By Emmanuel Aziken
About four years ago just after the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, lost the 2015 general election, the death pangs of the party whose officials once boasted it would rule for 50 years were felt all around the polity.
At the peak of its power just after the 2007 general election, the PDP controlled patches of territory across the country with the opposition relegated to far off places. Only four of the nation’s 36 states can today boast not to have had the PDP flag in the Government House. The four are Lagos, Zamfara, Borno and Yobe.
So it was a bit of spectacle when not long after the All Progressives Congress, APC came to power in 2015, that several prominent officials of the party started defecting from the PDP to the APC.
Among the most prominent defectors so far have been two former national chairmen, Adamu Muazu and Ali Modu Sheriff; a former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, former governors among many others.
Indeed, with the spate of defections and sordid revelations of alleged misuse of funds from the office of the National Security Adviser, the forecast for the party was dire.
So clouded was the future of the party that until not too long ago, the suggestion to change the name of the party was a matter for regular discussion among party adherents.
So how the PDP reinvented and turned into a significant threat to the ruling APC is remarkable.
The first praise must go to Chief Olisa Metuh, who in the days following the defeat and even before the new APC administration settled down, marshalled an agenda to provide vibrant opposition.
Metuh’s regular engagements of the new administration in the media space, however, did not resonate well with some within the new administration and it was no surprise that not too long after the new government came to power, he became a major casualty of the administration.
The court trial over allegations that he received funds from President Goodluck Jonathan for party administration has now dragged on for close to three years leaving his health in jeopardy. Metuh to his credit presciently told this correspondent sometime around April, 2015, that the future of the PDP was in wooing Atiku Abubakar, who was then in the APC back to the party and making him the 2019 presidential candidate!
While Metuh took on the administration in the media, perhaps the strategic role of Senator Ike Ekweremadu in using the legislature to repair the PDP cannot be underestimated.
Even before the Eight National Assembly was convened, Ekweremadu as the highest elected political office holder in the new dispensation was able to bring the PDP legislators to a conference in Port-Harcourt where tactical decisions were made. It was at the Port Harcourt retreat for the PDP legislators that the decision was taken to enter the leadership contest as a bloc. That and subsequent caucuses in Abuja led to the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
That was perhaps the masterstroke that helped to unbind the unity with which the APC leaders won the general election. Indeed, since the emergence of Saraki and Dogara, the APC leaders have been fighting one another in a war of attrition that has allowed the PDP to rebuild itself.
However, Senator Ekweremadu who emerged as Deputy President of the Senate has just as Metuh also carried the bruises of the battle. The whisper at one time was that everything was being made to compel him and some other top leaders of the PDP to defect to the APC.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senate Minority Leader and second highest elected official of the party apparently unable to take the heat defected in August 2018.
Ekweremadu, however, refused to buckle. He was bundled to court for allegedly forging the Senate Rule Book; a charge that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria hired by the government to prosecute quietly withdrew.
Besides the often repeated media trials by government agencies that were never brought to court, some swindlers also succeeded in duping security agencies with the claim of knowing alleged funds and assets secreted away by Ekweremadu. But the man remained unbroken and was head of the PDP panel which recommended the zoning of the 2019 presidential ticket to the North.
That recommendation alongside the many foibles of the ruling APC have now rejuvenated a party that was not too long ago in a state of atrophy.
But there were others like Chief Dan Orbih, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Senator Joy Emodi and many other men and women whose fidelity to principle above purse ensured that the PDP did not die. It is to the credit of all these men and women that the PDP remains as a force and a fitting balance in our multi-party democracy.
Whoever wins next Saturday’s contest the sustenance of an active opposition would be a gain for democracy.