By Ochereome Nnanna
DON’T be deceived by what you see of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, these days. Compared with its counterpart, the All Progressives Congress, APC, the PDP has a nobler ancestry, orthodoxy and pedigree. As noted in the first part of this article, APC’s ancestor, the All Peoples Party, APP, was formed by the late General Sani Abacha’s Northern reactionary political orphans when the thieving tyrant suddenly died in 1998.
The APC is just a patchwork of political strange bedfellows committed to power grab. It belongs essentially to the North-West/North-East and South-West, which is why, after Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years, power is purported to go to the South-West to allow Bola Tinubu enjoy his turn. Meanwhile, there is no ideological meeting point between Buhari’s Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda (Buharism) and Tinubu’s personal cult of political and economic imperialism. Anyone who believes Tinubu will continue Buhari’s agenda will believe anything.
The PDP, has deep historical roots that date back to 1979 in the ideology of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. The NPN also had further roots in the defunct Northern People’s Congress, NPC, of the First Republic. After the Civil War, the military led by General Olusegun Obasanjo, threw its weight behind some key Northern leaders and their allies from all parts of the country to form a national party that could carry all sections of the country along. The NPN adopted the policy of zoning principal offices to give Nigerians a sense of belonging.
Former Vice President, the late Alex Ekwueme, was set to benefit from this and emerge as president in 1987. But the Northern military boys who fought against Biafra’s secession were incensed that an Igbo man, a former Biafran, should become their Commander-in-Chief only 17 years after the collapse of Biafra. They staged the coup that brought in Muhammadu Buhari on January 31, 1983.
At this juncture, the South-West, Middle Belt and other Minorities felt very much at home with the impunities and marginalisation of the Igbo nation. They felt like “specially privileged Nigerians” rubbing shoulders with the Hausa and Fulani who called the shots just as they wanted.
Certain factors led to the gradual disintegration of the post-war anti-Igbo alliance. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a rabid anti-Igbo thespian, after enjoying a cozy relationship with the North, suddenly started complaining about how the oil wealth of Ogoniland was being used against them. On November 10, 1994, he was hanged. But shortly after that, the Ijaw youths also woke up, issued their Kaiama Declaration on December 11, 1998, and militarily took on the Federal Government. The close partnership between the Yoruba and the Fulani overlords which dated back to the Civil War fell apart after MKO Abiola’s victory was annulled in a most contemptuous slap on the face imaginable.
The Yoruba elite split in two. Some, through Afenifere led by Pa Abraham Adesanya, embraced the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO’s, struggle to force the military to revalidate the annulment. Leaders like Lateef Jakande, Olu Onagoruwa and others, supported Abacha’s government and the Abacha Constitutional Conference. The purpose of the Conference was to restore unity through dialogue and find ways of preventing future upheavals such as the annulment.
At the Conference, Ekwueme, in advancing the Igbo Agenda, brought back the NPN charter for national cohesion: rotation and zoning, based on the six geopolitical zones. His idea was thrown out by Northern hawks who felt that the geopolitical zones would whittle down their majority grip on Nigerian politics. But the Abacha-led PRC met both sides halfway. They approved rotation and zoning between North and South. They also approved the Federal Character principle, which is now in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended). But they refused to make the geopolitical zones federating units.
This story shows the history, reason, rhyme and logic of power sharing based on the six geopolitical zones which the PDP’s founders adopted in 1998 when the Abdulsalami Abubakar transitional programmes started. Power sharing, rotation and Federal Character principle have a historical trajectory that reflects the dynamics of our political experiences as a nation. It was a negotiated pact of the Nigeria representatives which the PDP, as the party given the baton to operate a nascent democracy that would uplift our diversity and keep the military in the barracks, adopted as its ideology.
The failure of the PDP to zone the presidency to the South-East during the June 2022 primaries after favouring the South-West, North-West and South-South with it, means that the party has abandoned its soul because of the desperate expediency of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition. Just like the military in 1983, they plotted and denied the Igbo nation a chance to lead.
The situation in the PDP is so horrible that the South-East has only a zonal Deputy National Chairman. The North grabbed almost everything: presidential candidate, National Chairman and Chairman, Board of Trustees. The upshot is that the party will lose its South-East and South-South traditional electoral base if Nyesom Wike makes good his threat to “help the party lose”. Atiku will have to depend on the same North that Tinubu and Rabiu Kwankwaso are hoping on. How will that give him victory? If care is not taken, PDP may come a distant third in the 2023 presidential election.
If that happens, what the Alliance for Democracy, AD, went through could become the lot of the PDP. AD once had all the six South-West states under its belt. Where is it today? AD died because it compromised its ideology. Due to ethnic sentiments, it went into alliance with PDP’s Obasanjo in 2003.
Obasanjo turned around and emasculated it and some of its leaders died mysteriously. Imagine where PDP would be today if the leaders had given Peter Obi their presidential ticket?
How are the mighty fallen!