13 February 2013

Nigeria: PDP Losing Its Lustre

With the emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party appears to be in trouble as the new party could provide a rallying point for those in and outside that are fed up with its political shenanigans to wrest power from the ruling party, Olawale Olaleye writes

For the leadership and governments of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the days ahead seem bleak. The future, for the party, already presents the picture of an end that is nigh. Yet, nothing threatens PDP's 13 years hold on power than the ongoing merger plan of the opposition parties which is tentatively primed to function on a new platform, the All Progressive Congress (APC).

But fears that the PDP may have begun to lose it, came on even stronger at the weekend when the indication was rife that no fewer than 12 of the governors elected on PDP's platform might embrace the merger. In addition to this is the fact that some of the federal lawmakers of the PDP are said to have also gone into talks with their opposition counterparts with a view to ushering in a new lease of life for the polity.

It is believed that the opposition governors who have indicated interest in the merger have been detailed to speak with their colleagues, especially those of the PDP formation while the lawmakers are also talking to their colleagues on the need to come together for the collective good of all.

A meeting of the opposition governors which held in Lagos, last week, continued in Abuja, the following day where the name- All Progressive Congress was adopted as the merger platform. Since then, several other meetings have been held by members of the opposition parties, notwithstanding the controversy that the involvement of one of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) governors had raised along the way.

But such distraction has not whittled down the growing influence of the merger talks. Instead, it may have begun to reduce the influence of the PDP as well as its holds on the body polity. Unfortunately, for the PDP, its influence has been further depleted by leadership crisis.

The PDP has been in power since May 29 1999 when it won the presidential election that ushered in democracy after many years of military rule. From that experiment, PDP has also continued to control the National Assembly. Its members account for more than two-third of the membership of the parliament. By implication, the party could afford to pass any bill without having to lobby the opposition political parties.

Following this, the PDP has continued to boast more governors across the federation. Rising from the initial 19 governors in 1999, the PDP, today, boasts 23 governors. The party also maintains similar control at the state Houses of Assembly level. PDP controls 24 of the state assemblies.

But the party's fortune has begun to dwindle on account of the fact that the PDP now constitutes opposition to itself. First, its National Assembly members are constantly at war with the executive. Although, the PDP produced the leadership at both chambers of the National Assembly, there is however nothing to show for it as the Senate and the House of Representatives regularly engaged the executive.

The presentation of the 2013 budget by the President was a classical case study of the hostility between the Presidency and the National Assembly. President Goodluck Jonathan had presented the 2013 budget with a benchmark of $75 per barrel of oil, but the Senate benchmarked it at $78 while the House put it at $80. Rather than wade in and mediate as the party that produced all the gladiators, the PDP leadership failed in its responsibility. Yet, the development remained unhealthy to the system.

Observers, therefore, contended that where the PDP with more than two third majority of the lawmakers could not use its influence to ensure cordiality between the presidency and the lawmakers, it might have set a bad precedent in the relationship between the executive and the legislature.

The weakness of the PDP is further exemplified in the deportment of the lawmakers who flagrantly disobey party's rules and decisions on account of political expediency. For instance, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, is not a product of the party's zoning tradition. But observers believed that the development accounts for one of the reasons why the PDP is unable to whip its members in line.

Another development that underscores the failing of the party is evident in the crisis plaguing its National Working Committee (NWC) and the alleged overbearing influence of PDP Governors.

The NWC has continued to wobble from one crisis to another, a situation that has affected its input in the administration of the country. Whereas the party as the power house is expected to help churn out policies for its government, PDP has continued to fail on account of its many crises.

The party, for example, has never had it good at any of its national conventions to elect members of the NWC. Apart from Senator Barnabas Gemade, no one of the PDP national chairmen has successfully completed his tenure. Look at the pattern: Audu Ogbeh succeeded Gemade but was forced out midway for Ahmadu Ali.

In 2008, Vincent Ogbulafor emerged chairman of the PDP but could not run through his tenure. He was also removed and replaced with Okwesilieze Nwodo. Nwodo, on his part, was in office for barely seven months before he was also sent off.

It is pertinent to note that after the election that brought in Gemade, the PDP has continued to avoid a situation where it would go into election to constitute its NWC. Thus, the present NWC came into office in March 24 2012, without an election. All members of the NWC came about either by sponsorship or prompting of their godfathers.

Whilst Jonathan was believed to have sponsored the election of the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, despite the fact that the northeast zone which was billed to produce the chairman had preferred former acting national secretary of the party, Dr. Musa Babayo. In a similar move, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a few of the governors sponsored the sacked national secretary of the party, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

The National Organizing Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha, and the National Treasurer, Bala Kaoje, were believed to be candidates of the Vice-President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo. Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Sam Sam Jaja, observers said, was sponsored by the Rivers State governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, a prominent force in the party.

Also, the National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon, was allegedly sponsored by the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, while the national auditor, Bode Mustapha, was said to be a direct nominee of Obasanjo. The deputy national secretary, Onwe Solomon Onwe was said to have been put forward by the Ebonyi State governor, Martin Elechi, while Kema Chikwe, the National Woman Leader and the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, who because their states- Imo and Anambra that are governed by another party- were collectively sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and other PDP Lawmakers in conjunction with the governors of Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi.

The present NWC crisis however started when members supported Oyinlola in the battle that led to the sack of Habu Fari, former Chief of Staff to Tukur. Oyinlola had insisted that the PDP establishment manual has no provision for the office of the Chief of Staff and insisted that Tukur's decision to appoint Habu Fari as Chief of Staff was an encroachment on his office.

This had resulted in hot exchanges between Fari and Oyinlola, prompting Tukur to intervene by sacking Fari and immediately appointed Senator Ibrahim Ida as his Principal Secretary. The office of the Chief of Staff was consequently abolished.

Afterwards, Oyinlola sent out letters to all states chapters of the party that on no account should anyone write directly to the national chairman without his consent. And for Oyinlola who was perceived to be Obasanjo's candidate, acting with full understanding of the powers of his office against the chairman, a candidate of the president was considered another battle by proxy.

Also, the raging crisis within the NWC over the conduct of Adamawa state congress is another cause for concern for observers. As it were, the party is divided, both in the state and at the national secretariat over the congress.

The Adamawa crisis soon unveiled the governors in their full regalia. The governors, by virtue of their influence, have continued to shoot down whatever negates their interest. As a result, the PDP governor- 23 of them- have remarkable influence on their other 13 governors produced by the opposition parties. As a result, managing the governors has remained nearly impossible for the party because of the powers they wield.

The lingering crisis in the PDP and the perception that the party might go after some perceived opposition within is therefore believed to have informed one of the reasons why some of the governors in the party might have bought into the merger plan. Although, it is believed that those inclined to the merger idea are the governors who are seeking to return to office; there is yet, the believe that even those who would be serving out their constitutional eight years might as well elect to play the spoiler in the emerging equation and see the merger as an escape route.

Whilst the merger plan is still greeted with skepticism, the fact that the PDP is steadily losing its luster on account of its seemingly intractable crises and largely uncoordinated centre, the opposition is believed to have the best of chances to actually make real its threat of flushing out the PDP by 2015 and bring about a heave a sigh of fresh air on the horizon.

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