By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Yesterday’s plea for forgiveness by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, profuse as it was, however, did not mark out the sins of the former ruling party in its 16 years in power.
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Prince Uche Secondus, would have been shocked by the reaction he got from the All Progressives Congress, APC yesterday after he made profuse apologies for the mistakes of his party while in power.
Speaking during a national discourse on contemporary politics and governance in Nigeria in Abuja, Secondus said:
“I am the very first to admit that our party the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria made many mistakes. Consequently, we were roundly sanctioned by Nigerians occasioning our loss at the polls in 2015. Let me seize this opportunity to apologize to Nigerians unequivocally for the several shortcomings of our party in the near and far past. It was all part of an evolution process without which there can be no maturity.”
The national publicity secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who initially expressed shock at the willingness of the PDP to confess its sins was nevertheless, quick to urge Nigerians to forgive the former ruling party. Abdullahi, however, laid down a proviso; to wit, that the former ruling party should remain in purgatory!
“Nigerians should accept their apology, but they should allow them to spend sufficient time in purgatory to ensure that they are sufficiently purged of the sins that they committed over those 16 years. “Now that they have realised their sins, they have to spend sufficient time in purgatory; so all this one about coming back to power in 2019 does not show that they are sufficiently remorseful; they have to spend sufficient time in purgatory before Nigerians can consider whether to forgive them because they put us in the sorry state where we are in today.”
Secondus’ confession, however, did not come with the confession of the particular sins that Nigerians should forgive them for.
Among the seven prominent sins, Nigerians link to the PDP are:
- Election of Senator Ennwerem as Senate President
Senator Evan Enwerem who became a member of the PDP just a week or so before his election to the Senate on the platform of the party was foisted as Senate President despite the fact that the majority of the about 60 PDP senators-elect had chosen Senator Chuba Okadigbo.
Okadigbo had before the inauguration of the Senate after the February 1999 National Assembly elections traversed the country to visit all PDP senators-elect and solicit their votes to be Senate President. At the pre-inauguration straw poll held at Agura Hotel, in May 1999, he emerged a clear winner.
Despite the strong opposition of the likes of Senator Roland Owie, presidency officials through the inducement of senators were able to get Enwerem elected, thus bringing the first major crack in the party.
- The Coup Against Awoniyi
In October 1999 at the convention to choose a new national chairman of the party, the astute former permanent secretary, Chief Sunday Awoniyi was the clear favourite by the majority of party delegates to emerge as national chairman. However, just as in the choice of Senate President, five months earlier, presidency officials acting in concert with governors were able to get Engr. Barnabas Gemade, as national chairman. That was apparently the last time before last December that the PDP had an elective convention to choose a national chairman.
- Okadigbo’s trauma
The bad blood from the forced imposition of Enwerem on the Senate seethed until November 19, 1999. On that day Enwerem as a compliant tool of the presidency had gone to the Abuja airport to see off Obasanjo on a trip to Sao Tome and Principe. Once the presidential aircraft lifted, senators in the chambers led by Senator Khariat Abdurazaq collected signatures to remove Enwerem from office. Okadigbo was promptly voted in to take his place.
It, however, proved to be a pyrrhic victory for Okadigbo as presidency officials working in cahoots with ambitious senators worked surreptitiously to undermine him.
After much intrigues, he was removed from office on August 9, 2000, after one of the most salacious probes in the National Assembly. His removal tore the party apart and led to his exit and the exit of several of his associates from the party.
He eventually teamed up with the then political neophyte, General Muhammadu Buhari and ran on the same ticket with him in the 2003 presidential election.
Similar political undercurrents were also hatched against the Ghali Naaba leadership of the House of Representatives.
- Obasanjo’s Divided Presidency
Ahead of the 2003 election, it was alleged that Vice President Atiku Abubakar conspired with some governors to bring President Obasanjo to his knees. Whether true or not, after the two were returned to power in 2003, Obasanjo moved to freeze his one-time powerful deputy, Atiku out of political relevance.
Atiku’s aides who were reportedly seen as disloyal to President Obasanjo among whom were the veteran broadcast and newspaper journalist; Mallam Garba Shehu was sacked from the Presidential Villa.
- The Dictatorship of the Governors
Realising the hold of the governors over the party delegates who form the majority at the National Convention, which is the party’s highest organ, Obasanjo was quick to form a partnership with the governors.
The governors were allowed to go away with foisting their plans on the party even though it was detrimental to the principle of internal democracy.
The only governor that was marked out was Dr. Chinwoke Mbadiniju who had the double cross of having had his earlier loyalty to Dr. Alex Ekwueme and also to be working at political cross-purposes with Obasanjo’s Man Friday, Dr. Andy Uba, his Special Assistant on Domestic Matters.
- The Deregistration Exercise and the Linkmen
By 2005 as Obasanjo sought to consolidate the party in his image, the party commenced moves to register members afresh. However, instead of using the normal structure of the party for the fresh registration, the party chose those believed to be loyal to Obasanjo who was apparently directed not to register his foes. These men, termed Linkmen played out their roles to the letter leaving many party leaders not loyal to Obasanjo in the lurch. In Adamawa State, for example, Prof. Jibril Aminu who was entering the political scene emerged as the linkman, and it was no surprise that Atiku was not registered.
Col. Ahmadu Ali who had emerged as the new chairman had to come and register him in the presidential villa.
- The Jonathan Amnesia
After the romantic adventure of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to the presidency, his failure to keep to an agreement on returning power to the north in 2011 seemed to have been the final nail on the party. After President Umaru Yar‘adua died in office in May 2011, Nigerians from across the country were able to look over the agreement, if not, for one term and allow the former deputy governor of Bayelsa State to serve a full term of four years from 2011 to 2015.
However, Dr. Jonathan’s decision to seek a second term, however, seemed to stretch his good luck to the extreme.
Dr. Jonathan’s seeming amateurish approach in also appointing political novices to handle the 2015 campaign attracted lukewarm interest from veteran PDP operatives. In the Southeast, his proportion of votes was drastically scaled down in 2015 compared to what he had in 2011.