There is something wrong with the average Nigerian politician. He never learns from his mistakes. Every contest is treated as a game of chance (try your luck) and he expects to be declared winner in the end. It does not matter if there are more than a dozen political parties or if the contestants are more than half a dozen. Each party would boast of winning and expects to win, despite the odds. That is the lot of most politicians. Often living a lie or living in self denial.
For Nigeria’s Peoples Democratic Party, the walk towards ignominy began from its first national convention in Jos where former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, clearly the favourites of the delegates was mysteriously “manipulated” to pave way for General Olusegun Obasanjo who was drafted by the military oligarchy to emerge as the presidential candidate of the party.
Even though Obasanjo was drafted to atone for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election considered a robbery of the South West, the resolve by the cabal to shove Ekwueme aside dealt a terrible blow on the bludgeoning democratic process that was unfolding at the advent of the civilian rule in 1999.
With the compromise of the internal democracy in the PDP came other challenges which helped to weaken the party. Money politics or the inducement of delegates, godfatherism, thuggery and threat or persecution of perceived political opponents were introduced in quick succession. And slowly but surely the death knell of the PDP became an unavoidable reality.
It is also important to recall that President Obasanjo after taking over from General Abdulsalami Abubakar on May 29, 1999 soon arm twisted the National Executive Committee of the PDP to become the leader of the party, a position which gave him powers to play God literally. So powerful was the then Nigerian President that he determined who became a counsellor, local government chairmen and in some ridiculous instances, the ward chairman.
Sadly, successive rulers who took over from Obasanjo, including late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan did not see anything wrong in what Obasanjo did nor the potential threat to the survival and existence of the party by that singular decision. Instead, they exploited whatever perceived advantages to ensure that their cronies occupied key positions in the party as well as other top government positions in the country.
But it is a negative commentary on leaders of the party who failed to stand up to the evident forceful take over initiated by Obasanjo, and copied by Yar’Adua and Jonathan. The only exceptions were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Chief Audu Ogbeh, one time national chairman of the PDP. However, their opposition was not effective leading to their ouster from the party. Today, the duo are among the leading lights in the rival All Progressives Congress on which platform President Muhammadu Buhari won election on March 28, 2015.
Yet the leaders of the PDP had the first, second and aborted third republics to learn how party politics is played and nurtured even if they did not want to bother with what is obtainable in neighbouring Ghana, or in the United Kingdom, the United States of America or South Africa where the leader of the party can ask the President to quit as was the case when Thabo Mbeki was forced to step down.
Take the first republic for instance, the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, opted to stay behind in the North as Premier and leader of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Congress (NPC) when the opportunity presented itself for him to go to the centre. Instead, he put forward Tafawa Balewa who later became Prime Minister of Nigeria at Independence in 1960.
The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was Leader of the defunct Action Group as Premier of the Western Region and he had no qualms putting forward the late Chief Ladoke Akintola although the latter somewhat betrayed Awolowo in the end. Being Leader of the party was definitely more important and no shrewd politician was willing to trade it for another position except in addition to that he already had.
Nigerians of course would recall the glamour and opulence associated with the late Chief Adisa Akinloye, national chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) whose home in Ibadan became a Mecca for power mongers and others seeking to peddle influence. So powerful was Akinloye that a champagne party was going on in his house when the military struck in 1983. And it was no surprise that the NPN chairman was targeted more than President Shehu Shagari who was in power at that time.
Unfortunately none of the PDP leaders, including Jonathan and his kitchen cabinet anticipated the imminent downfall of the party. Neither did they expect that from a projected 60 years, the party would rule Nigeria for only 16. Not to talk of the fact that it would be downgraded from being the largest in Africa to an opposition party.
President Buhari’s victory at the polls shook the PDP like a tsunami. Nobody anticipated the party’s loss more so when it was spending money, including American dollars to buy support for the PDP candidate, President Jonathan. The APC easily crushed the PDP to become the ruling party and confined the latter to the opposition .
Was PDP’s loss a surprise to any discerning student of politics and contemporary history? I don’t think so. The signs were clearly visible and only a blind man could have attempted to take a walk into an alley that leads to a burning furnace as Jonathan and his co-travelers in the PDP did.
With the 2015 elections approaching, President Jonathan against his wish was forced to jettison Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and accepted former Governor Adamu Mu’azu as National Chairman of the PDP. Then came a string of victories in Ekiti and Ondo governorship elections and the party was fooled into believing that as had been the case in the past 16 years the PDP would have an easy win over the APC. Little did they realise that nemesis was lurking around the corner.
Analysts believe that the greatest mistake made by President Jonathan and the PDP was in allowing the five governors to walk out of the Eagle Square in Abuja. They are wrong. The very first misstep took place when the No 1 citizen picked a quarrel with former Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi. For that action stoked the fire that eventually consumed the PDP, Jonathan and the blithering hope of the South South to have a President who served for two terms.
Whether Goodluck Jonathan picked a proxy fight with Amaechi because of his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan or as a result of famed obstinacy on the part of the ex-governor, the resulting clash saw the PDP kissing the dust in the 2015 polls.
Until the former Rivers State helmsman joined forces with then General Muhammadu Buhari, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other gladiators in the budding APC, the party was regarded more as a northern arrangement with a few sympathisers in the South West. But it was Amaechi’s arrival that gave the party a national outlook.
Of course, it was the bid to stop Amaechi’s rising profile that caused the Presidency under Goodluck to polarise the Nigeria Governors Forum, another grave mistake which led to the birth of a rival faction led by former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang.
The walk out of the five governors therefore became the icing on a cake fresh from oven of crisis, but fuelled by distrust, conspiracy and bigoted pride. First, they announced the formation of nPDP and following the courts invalidation of the process berthed finally in the APC. Even though two of them, Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido later retraced their steps and remained in the PDP, it was a huge surprise for me that they almost fooled everyone about being “born again”.
If the self styled former servant Leader, Aliyu and his Jigawa State ally were not Janus faced how come they eventually “crumbled” under the rampaging menace of the APC in their states? Is it a coincidence that PDP lost in Niger and Jigawa. Apparently the rain started raining long before those who should know found out too late.
Signs that all was not well with the PDP became apparent when the National Working Committee (NWC) and the Presidential Campaign Council adopted separate modus operandi on how best to prosecute the 2015 polls. Failure to observe internal democracy in choosing the party’s candidates, imposition and outright substitution of candidates without due process, and collection of money from unpopular candidates, combined to see the downfall of the so called largest party in Africa.
But the resolve by Jonathan and his kitchen cabinet to side step Adamu Mu’azu during the campaigns heralded the descent to ignominy. Notwithstanding his overriding powers, Mu’azu became a distant face as the Campaign progressed as a result of the plot. In his place, Chief Uche Secondus was propped up and backed with money and Presidential powers.
Mu’azus exit from the leadership of the party was therefore an anticlimax as his departure had been foretold much earlier. Likewise the exit of Chief Tony Anenih, chairman of the Board of Trustees(BOT). Both men were expected to pilot the PDP to victory, but had been sidelined. They were however forced to swallow the bitter pill of defeat and bear the brunt of the attendant failure that came with it. A case of calling a dog a bad name. Felix Ofou, a journalist, writes from Lagos.