Less than one year after it lost Kaduna State to APC after 16 years of control, the PDP remains largely dazed in the state. John Shiklam reports
The Peoples Democratic Party governed Kaduna State for 16 years. Most of the prominent politicians in the state were PDP members. The party held sway in the state from the dawn of the Fourth Republic in 1999 to 2015. It produced the first governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who governed for two terms of eight years. His government was followed by those of former Vice President Namadi Sambo, late Ibrahim Yakowa, and Alhaji Ramalan Yero, who suffered a humiliating defeat by the All Progressives Congress at the last general elections.
Less than one year after PDP was blown off in Kaduna State by APC’s “wind of change”, the former ruling party is yet to start picking up the pieces. It remains largely confused and disoriented in the state.
PDP is fast losing relevance in the state. As a party that governed the state for over a decade, many expected it to be a vibrant opposition to the ruling APC. But that is not to be. PDP leaders in the state have virtually gone underground.
THISDAY findings reveal that some of the party’s bigwigs have either relocated abroad or to Abuja while some have restricted themselves to their homes, as they are rarely seen at public functions. Some of them no longer answer phone calls while others are believed to have changed their phone numbers to avoid unwanted calls. The party’s leaders have chosen to be aloof and disinterested in happenings in the state. They seldom even comment on issues that are in the public domain.
A leader of the PDP, who did not want to be named, explained that the party’s stalwarts were still watching events in the state. “At the appropriate time PDP stalwarts will begin to talk. We want Nigerians to have a feel of the APC government and form their opinion, then we will start to talk when the time comes,” he said.
He added that many leaders of the party were lying low to avoid the frequent demands for favour from the people.
According to him, “Many of our followers forget that we are no longer in power again, as they keep on disturbing us with their pecuniary demands. I believe that may be the reason why some of us don’t pick calls. People keep on disturbing us, asking for money or assistance, they don’t know that we are no more in power. Even when you manage to give them something, they feel it is too small and begin to beg you. They believe that one has so much money. They have forgotten that you are also managing to keep body and soul together.”
After the 2015 general elections, which the party lost woefully, Sambo, who many thought should have been the strong pillar of the party and show the way forward, travelled abroad. He was said to have travelled to attend to medical issues. However, since returning to the country, he has seemed to relocate permanently to Abuja.
Many party faithful believe that the leaders, like Sambo, Makarfi, Yero, former deputy governor, Ambassador Nuhu Bajoga, Senator Nenadi Usman, former aviation minister, Mr. Hassan Hyet, among others, ought to have come together to chart the way forward for the party.
However, following the defeat of the PDP, many of them have chosen to devote their time to their private businesses rather than party issues. Others have left the party. This has led to the daily decline in the structures of the party, as many supporters of the PDP have lost interest and sense of direction.
But a PDP member and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Jonathan Asake, denies that may be fizzling out in Kaduna State. Asake, who was also the sole administrator of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area towards the end of the Yero administration, alleged that the APC was trying to stifle the PDP.
The former lawmaker, who had also relocated to Abuja, dismissed insinuations that party leaders have either gone underground or relocated to Abuja.
He said, “If anybody is saying that PDP leaders in Kaduna have relocated to Abuja or gone underground, it is absolutely not correct. What happened was that after the election, the PDP, which was the ruling party, lost out and because we lost out, the party became weak, especially in the northern states, where virtually all the states were taken over by the APC.
“If you observed carefully, what is happening is not only peculiar to Kaduna State. What drives the engine of opposition is when you are on ground, having people who can use their resources to sponsor opposition or organise the party in such a way that it will consolidate opposition.
“But if you look at the PDP right now, even at the centre, we have crisis. So if there is crisis at the centre, the command structure is not there to be able to provide the necessary opposition. That is what is affecting Kaduna State as of now. So it is not that people have run to Abuja. What will anybody be doing in Abuja since the government at the centre is not a PDP government?”
Asake remained optimistic that PDP would come back strong. “If things are sorted out at the national level, they should first of all look at states that do not have PDP government and see how they could be assisted to get organised and provide very vibrant opposition.”
Another PDP chieftain who served as special adviser as well as sole administrator of Kajuru local government during the administration of Yero, Hon. Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Yaronkirki, noted that the defeat of the PDP devastated the members and weakened the party. He said, “We did not expect the kind of defeat we suffered in Kaduna State. It seriously destabilised us. All the members were shocked over the defeat. Everybody became demoralised. I think that is responsible for the present state of things in the Kaduna State chapter of the PDP.
“But we have regained our balance and we are gradually recovering. We are bouncing back very strongly and you will soon see the difference.”
Yaronkirki said anybody who thought PDP was fizzling out was having an illusion, pointing out that the party has gone back to the drawing board to strategise.
The Kaduna State Youth Leader, Mr. Danjuma Sarki, was also optimistic. He said as far as the youth were concerned, everything was being done to renew the hope of the people in the PDP, stressing that in spite of the defeat, the youth remain focused.
On the insinuation that PDP leaders in Kaduna State had gone underground, Sarki said, “I think the leadership of the party is in the best position to comment on whether they have gone underground or relocated to Abuja. But on our own part, we are trying as much as possible to renew hope in our members.
“However, I think the party leadership need to do more in order to ensure that the party remains very relevant and shape the opinion of the people and constructively criticise the government of the day. We, the youth, are very concerned about the continued silence of our leaders on issues of public interest.”
Many are surprised that a political party that dominated the affairs of a state for 16 years could be so disoriented after a single defeat. What the present lethargy in the Kaduna State chapter of PDP seems to confirm is the general feeling that what holds the interest of the country’s politicians in their various parties is the material benefits they expect to reap – and rarely the passion to contribute to the good of society.