The PDP has another opportunity to change the political landscape

Ever since it lost the 2015 general election, the in-fighting within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has robbed the nation of a viable opposition platform that could serve as a check on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But the crisis may now be over with the Supreme Court ruling that has put paid to the antics of the former Borno State Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff who had held the party by the jugular. Coming just four days after the party won the bye-election to fill the Osun West Senatorial seat earlier held by the APC, the PDP seems well-positioned to bounce back to reckoning as a serious opposition party. But it must first put its house in order.

Instructively, in condemning the multiplicity of court applications filed in the course of the crisis that lasted 14 months, the Supreme Court chided Sheriff for demonstrating “an infantile desperation to lead the PDP by filing almost 10 different applications in various courts”, adding that these frivolous applications “shall forever gather dust in the judicial archives.” Notwithstanding, Senator Ahmed Makarfi – whose responsibility it is now to reconcile the disparate factions of the PDP into a cohesive whole – has a job on his hands. Besides, the party must begin to invest in ideas and values for it to regain the trust of the Nigerian people.

Many of the ills of recent years could be located in the mismanagement of both the polity and governance by the PDP – vices often associated with prolonged incumbency. In the absence of any strong opposition for many years, the party got away with a lot of sleaze and ineptitude until it was eventually voted out in 2015. Yet, as we have argued several times on this page, without any viable alternative political platform to the ruling party, democracy risks a slide into authoritarianism, traces of which are already emerging in the country.

Indeed, it would appear as if the current APC administration is taking its template from the PDP it defeated. For instance, multiple court rulings on human rights violations have been routinely ignored while some federal agencies behave as if they are law onto themselves.

Therefore, the best way to strengthen institutions and uphold democratic principles is when the critical roles of the opposition are not stifled either by government in power or by its own acts of omission or commission as it has been with the PDP in recent months. Aside nudging the government towards more people-centred policies by giving voice to the concerns of the people and proffering alternatives, a strong opposition can serve as a watchdog to ensure government functions within the confines of the law. That has been missing in our country in the last two years.

However, now that the PDP has been given a new lease of life, we hope the party has learnt sufficient lessons from the past. The problem of the PDP arose from the subversion of rules by its leaders whose dictatorial tendencies undermined internal democracy in the party. With the benefit of state power for 16 years, its leaders developed a disposition that led them into trampling on the democratic rights of members and the ordinary citizens. Even after losing power, this culture of impunity remained and was largely responsible for the crisis now resolved by the Supreme Court after so much damage has been done to the image of the party.

While it is important for the PDP to mend its ways, what we advocate is not opposition for its own sake because the government in power must have the latitude to get on with the onerous responsibility of running the country. But when a government does not have anyone asking salient questions, that can easily lead to tyranny and we must guard against that. That is the value the PDP, with all its own internal contradictions, now brings to the table.

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Aside nudging the government towards more people-centred policies by giving voice to the concerns of the people and proffering alternatives, a strong opposition can serve as a watchdog to ensure government functions within the confines of the law. That has been missing in our country in the last two years