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Will PDP Ever Get its Groove Back?

Will PDP Ever Get its Groove Back?

With the outcome of the 2023 general election showing the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party once again failing to regain its former status as the country’s leading party, Emameh Gabriel, looks at the prospect of what was once Africa’s largest political party

Former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor,

once asserted that he foresee the PDP staying in power for sixty years but that was before the tumultuous reign of President Goodluck Jonathan that precipitated massive defection from the party and witnessed a merger of various political parties and factions in a determined pact to ouster the then ruling party.

The effort paid off and in February 2015 general elections, the product of that merger, the All Progressives Congress (APC) succeeded in toppling the party.

This would later be the beginning to what today looks like an end of an era for the once formidable party that wielded power in over 30 states across the federation. Since then, the party’s fortune has continued to dwindle even to this day.

When the PDP began as a political party with the lifting of the ban on political parties with the death of General Sani Abacha in June 1998, which saw a conglomeration of notable political personalities coming together, starting with the G-18 and later the G-34 with names such as Chief Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Chief Audu Ogbe, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Chief Solomon Lar, Iro Alhaji Abubakar, and Alhaji Dan Musa.

Others were Professor Ango Abdullahi, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, Ambassador Aminu Wali, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, Professor Jibril Aminu, Professor Iya Abubakar, Alhaji Bello Kirfi, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Dr Iyochia Ayu, Chief Tom Ikimi, Alhaji Isiyaku Ibrahim, Senator Walid Jibril, Dr. Garba Nadama, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Senator Olusola Saraki, Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura, Chief Anthony Anenih, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Professor Jerry Gana and Colonel Ahmadu Ali (rtd).

The fine array of gladiators and ideologues was an indicator of its auspicious beginning and the party did not disappoaint as it went about the gigantic task of reforming a society and economy severely battered by decades of military misrule coupled with a number of coup d’etat that dominated part of that era.

Among the achievements of the party in its formative years include: its deregulation and privatization drive, establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC).

In its heydays, the party under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo had a near iron grip on the nation’s political life, particularly after the 2003 general elections when it trounced the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) in its Southwest stronghold with only Lagos State surviving the onslaught.

The PDP began its domination in the nation’s political turf with 21 states in the 1999 governorship election and after winning the presidential election that year. The party won in all the six states in the South-South, five states in the South-East geopolitical zones and 10 in the Northern states.

The APP won in nine states including  Zamfara, Yobe, Sokoto, Kwara, Kogi, Kebbi, Jigawa, Gombe, and Borno with AD winning only in the South-West geopolitical zone including Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, and Lagos states.

In the 2003 poll, the party retained power in the centre and went on to increased the number of states under its control to 28 states during the 2003 governorship election, though the party later lost Anambra to APGA through a court process. At this time, AD only won Lagos State. They lost other states in the southwest zone before the party later metamorphosed into Action Congress (AC). The APP which would later change identity to ANPP won seven states, including Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.

Between 2007 and 2011, the number rose to 31 states. As of May 30, 2007, the PDP had 31 states under its control namely Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara.

While the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) had Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, and Borno states, the defunct Action Congress (AC) had only Lagos.

While the PDP basked in the euphoria of its reign in the 16 years, internal sabotage and crises sparked by lack of internal democracy ensued. This would become the party’s undoing in its later years before it fell in the hands of the current rulling party in 2015. The PDP has since then, remained almost a shadow of itself.

A founding father of the party and former Vice-President, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, said PDP was formed as a “mass movement” but along the way, it was hijacked by selfish interests.

The elder statesman noted that those who hijacked the party were not founding members.

Ekwueme in his last days on earth, lamented that PDP’s fall was caused by its failure to sustain mass movement ideal of the party. He also cited  lack of internal democracy in the party, particularly in the build-up to the 2015 elections.

He said: “We found it difficult to manage the party as a mass movement; unfortunately, some people who did not know how the party was formed, turned it into a personal estate.

“They wanted to use my state, Anambra, to do re-registration, to exclude some people who did not agree with them. Others (political parties) were attracting new members, they were driving away members.  The party (PDP) lacked internal democracy.

“Yar’Adua came and called me and others. We went round and brought back aggrieved members. Yar’Adua died and we didn’t conclude that assignment.”

