4th October, 2022
By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
Now in the opposition, the PDP has since lost its bearing, not knowing how to proceed in the business of social agitation, of media propaganda and political activism.
Founded in August, 1998, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, used to pride itself as the largest political party in Africa, in the times that seem to have faded in our memories. It was founded by eminent citizens like Chief Solomon Lar, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and many others. Broadly speaking, the PDP represents a centre right political entity, adopting a neoliberal economic status dressed in ultra conservatism, thus favouring free market policies which support economic liberalism. It easily won the February 1999 election, fielding retired former military leader, General Olusegun Obasanjo to pair with a retired customs officer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. It would later win the 2003 election through Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua, and the 2007 election through a retired teacher, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. It managed to retain a majority in the States and the legislative assemblies, through these periods, mostly under very questionable circumstances. Having tasted power, the PDP did everything underneath the sun to retain power, which it held on to for so long a period from 1999 to 2015, until its fortunes changed. No significant change was experienced in the economic prosperity of Nigeria, during these wasted years.
Whilst it held sway, the PDP virtually became a monster in power, trampling upon the rights of its own members and thriving in impunity and brazen violation of its own constitution, which led to the imposition of very unpopular candidates through electoral malpractices and manipulations. It was indeed a thriving moment for the party that once boasted its motto as: Power To the People, whereas only a few gathered themselves together to determine its fate and fortunes. So it was that the party became seemingly impregnable and even invincible, to some extent. All efforts made by the rival political parties to wrest power from the PDP were always thwarted and contained, viciously and at times, brutally. Nigeria was becoming more of a one party state at the time, until the opposition gathered its acts together to form a major political alliance under the All Progressive Congress, in 2015. Even at that, it took the rebellious efforts of disgruntled members of the PDP, to completely decimate the umbrella party, through the newPDP.
Under the PDP, Nigerians got used to ballot box snatching during elections, massive rigging and manipulation of election results, intimidation of opposition candidates and their parties with security agencies, in some atmosphere of benevolent dictatorship. It was purely a matter of the end justifying the means; just to win the elections, at all costs. This was mixed with very scandalous cases of corruption and open stealing by public officers and political leaders, who all simply walked into the public treasury to trade. We were all told on national broadcast that stealing is not corruption. Simply put, we became trapped under the PDP, with no clear direction for the true economic prosperity of Nigeria. So that by the time the general elections came in 2015, most people just wanted anything but PDP, not bothering to properly read through the main opposition party, the APC, which itself has since proven to be worse.
Upon conclusion of the elections, the incumbent president and PDP presidential nominee, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was defeated by General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, with 55% to 45%, losing with 2.6 million votes, out of 28.6 million votes cast. Out of the 36 States, the APC won 21 states whilst the PDP won 15 states and the Federal Capital Territory, forcing the latter to slip into the main opposition party. Behold, the largest party in Africa became like fish out of water. The effect was devastating, as the PDP fell into some irreversible trauma, rendering staccato voices of total discord here and there and running around like a chicken drenched by a heavy downpour. Having lost power at the center, mini gods soon emerged in the States where the PDP held sway, and things began to fall apart. The APC became totally ruthless in power, hounding prominent PDP members into jail or temporary custody, whilst most of them battled to save their names and fortunes. It won’t be long before the PDP became hit with internal implosion, through the mindless power tussle between the Ali Modu Sheriff faction and that of Ahmed Markafi, until it was rescued by the judiciary, though a little too late to salvage the now perforated umbrella. The PDP did its best to rescue its sinking ship during the 2019 general elections, but the APC would brood no such daring incursion into Also Villa, as it dug deeper into the drenched PDP, even snatching some of its governors in the unending political conquest.
Now in the opposition, the PDP has since lost its bearing, not knowing how to proceed in the business of social agitation, of media propaganda and political activism. It was just following the APC, which was now playing the role of ruling party and the opposition. By all standards, democracy is people’s government, and you cannot operate it without mass involvement, which the PDP lacks, having oppressed and suppressed the masses for all of its life. In any democracy, the opposition has a major role to play, especially in the developing economies. This is why in the legislature, a crucial post is reserved for a member of the opposition as minority leader. His role is to constantly raise vital issues of national importance, with the government, when it has ceased to do the will of the people. Holding its measuring rod, the opposition will analyse every and all programmes and policies of the government, vis a vis the manifesto of the ruling party and the promises made during its campaigns. The opposition is expected to criticize the government in case the latter ignores its promises or conceals vital facts and would at times resort to protestations in the assemblies or mass action through the people.
In a democracy, the opposition is the platform to raise awareness among the people over specific issues of national importance and to raise levels of political consciousness among them. It must constantly provide credible and objective alternatives to government programmes and policies and not just criticize for the sake of being heard or bringing the government down. The opposition serves as the watchdog of the system and in some cases, it would proceed to form a shadow cabinet to exercise vigil over the performance of the government.
But what do we now have with PDP as the opposition party? Empty noises all over, of discordant tunes in political disarray, which in turn has turned the APC into a monster of sorts. The PDP dwells mostly in utter frivolities and cannot even drive and muster viable opposition, of critically engaging government agencies and parastatals on glaring inefficiencies and wastages. It is not gathering any political intelligence, for mass action and it is not familiar with or even engaging labour and civil society groups, nor partnering with the all-powerful Lagos-Ibadan axis of the media. Labour has declared one or two strikes in the life of this regime without any whimper from the PDP, university teachers have been on strike for months now without a single collaborative action from the PDP and individual activists and analysts have become soft targets of the ruthless APC regime without any form of solidarity from the PDP. Is that an opposition party? Your guess is as good as mine!
What is the value of an opposition that has no single bite at all? Of what use is an opposition that does not even understand its own vital role in democracy? If the government is all too powerful to crush the opposition, the latter should be potent enough to cause a stir, either in the parliament, in the courts or on the streets, against the government and force it to adjust or exit, through mass movement and agitation. How can you effectively play the role of opposition in the luxury of your offices and mansions, and expect to be taken seriously? There will be no democratic warfare at all? And yet you want to wrest power?
Governor Nyesom Wike is busy destroying the house that he once helped to build, consumed with self and ego, with a heavy war chest bankrolled with crude oil windfall. Some say that Karma is the judge, now serving PDP with its own coin. The party is in serious dilemma, not knowing what to do with Wike and his team, since they cannot be expelled from the party whilst still openly professing loyalty and membership. Yet, the Wike group remains in the PDP at its great peril because the internal battle is always worse than the external one. The situation of the opposition party seems delicate and precarious, in the present circumstance of events. By all means, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should not have contested the PDP presidential primary election. The issue at hand goes beyond having the presidential candidate and the Chairman come from the same Northern region, but rather the implication of the arrogance of the power monsters, which gives the wrong impression of non-relevance. When things get to such a desperate time when a political party cannot uphold its own constitution, proffering the lame excuse of loss of power as the reason for the backward proposal for it to jettison zoning, then such entity cannot be entrusted with the governance of a delicate nation like Nigeria. If while in the opposition a political party is so treacherous to abandon its own constitution, what will it do with the Nigerian Constitution if entrusted with power?
Let the owners and handlers of the PDP wake up from their tiring slumber and take up the task of credible and viable opposition. That is what democracy is all about. We are now sick and tired of the same narrative from the ruling party. Let us hear the other side, and imbibe the golden words of Plato that:
“The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of the government, is to live under the government of the unwise men.”
*Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria