PDP must grapple with reality ….. NATION

PDP must grapple with reality

SINCE the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the March 28 presidential poll, the defeated Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been unable to grapple well with reality. It is time it did. Accustomed to impunity of all sorts, whether economic, jurisprudential or political, the party has found it difficult to wean itself off its primal position of past influence, glory and luxury. Indeed it still suffers from overall detachment from, or even inurement to, reality. Since May, it has unsuccessfully tried to develop adequate and intelligent response to APC’s policies and actions, both at the federal and state levels. But frustrated by its failure, it has turned mean and acerbic, accusing the ruling party of ruling by propaganda and promoting dictatorship politically and judicially. Worse, its ideological champions and party philosophers have been the unethical and querulous Governors Ayo Fayose of Ekiti and the inconsistent and antinomian Nyesom Wike of Rivers who has managed to extricate his faith from his amoral politics.

Twice in the past months this column had counselled the PDP to reorganise and restructure its operations, refine its ideology and worldview, and put its best foot forward if it was to present a great and effective counterpoise to the APC’s propaganda and rhetorical fluidity. Sadly, the PDP has been unable to embrace change within the conservative spectrum of its beginnings. It has therefore spurned wisdom, help and knowledge of any kind, preferring instead the old, rigid, haughty and undiscriminating ways of doing the business of politics. Its frustrations are, in consequence, growing, and its methods increasingly becoming desperate. Displaying neither the temper that comes from experience as former rulers nor the depth and expansiveness of new democrats, it prefers to assail the ruling party in terms that are openly and manifestly mendacious and vexatious.

But Nigeria needs a virile and viable opposition party, and the country must not give up in helping and counselling the PDP to stand up and grow valiantly into that noble and cautionary role. If the press and country condemn the PDP for gross exaggerations and outright falsehood in its reactions to the APC, it is not because those who needle the opposition party have become captives of APC propaganda, as the PDP unkindly put it; it is simply because the awkward opposition party continues to undermine its own arguments by immaturity and illogic. It is, for instance, dismaying that the PDP summed up President Muhammadu Buhari’s  first 100 days as 100 wasted days. By whatever yardsticks any critic might use, it is inconceivable that those days could be disregarded by anyone as a waste. They were probably not the most enlightening and inspiring of days, but they were solid, surefooted and methodical days of forward-looking interventions.

It may also perhaps be too optimistic and sweeping to describe the Buhari government as a palladium of correctness and legality, but it strains credulity for the PDP to suggest that the new government was already tending towards dictatorship. As is probably the manner with new governments, which in their early weeks and months tend towards some bit of confusion, duplication and boundless and misdirected enthusiasm, the Buhari presidency has sometimes seemed uncoordinated and insensitive. But rather than exhibit the hysteria that has entranced it, the PDP needs to design a brilliant and coherent framework to tackle these worrisome APC manifestations. It could take President Buhari to task over his appointments so far, but it must measure its response not to appear as if it has itself been hijacked by sectional interests.

In fact, no better opportunity has presented itself to the PDP to create a powerful momentum for the opposition than the State Security Service (SSS) invasion of the Akwa Ibom Government House in Uyo on September 3. If the target was not the governor, who by the way was yet to relocate to the Government House, the secret service should have informed him of the search at least shortly before it began, arm itself with a lawful warrant, and release a report of its findings to the public immediately after the incident. None of these was done. Instead, the secret service has let a thousand speculations flower needlessly among the wary and excitable public. Some suggested arms were found during the search, and others suggested piles of US dollars were found stacked in a room in the Government House guest wing. The PDP has asked the secret service to justify the invasion. It has also complained to the presidency and campaigned for full disclosure. It should not let up in its efforts to force the government to rein in the security services, including the SSS. Such a campaign should resonate with the public and the APC, who were at different times also victims of the Jonathan government’s zealousness and recklessness.

The PDP, if it restructures and renews itself, could yet be the vanguard of a new democratic movement, one committed to the highest ideals of federalism and good governance. But for now it has inexplicably chosen to let the struggle be waged by leading PDP politicians like Mr Fayose, whose rabid denunciations of everything about the APC, good or bad, are at odds with his idiosyncratically boyish politics, appalling lack of ethics, general uncouthness, and  predatory and anarchist style. The PDP lets its ideals be formulated by the unsure Olisa Metuh, its National Publicity Secretary, and projected by the even more aloof and distracted Uche Secondus, its Acting National Chairman.

If PDP leaders adamantly resist the positive change they need, if they continue to suggest that there is no substance to the repudiation their party suffered at the last polls, if they deny the need to refine their approach, ideals and ideology, and if they retain in office the old vanguard that led them to defeat or questionable victories, they will suffer even more devastating humiliations in the years ahead. The cause of democracy is not served by the retrogressive conservatism of the PDP leaders, nor by their myopic desire to retain their hold on party offices, nor by their puzzling and often irrational attacks on what are evidently productive and progressive steps and policies of the Buhari presidency.

Either by design or by accident, President Buhari has done remarkably well since he assumed office. The new PDP, if it is birthed, should acknowledge these achievements, applaud them, and then go on to offer scathing criticisms of those things the APC presidency has either not done, or refused to do, or done inappropriately. It is not enough for Mr Metuh to ape the APC’s fecund publicist, Lai Mohammed, or copy his language, vitriol and all, or deliver deadpans as instinctively as he did when the APC was in the cold. Former president Goodluck Jonathan is still smarting from the crushing defeat he suffered at the hands of President Buhari and the APC to offer his party the inspiring and resilient leadership it desperately needs today. And PDP governors, many of them hanging in by a thread in a considerably viscous political environment, and harangued by disoriented and frustrated party members, are too chastened by defeat and fear to let their imaginations soar. The party needs a saviour; nay, the country needs a party that will offer qualitative opposition to help the ruling party fine-tune its methods and moderate its idealism.

As this column suggested shortly after President Buhari assumed office, and as the new opposition party sulked badly over the loss it just suffered, the PDP may contain codes and messages in its genes that make it averse to refinement and change. There is no reason to modify this pessimism. So far, including contemplating the opposition party’s ludicrous reactions to the APC’s remarkable but sometimes controversial policies and politics, there is nothing PDP leaders have done in many months to suggest their party is capable of holding the candle to the ruling party. In fact, there seems to be no one qualified temperamentally and intellectually in the PDP to offer the country the hope of democratic consolidation through deft opposition politics. The challenge should not be left to the bewildered PDP leaders alone. They should be coaxed to change, or if they loath that ‘change’ word, get them to remake themselves for the day after tomorrow and stop seeing politics as a chimera.