The former Vice President further stressed that there was a need for the party to go back to its root to pick up itself in the face of the challenges it has been confronted with.

“I am happy that out of the debacle of 2015, there is need for introspection to find out where we went wrong and how to right the wrongs,” Ekwueme had said then.

Difficulties of Being in Opposition

Since the PDP lost power in 2015 to a merger coalition consisting of the ANPP, ACN, CPC, a faction of APGA and the PDP under the banner of the APC, it seems to have been unable to regain its balance, and play the role of a proper opposition party, united and checkmating the every excesses of the ruling party.

It has seen one crisis after another as factions vie for control of the party structures, especially in the shadows of the intractable zoning, the so – called gentleman agreement that has underlined Nigeria’s democratic equation since the inception of the Fourth republic.

From the leadership struggle that forced former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the seven governors of Adamawa, Kwara, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kano, Rivers and Niger States to stage a walkout at the party’s national convention held in Abuja in 2013 to the battle between Ali Modi Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi, to the antagonism between Governor Nyesome Wike and Uche Secondus, down to the rift between Ayorchia Ayu, Atiku and the G5 governors that marred the party’s 2023 general elections preparations.

All the above have taken place amid strenuous and sometimes desperate efforts to engineer peace and stability in the party culminating in the setting up of a plethora of committees such as the PDP post 2015 election review committee also known as the Ekweremadu panel, the 2016 Dickson/ Mantu led reconciliation committee, the Jerry Gana led strategy review and inter party affairs committee, the 2017 Dankwanbo/ Wike reconciliation committee, the Seriake Dickson standing committee on reconciliation, the Bala Mohammed-led post 2019 election committee, the Saraki-led national reconciliation and strategy committee, the Ugwuanyi-led zoning committee, the Samuel Ortom-led zoning committee, among many others commissioned to micro-manage intermittent crisis at the state level.

As former National Secretary of the party, Prof Wale Oladipo, once said: “There is no hiding the fact that the PDP has been passing through troubled times.  Since the last election that our candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan conceded, our  party has had to chart a path that is not familiar with us.”

2023 General Elections And The House Of Cards

On the eve of every general election cycle since its fall from grace, the PDP has had to grapple hard to hold its tent together. After the 2023 presidential primary, the party was unable to recover and heal in time for the  general election proper amid accusations of double dealing, marginalization and injustice, particularly in the light of the wider agitation for Igbo presidency and of zoning the presidency to the South, after two terms of eight years in the North under incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.

Again, all of these put together and with the exit of Peter Obi, who left the party with a huge chunk of its loyal members, especially those from the South East and South South, further weaken the party’s chances in the 2023 poll.

The OBIdient Movement became the straw that broke PDP’s back.

Also, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state and his Cross Rivers counterpart, Ben Ayade defected from the party too and reaching a crescendo when former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi defected to the Labour party in May, 2022. However, the insurgency proper that rocked the party was led by Rivers state governor, Nyesome Wike, who had become the party’s chief financial backer since its fall from power, and consisted of four other governors including Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Samuel Ortom of Benue and Seyi Makinde of Oyo state respectively.

All moves at reconciliation by party elders failed to close the ranks and it was in this desperate and tattered state that it was forced into the general elections, with the results unsurprisingly dismal.

The PDP came into the 2023 election with the hope to the turn the table in its favour but the outcome of the poll have shown that the party remains stagnated.

There are clear indications that the party has lost Abia to LP, Benue to APC, Sokoto to APC, Enugu to LP as the APC continue to make inroads in the South South and South East

After the declaration of governorship poll results in 23 states, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has won in 15 states, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in eight and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in one and Labour Party (LP) candidate Dr Alex Otti is leading in Abia State, polling 172,386 from the results of 16 of the 17 local government areas (LGAs) declared so far by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The APC lost the governorship seats in Plateau (North central) and Kano (Northwest) to the PDP and the NNPP respectively.

But, what the ruling party lost in the two states, it gained in Benue (North central). The APC also retook Sokoto (Northwest), where its candidate Aliyu Ahmed defeated Umaru Saidu of the PDP.

The states won by the APC are Lagos, Ogun, Kwara, Jigawa, Yobe, Katsina, Gombe, Sokoto, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Cross River and Kaduna.

Those won by the PDP are Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Delta, Rivers, Zamfara, Taraba and Plateau.

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