By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
Dear PDP,I congratulate you on your apparent recovery from that malignant political cancer. It is hoped that you will come to full health speedily. And as they say, may affliction not arise a second time.
The elections are 12 months away. You are the main opposition party. Many of your members are euphoric. Buhari’s performance, they say, has been calamitous. It seems they are taking for granted your victory in the coming polls. They are sure Nigerians would reject a bumbling Buhari. I have a warning for you. Nigerians may struggle to vote a party that hasn’t presented itself as an electable alternative.
PDP, you have to keep your eyes on the electoral map. You once took pride in being the largest party in Africa. It’s time to rediscover yourself. It is time to rise above ethnic and sectional rhetorics. Nigeria may not vote a party high on divisive sensationalism.
It is good to feed red meat to your base, once in a while. But it could be counter productive to make it an abiding policy. You have secured your base. You need to reach out. Your new base cannot give you national victory. Do the maths. You need Hausa Fulani votes. You need the muslim north.
So you must separate President Buhari and the Hausa Fulani. You can caricature Buhari but you cannot demonize the Hausa Fulani and hope to win. When you see incompetence, you must call it incompetence. Don’t complicate it. Don’t call it an islamization agenda. Don’t call it Hausa Fulani expansionism. Call your motormouthed leaders to order. You cannot alienate a significant population in a plural society.
The elections are 12 months away. You can knock Buhari punch drunk with heavy insults. You can say he is a fossil. You can call him an unrepentant tyrant. You can call him a blooming bigot. But you must make a useful distinction. Buhari is not synonymous with Hausa Fulani. Temper your animosity, sharpen the focus of your antagonism. Fix it on Buhari and his government. You must court the Hausa Fulani, as you court the Niger Delta. The Hausa Fulani have no jobs and health care too.
You must seek and find objectivity and imbibe fairness. Incendiary rhetorics will only enhance your growing reputation as a sectional party.
You have too many leaders who have become agents of ethnic jingoism. They cling to and brandish bigotry. They use the language of touts. They speak without circumspection. They play to a certain gallery of buffoons, all too often. You can’t allow yourself to be defined by the incontinence of such leaders.
But when your response to their political debauchery is silence, you come across as endorsing and even owning their vulgarity. You cannot feign ignorance when corrosive, irresponsible statements are made by men who claim to speak for you.
You can demand rule of law without advocating anarchy. But your leaders cannot be seen publicly obstructing law enforcement agents. You cannot engage in perpetual blanket condemnation of all action of the Federal Government.
You must learn to isolate and commend positive actions of the ruling government. That is the only way to counter the wide perception that you are a grouchy grieving withering party. You can demand equity without infusing hate. An opposition party cannot afford to be seen as nihilistic. You must not label every corruption investigation against your members as vindictive. An opposition party cannot create the impression that it is soft on corruption.
PDP, if you have chosen to downsize and become a regional party, then play it to the fullest. You would have to boycott the 2019 presidential election. Don’t waste your emotions and your resources. You may choose to insist on a restructuring of the federation before any national elections. That could be sufficiently face saving.
You have to be thoughtful and proactive. The APC will ignore any boycott. But the new government would suffer a slight legitimacy deficit. And you could leverage on that to demand, post 2019, a proper census and a restructuring of the federation.
PDP, what you can’t do is to continue on your current path. You have been on it for too long. You cannot play sectional politics and expect to win national elections. Look at the maths. Elections are not lotteries. And you must remember you no longer own federal instruments of coercion. If you must win, then you must actually win well. You can’t expect a miracle. What’s your path to victory?
Your leaders in the north are too silent. They only make occasional baby babbles. They love their seats on the fence. So they cringe at your Hausa-Fulani bashing. Yet they won’t censor it publicly. So they never tell the loud abrasive ones in the south that they are hurting your electoral fortunes in the north. You must eschew bitterness. You must point the people towards peace and prosperity.
You have to rebuild your integrity. People have to trust you again. You are almost unrecognizable now. The PDP of 2001 fought for everybody and preached national unity. You have to rediscover your spirit of inclusiveness. Your positions in the Christian south and your positions in the core muslim north must be coherent.
You must excommunicate leaders who portray you as an agent of division and destabilization in the name of freedom fighting.
If you are however attracted to refashioning yourself as a regional party, then approach it with dignity. It could actually be cost effective, efficient to go sectional. But that would entail a sober purposeful reordering of your ambitions.
You could choose to hold onto the southeast and south south. That could be good politics. But you can’t do that and yet seek to win the presidency. You have to understand your options. You have to be clear sighted. I would urge you to think long term and be patient.
A little self audit would have revealed to you where you were found wanting. And you could have made amends. But what you have done is to allow your good qualities to decay. And that is tragic.
The nation needs more national parties.
PDP, you are the only alternative we have. Please don’t give up the fight, without a fight. Remember your values. Remember the hopes and works of your founding fathers.