© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Two victories in four days. Watch out, APC! PDP is coming for you
Who would have thought, just one week ago, that any useful national political conversation would involve the moribund Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But two positive developments, spaced by just four days, have altered the tide. In 2019, we will probably have a renewed bi-political battle on our hands.
UNEXPECTED PDP VICTORY IN OSUN
There’s no longer so much to say about PDP’s surprise victory in Saturday’s senatorial by-election. An office made vacant by the sudden death of Isiaka Adeleke, an All Progressives Congress Senator (APC) senator, the ruling party was widely expected to beat all comers. But to the surprise of everyone — maybe even the victorious party itself — it was PDP that won.
The victory triggered talks of PDP’s possible re-emergence as a superpower, but they were tempered by the factionalisation at the top. It would seem that the kind of alliance mustered at the level of Osun West constituency could not be replicated at the national level. PDP was too nationally factionalised to even come up with an intra-party alliance, much less join forces with other political parties.
Two heavyweights — Ahmed Makarfi, a two-time former Governor of Kaduna State, and Ali Modu Sherrif, two-time former Governor of Borno State — were both laying claim to the national chairmanship of the party. The crisis dates back to the 2015 presidential election.
After the party’s woeful outing at the polls, Adamu Mu’azu, its National Chairman at the time, resigned. Naturally, Uche Secondus, his deputy and native of Rivers state, assumed the reins. What would have been a peaceful transition was messed by complaints that since Mu’azu did not complete his term, his successor must come from the Northeast just like him.
FINALLY, WE KNOW THE CHAIRMAN
One desperate contender was Ahmed Gulak, former Senior Special Assistant on Political Matters to former President Goodluck Jonathan, who, after securing a court judgment in his favour, literally invaded the PDP headquarters in Abuja to forcefully take over.
In February 2016, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party waded in by temporarily appointing Sheriff Chairman, since he is from the Northeast.
In May 2016, the party held a convention despite a court order stopping it; Makarfi emerged the Chairman; and in July, his emergence was validated by a Port Harcourt High Court.
However, in February 2017, an Appeal Court sitting in the oil-rich state adjudged Sheriff the legitimate Chairman. Finally, on Tuesday, July 12, the Supreme Court reinstated Makarfi. Game over!
PDP is fast consolidating. Already, Jonathan has offered his congratulations, taking care to note that “there are no winners or losers”.
“It is a verdict that will bring our party together,” he said. “As a senior member of the party, I hereby call on all those who left the party because of its leadership issues to return to their natural home and build the PDP.”
And coming just three days after an unlikely by-election success, PDP has gained considerable momentum, going forward. There are approximately two years before the next general election — that’s ample time, enough to alter current political calculations.
But this is not to suggest that building internal unity will be an easy task. Just look at the heavyweights who have dumped PDP for APC: Ken Nnamani, former Senate President; Sullivan Chime, former Enugu State Governor; Bukola Saraki, two-time former Governor of Kwara State; Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President; Barnabas Gemade, former PDP National Chairman; Aminu Tambuwal, former Speaker of the House of Representatives; Nasir el-Rufai, former FCT Minister; and the other governors who left with Rotimi Amaechi, ex-Rivers State governor, to form the breakaway faction that later ended up in the APC. How many of these can PDP lure back to its fold? Hard to tell.
APC MUST BE LOOKING ABOVE ITS SHOULDERS
Two years of comfortable, perhaps complacent, political standing is surely coming to an end for APC — the comfort, not exactly the rein. Should APC remain in power post-2019, it would surely have earned it — if not by way of responsible leadership, surely by way on intense politicking.
It is particularly interesting that PDP’s rising stock has coincided with APC’s lowest (so far) moment of internal solidification. Buhari’s illness and trip to the UK has polarised the party and paved the way for some behind-the-scene manouvring by those eyeing the presidency in 2019; those are even on the one hand. On the other are those who sole interest is to ensure that Osinbajo, the Acting President, never gets a sniff of substantive power, either in the event of what is feared worst for Buhari or in the event that he chooses not to run in 2019. If PDP still has a few heads brimming with ideas, this is just the perfect time to strike.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT NIGERIANS?
It is not subject to argument that one of the reasons for Jonathan’s 2015 loss is that millions of voters simply wanted a change in the party at the top; now, an appreciable number of those who demanded that change are now changing their minds. How calamitous it would be, therefore, were they all to be stuck with just one party, the APC, in 2019. A multiparty state, or a two-party scenario at least, is good for the robustness of Nigeria’s democracy.
Quite a number of people, though, try to deflate this point — and validly too — by noting that there is hardly any difference between the PDP and the APC. So it seems; the cross-defection among members of both parties is now so rampant that one cannot easily track the party composition of the National Assembly, for instance.
Still, half loaf is better than none. Better to have an APC-like PDP contesting against a PDP-like APC in 2019 than to be stuck with just APC. Or, to put it figuratively, better to stand in the rain with a broom in the hand plus an umbrella over the head, than with only a broom!