By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, it is difficult for any keen observer of Nigerian politics not to reach the same conclusion with me, that the main opposition party, PDP, has been in a somnambulist state in the last six years. It has blatantly refused to take advantage of the failed Buhari Presidency and offer itself as a vibrant alternative and viable opposition to what has been a turgid even torrid and toxic government for Nigerians to deal with. I will explain comprehensively in this epistle why I have come to that logical conclusion.
As far back as 2018, I had reasonably concluded that APC was far worse, in government, than the PDP administration that it had cleverly and adroitly sacked from power by beguiling and mesmerising Nigerians with sweet words that had by 2018 led to little or no action. PDP had suffered almost irredeemably from the blistering propaganda attacks against its apparatchiks and certain colourful and powerful personages, in particular. Two things stood out in those poisonous campaigns of calumny mounted against the PDP by some of the best in the business; one, that PDP was the most corrupt political party in Africa and that some of its Ministers vamoosed with looted cash running into billions of dollars; two, that PDP lacked the capacity to tackle the abysmal security failure in the country and that only one Messiah, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, was the only saint left on earth to tackle both major weaknesses of the then PDP government. There was no doubt that most Nigerians bought into that superlative narrative as they trooped out en masse and expectantly to vote for the gentle and taciturn General.
However, as you know, if lies run upfront for 20 years, truth would catch up with it in just one day. APC had built a castle of spittle that was ever so brittle and only a mere dew would collapse it in no time. Many discerning Nigerians were quick to realize that they have been fooled by the new, but really only rebranded Party called the APC, .and taken on a flight of fancy. They were not different from the inconsolable preys of 419, victims of an abracadabra that makes it possible for someone to obtain huge sums from you, instalmentally and exponentially, by false pretence!
What you would have expected a serious political party to do upon losing the elections in the manner that they did was to quickly embark on a meticulous re-appraisal and reorganize its home in preparation for the next election. Instead, the Party seemed to have gone into total disarray. Its frontline men were suddenly abandoning a ship that was not really sinking but was only flailing in a turbulent sea. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of Nigeria’s politicians. The belief is that once you join the APC, the vaunted protector of anti-corruption, you would be safe notwithstanding the public stance. The aphorism is “sinners join the APC and have your sins wiped away and sin no more” even if seen to still be doing so. I am even of the opinion that if the ousted President Jonathan had had the guts to take on President Muhammadu Buhari in the same manner his good friend, former President John Dramani Mahama, did in Ghana, Nigeria would not have been thrown into what now seems to be a one-party state, today. He should have immediately become the leader of opposition who would rally his footsoldiers nationwide. This apparent lacuna in a strong and versatile leadership of the PDP inadvertently gave Buhari the power of life and death over us all. Despite this obvious fact, the PDP could still not paper over its divisions and close its ranks. Rather it continued to fight a war of attrition amongst its senior members. The air was stale and heavy with the bile of envy, jealousy and meanness.
In 2018, after I had finally given up on Buhari, I visited the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in Abuja and asked him a pertinent question? “Sir, don’t you think PDP has become a damaged brand and it may need urgent rebranding before the next election? No matter what you say, that name PDP would always evoke negative emotions in Nigerians, even if we now know that APC is much worse!” His response: “Dele, you’re very right, we need to rebrand PDP but there are serious challenges, more so, time is not on our side. A lot of resources have gone into producing souvenirs and such items…” That sounded reasonable but of course, I was not totally convinced. It was at that point that it physically dawned on me that we were living in a failed State and that we are all doomed. There was clearly no opposition worth mentioning in existence. It was indeed a great joke, but we still had to support the candidate thrown up by the PDP because the choice of the Party in power seemed anathema to us. Giving the huge failings we had seen by then and our prognosis of what the future entailed, it was clear that an unfocussed PDP was still better than a tried and tested APC Government that had shown itself as an expert in maladministration, graft, insecurity, nepotism, bigotry and anarchy. Notwithstanding our stance as the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the APC crushed the PDP in obviously manipulated elections. This was made possible because the PDP had simply gone AWOL (absent without Leave)…
But what happened after the 2019 elections when a failed political party still won the elections? It was more of the same. PDP has simply not gotten its act together. Instead, the petty squabbles have increased and there is no clear leadership path in the Party Secretariat. I wonder! Should it not have occurred to PDP that it needed to undertake major surgical procedures in order to stay alive. Rather, the Party simply went into deeper slumber, sleeping and snoring. .
The PDP even failed to correct some of the exaggerated and preposterous allegations and indictments against its prominent members and officials. How come APC has not found it necessary to prosecute any alleged major culprit of the previous government? If APC knew those who stole billions of dollars, how come it has not attempted to abduct and crate them (a la Umaru Dikko) back to Nigeria to face justice instead of borrowing recklessly from the Chinese banks to plug the gaping financial hole that the APC government has sunk us into? At least we now know that this level of perfidy and crudeness is not beyond this government in the light of the Nnamdi Kanu debacle and the detention of the Igbo freedom fighter. The story of Chief Sunday Igboho Adeyemo is not too different.
In my view, PDP has bungled many chances because of its docile nature and tepid leadership. Everything is wrong with the country and yet we do not see any bright spark from the PDP. It is so painful.
