Nigeria’s political space is throwing up many interesting developments lately; the increasing monetization of the political system not being the least. The sheer number of characters that are indicating interests for several elective offices in Nigeria is making the game of politics in Nigeria all the more interesting.
Some of the faces seeking the office of Nigeria’s President present some comic relief from the intrigues and stress of those that are making it appear as if Nigeria will scatter if they are not made successors to incumbent President. Similarly, most political parties in Nigeria are honing their skills and stocking their arsenals ready for the great contest for control of the country’s political affairs. In the same vein, many prominent politicians have begun to reinvent themselves through nocturnal meetings, political alignments and re-alignments as well as guarded visits to their respective bases. On their part, the electorates are resetting their anger with their respective political representatives that abandoned them directly after being elected into office to bated optimism for exerting a pound or two of flesh of politicians in the coming elections. It is either the politicians pay for their sins or get voted out of office. Also, this another harvest time for party executives and praise singers to get their own share of greedy politicians’ loots. Interestingly, politicians themselves know that it’s pay back time to the electorates.
And they are well prepared for it as they go about with ‘Ghana Must Go’ bags that are filled with both hard and soft currencies in the boots of their flashy cars. For In majority of Nigerians however, this period is like an existential pendulum that oscillates between hope and despair. The many lofty and enticing promises of politicians without a doubt gives them hope. The knowledge that the promises will never be kept however despairs them to no end. All the same, they are used to the game and therefore inure themselves with complete withdrawal from Nigeria’s political processes. Wetin person no know no go vex am! However, the most interesting developments emanate from Nigeria’s political parties.
From the major parties to ballot papers minows, many interesting developments are emerging daily. Take the ruling APC for example where the battle of succession is fast becoming an internecine war. Firstly, the shaky and hurriedly assembled foundation of the unholy alliance that gave rise to APC is unraveling very fast as the Presidential ambition of its Chief Architect has become shaky. But that is what happens when alliances are built on individual interests rather than on common and mutual interests. Secondly, it appears that President Muhammad Buhari and his ‘core’ northern base in the alliance are reneging on the promise to hand over the Presidency of Nigeria to the Chief Architect of the alliance on a platter of Diamond at the end of President Buhari’s tenure. Instead, they have encouraged many others from the country’s broad South geo-political zone; including stooges and cronies of the Chief Architect himself to join the fray. Nothing defines betrayal more succinctly than this in political realm.
Thirdly, the APC is busy looking for new lies and more fake promises with which to hoodwink Nigerians into voting for its candidates again in 2023 in the face of its abysmal and poor record of governance over the past 7 years. It is doubtful if they will find any lies or promised with which to convince majority of Nigerians whose lives and living conditions have worsened under President Muhammad Buhari and the APC. Despite this glaring facts however, the party continues to grandstand and posture arrogantly as if it has won the elections already. Are all of these not interesting? Whatever your verdict, time will tell.
Fast forward to my own political party, the PDP and one can’t exhaust recent developments in the party that could be of interest to political pundits in and outside the country. First is the fact that the PDP has been in docile opposition for the past 7 years at the national level and in many States in Nigeria. The docility is due to several factors, both internal and extraneous but more of internal, if you ask me. Internal wranglings, anti-party activities, betrayals, lack of commitment to the party by members and ineffective leadership were among the internal factors that affected the fortunes of PDP. Although the sustained witch-hunting of PDP members by Federal Anti-Corruption Agencies and the selective court judgements affected the party in a way, they nonetheless strengthened and toughened members of PDP across the country.
Against all expectations, the PDP was able to hold a successful national convention during which both the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Working Committee (NWC) were rejigged for a more effective service delivery to the electorates and our teeming members. Despite the recent ill timed decamping of certain PDP Governors to the ruling APC, the party grew in strength and popularity. It is currently regarded by many as the harbinger of hope against the despoiling misrule of ruling APC and other smaller parties that exist only on ballot papers. There is no doubt that the PDP has emerged from its dark past and is now well positioned to move the nation forward. However, there is yet a bigger development that is currently brewing in the party that needs to be addressed urgently by both NEC, NWC and party elders if the party is to succeed in 2023 elections.
The issue has to do with nomination of a standard bearer for Nigeria’s Presidency in 2023. As I have said in numerous fora before now, it took a realization by the mutative Oduduwa and conservative northern political parties that sought to defeat the PDP from 1999 to 2015 that they needed to close ranks and nominate a single candidate with appeal to generality of Nigerians to be able to oust the PDP from power. They did that, even though most Nigerians now know the character and abilities of the hatchet man of APC better, and they succeeded in removing PDP from power with the help of many party members. I have therefore recommended that the PDP do same by choosing a candidate that does not only have clout and base, but who appeals to broad sections of electorates in Nigeria.
