By Fred Olomah
With the pain Nigerians feel over the sinking of the nation by the APC, the 2023 elections should have been an easy win for the PDP across board but it seems that after the eras of Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbe and Barnabas Gemade as national chairmen, the party substituted mature internal leadership with the arrogance of power and allure of money.
These were evident in the wanton harrassment and impeachments of the Presidents of Senate under President Olusegun Obasanjo.
It was with same arrogance that it lost its grip on states like Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Kano and Edo, a couple of which it managed to recover only recently due to same demonstration of arrogance by the opposition APC in the states.
Its loss of Anambra was even more dramatic as the then ruling PDP government allowed the kidnap of its sitting Governor Chris Ngige just to please some individuals.
The weakness of the party leadership made it unable to manage the 2015 transition from President Goodluck Jonathan. Had it been strong enough, it would have seen and ensured that Jonathan ought to have given way for a Northern President after he had completed Umaru Yar’Adua’s tenure and added his own four-year term which, with Obasanjo’s eight years, saw the South ruling for 14 years while the North had had just two with Yar’Adua. Such temperance would have provided great sense of equity and stability in the party.
The consequence was the defection of the Northern bloc of the party to the APC and the resulting victory of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Through these periods, the language of the party seemed to be that with the power of executive incumbency, it could do without some members. In fact, it went on to organise a national re-registration exercise in which it deregistered many foundational members.
Same attitude has remained and spiralled down to the states level where Governors arrogantly destabilise the party through intimidation, harrassment and victimisation of party leaders who dare to be independent minded and speak objectively.
Whether the PDP accepts it or not, it would have been the beneficiary of the momentum Nigerian youths are currently building around Peter Obi.
With the woeful showing of the APC and President Buhari, Nigerians have long realised that the nation needs a wholesome reset of its economy to pull out of the woods and that this requires knowledgeably qualified and competent economic development and financial managers.
The need for this is exemplified in states like Akwa Ibom, Edo and Anambra whose electorates went for such economic and financial management gurus as Udom Emmanuel, Godwin Obaseki and Chukwuma Soludo.
It was obviously for the same reason that Atiku Abubakar chose Peter Obi as running mate in 2019, in recognition of his acumen in business and expertise in financial management as Governor of Anambra State.
Nigerians saw hope in the pair. It was only unfortunate that Atiku lost the election due mainly to distortions of results in some core Northern states.
With Buhari completing his eight years to satisfy the Northern mandate, the Presidential pendulum was expected to swing to the South but while the Northern APC Governors found the courage to say and vote so in their primary to ensure equity, the PDP could not muster the courage to do the same.
While Peter Obi left the party in protest over PDP’s equivocation on rotation and seeing the skewing of the process of the Presidential primary against Southern aspirants, worse was that the party also treated those who remained with arrogance during and even after the primary.
No doubt, primaries are about politics but a matured leadership should have been able to manage both winners and losers immediately after the exercise to ensure continued unity of the party towards the general elections. This it did not do effectively and efficiently.
It is true that it is the right of a Presidential candidate to choose his running mate as Atiku has chosen Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who, undoubtedly, brings reasonable quality to the table, but the process was also mismanaged to the point of offending the sensibilities of other eminent stakeholders.
Of what use was it, for instance, throwing jibes at the character of Governor Nyesom Wike after the betrayal and loss he suffered at the PDP Presidential primary and his non-selection as running mate, as was done by the former Niger State Governor and Atiku loyalist, Aliyu Babangida, and other top notchers of the party? How could the party have allowed such uncharitable statements about one of its own and not expect some remonstration?
Why too is the National Chairman hesitating to step aside after pledging to do so if it turns out, as it has, that the Presidential ticket goes to his side of the country, to also demonstrate a sense of equity and balance which is always required in politics? How does this inspire the confidence of Southern stakeholders of the party in the commonness of wealth if and when Atiku ascends as President?
Sadly, the same scenario is playing out in some states like Delta and Akwa Ibom where the Governors have been left to self-appropriate the machinery of the party to impose candidates whose credentials and character are in public question.
The 2023 elections is supposed to be for the taking for the PDP but whether it can seize this moment of national rejection of the APC to reassert itself in the national government, retain its traditional states and gain new grounds will depend on if it can rein in the arrogance of its party and government executives by calling their powers to order.
A recent example by a young man in Delta State who reportedly declined Governor Okowa’s appointment as Special Adviser in preference for remaining “ObiDient” may appear like a none event but it speaks to an emerging mood of self determination among Nigerians, to vote not for parties but for character and competence in realisation that it is their lives, social and economic wellbeing that are at stake.