Our economy is in tatters. The Naira has gone totally South. The President’s apparition of a country with its currency at almost parity with the US Dollar has been revealed as being exactly that, an apparition for the President, and a continuing nightmare for the citizenry forced to endure rates never before experienced for any sustained period. And we are told, by those who should know, that this is just the beginning.
The country is constantly plunged into darkness. The promises by our Ministers in charge of Power, that this would be a thing of the past within a short period of the assumption into office by the government in each of its two terms, has proven to be a mirage. There is no solution in sight. On the contrary the country seems to adopt half-baked policies which are badly implemented to solve what others have found to be a basic problem that does not need rocket science solutions. We must simply brace up for greater darkness. It is probably a fitting epithet to this Government, which prided itself as the Party of light, that gloom, darkness and doom abounds and follows it around.
Corruption has gripped the nation by the jugular. The very fabric of government and its appurtenances is woven up in a web of deceit, lack of integrity and astonishing and amazing corrupt practices that make the antics of previous governments pilloried and crucified for their corruption as mere child’s play. We have simply never had it so bad. It is unbelievable and mind boggling.
Insecurity has become a cancer eating voraciously and rapidly at the very heart and soul of the nation. It is not just tolerated by the government; it is being festered and fostered by it. Bandits, hoodlums and terrorists hold sway all over the land. They control and command significant territories, particularly in Northern Nigeria. People are afraid of their well-being. There is not much they can do, except hope and pray. Recourse to prayer is becoming unfashionable because the problems seem to be growing in leaps and bounds rather than them abating. Our Pastors, Imams, Alfas and Marabouts are definitely getting it violently wrong, or we are fast becoming an accursed nation with the very worst devils springing from the pits of hell to come and torment, torture and traumatise us.
Nepotism, parochialism, bigotry and ethnicity have become the order of the day. The President seems to favour one part of the country at the expense of all the other parts. They are so far in the ascendancy and believe in their invincibility because they have their patron in power.
To top it all, it is a fact that if you remove Buhari from APC, the Party will fall yakata and smash into smithereens. And inexorably, the time constitutionally appointed to vote the new President draws nearer and nearer. One would have thought that an efficient opposition Party would realise this fact, and coupled with the gargantuan challenges currently facing the country, they would seize the moment, seize the initiative and drive the APC out of power. What do I see instead, indolence and inaction? This grieves my spirit because it means there’s virtually no hope for the country, if we allow a one party State to ultimately emerge!
No other opposition party currently has the structure, experience and exposure to take on the APC behemoth apart from the PDP. I have told many of my friends who are still nursing Presidential ambition that they should all gather in the two mainstream Parties or perish the thought completely. PDP remains formidable and potent if it allows itself to be well organised and well drilled.
Politics is a game of money and PDP controls some of the richest and most viable states in Nigeria. They are Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and a few others. But for Rivers and Lagos in 2015, it would have been most difficult for Buhari to win on his fourth attempt. PDP still possesses the magic wand to produce the next President, if Nigeria remains intact by then, and the hawks of power do not succeed with their selfish rascality and dangerous plans.
In order to regain power from an obviously desperate APC that is hell bent on retaining power, PDP must rebrand urgently, change its name, attract younger folks and all those already disenfranchised, solidify its base in the South East, South South and grab a substantial chunk of South West. It already has some serious footholds in the North Central as well as North West and North East. If the next election holds, it is unlikely that APC would be able to replicate a Buhari phenomenon again. PDP should jazz up its game by changing its tactics and becoming more serious. At the moment it does not appear that the Party or its members have faith in themselves. They appear to be stumbling along and are happy to accept whatever PDP dictates to them. ImI’m yet to see any evidence of panic and needful reactions as APC countinues the onslaught of poaching more and more of PDP members.
Part of the necessary rebranding would be for PDP to begin to showcase the amazing performances of its Governors. Most people agree today that the PDP states are performing far better than the Federal Government and its allied states. States such as Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Oyo have become poster boards for the party. If PDP decides to stick to its old ways and refuses to be more audaciously creative, they should forget coming back to power soon.
I will urge those who do not like PDP to also try and proliferate APC. We should stop dissipating our energies and resources on new political parties. It is obvious that Nigeria is not ready for more than two major parties at the moment.
As for APC, all is not lost. It can still drag itself away from the precipice of defeat, It needs to consolidate on the strong talents and brains it has in the current government, starting from the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The Party must retrace its steps and abandon the path to destruction and oblivion on which it has currently firmly placed itself and the country. It must eschew sectionalism, ethnicity and tribalism. It must act equitably, fairly and judiciously in the spread of appointments. It must be seen not to deploy favouritism and bias as its hallmark and handiwork. By doing that, it would also engage the cankerworm of insecurity and begin to win the war against bandits, terrorists and insurrection.
For me, it is not about which Party eventually wins the coveted prize. No, it must always be about which Party is best for our country at any particular time. Which party offers the array of talent that can take us from the age of backwardness to the technological age of hope and prosperity. Nigeria is too blessed to be controlled endlessly by its dregs. For too long now, we have been largely ruled by mediocres. Both PDP and APC have a chance to stop the rot and field the best. From this, only the nation and our dear pulverised and pummelled citizens can be the beneficiaries. I align with the recent thoughts and postulations of former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on this sentiment. We all must learn useful lessons from the past and make necessary changes urgently.
If the PDP assumes its proper role and status, as the conscience and critic of the ruling Party, we will see tremendous improvement in both Parties and in the governance of our great country.
Let’s hope, it is not all a mirage…