And that is why I advised PDP Governors against formation of a narrow interest group that will ensure emergence of one of them as PDP’s Presidential candidate. Such will tantamount to self-destruct effort. Rather, the Governors should sit at a round table with former VIce President Atiku Abubakar to reach a compromise that will put the PDP in commanding position first before all other considerations. As a common Igala saying goes, ‘let’s first chase the fox into the bush away from its menacing reach before we return to caution the chicken not to wander far from home next time.’ The advise appears to have fallen on deaf ears as each of the PDP Governors is currently pursuing a personal agenda and are singing discordant songs in the process. This is not good for our party no matter how anybody seeks to justify it.
Talking about zoning formula of the PDP, there was a well intentioned agreement that the Presidency of this great country will rotate broadly between Northern and Southern geo-political zones devoid of further micro zoning arrangements according to the subsisting six geo-political zones. What this means is that party members within any benefiting zone have the onus of pursuing zonal political horse trading, deliberations and reaching a consensus of which area within the zone should produce PDP’s Presidential candidate against the backdrop of national and party interests. That was how former President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as PDP’s Presidential candidate in 1999 when it was unanimously agreed that Nigeria’s civilian President should emerge from generic Southern Nigeria after the exit of predominantly Northern military dictators. Furthermore and in consideration of the perceived injustice done to South Western Nigeria with annulment of the popular Presidential election of late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the Southern Nigerian zone of the PDP agreed that their Presidential candidate should come from South West.
Although it was generally believed that former President Obasanjo did not allow the Northern caucus of PDP to deliberate what part of the North their Presidential candidate should emerge from after serving out his tenure, they nevertheless accepted what was generally termed as imposition of late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. After the unfortunate death of late President Yar’Adua of blessed memory, most members of the PDP including some prominent members of the party from the North like the current Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, insisted it was incumbent on the former Vice President and later President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to continue from where his late Principal stopped.
It was still in accordance with the letter and spirit of rotational Presidency of PDP that the entire party structure rallied behind former President Goodluck Jonathan’s election as Nigeria’s President in 2011. He presented himself for re-election in 2015 against complaints by many party members from the North who believed that he ought not to have presented himself as PDP flag bearer for the Presidential race again having been sworn into office twice as a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Former President Goodluck Jonathan nonetheless had his way using incumbency factor and this was the origin of the flurry of defections, desertion and betrayals that led to his defeat and ultimately the sacking of PDP from power.
With the former President out of the way, it became apparent that it was the turn of Northern Nigeria to produce PDP’s Presidential candidate for 2019 elections. This was why former Vice President Atiku Abubakar took up the gauntlet and emerged as PDP’s Presidential candidate in 2019 after a keenly contested primaries. Former VP Atiku Abubakar also lost the election that President Muhammad Buhari won in 2019 as APC candidate.
So what has changed in the PDP now that the race for the party’s Presidential ticket has become an all comers affairs? It rankles a lot to hear some notable PDP members echoing the ignorant position of some Nigerians that are neither members of PDP nor wish the party well that fire and brimstone will rain down from heaven if the party’s Presidential ticket is zoned to the North. The question we should ask ourselves as party members and perhaps interested Nigerians is, has any Northerner been sworn in as President on PDP’s ticket since the exit of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan? Although President Muhammad Buhari is from the North, was he elected on the platform of PDP? Should the PDP jettison its subsisting agreement on, and its current run of rotational presidency and zone its Presidential ticket to Southern Nigeria just because the APC did so? Are PDP and APC the same party akin to the five leprous fingers of a same hand? Does APC’s rotational Presidency agreement not run inversely to that of PDP? By that I mean when PDP zones its Presidential ticket to North, APC’s based on its current arrangement will be zoned to the South and vice versa. Let me be clear here before anyone mistakes my treatise that I am an unrepentant advocate of equity, fairness and compromise in Nigeria’s political processes. I am also one that believes that politics should be played with some measure of truth, decorum and honesty by admitting to agreements whether or not they are favourable to one at any particular point in time.
What reasonable and patriotic politicians do in other climes under a circumstance where an agreement no longer favours a party to the agreement is to seek for a review through internal lobbying mechanisms and compromises that are mutually reinforcing. It is not achieved through name calling and beating the drums of war as those translate to an evil wind that blows nobody in the PDP any good. I suspect a clandestine plot by the ruling APC that, having seen and known that it has already been rejected by majority of Nigerians for its woeful performances over the past 7 years, is now bent on weakening and destroying the PDP which without doubt is the party to beat in the next elections. I doubt if those clamouring and fighting for the soul of PDP currently see this or spare a thought for the party in this critical time at all.
For the umpteenth time, I enjoin all members of PDP to leave the streets where we are currently joining issues with ourselves and return to inner recesses of our great party and let us discuss our differences and agree on a solution that will be beneficial first to the nation before party members. Let us leave the broad Northern geo-political zone to do a bit of political horse trading and consultations among themselves and like the APC did in 2015, choose a candidate that has deeper political connections, a wider political base and a broader acceptance across the length and breadth of this country as the Presidential candidate for the PDP. Unless we heed these warnings and act fast, those of us currently clamouring for the soul and spirit of PDP may ultimately be saddled with responsibility of being its undertakers. God forbid anyway! I rest my case.
Usman Okai Austin is a Certified National Accountant,and a social critic based in Abuja.