opposition cannot always afford. A captain with a whip is needed. The ship has too many captains, with loud mouths.
It’s good to have a base. And it’s not an abomination to stoke the vulgar passions that fire the base from time to time. Politics has ugly sides. So bigotry and prejudice against the north may serve some useful purpose in cementing that base. But a proclamation of antipathy towards the Hausa-Fulani will only make the PDP a regional party. So they can afford occasional incendiary outbursts from the likes of Fani Kayode but they must find leaders who will rebuild their northern appeal. And their prestige. The PDP will not return to national reckoning if its leaders publicly preach hate and demonize the Muslim North. Cattle herdsmen have committed unspeakable atrocities but the PDP leaders in the south should not champion the inflammation of ethnic tensions. A former senate president shed tears after Agatu and declared that the herdsmen came to punish those who voted for him in a rerun election. He privatized a national tragedy. Rumours can be sweet but governors do not have the luxury of barbers to peddle rumours publicly.
Buhari is not synonymous with the Muslim North. PDP can pillory Buhari . But must court the ordinary Hausa- Fulani , like the Ijaw. They were once so cosmopolitan. Now, their spokesmen are freely fanning embers of secessions. Why do they now sound so suicidal? They may not like the defunct AC but they must learn a bit of it’s politics in opposition. That party didn’t promote ethnic or religious chauvinism. Didn’t stoke fires. Didn’t malign other groups even when it was a sectional champion. It had an eye on the future.
Except PDP be born-again it shall not go back to Aso Rock.