By Okey Muogbo
ONE terrifying doomsday prophecy hanging over the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, today is the threat of the party dying with the 2023 general elections. The disastrous misadventure of the PDP in throwing open its presidential ticket in the upcoming presidential primaries has sadly gone further in exacerbating the fragile position of the party. That ill-advised decision has eroded the cock-solid base of the PDP in the Southeast and South-south and so, only carefully thought-out programmes and plans can save the party from ruins in the post-2023 era.
One of such plans is to ensure that a committed PDP man is made the presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 elections. Of all the presidential aspirants the party is parading today, Anyim Pius Anyim stands tallest when loyalty and commitment to the PDP is considered. At most difficult times, he lies low, at most opportune times, he had always made himself available for service to the party. In 2003 following the completion of his Senate presidency and ensuing disagreement with then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Anyim went low profile until 2010 when opportunity beckoned following his appointment as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, by President Goodluck Jonathan.
In 2015, PDP’s world crumbled. That was after it lost the general election and surrendered federal power to the APC. Its (then) president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari. It was the final straw, but before then, were few other straws that sank PDP deep down. One of the major ones was the mass defection from the party led by ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his gang of rebels. Seven years into that lonely walk, it should be time for stock-taking. How did PDP survive to remain relevant and a beautiful bride today?
It was the sweat and ‘blood’ of few committed party men and women. They stayed back to patch the torn umbrella. The gang of rebels, particularly Atiku, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, Murtala Nyako, etc., were particularly violent with the umbrella when they were decamping. They tried everything to tear the PDP umbrella into pieces – a clear manifestation that they were not truly committed to nurturing and growing the party. But on the opposite of the gang of rebels were the builders, deeply committed PDP members. The list is long but a few of them are outstanding. They include Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Goodluck Jonathan, Kabir Tanimu Turaki, Sule Lamido, Ambassador Ibrahim Kazaure, Prof Jerry Gana, Mrs Olajumoke Akinjide, etc.
These members bore the brunt of being in opposition party. Each of them you meet tells horrible stories of what they have gone through since the PDP went into political wilderness in 2015. They have had to resist both “the carrot” and “the stick” of the ruling APC government all these years to remain in the PDP. Many former PDP members could not bear the whipping and had to decamp to the All Progressive Congress, APC. The courage exhibited by these loyal PDP members is best appreciated when viewed against the backdrop that they were no longer in power. Secondly, the triumphant APC had during the campaign deployed its enormous propaganda machine to convict the PDP administration of corruption even without trial.
As APC popularity began to wane as a result of its failure to implement any of its cardinal election campaign promises, the ruling party began a calculated witch hunt against PDP members with three vicious aims: to shame them, to jail them and to force them to join APC. Besides, there was the ruling party’s policy of “once you decamp to APC, your sins are forgiven”. Kudos to all those who were out of government but resisted the onslaught of the ruling party. The greatest enemies of the PDP are those who walked away from it in the build up to the 2015 general election. They didn’t just abandon ship, they worked very hard to ensure that the party was humiliated at the polls. Politics without principle has cast a lot of doubts on the capacity of these migratory politicians to be trusted with any critical position in the party.
Come to think of it, Atiku and his co-wanderers were/are not the only members of the PDP who felt uncomfortable with the way the party was/is being run. But the others who disagreed with some of the actions and inaction of the party, especially in 2014/2015 period, tried to place the interest of the party above their personal interest and decided to remain in the party. One of them is Anyim Pius Anyim. This is loyalty and politics of integrity at play. As the party prepares for primaries, some measure of advantage ought to be accorded to those who have not abandoned the party before. A man who cannot bear pain should not enjoy the sweet comfort that comes with perseverance.
Despite losing power at the centre in the 2015 general elections, Anyim worked so hard to ensure that PDP won his home state – Ebonyi through Dave Umahi. Umahi was returned for the second term in 2019 again, courtesy of Anyim’s efforts. In 2020, Governor Umahi embarked on his political gamble by decamping to the APC. Shockingly, the governor wanted to drag Anyim willy-nilly, to the APC but Anyim bluntly refused. If Anyim had gone to APC like Umahi, the PDP would have been dead in Ebonyi State and that would ultimately have negative impact on the PDP in the whole South-East zone. That was another demonstration of love for the PDP by Anyim. For that show of commitment to PDP, Anyim and his fellow PDP members in Ebonyi have been visited with the full negative impact of state executive powers/paraphernalia, causing terrible disruption and discomfort to the PDP in the state and its men and women, Anyim not excluded.
Of all the PDP aspirants criss-crossing the country today to canvass for support, Anyim is the only one who tells his audience that he is proud of the PDP legacies. He is the only one who will proudly recount the party’s great men from Obasanjo to Yar’Adua to Jonathan and will cap it up with publicly declaring that he would bring back the good old days of PDP economy, social harmony and national unity. That is the hallmark of party loyalty. In this 2023 transition, the choice before Nigerians is clear – a continuation of the APC misrule or return to the good old days of PDP. At all his consultations with delegates, he psyches up fellow party members on who they are and why they should be proud of the PDP achievements in its 16 years rule. I have not seen any PDP aspirant talking boldly of his party like Anyim.
Hear Anyim in Niger State: “Do you know when last we had a country?” The delegates answered: “When PDP was in power.” Then Anyim went on: “If we talk about PDP today, there is something that makes me happy – it is when I hear Nigerians say, please return PDP days to us, please return PDP days to us. What I have come to do is to return PDP to Nigerians. PDP has a tradition, PDP has a philosophy, PDP has values. If you watch PDP government from 1999 to 2015, you see that the country was on steady growth, the country was on a steady prosperity course, the country was more secure, the country was more united, the country was growing at a level that reflects the name it is called: the giant of Africa.”
“Somebody asked me, Anyim, you were in Government in 2015, why do you want to come back this time? I said, I want to repeat what I did that time and advance it. I have all the record of what we did. I have all the principles for which we did those things, all the projects we put in motion thinking that when we return for the second term, we would perfect them. It is the PDP programmes I have come to restore,” Anyim proudly told his audience.
Of all the aspirants jostling for the presidential ticket of the PDP, only Anyim has not walked away on the party. He and the other loyal party men and women contesting other positions deserve to be acknowledged with some concessions. That is the best way the PDP can reward loyalty and by that, send clear signal that there will always be reward for perseverance.
It is not difficult to see that quite a number of the presidential aspirants in PDP today operate like mercenaries, fair whether friends and ‘soldiers’ of fortune, ready only for what they can get from the party and not necessarily nurturing it. A candidate who can’t be proud of the PDP is not justified to pick its ticket. Lighting should be allowed to strike twice.
Muogbo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja