By Chijioke Ogbobe
THE People’s Democratic Party PDP, has dominated the Nigerian political scene right from its creation in 1998 with a mixed centrist, progressive-cum conservative ideology. It began piloting the affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after a series of traumatising and retrogressive military interregnums.
The first president to emerge under its banner, Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo, had the challenging task of uniting and reassuring a country which was just staggering out from a ruthless dictatorship characterised by unprecedented brutality, brigandage and gangster government under the late Gen. Sani Abacha.
PDP captured most of the governorship positions in at least four of the six geo-political zones of the country with a strong spread of National Assembly seats in all the geo-political zones. The party went ahead to tighten its grip on power, four years later, by almost doubling the number of governorship and National Assembly seats under its banner.
It inherited a depressed civil service, a country with decaying infrastructure, debilitating inflation, rampant corruption, battered international image and a largely disenchanted populace.
Within PDP’s first eight years, it was able to reduce Nigeria’s debt profile by successfully negotiating its debt with the Bretton wood institutions, radically revived and improved the country’s telecommunications network, successfully privatized and commercialized many state owned enterprises, established specialised institutions to tackle corruption and corrupt practices, curbed inflation, increased the national minimum wage, improved Nigeria’s battered international image, engineered Nigeria’s first civilian to civilian transition to power, etc.
During its second eight years in power, the Musa Yar Adua’ administration pacified the Niger Delta militancy by successfully launching an amnesty programme to rehabilitate the militants. His successor, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, raised the bar by revolutionising and presiding over an unprecedented growth in agriculture (appropriated by the current administration without acknowledging the efforts of its predecessor), built 13 federal universities, over 100 Almajiri schools, set up formidable infrastructure to curb the menace of corruption (BVN, TSA, etc), revived our moribund railroad, renovated and upgraded several local and international airports, unbundled and privatised our very cumbersome power sector, substantially increased our Foreign Direct Investment FDI, (under this administration, Nigeria was among one of the seven fastest developing economies in the world), enabling a largely effective and independent electoral body(now almost revised by the present Administration), guided Nigeria to having the highest GDP in Africa and, above all, ensured a peaceful and smooth transition to an opposition party. This is just to mention a few.
Unfortunately PDP, today, seems to be a ghost of its former self. Once described as the biggest party in Africa, it appears reduced to the most confused opposition party in Africa.
PDP is being held to ransom by two feuding factions. The Party leaders (in the two factions) must rise above their various and different motives or interests to ensure that the PDP surmounts its present challenges. Nigeria has never needed a more effective opposition party in its chequered history as it does now.
We are being bedeviled by the most divisive, inept and incompetent government for two years running. No need over-emphasising the fact that the present All Progressives Congress APC,led Federal Government is still on election mode with a reckless penchant for promoting infantile propaganda as state policy.
It has continued to assault Nigerians with the most confused and rudderless leadership since Nigeria’s independence. It has recession as its patrimony and has continued to sire double-digit inflation (which just increased by two points), a personalised war against corruption (now used in settling political scores) whilst shielding serving corrupt government officials. Unemployment has reached unprecedented levels with our debt profile adding another trillion recently. Its war against Boko Haram has remained exactly what it has been since 2015, a “technical defeat”, with suicide bombers still terrorising parts of the North East. It has bequeathed suicide as an alternative to the worsening perilous existence of the citizenry. History will forever bear witness to this government’s seeming callous tolerance to the grisly adventures of the world’s proclaimed fourth most dangerous terrorist group, Fulani Herdsmen. Again, just to mention a few.
PDP is being gifted with the abovementioned, unusual treasure trove, of serial administrative absurdities. The party, disturbingly, is still mired in a cacophony of misplaced egos. Nigerians have never had it so bad and the party must see it as a “call to arms” to rescue this country. PDP leaders must set aside their differences and respond to the yearnings of the general populace. They must begin to redefine and dictate the current political narrative. They must be prepared to give a positive direction through a well-articulated, aggressive, focused and strong opposition to the present APC fumbling government.
As the Supreme Court prepares to give its judgment in the present PDP leadership brouhaha, our Party leaders must be prepared to accept the verdict, as a patriotic duty, and begin to coalesce behind whoever emerges victorious in court. PDP needs to provide Nigeria a viable and desirable political platform as we inch towards 2019.
One is not comfortable with the often stated insinuation by a faction of the party of breaking away and joining another political party or forming another one if the verdict is not in their favour. That will be most unhealthy for our still evolving democracy. PDP is now an iconic brand which has earned its stripes when it deepened democracy by willingly conceding defeat to an opposition party, thereby engendering a smooth transition to a rival party without spilling any human blood. unusual in a developing country talk less of Africa.
PDP is not alone when it comes to former ruling parties struggling with post electoral defeat. In other climes, party leaders have had to show unusual, selflessness determination and uncommon resilience towards reinventing their party.
For instance, the founding party of Bangladesh, the Awami League, was in political wilderness for 21 years, before it returned to power, following a resounding victory by its candidate, Mrs Sheikh Hassina in 1996, who is the daughter of its founding Prime Minister, Sheikh Majibur Rahman.
Similarly, in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Freedom Party ruled the country under the alliance of the United Front shortly after independence, its leader SWRD Bandranaike was assassinated three years into his tenure, which saw his wife, Sirimavo Bandranaike, succeeding him. They eventually lost power between 1977-1994, but were able to bounce back when another Bandranaike, their daughter, Mrs Chandrika kumarantuga, revived the party and led them to victory.
In PDP’s case, the APC government has made PDP’s path back to power in 2019 easier due to APC’s colossal cluelessness. PDP leaders must make sacrifices that should engender and promote internal democracy. Beyond strengthening and consolidating its party structure, it ought to introduce an intellectual input into its schedule of activities by having voters’ education programmes and organise seminars that promote and educate the populace about PDP’s democratic ideals. Nothing stops the party from having its own newspaper publication, like the controversial La Tiempo newspaper of Colombia’s ruling party, Colombian Conservative Party, which greatly aided the party in its victories at the polls.
PDP as the only political party that has its structures in all the wards of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria must urgently reinvent itself. It has, through its sixteen production years in power, secured a solid position in the history of this country, which no one can wish away. This iconic PDP brand must not be allowed to die!
Chijioke Ogbobe Esq, is an Enugu-based Legal Practitioner (chijiogbobe@yahoo,com)