If you must understand how steeply the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has fallen since the 2015 general election, look no further than one week ago, when Doyin Okupe, former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, abandoned the party.
Unlike many Nigerian politicians, Okupe, the only Nigerian to have been spokesman for two presidents, has no history of cross-party associations. In terms of party loyalty, there are very few politicians like him. Despite failing to clinch the Ogun State PDP governorship ticket for the 2003 election, he remained in the party even when Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, whom he served as spokesman, left the PDP in anger. Therefore, his departure from the PDP last week is not just another resignation; it is proof of PDP’s collapse. Well, so it seemed. But in politics, just as in life, nothing is permanent.
TRAGIC RAY OF HOPE IN OSUN
Fast-forward seven days and there is a ray of hope for the PDP. A senatorial seat that was firmly in the grip of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has now gone to the PDP. It came with a bit of luck — maybe tragedy is a more appropriate word. Isiaka Adeleke, a two-time Senator and first civilian Governor of Osun State, died in unclear circumstances.
After mourning his late brother, captured by a particularly touching burial-ground photo, Ademola declared interest in filling his void at the senate. He looked initially set to succeed, having secured the APC ticket. But the National Working Committee of the party instead favoured Mudashiru Hussain, a man who was always pitched against the late senator for political offices. Ademola’s truncated dream promptly resurfaced at the PDP; still, it looked unlikely that he would upstage Hussain.
THE BIG ALLIANCE
Does he who kill by the sword actually die by the sword? It has to be true, on the strength of current political evidence in the Osun West Senatorial District. Days before the election, nine political parties adopted Adeleke as their candidate. They are: All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), Action Alliance (AA), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Alliance for Democracy (AD), Democratic People’s Party (DPP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN). In the end, Adeleke recorded a shocking victory.
A HELPING HAND FROM APC
Despite the alliance, PDP could never have won without a helping hand from the APC. Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of the state, had become unpopular owing to a combination of reasons, including economic recession and the state’s self-insufficiency. Workers were being owed; and just two days before the by-election, medical doctors in the state protested against Aregbesola, saying their unpaid salaries were even being “mutilated”. There is little to show that a PDP governor would have done any better in the current circumstance, but Aregbesola is at the helm and if someone had to pay the price, it had to be him and his party.
OSUN AS MIRROR FOR 2019?
The reasons for which the people turned their back on Aregbesola are prevalent at the national level. More than two-thirds of states are struggling to pay workers’ salary and very few of them have a solid internally-generated revenue base. The jobs that were promised two years ago are not here; the ones that were there are being lost in large numbers. Just like PDP before the 2015 election, APC is currently a house divided against itself. President Muhammadu Buhari’s ill-health-induced absence has paved the way for a power struggle that has whittled down APC’s collective strength. As things stand at the moment, things are not done and dusted for APC ahead of 2019.
COULD PDP RETURN?
It is a possibility. Adeleke’s death has offered PDP a platter-of-gold opportunity to return to power. If the former ruling party escalates its Osun alliance project to the national level, and if APC does not improve its performance in the final two years of its existing presidential contract with the people, the PDP could have a real shot at power.
Ahead of the by-election, Adeleke had said: “We are going to win the election and come 2018, we will still win”. The first part of the statement has been fulfilled, against widespread expectations, and the second may just still be possible.
The party Okupe said had reached menopause just a week ago may yet become fecund because with Osun, PDP has already validated the saying that in life, never say never.