PDP's integrity crisis as opposition party – National Mirror

By The Citizen
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Precisely in March 2012, before the merger of political parties that produced the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the nemesis of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many in the country bemoaned the perceivable absence of robust political opposition to the country. The PDP had at the time controlled the Federal Government for an unbroken period of over 12 years, and had consistently dominated power in majority of the state and local government areas across the country. Public impression then had been that even the initial strength of the major opposition parties like the All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP); Alliance for Democracy (AD); and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), were ebbing, despite the impressive gains made by the ACN in the South-West states during the 2011 general elections. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a new party, was, however, showing encouraging signs of future strength.

Surprisingly, barely a year later in July 2013, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) approved the merger of the ACN, ANPP and CPC. They transformed into the APC. By the time the last year general elections were concluded, the new mega party (APC) wrested power from the PDP at the federal level and in majority of the states, courtesy of the massive support of a people wearied for long by the uninspiring leadership of the PDP. The rest is now history. With the APC now in power and the PDP on the receiving end, political opposition vacuum was again created, a void many felt the PDP, which was booted out of power just last year, could readily and easily fill. But the party, which throws interminable jabs at the ruling APC, has been enmeshed in leadership quandary since it was sacked by from power at the centre, suggesting grave lack of focus.

Perhaps, more importantly, if there is anything critical to PDP's success in its role as a leading opposition party, it is integrity that glitters like the transparent waters of Montana. On the back of integrity, buoyed by the popular will of Nigerians, the APC rode to the pinnacle of power last year. President Muhammadu Buhari's acclaimed strength of character was a huge asset, perhaps one of the greatest assets the APC put to work to pluck victory. It was a corporate asset that rubbed off on anything APC. The same, however, cannot be said of the PDP, which apparently in a hurry to find a quick fix for its leadership tussles, picked a controversial figure, whose character dozens of critics and close political associates have tagged as suspect, as its new national chairman.

They may not all be right. But the emergence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, a former Borno State governor widely suspected of having intricate links with the violent, Islamist Boko Haram sect that has been tormenting the North East axis of the country since 2009, is probably not the best the opposition party could have offered itself and the nation at this time. Whereas Sheriff had repeatedly denied the charge, the yet grim political integrity and character tell-tale still trailing him, particularly in respect of the Boko Haram misfortune, makes him an unflattering choice for the position presently. Dr. Doyin Doyin Okupe, an ex- Special Adviser (Media) to former President Goodluck Jonathan, put it succinctly when he said lately: 'With the crisis rocking the PDP, the emergence of Sheriff might deplete the membership base of the opposition party. Impunity, presumptive reasoning (and) restrictive consultation process, are the diseases killing the PDP.

PDP leaders who supported the emergence of Sheriff hinged their argument on the fact that being a wealthy politician he would be favourably disposed to funding the activities of the party. Other leaders within the party felt that Sheriff would compound the problems of the party and bring crushing weight of burden capable of fatally destroying the new strands of moral fibre in the party'. The likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Aviation Minister, et cetera, were more caustic in their condemnation of the choice of the new PDP Chair. All seems to boil down to the crisis of integrity, confidence and strength of character in the PDP family. And like John T. Dale says: 'Above all things in this world, character has supreme value'. The nation is in dire need of virile political opposition alright, but not one that flows from a leadership that is suspect. The groundswell of opposition against the choice of Sheriff offers a rare opportunity for the PDP to revisit what appears a grave blunder.