Months after the just-completed national elections, the Peoples Democratic Party, or PDP, which was once considered the largest political party in Africa, is still in disarray.
The party’s standing was already precarious before the 2023 elections, and losing the presidential contest seems to have put the icing on the cake.
The PDP was in control of both chambers of the National Assembly and the nation’s presidential office upon the restoration of democracy in 1999. This was the situation up until 2015, when a party merger led to a surprise victory by the All Progressives Congress, or APC.
This is in addition to the fact that it ruled over more than two-thirds of the States in the federation. Some party members even boasted that the party will rule over national politics for many years. But it never materialized.
The tide began to tilt against the PDP following its choice to field former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election amid opposition from some prominent politicians, especially from the Northern part of the country.
Some politicians, mainly from the northern extraction, opposed Jonathan’s second-term presidency on the premise that power ought to return to the region following the demise of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who died only two years into his presidency.
Jonathan, the then Vice President, completed Yar’Adua’s four years term and won another four years in 2011, thanks to the massive goodwill he enjoyed from the greater number of Nigerians. He was also said to have promised earlier to run for only one term, but reneged.
In 2015, Jonathan, who ran under the platform of the PDP, lost to Muhammadu Buhari of the then newly formed APC.
The PDP made another attempt in 2019 through Alhaji Atiku Abubakar but it was still APC that won the polls.
However, with 2023 in sight, expectations were high that the PDP would make a comeback, even more as many Nigerians felt Buhari, who emerged as President in 2015 and in 2019 amidst heightened hope as a messianic figure, did not perform well.
The rest is now history as the party came second, with Bola Ahmed Tinubu winning the presidential election. His victory is now a subject of litigation before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
PDP discarding zoning
Some believed that the PDP did not handle the controversial issue of zoning well in the first place.
The debate over the zoning principle in the PDP ended in May 2022, nine months before the presidential election, following its decision to open its 2023 presidential ticket to all sections of the country.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, disclosed the party’s position following the end of the party’s National Executive Council, NEC, meeting.
He said the decision to throw open the ticket was in line with the recommendation made by the party’s zoning committee.
“After extensive deliberation, NEC aligned with the recommendation of the PDP National Zoning Committee that the Presidential Election should now be left open. The party should also work towards a consensus candidate where possible,” Ologunagba said.
PDP’s decision was totally at variance with the position of the Southern Governors’ Forum.
This is believed to be one of the major reasons that further diminished the party.
Peter Obi, Labour Party & Obidients
Hitherto the emergence of Peter Obi as the Labour Party, LP, flagbearer on May 30, 2022, days after resigning his membership in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, not much was known or heard about the party.
Obi was the running mate to Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 election.
It was earlier reported that the popularity of the former Anambra State governor surged after he joined forces with the LP, with a section of the youth (popularly known as the ‘Obidients’) taking his ambition as a personal project.
Obi is famously known for his consumption-to-production rhetorics. His advocacy and promise to fight corruption and insecurity, create jobs, a conducive environment for businesses, and improve education, healthcare, infrastructure and the economy attracted him many followers.
Atiku admitted Obi’s negative effect on the PDP’s fortunes when he spoke after the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the APC as the winner.
He said that the PDP lost a considerable number of votes to Obi in the presidential election.
“It is a fact that he took our votes from the southeast and the south-south — that, of course, would not make him a president,” Atiku said.
The G-5 members are ex-Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Samuel Ortom (Benue), and Governor Seyi Makinde (Oyo).
The governors, angered by the outcome of the party’s presidential primary election won by Atiku Abubakar, demanded that the party Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, should step down. They believed it was against equity and justice for both the National Chairman and the Presidential candidate to come from one region.
But the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and some other party leaders refused to succumb to the demand, insisting that if at all, it would happen after the election.
Permutations were also rife after the primary that Atiku would pick Wike as his running mate, but in a twist of events, he settled for Okowa, who some stalwarts considered less strong in the party than Wike.
The G-5 phenomenon no doubt escalated the crisis in the PDP and they have remained a strong factor till date.
Recent developments even show that the crisis has festered. The choice of Minority Leaders of the National Assembly was an eye opener that the much sought peace is yet to return to the PDP.
Former Sokoto Governor and Atiku’s ally, Aminu Tambuwal, who was speculated to be favoured by the party, lost out in his bid to become the Senate Minority Leader. It was rather Senator Mwadkwon Davou from Plateau State that carried the day.
Wike’s group was said to have sustained a swift opposition against Tambuwal’s emergence.
As it stands, with Wike and several other members, all but set to dump the platform, the PDP faces existential threat more than ever.
The former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, commented on the party’s current state.
Nwodo admitted in an exclusive interview that everybody was worried and was working hard to see what they could do.
The former governor of old Enugu State also disclosed that there is an ongoing internal reconciliation even though the party would not want to go public with what they are doing now.
”We are trying as much as possible to concentrate on what is going on in the court, not to run foul of the court until they finish what they are doing. They are almost rounding off; we will talk again in the near future.
“We are doing more internal reconciliation than going public with what we are doing at the moment.
Everybody is worried; we are all working hard to see what we can do,” Nwodo said.
A media advisor to Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, Mr. Paul Ibe, stated that he thought his principal will win the 2023 election despite difficulties inside the PDP.
Ibe claimed that the evidence they adduced at the ongoing election petition court clearly showed that Atiku’s mandate was stolen.
He admitted that the PDP has set up a reconciliation committee and that Atiku was involved in its process.
According to Ibe, the party is also reviewing what happened and how it conducted its affairs during the election, insisting that persons in the PDP who deliberately and knowingly sabotaged the party would be sanctioned.
He said, ”From the evidence we adduced in the election petition court, it is obvious that there were a lot of manipulations; results that were supposed to be for the PDP were manipulated and conceded to the APC.
“I can tell you that for a fact based on the documents that were presented in the court. So we did well in terms of spread. The party did well, notwithstanding the challenges that we, the party, had.
”Even in the areas where we did not do as well as we had expected, I still insist that there was a deliberate plan to ensure that our votes were credited to the ruling party; that was exactly what happened.
”If we are using the benchmark of Professor Mahmood Yakubu, as I said, it is really difficult to evaluate our performance. The election petition tribunal will unveil the extent of the manipulation and fraud that went through that election. It was clear.
“Don’t forget that even before the election tribunal started, it was revealed that APC did not win Rivers State as already conceded to them by Mahmood.
”So the fraud that took place in that election of February 25 was unprecedented, and you can see from the report of different organisations, like the EU, that they said clearly that the election did not meet the most basic criteria for a free, fair and credible election.
”It is really difficult to make an assessment of that election because their strategy was to ensure that they took the vote away from us, from where we were supposed to have strength and to beef up numbers where they had no strength. This was their strategy, and the EU in their report indicated that.
”The report that I heard showed that the Minority Leaders of the PDP had already presented a legislative agenda.
”You can see clearly where we are; 40 days and look at the mess, there is no vigour in the policy they have put forward. They have put forward the policy for the removal of fuel subsidies without thinking about palliatives to cushion the effect.
“Again there is rising inflation, rising food prices and plans to increase the rate of electricity. And no country ever succeeds in terms of development without energy security; there has to be a policy in place to ensure that small and medium enterprises are able to thrive.
”It is only in a matter of time that the PDP will be in a better position to ensure that all of the negatives we see in terms of economic and political decisions will be reversed. So Nigerians should just wait a while.
”Yes, whatever that might have played out, all I can assure you is that the minority leadership of the party will align. I will assure you that. And they will align. They have already spoken. It is nothing to worry about because even the APC also, the chairman of their party, had the cause to raise reservations about what played out. It was not peculiar to the PDP alone.
”The party has set up a reconciliation committee. He (Atiku) has been fully briefed about it and the meeting that they had. He is involved in the process, don’t forget that he was a co-founder of the party and a major stakeholder. So there is a process in place; it is only a matter of time before all of the contending issues are resolved.
”The party is also reviewing what happened and how it conducted its affairs and the election. I think it would be an opportunity to reflect, and whatever it is that should have been done but was not done, they will take cognisance of it.
“So, the review process is ongoing, and it is only a matter of time before they make their findings public. There were mistakes; people would make mistakes; it is part of being human. And for those who deliberately, knowingly sabotaged the party, there are chances they would be sanctioned.”