By Dirisu Yakubu
For politicians and political parties, particularly in emerging democracies, life in opposition is often nothing to cheer about. And in a system famous for its winners take all syndrome, life in the corridors of power is the ultimate goal of those bent on remaining relevant, politically that is.
For 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, ruled the roost and dominated the political space in a manner yet to be matched by any political party since the nation’s experimentation with democracy began in 1960.
So big was its influence that its former national chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor once boasted that the party was fated to dictate the nation’s political narratives for 60 years. However, in obedience to the law of gravity, the party fell from its Olympian height in 2015, losing not only the Presidency but also a swathe of states across the six geo-political zones in the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to concede defeat ultimately left his party in the unfamiliar waters of opposition politics for the first time in 2015. As predicted, a good number of its founding members quickly dumped the umbrella, and grabbed the broom, the symbol of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, that had just emerged the new platform of romance for all manner of players.
As the first four years of President Muhammadu Buhari began to wind down, the PDP made good its promise to select its Presidential candidate for the 2019 election freely and fairly with the choice of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The man whose age-long ambition to occupy the plum seat warrants no recap here, did his best to sell one of the most robust governance blueprints ever written in Nigeria, to Nigerians, home and abroad.
Tagged, “Let’s Make Nigeria Working Again,” Atiku laid bare steps on how he would boost states’ internally generated revenue, enhance fiscal prudence with budgetary discipline among others. At the end of balloting however, he lost to Buhari. He headed for the tribunal and the Supreme Court with both affirming the election of Buhari in the February 23, Presidential poll.
As it is with politics in this part, preparations for 2023 have commenced, albeit on skeletal basis with the PDP bent on making a return to Aso Rock. Speaking exclusively with Saturday Vanguard, national publicity secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan insisted that Nigerians are now ready more than ever to show the APC the exit door at the earliest possible time.
In his words, the pain and anguish being experienced by the people is a pointer “to the fact that Nigerians made a big mistake for pitching tent with APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in the past five years. It’s normal for a new party to emerge from nowhere but staying long in power depends on performance.
“The PDP was able to stay on for long given the manner it united the various parts of the country with every ethnic nationality given a sense of belonging. Today, the democracy our founding fathers fought for is increasingly facing existential threat but we can assure Nigerians that the PDP will not fold its hand. We shall give Nigerians back their country.”
Like Ologbondiyan, deputy publicity scribe of the party, Diran Odeyemi says Nigerians only have their lives to look upon to determine whether they were right in changing parties or not. According to him, job losses, corruption perception index and the worsening security situation in the country are enough to sum up the President Buhari stewardship in the past five years.
“How many jobs did they create? And what has been our outing in the fight against corruption thus far? It is not enough to parade people, made up largely of opposition figures, as an indication that you are fighting corruption. Question is, what are the statistics to show that graft is going down?
“Nigerians are tired of mindless killings across the country. Nowhere and no one is safe anymore. Gunmen lurking around, killing travellers, people are being kidnapped and killed and you think this will continue? No way, PDP is set to take over this country at the appropriate time,” he says, adding that as true democrats, there’s no point debating the outcome of the 2019 Presidential election because in his words, “the highest court in the land has determined the matter.”
There are indications that the party is set to strategically retain its Presidential ticket in the North with the hope of squaring up with the APC, which is likely to be under pressure to honour its pledge of having a Presidential aspirant of southern extraction in 2023.
While giving the north another shot at the plum office will definitely anger some party faithful, particularly southern big wigs who did their part by standing with the PDP in 2019; a party stalwart who spoke with this medium in confidence said the leadership of the party knows what is at stake.
“You see, I didn’t want to talk about this but truth is, the party is well aware of the sensitivity of this issue. Politics is about interest but the interest of the few can wait so that the collective majority can turn out the ultimate winners. We are experienced enough to know how to handle the issue of zoning and I can inform Nigerians that we are already talking. This country must be secured from the position of life support that these accidental leaders have thrown it to,” he noted.