Five Ps Why the PDP Fell Apart
In 1998, when the ban on political activities was lifted in Nigeria, paving way for the return of civil rule after about 16 straight years of military rule, the PDP was formed. In the year that followed, PDP brilliantly became the ruling political party. It overwhelmingly won the presidential, gubernatorial, and parliamentary elections held in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. As a matter of fact, the PDP was not only the truest national party in the history of Nigeria, it became, arguably, the hugest political party in Africa.
Regardless of the complicate, heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian state, PDP was able to smoothly sail on the turbulent oceans of Nigerian politics for sixteen years. In those gloomy years, PDP survived the virulent regional and ethno-religious sentiments which have characterised Nigerian politics since the introduction of the Richard's constitution in 1948. Formed by prominent Nigerian business moguls and high-ranking ex-service men, PDP also made history as the first political party in Nigeria to have produced three democratically elected presidents.
The PDP grew so blossomly that in 2008, during a condolence visit to Kaduna State over the death of Mallam Yahaya Gusau by the members of the PDP's National Working Committeee, the then National chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, boasted thus: “We assure you we will do our best, and like I always say, the challenge is ours, the time is now and the place is here. PDP will rule Nigeria, whether they like it or not, for not less than 60 years,”
Unfortunately, and quite ironically, the man who through a military coup d'etat truncated Nigeria's democracy 16 years before the formation of PDP also became the man whose victory at the presidential polls ended PDP's sixteen years rule, making Ogbulafor's predictions immaterial. The results of the 2015 general elections have clearly established the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the new ruling party, obviously pushing PDP into the lonely road of opposition politics.
In the past few weeks scholars have identified a number of reasons why PDP fell apart. While some of these reasons appear very compelling, others have remained strongly disputable. In this article, I shall explore five Ps why PDP fell apart. I do not expect, however, that the reader would agree with all my points - for enlightened minds learn best by first disagreeing. Consequently, I shall present my controversial points in the following subheadings.
Poor Propaganda Wing
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary sees propaganda as "ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc." Propaganda determines the life span of any modern government.
A government should be kind to her citizens by not only securing their lives and property but by telling them believable lies. One of the reasons why PDP fell apart was because it could no longer tell Nigerians believable lies - the propaganda wing of PDP became too poor, too fragile.
For instance, President Jonathan of the PDP propagandistically told Nigerians and the world that Nigeria has become the largest economy in Africa, which is not untrue, but Nigerians did not believe. Nigerians did not believe because there was a heavily armed propaganda wing of the APC that was unrepentantly discrediting the PDP, insisting that Nigeria couldn't have been the largest economy in Africa when a vast majority of Nigerians live in peasantry, in abject poverty.
In the end, who did Nigerians believe? The APC of course. The results of the 2015 presidential elections is evident.
The PDP also partly fell apart because it allowed the opposition to hijack the press - the fourth estate of the realm. While the PDP flourished excellently, it was , or it seemed to be, more concerned about staying in power than what the popular newspapers were reporting about it. Popular newspapers such as Punch, The Nation and Leadership are owned and controlled by members of the opposition and it played a great role in sensationalizing insignificant national issues.
Opposition hijack of the press was not limited to the print media, it extended to online media. In this regard, Saharan Reporters and Premium Times, arguably, played the greatest role in the fall of President Jonathan and the PDP. These two investigative, rebellious online media houses never published anything good about the PDP and President Jonathan, turning an army of youth against the PDP and its policies.
Saharan Reporters and Premium Times were the first media group who raised the alarm on Oduagate, the allegedly missing oil money, the Ekitigate, NIS scandal, etc. Contrarily, these two media houses did everything possible to ensure that Buhari's certificate uproar is silenced. And since Nigerians are more disposed to believing facts than the ruling party, their loyalty to the opposition grew like green grasses in the wet seasons.
Personality Clash Between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Patience Jonathan
Patience Jonathan is, perhaps, the best female comedian in Nigeria. During her public appearances as the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, she has won for herself millions of followers who, for some queer reasons, have fallen in love with her humorous usage of the English Language.
However, beyond the there-is-God-oo and my-fellow-widow self of the First Lady, she is a great politician. Little wonder former President Olusegun Obasanjo named her one of the five presidents of Nigeria. At the peak of Patience's influence, insiders at Aso Rock claimed that Nigeria could be sold to anyone who made Patience exceedingly happy.
Towards the second half of Jonathan's regime, the First Lady somewhat became tired of dictating the affairs of things at Aso Rock. She wanted to localize her influence, seeking to control the politics in her native state, Rivers State. Unknown to Patience, Governor Rotimi Amaechi was not a phlegmatic, was a strong man.
Consequently, the relationship between Rotimi and the presidency waned dramatically like a candle in a cup of hot coffee. One night, when the world was as still as a statue, Patience whispered to her husband. And then the next morning something happened. Jonathan scuttled the elections of the Nigerian Governor's Forum, inventing the phenomenal mathematics of 16>19.
The NGF became factional and Amaechi became frustrated and violently angry. The results? Amaechi led the defection of four other PDP governors to the APC, an action that would later mark the fall of the PDP. The APC won all the states governed by the defected PDP governors, except, of course, in Rivers State where the presidential elections were held and the results collated under 'special conditions'.
The ultimate job of a presidential spokesperson is neither to crucify the opposition nor make bogus statements to remain on the payroll of the president; it is, as a matter of fact, to make the president the public's pet. If there was one bad luck President Goodluck had, it was the luck of choosing incompetent spokespersons. Rather than making President Jonathan appear like a pet before Nigerians, his spokesperson made him look like a pest before the public.
One of the most reckless statements from Jonathan's spokespersons came from Doyin Okupe, wherein he said President Jonathan was Nigeria's Jesus Christ. The statement was widely condemned and it was, disputably, why some Christians in the SouthWest voted against PDP and the candidature of President Jonathan. They couldn't, maybe, stand the sight of witnessing the Second Coming of the Nigerian messiah.
As if Doyin Okupe's tyranny was insufficient, Jonathan recruited the services of Chief Fani Kayode, an erstwhile opposition attack dog, to direct his presidential campaign. Fani could, no doubt, excellently speak English but most of his talks were rash, very rash. So, only a few Nigerians took Fani seriously whenever he addresses his endless press conferences. Had Jonathan had some stroke of good luck when it came to choosing presidential spokespersons, perhaps the spokespersons would have used their power of oratory to rescue President Jonathan, to rescue PDP.
'Change' was the sand and slogan which the APC used in burying the PDP in the build up to the 2015 general elections. This was not a coincidence; the APC strategists exploited the conservative posture of the PDP to bury it. The PDP's 16 sixteen years rule had indefensible performance problems. From the enigmatic Obasanjo to the late Umaru Yar'adua, and from the late Umaru Yar'adua to the outgoing Jonathan, Nigerians had so many questions which the PDP led government had no answers to.
Some of these questions included: Why is corruption pervasive in nearly every sector of the Nigerian society? Why is youth unemployment unprecedentedly high? Why is nearly every household in Nigeria in the grip of poverty? Why is electricity still epileptic 50 years after independence? The inability of the PDP government to answer most of these questions and several others made Nigerians embraced change, nailing the PDP's coffin.
A living dog is better than a dead lion. The PDP has fallen from the national ladder of leadership but it is not dead yet. It can still rise again. If it must rise, nevertheless, it must play its new role as an opposition party effectively and maturely. It must also avoid some of the mistakes which rocked its political boat as a ruling party.
Ademule David is a student of human society, he writes from Lagos.