By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
The PDP is euphoric. But it must contain itself. Its concentration must be on the electoral map. It must formulate a concise message. No one has heard it say how it plans to curb corruption. All it does is hysterical lamentation of the poor performance of the ruling party. The PDP has been on the ropes for too long. Succor has come.
Defectors have poured in. Its supporters can be permitted to dance a little. They have grieved for too long. But the party must know it has an uphill task. 2019 is here. The party cannot afford prolonged celebrations of ‘side nettings.’
I remember when the PDP welcomed Sheriff back with fanfare. They had thought he was the god that would deliver the northeast to them. Wike and Fayose later anointed him party chairman. Then the party was torn to shreds with litigation. Now they all think he was a well dressed mole. The PDP cannot be blamed for getting excited about the return of the defectors. The father of the prodigal son threw a party the day his wayward son returned. But he didn’t surrender himself to delusions. The PDP must not give its pearls to swines. It must not lapse into self congratulations.
The PDP can jubilate for a while. But it must settle down quickly and assess the real electoral value of the noisy defectors. It is true that politics is a game of numbers. But no one feels his bag with chaff and walks around like a man carrying gold. Let the party throw automatic tickets at the returnees. But let it bear in mind that many of those northern legislators came to victory in 2015 riding the Buhari hurricane. It’s good for the PDP to be optimistic. But it is better for it to be realistic.
The country needs a virile opposition. But a robust opposition cannot be formed by a band of peripatetic fortune seekers with mercenary instincts roving from party to party. A firm opposition can only be founded on strong moral principles and sound policies.
The PDP has relied on a perceived public disenchantment with the APC. The opposition has not managed to craft any new message. It has not managed to re-brand and re market itself. And unfortunately, it has no pedigree that can recommend it to the public. And I guess it now knows that its history is an albatross. Perhaps that is why it feels its name is too filthy to be retained. But Nigerians don’t discard old names quickly. The election is six months away. NEPA is still NEPA, despite the fact that NEPA ceased to exist more than five years ago. Kingsway road is still Kingsway road in the mouths of Lagosians. And Douglas road has remained Douglas road in Owerri, despite recent renaming ceremonies.
Let the PDP merry a little. But let it not get presumptuous. Some of those who defected had worked for the PDP while carrying brooms around, for almost three years now. They may not bring much in fresh energy. The PDP has been the de-facto majority in the Senate since Saraki ate the forbidden fruit and mounted the throne. The defections have given the PDP momentum, but the party needs a good steering wheel. It must chart a moral and economic direction. It cannot afford to be the party that makes excuses for corruption and scowls at anti corruption agencies.
We know the ruling party made a last ditch attempt to stop the defections. But we also know that they refused to grant the defectors their wishes. Many of the defectors wanted a guarantee of automatic return tickets and other petty private benefits. Those aren’t particularly difficult. The refusal of the ruling party to accede must be a reflection of its estimation of the electoral weight of the generality of the defectors, and the risk they posed to the ruling party retaining power in 2019.
PDP must celebrate cautiously. The electoral map shows that it has a narrow, winding, treacherous path to victory. It must choose its presidential candidate shrewdly. It must choose a candidate that will touch Buhari’s cache of votes in the northwest. It must choose a candidate that can woo independent voters and the international community. The PDP spent three years spreading bigotry and fanning flames of division. It must spend the next six months preaching national unity to stand a chance of winning votes in the far north.
The other day its national chairman gave credence to rumours that it may chicken out of the 2019 elections to save face and save its supporters heart ache. The party must find courage and abandon extreme cynicism. If it boycotts the elections in 2019 it will become extinct. There is nothing new the ruling party has introduced into the winning of elections in Nigeria. Nothing that the PDP is not familiar with.
I actually feared that the PDP was going extinct at some point when its hopes seemed to hang on a Supreme Court verdict. It’s good it survived and has strengthened. Stiff completion would help the ruling party become more responsive. But the return of PDP’s wandering legion must be managed carefully. They left the APC because they were marginalized. They have returned with ambition and hunger for power. Some of them are going to find the PDP inhospitable too. The biblical prodigal son got a rousing welcome that sparked envy in his brother. If the defectors usurp privileges and instigate defections out of the PDP then their return could be counter productive. Only the institution of internal democracy will banish rancor and destructive squabbles. But the sort of midnight bargains that lured the jilted reformists home would definitely offend many existing party members.
The PDP can jubilate. But Uhuru is still so far away.