Return of PDP – 2019 begins

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MORE that four years after its 31 August 2013 convention tore the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to shreds, it has held another national convention: without contention. It is a feat in many ways. The failures of PDP after that 2013 convention that produced parallel executives in the States and at the national level, introduced the killer pills that various factions injected into the party.

THE loss of the 2015 elections was the final nail. PDP made a big deal of mismanaging its advantage as the power in power for 16 years. It was worse out of power. Without any experience of being in opposition, members picked on each other. Factions grew, fractions multiplied.

NUMEROUS legal agitations constrained PDP from any reconciliation. With eyes on the pie that party offices are, many of those in the confrontation thought their interests were more important than the party’s, or the prospects of providing alternatives to the celebrated ineptitude of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

THOSE who said PDP was dead, had every good reason to say so. Losses of the governorship elections in Osun (after the contentious PDP 2013 convention), Edo, Ekiti, and Anambra (most recently) seemed to have confirmed the speculations. Those were the fall-outs of the years of impunity that had been erected within the party.

EVERYONE who mounts a podium would speak of internal democracy within the party. The intrigues that produce party officials, and others for elective offices in national elections put a lie to any pretence to democracy. Whatever was left of PDP after that rancorous 2013 national convention, evaporated as the various state chapters decimated themselves in the party primaries for the 2015 elections.

SURPRISINGLY, PDP appears to have learnt little from its woes. The same complaints about the imposition of candidates re-surfaced with the campaigns for the various national positions that were contested on Saturday in Abuja. Candidates campaigned round the country, possibly the most robust campaigns for party offices, yet at each stop they expressed fears about imposition of candidates, which rules out opportunities for the delegates to vote on the values candidates were canvassing.

PDP and its officials must be relieved that they have passed this stage that appeared unattainable. They would next manage the dissatisfaction with the convention, in whatever guise it comes, and work towards rebuilding the party for elections that are 14 months away.

THEY are already ahead of APC, which also has not held a national convention since it came to power. Fears of an implosion at a convention have delayed the meeting. Several dates had earlier been announced but nothing happened. Excuses have been given for the postponements. A national convention is unlikely in 2017.

ONE of the key factors that have kept APC going for years without a national convention is the decision on its 2019 presidential candidate. Some of the dates that had been set for the convention had clashed with President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical trips abroad. There are also the choices to be made on national party offices.

THE deference to Buhari, who has neither time nor temperament for the democratic entailment that even impositions demand, is another opportunity for those around him to decide, using his name. While PDP dreaded holding a successful convention, APC’s challenges are more in the circumstance.

DEPARTURE of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from APC was anticipated, but it has triggered off speculations that more people may leave the party. The complaints are similar to what drove them away from PDP, which many of them would return to – the absence internal democracy. Atiku was warmly received in PDP whose presidential ticket he would contend with others. It is a better option, for him, than APC.

THERE are no chances of anyone taking APC’s presidential ticket unless Buhari declines a second term, a remote prospect as the days go by. If he does not, he would be expected to anoint a candidate for the position. Atiku knew both prospects would not have favoured him. He has not forgotten how he lost APC’s presidential primaries to Buhari.

IN his letter of resignation from APC on 19 November, Atiku stated: “While other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalisation, the All Progressives Congress has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.

“Only last year, a governor produced by the party wrote a secret memorandum to the President, which ended up being leaked. In that memo, he admitted that the All Progressives Congress has ‘not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance’.”

“Of the party itself, that same governor said: ‘Mr. President, Sir, your relationship with the national leadership of the party, both the formal (NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), and former governors of ANPP, PDP (that joined us) and ACN, is perceived by most observers to be at best frosty. Many of them are aggrieved due to what they consider total absence of consultations with them on your part and those you have assigned such duties’.”

ATIKU has commenced the debates about 2019 earlier than many expected. Others have cowed themselves, or are waiting to be conferred with the right to run – or the party’s ticket as the sole candidate. He discussed the failings of APC taking particular notes of the unmet expectations from the manifesto of the party. The discomfort of APC is palpable.

THOSE against Atiku should speak openly about their concerns. He has been responding to them. His early declaration affords Nigerians opportunities to grill him, a treatment they should also extend to all with presidential ambitions. President Buhari should not be exempted. The window that the electioneering campaigns provide is too narrow and time-bound to interrogate candidates for various positions.

IF elections are to hold in February 2019, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has on its schedule, we barely have 14 months away from electing the next set of people to manage Nigeria. With provisions for the time that party primaries and the resulting disputes consume, there is no time left. Atiku, by revving up his campaign, is reminding us that there is hardly time to seek answers to what has happened to Nigeria between 2015 and now. Should the future be discussed in abeyance?

FRETTING about 2019, about Atiku, about who should, and who should not be President, cannot be our only concern. The over-concentration of attention on Abuja is part of our problems. Where else should concerns about 2019 lie?

THERE are many legislators from the local councils, through state legislatures to the National Assembly who have not served us well. Are they Atiku? Are they all running for the presidency? Can replacing them with worthier servants improve chances that our country would improve?

WE have more things to contend with than the politicians. The current attitude of many Nigerians could result in self-imposed dictatorship. Nigerians are comfortably resorting to excluding others from the political and social space with considerations for their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of thought. Anybody who abridges denies others of their fundamental rights.

PDP’s return is a chance for deeper, more wholesome thoughts about the future of Nigeria, which includes the future APC promised in 2015.

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