Segun James writes that with the decision of former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi to take up the chairmanship of the crisis riddled Peoples Democratic Party; he has agreed to take up a very Herculean task
Simply put, the main task before the new chairman of the main opposition party in Nigeria today, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi, after the drama and the intrigues of last Saturday’s (parallel) convention, is to give effective direction for the factionalised party.
Within the three months that he will be holding forth, he would be expected to bring the various camps together and at the same time conduct due diligence on the quality of those aspiring to the leadership position and ensure that only the best and most credible are elected to steer the ship of the party towards 2019 elections when the party hopes to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
There is no doubting the fact that the PDP needs to eliminate all those factors that are making leadership selection system chaotic, considering all the leadership tussles that led to the circumstances of the last national convention of the party that threw up Makarfi as the acting chairman of the party for the next 90 days.
Before and after the 2015 elections which the party lost at the federal level, state level and at the National Assembly, the once “largest party in Africa” has faced the threat of extinction, not only because the party was beaten blue and black, but more because the stakeholders in the party have been at loggerheads over who becomes the leader.
A collection of article published where opinions of Nigerians were sought on the real problems bedeviling the former ruling party, one issue worth noting was that people consider the PDP as a party where reconciliation hardly works because even when there is “reconciliation,” the warring parties only sheathe their swords for a while before returning to the trenches for more battles.
For instance, a former Kaduna State governor, elder statesman and chieftain of the PDP once said that reconciliation in the party has not achieved positive results because people are not honestly committed. To him, all the crises that the party has had are self-inflicted.
On his part, a central player in the formation of the APC, Prince Tony Momoh, in one of his comments on the PDP long before the current crises, expressed the opinion that peace has always eluded the party because of the inordinate ambition of leading members, who have turned the party into a personal property after edging out its founding fathers.
“The Peoples Democratic Party has many well-meaning, mature, committed politicians that came together to form the party. I mean the likes of Chief Alex Ekweme, Solomon Lar, the late Abubakar Rimi and others, they meant well for Nigeria. They wanted to grow Nigeria; they had a programme for achieving this. The group that I am talking about included Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, but unfortunately, after 2003, those who inherited the structure distanced themselves from the programme.”
“The previous arrangement or previous path of the People Democratic Movement (PDM) which was Yar’Adua’s party that Atiku inherited was changed when Obasanjo had it deregistered. The PDM was the most organised group within the PDP. After Obasanjo return in 2003 when he had to kneel down to beg Atiku in the course of seeking re-election and how he later wage a war of attrition against Atiku and his loyalists. You can now see that between 1999 when we went back to civil rule, that journey was truncated through greed and corruption. PDP which has been the umbrella of such evil has been caught by the law of diminishing return. It is facing the problem which it cannot recover from.”
A political analyst, Mallam Moyo Jaji, shares Momoh’s views. He noted that: “The problem with the PDP has to do with the fact that it derailed from the objectives of the founding fathers of the party,” stressing that “Most of those who formed the party have been sent out of the party. There has not been internal democracy in the party.”
The discordances in the party have cost it so much. For instance, in 2011, before some members walked out at the 2013 August convention, the PDP controlled 23 states while the other parties shared the remaining. It was only the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which was an integral part of the APC that had six governorship positions.
The centre ceased to hold for the PDP when some governors walked out of the party’s convention. This is principally why the party lost the 2015 presidential election because five governors from the party joined the opposition that eventually snatched power from the PDP on March 28, 2015.
The party, which had controlled power since the advent of the fourth republic is not used to defeat and to many analysts, the current imbroglio is a product of the shock of sudden loss of power. To some others, it is the result of greed and selfish interest of some members who are already calculating ahead of 2019.
Against the background of the fact that for democracy to survive in Nigeria, there is need for a formidable opposition as the PDP and the eagerness of members of the party to reclaim its lost glory, the acting chairman and well-meaning members of the party must brainstorm on how best to achieve lasting peace and at the same time, members must imbibe the culture of give and take and the spirit of true reconciliation.
Though the time is short – 90 days, which is already counting, the leadership of the party should be asking probing questions such as: how can the party utilise its position as a strong opposition in the coming years? Can the PDP reform itself and how? Will the party bounce back to snatch victory from the APC in the coming years? How does the party handle the problem of most of its prominent members who are having cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? What are being put on ground to serve as incentive for members of the party to stop further defection to the ruling party? And whatever that would be, it must also come with considerable internal democracy structure and eradication of impunity in the party.
There is also the problem of decamping; the opposition party is losing a number of its committed members to the APC by the day. Just recently, Senator Smart Adeyemi from Kogi West senatorial district dumped the PDP for the APC dues to what his supporters consider has ill-treatment of the lawmaker.
The party must fashion out a way to persuade members from decamping and make them realise that strong parties are not formed when members bolt away after electoral failure. It is something that PDP members must accept; and learn from former Lagos State governor and APC leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who doggedly weathered the storm to give Nigeria a very strong opposition since 1999.
He never attempted joining the PDP. He endured persecution, especially during the time of former President Obasanjo’s administration. He quietly organise the opposition that gave birth to the APC through the merger of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), some part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
While the crises in the PDP festers, members of the party are looking forward to the Makarfi leadership to pull the party from the wreckage of defeat, restore peace and harmony to the party. These can only be achieved if all the issues on ground are dispassionately addressed before the next convention, otherwise the party could be heading for its end if sectional and not broad interests are serviced.