Is PDP still the largest in Africa? By Tonnie Iredia

A few years back, it was a common practice among members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to describe their political party as the largest in Africa. None of us outside the party bothered to authenticate the claim. Perhaps some people just believed it. But it was indisputable that the party was Nigeria’s biggest judging by the overwhelming number of elected political office holders produced by the party from the level of a local council to the presidency. Indeed, the PDP won the Presidential elections of 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

From left: PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN ; Otunba Gbenga Daniel former governor of Ogun State and VICE PRESIDENT NAMADI SAMBO  DURING PDP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIN RALLY IN  ABIOKUTA

At a point, some of the party chieftains boasted that their party would rule Nigeria for a minimum of 50 years. However, whether the strength of the party is still the same today as it used to be is a different ball game following several defections from the party as well as half-hearted aggrieved members.

The first major blow to the erstwhile ever-rising profile of the PDP was its denunciation by 5 of its state governors-Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa). 2 other governors, Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Babangida Aliyu (Niger) who were initially seen as part of those that threatened to defect changed their minds and reportedly stayed back in the party; but whether they are really there is not an issue that an analyst can discuss with certainty?

By virtue of his position as the North-west coordinator of the party’s presidential campaign, perhaps Lamido is still there. Unfortunately it is not easy to fault the position of those who think he is only there in spirit. The way his own presidential ambition was thwarted particularly, the coincidence of the pursuit of his children for corruption charges as soon as he made his presidential bid public seems to make the genuineness of his continued membership of the party suspect. Again, his undiminished closeness to former President Obasanjo and Governor Amaechi of Rivers State who are already out of the party is another food for thought. So is Lamido really still there?

As for his Niger State counterpart, it is slightly more difficult to ascertain if actually, he still belongs to the PDP in view of the inexplicable double-speak from his end. We probably mistook Babangida Aliyu as the leader of the aggrieved G7 as it was him who openly hit the nail on its head in an interview with a Kaduna-based radio station, Liberty FM in 2013 where he alleged that President Jonathan signed a pact not to seek election for more than one term. Neither Lamido nor Aliyu has told the nation if what provoked their initial discontent has been addressed. But the position of Lamido who has tried to explain why he had to disappoint his former group is easier to appreciate than that of Babangida Aliyu who wants us to believe that he was never on the same page with the group. The point to be made however; is that there is some risk in the PDP that the two governors along with their constituents are whole heartedly available

Even the zone of safety-South South from which the President hails is not exempted from quit the PDP threat. This came to the fore when the PDP Reconciliation Committee met recently in Abuja with aggrieved party members from the zone. The posture of the Akwa Ibom group in particular- a large number of aggrieved placard carrying members was rather worrisome according a party elder. They threatened to quit if the attempt by the Akwa Ibom Governor to hijack the party structure in the state was not stopped. Several party members have since remained disillusioned over the conduct of party primaries in which their leaders allegedly skewed the exercise in favour of certain aspirants.

Another issue that may have caused the PDP sleepless nights is the new development in which the party has been pushed to the minority position in the House of Representatives. Although this has not been formalized because of a number of court cases on the subject, the reality is that the PDP has lost its supremacy in the House. It has even lost the position of the Speaker of the House. Only last Wednesday, an attempt by presiding speaker, Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP to use his position to stop an issue on the floor of the House from being deliberated upon was effectively blocked by the main opposition party that now practically calls the shots in the House. Under the circumstance what is big about the PDP?

The most dramatic of all PDP losses is that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo (Obj) following the public tearing of his membership card in public. Many have condemned the manner of Obasanjo’s departure but it doesn’t add; instead it subtracts from the PDP. Those who think that the former President’s absence would not be felt because he merely formalized his previous anti-party activities are not speaking the mind of the PDP judging by the passionate appeals by many high ranking members including Senator David Mark, President of the Senate and Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, the National Chairman of the party to the former President not to leave the party. He did not only leave but reportedly took along his party ward chairman and over 300 other members who were present at the tearing of membership card event in Abeokuta.

As if the loss had over-turned how the party thinks, some of its officials announced Obasanjo’s expulsion only after he had publicly ditched the party. Anyway whether he resigned or was expelled, PDP is down by one. As a face saving device the party claims that the torn membership card was no longer valid on account of who issued it. What this suggests is that all members who have the same card as that of Obasanjo, a former national leader of the party and later Chairman of its Board of Trustees are technically no longer bonafide party members. Our study must therefore change from whether PDP is still the largest party in Africa to whether anyone is still in its fold!

VANGUARD