During the heady days of the Late General Sani Abacha regime, a group of patriotic politicians who defied the odds by remaining at home formed the G-34 which pressed for the return to democratic rule by pressuring the General to jettison his sinister ambition to succeed himself. Some of the prominent names were Alex Ekwueme, the former Vice-President and Solomon Lar, a former governor of Plateau state. The sudden death of the dark-goggled general threw the political space open but sadly the soul of the Peoples Democratic Party which was a quasi-metamorphosis of the G-34 was hijacked by conservative forces who ironically worked for the Abacha regime and earlier military ones before him. The late Bola Ige while shopping for a political party to join saw the strange bed fellows in the PDP, shook his head and hurriedly changed his mind.
The interlopers who became the new lords of the manor of the party ensured there was no identifiable ideology beyond the sheer grabbing of power for its mere sake. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo ensured that the Chairmen were reduced to mere puppet. First he ensured Chief Sunday Awoniyi lost the Chairmanship bid of the party. Solomon Lar was shoved aside when he became too independent minded and a more pliable Barnabas Gemade was drafted to replace him. Typical of the use and dump strategy of the Owu born General, he got tired of the Tiv Chief and installed Audu Ogbeh, a former communications minister in the second republic as his replacement. Ogbeh was frank enough to point out the apparent poor state of the economy and the wider implications for the polity and nation. The brash Obasanjo didn’t take this lightly as the former leaked the no holds barred letter to the press. This earned him the boot and paved the way for Vincent Ogbulafor to come on board. So confident was Ogbulafor that he boldly echoed that the party would be in power for the next sixty years. This arrogance was further bolstered by Tony Anenih of the Mr. Fix It fame who told all contestants who thought there would be a party primary for the Presidency that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock.
There was no party opposition to Obasanjo’s planned third term bid and no dissenting voice was raised when it was clear that the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua had grave health concerns which made him unfit for the arduous task of governing the country. The cookie crumbled when Obasanjo in a bid to remain eternally relevant ensured a surreptitious enacting of a law which forbade non-former Presidents from being Chairmen of the Party’s Board of Trustees. In this Machiavellian move, he turned against his former Man Friday, Anenih and ousted him in the most brutal manner that saw the Egba High Chief cut short a trip from Jamaica and quickly postponed the time and venue of the ‘election’ which caught the Uromi High Chief and Iyasele of Esan land by surprise.
There was a party conspiracy during the ‘disappearance’ of the late Yar’adua. A cabal sprung up and was bent on the dying man still ruling the country by proxy. It took the intervention of civil society activists and some public spirited members of the National Assembly to ensure that the outgoing President Jonathan was declared Acting President in order not to make a mockery of the 1999 constitution.
The decision of Jonathan to contest the 2015 general elections further aggravated the crisis in the party. Some hawks opined that there was a gentleman’s agreement for him not to contest in order for power to return to the north as he merely served out his late boss’s term. A popular advert showing Obasanjo echoing this opinion was popular during the campaigns. The lack of internal democracy played itself out as the party printed only one presidential nomination form to thwart the chances of any contenders. Bamaga Tukur who was the chairman then had to be sacrificed despite his loyalty to Jonathan and Adamu Muazu hurriedly propped up as the new helmsman. The composition of the presidential campaign team of the President showed a lack of party cohesion. Some party members came on air to criticize the appointment of Femi Fani-Kayode as the campaign spokesman. The garrulous former aviation minister was a vehement critic of Jonathan before a nocturnal visit to Aso Rock made him jump ship. These members saw the disaster as an antithesis of his anti-corruption campaign and raised concerns. His lack of discretion was well known and his critics within the party were not wrong as his loud mouth filled with the most nauseating hate campaign was part of the reason for his Principal’s loss.
Then came the surprise gale of resignations from Adamu Muazu and Tony Anenih. In a country with a sit-tight mentality, this was rather commendable. Perhaps they learnt this from the tsunami that swept the opposition in Britain after Cameron’s surprising landslide victory. Femi Fani-Kayode went ahead to stoke the fires by blaming some members of the National Working Committee of sabotage by working in cahoots with the APC. Then came a reaction which was rather laughable by the National Secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo that the former was not a registered and financial member and has been pressing for all manner of sanctions against him. What a comic relief from a band of strange bed fellows!
After sixteen years of monumental waste, the Nigerian populace had enough of their ineptitude and they now have to face the cold, harsh reality of being in the opposition. This is the time for the ‘largest’ party in black Africa to rediscover its rhythm, purge its membership of divisive elements and re strategize towards not just merely winning power for its mere sake but offering a viable alternative to the Nigeria populace backed by a sturdy ideology that can get the country out of the woods. There is no need for the endless trading of blames as the needs of the country should be of utmost concern to the party as it more than contributed to the nation’s present rot. Being in opposition is not the worst thing to befall it. It can still bounce back and earn the nation’s trust if only it can be more responsible. Lai Mohammed was gracious enough to offer pro bono advice on how the party can fit in its new role. Olisa Metuh should have been more humble to accept it from a veteran of opposition politics of close to two decades standing.
Good luck PDP!