By Paul Odili
SINCE the return of democratic rule in 1999 one political party, the PDP has dominated Delta State. So in effect by 2023 it will be 24 years of one-party rule of this state of four million people. A child born in 1999 would grow up assuming that it is a natural order of things to have only PDP govern the state, as no other political party in his life so far has successfully dislodged the PDP from power; the closest was in 2010 when DPP mounted a serious challenge that scared the PDP. Since then the one-party dominance has continued. This is a hostage democracy in Delta State.
The victory of APC at the national level and majority of states should have opened the door for a formidable challenge to PDP in Delta State but, sadly, this has not happened, even comparable to the level of what DPP attempted in 2010. DPP a party without reference in any other state caused quite a stir, left a legacy that should have emboldened APC in Delta to push for and achieve power.
The 2019 general election was a litmus test for APC; it was thought that the party stood a good chance of breaking the Gideon knot. In the end, to frustration of all, the party never measured up; that campaign was a catastrophic failure: internal strife, factionalism, breakdown of discipline and party loyalty overwhelmed APC.
In that election, the moral of party members were low, many didn’t even bother to come out to vote, some openly worked against the party as agents and moles of the PDP; many went to court such that candidates of the party divided their time between attending court proceedings and campaigning.
Some candidates had their candidacy affirmed on the eve of the election. In innumerable instances, there were multiple candidates laying claim to the same party ticket, going around campaigning for the same office, making a poor spectacle of the party. Materials for mobilisation of members and voters went into wrong hands; rather than use same for what they were meant for, diverted or withheld them. It was a complete horror show and a giant disorgansiation.
In the aftermath, you would think that with such a dismal failure Delta APC would do a rigorous internal self-criticism, reflect deeply over the 2019 debacle, and attempt to rebuild confidence within the fold in preparation for next contest. To the best of my knowledge such exercise never happened.
As every astute politician knows, the end of one election is the beginning of the next one. Four years is not a life time. The implication is that the party has been on autopilot and is coasting along and right now has entered choppy waters with turbulence growing every day.
No matter what anyone can say about the PDP in Delta State, it has been winning elections and has shown that it can do so, using every means possible. And the PDP has a somewhat better internal party discipline and a better grasp of what it means to be in power. That does not mean the PDP does not have vulnerabilities – it does. For one the PDP has stayed too long in power.
Time is catching up with the PDP and Deltans are becoming wary of their loyalty and support to the PDP. Moreover, the level of disenchantment within the PDP itself is extremely high, at no time is there such feeling of disappointment; such that the PDP internally is frightened of the prospect of the coming election.
With this in mind the moment for APC to make a bold claim for the governorship and other elective offices in Delta State has finally arrived. However, to effectuate this opportunity there must be intellectual and moral honesty within APC.
Some posers need to be raised and addressed and they are: Has APC repackaged its image in Delta State as an attractive alternative to the PDP? The answer is yes and no. Yes in the sense that the party is obviously leveraging the performance of the Federal Government and the impact and opportunities that they see the APC-led government is providing. So this has helped people to increasingly overcome their hesitancy in openly identifying and joining APC. However and to the dismay of most people, this window to grow and reposition APC is not being harnessed at the rate expected.
The perennial internecine conflict is brewing right on the horizon if not already full-scale. Thus, we are looking at 2015 and 2019 all over again. Across Delta State the palpable concern is: not again in APC. This question underscores the fear of another implosion ahead of the 2023 general election. Those who wish an alternative to the PDP can’t just fathom why the lingering crisis continues to metastasise.
There is polarisation in the APC and it is looking unlikely to be bridged. Yet politics ought to be a game of interest with no permanent enemy; in APC it appears reverse is the norm. The differences in the party have lingered beyond what is acceptable in politics. Political differences are not unheard of and are in fact an indication of the robustness of the political party; but what is important is identifying when to subordinate these individual differences for a broad consensus.
At this point the role of leadership is pivotal. As mentioned earlier, had there been an attempt to reflect deeply over the conduct of 2019 political contest from primaries to the general election and genuine desire to forge consensus, the brewing crises would have been averted.
The vulgarity of the Delta State ward congress signposts this growing rift. And it was no accident that we have come to this sorry pass. It is delusional not to build consensus on the party structure and expect that the party can win the next round of election. For emphasis, it is foolish to wear a tin hat over this issue.
Therefore, this is the time for sobriety in decision making. This is not the time for triumphalism; this is the time to put aside selfish, personal aggrandisement. This is the time for a collective vanguard of party leaders working together for the party to achieve victory.
It can’t be said enough, unless the party wins power, there is nothing to be prideful about in being a perennial loser in a political party. The historic responsibility on the shoulders of APC leaders is immense and demands greater leadership than has so far been offered.
*Odili, APC House of Representative candidate in 2019 general election, wrote from Asaba