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PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur
For 14 years, the Peoples Democratic Party has been in charge in the country. But, the party is drifting badly from the qualities that made it a behemoth at inception, forcing the likes of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to canvass soul-searching, reports LEKE BAIYEWU

The Peoples Democratic Party, which prides itself as the biggest political party in Africa, in 1999, won the presidential election and majority of public offices.

Consequently, it had a firm grip on the nation's governance and resources, making its members to wield power, authority and influence.

Besides, records show that the PDP has won more elections than any of the opposition parties.

For instance, the PDP in 1999 won 21 states; APP won nine states, while the AD won six states in the governorship elections. Also, shortly after the 2003 elections, some governors who elected on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (formerly APP), defected to the PDP, giving the party more influence.

Ironically, the PDP has also recorded more nullified elections by electoral tribunals than any other party. This development made analysts accuse the party of using the power of incumbency to manipulate the electoral processes.

In retrospect, on February 10, 2010, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a meeting of the PDP members in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, introduced the infamous description of election as a 'do or die affair.'

Obasanjo had said, 'It is left to you to ensure that we elect credible and committed leaders. This election is a do-or-die affair for me and the PDP. This coming election is a matter of life and death for PDP and Nigeria.'

Even with the threat, the PDP lost the state to the Action Congress of Nigeria in the 2011 elections. Not only that, opposition parties have taken the entire South-West from the party.

However, two years after, the former Chairman of the party's Board of Trustees attributed challenges facing the party to lack of discipline.

Obasanjo, who spoke in Ibadan on October 27, 2012 at a South-West zone caucus meeting said, 'Our party is not sufficiently disciplined. People run from the South-West to Abuja to claim that they are the authentic group in the party. We should be tolerant.

'The issue of structure is a serious problem in the PDP. Some people believe once they have structure they have all it takes. This is the tool they are using to destroy the party.

'Most importantly, our party should ensure discipline. Even in our houses, somebody has to lead. We have to respect the elders. I don't understand reconciliation after spoiling things. There must be discipline in this party. In any institution, there must be discipline. We must contribute financially to the party and not wait until we want to contest before being responsible.'

He added that the party was due for a review of its activities since 14 years.

The PDP National Vice Chairman, South-West, Mr. Segun Oni, who also spoke at the meeting, also said, 'We are aware that there is unease across the zone. This is very dangerous in our desire to wrest power from incumbents. The electorate expect us, as a party, to demonstrate our resolve and commitment to take over the South-West by first closing our ranks and creating enduring inclusiveness in all our states.'

Ironically, what followed Obasanjo's homily was another round of blame - game in his home state, Ogun, where a faction of the party led by Mr. Bayo Dayo berated Obasanjo for blaming the problems with the party on 'indiscipline.'

A statement by the Publicity Secretary of the faction, Mr. Waliu Oladipupo, had read, 'Obasanjo is the worst advertisement of the product he is trying to sell. He is not fit to talk on indiscipline in any political setting, especially in Ogun State.

'Many notable leaders of the party have said time and again that he is the problem of the party in the state, especially with his politics of imposition, arbitrariness, dictatorship and intolerance.'

A PDP chieftain in the state, Mr. Sule Onabiyi, at a reconciliatory meeting in Abeokuta on November 6, 2012, however, argued that the crisis in the party had been settled to enhance its chances in the 2015 general elections.

'We have so many problems and if we do not reconcile warring parties, we cannot get to where we are going. We have a long time to prepare ourselves and have all buried our hatchets.

'We that have factions have reconciled. If there are two or three people absent here, we are going to beg them to make sure that we become one. Our father, Obasanjo, has no faction. He is the head of the party in the state.'

It is worthy of note that the intra-party crises seem to have persisted in Oyo, Kano, Benue, Taraba, Imo, Anambra, Edo and Ogun states. The latter to be the worst case, as it had four factions until recently, when the factions narrowed to two.

Apparently disturbed by the dwindling fortunes of the PDP, its National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, upon assumption of office earlier this year, had constituted reconciliatory committees to settle intra-party disputes and to win hearts of aggrieved and defected members.

He had said, 'Our party is losing membership. This was not how we started in 1999. We lost the election (governorship) in Edo State because of factions and misunderstanding. It is like a case of two big dogs fighting and the small ones coming to take the bone away.'

Observers have however, argued that the problems with the party were not caused by indiscipline alone; they also identified 'godfatherism' and corruption as obstacles to progress.

They gave the examples of Kwara, Oyo, Edo and Ogun states, where the self-acclaimed godfathers hand-picked their choice candidates, thereby denying other aspirants level-playing grounds at the primaries.

The party, just like the All Peoples Party and the Alliance for Democracy, was formed in 1998, when the Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, ordered that political parties be formed forwards a general election that would hold in 1999.

The PDP later emerged as the largest, as about 30 political associations, including the Social Political Party, Peoples Democratic Movement, All Nigeria Congress, Peoples Consultative Forum, Peoples National Forum and 25 others, merged to form the party.

Since then, the party has produced Nigerian presidents to date. They are Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 to 2007), late Umaru Yar'Adua (2007 till his death in 2010), and the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan (who was the acting president from 2010 to 2011, before his election in 2011).

In his assessment of the PDP, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, who spoke to our correspondent, said the party had no prospects but shortcomings.

He added that the existence of the party posed a threat to the nation's progress.

He said, 'It is a party; it is a congregation of people who have positioned themselves to feast on the nation and milk it dry. They are there to plunder the resources, leading to a massive uncontrollable stealing.

'I embarked on a research to study newspaper reports since the last three months and they were mostly on corruption and stealing; from Halliburton scandal to Siemens to subsidy. This massive public looting is recorded under the PDP government.

'The party is full of immorality, self-promotion and aggrandisement. As long as the party exists, this country will not make progress.'

Prof. Pat Utomi, however, said, Nigeria was yet to have a political party.

He said, 'As far as I am concerned, there is no political party in Nigeria, including the PDP. What we have is people coming together to gain power and to get contracts.'

The National Coordinator, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, said although political parties should be drivers of democracy, those in Nigeria lacked ideologies. He, however, added that parties should not be held responsible for leadership or government failures.

He said, 'The parties are just platforms for electoral rigging. This is why the Independent National Electoral Commission must encourage the opposition parties to allow alignment of ideologies. There is no control of party financing and that is why the PDP has more access to funds.

'The INEC must regulate this to create a level-playing ground for other parties. Any ruling party should not use public or government funds to run party affairs.'

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, however, told our correspondent that the party had added more value to the country. While he admitted that it had challenges and had made mistakes, he argued that the PDP had done more good for the nation than evil.

He said, 'We have added value to this country. We have been able to keep the country as one, uniting Nigeria and protecting the interests of the people; our criticism should not just be about provision of infrastructure.'

On corruption, Metuh added, 'The president and the party should be commended for initiating anti-corruption campaigns. We do not tolerate corruption. No opposition party has come out to indict its principals. The PDP is unlike the opposition parties who hide their sharp corrupt practices in their domain, away from the public.'

As the PDP shrinks in size and might, perhaps, it was what inspired the opposition parties to form a coalition against the ruling party ahead of the 2015 general elections. Already, the ACN, CPC and the ANPP are making headway in their merger plan, which might pose a threat to the PDP.

The National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Dr. Lai Mohammed, in an interview, said, 'I believe that the ACN, CPC and ANPP have come to the realisation that posterity will not forget us, if we allow the PDP to remain one day more in power after 2015. I think the leaders of the parties are taking this responsibility very seriously? We are not saying that it is going to be easy to have a merger. But, we shall have a merge, I can assure you.'