In the spirit of these uncertain times, it is apt to recall the lines Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, a former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, made in December 2008, in Kaduna, the political capital of the north. On that occasion, he told the world that his party would rule Nigeria for 60 uninterrupted years. The man, who was riding the crest of authority and influence as the boss of the ‘largest political party in Africa’, had gone to pay a condolence visit to Namadi Sambo, the then governor of Kaduna State, now Nigeria’s vice president, on the death of elder statesman, Alhaji Yahaya Gusau.
During the visit, Ogbulafor had exuded the same supreme confidence that Edward John Smith, captain of the Titanic, expressed on April 10, 1912, when his exceptionally luxurious ship set sail for New York, with 2,200 passengers and crew on board. As he welcomed his VIP passengers on board, Smith, with uncommon self-assurance, told one of them that not even God could sink his ship. But after two days of pleasurable voyage, the Titanic, touted as the largest moveable object the world ever seen, hit an iceberg around midnight on April 14, 1912, and began to suck in water. On April 15, at 2:18 a.m., the ship snapped in half and sank, leaving 1, 517 dead.
Like Smith before the disaster, Ogbulafor had, during the visit to Sambo, taken a long look at the behemoth called PDP, and its congregation of the good, the bad and the ugly, and told his host: “PDP will rule Nigeria, whether they like it or not, for not less than 60 years.”
Ogbulafor may have to eat those words now. Fourteen years into this democracy, and less than a third of the time he allotted for PDP to reign, the behemoth is not having any party. Rather, PDP’s ship has hit an iceberg that triggered an implosion. Yes, the ship of PDP is sinking fast, and there are no lifeboats to rescue the perishing.
However, the present implosion within the party did not shock observers. Having studied its content and character, some analysts had observed, long ago, that the party was not firmly rooted in democratic ideals. They had posited that the party was just a congregation of strange bedfellows who seek power for its sake. And that it was just a matter of time before it would succumb to its own internal contradictions.
That forecast became a reality on August 31, 2013, when some governors and certain party stalwarts boycotted PDP’s mini-convention in Abuja. The combustible materials that fuelled the implosion, according to an editorial by The Guardian, include “increased repression in the party; restrictions of freedom of association; arbitrary suspension of members; abuse of the party constitution; the whimsical shifting of the original date of the special convention approved by its national executive council; the suspension without due process of the Governors of Rivers and Sokoto States; the illegal dissolution of the Adamawa State chapter of the party and admission of illegal delegates from some states, among many other undemocratic conducts.”
Based on these, coupled with the unrelenting persecution of Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the G.5 governors resolved to boycott the mini-convention. To show that they meant business, the aggrieved governors-Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Sule Lamido (Jigawa), worked with other party stalwarts, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and formed the New PDP.
But to demonstrate that they were not hell-bent on destroying the party, the masterminds of the New PDP visited and pleaded with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdusalami Abubakar, respectively, to intervene in the matter. The result of that intervention is yet to be seen. The battle for the soul of the party is yet to abate.
When two elephants fight, says the popular adage, the grass suffers. As the gladiators digging deeper into their trenches, the ship of state has become rudderless. It is being tossed back and forth by heavy tempest. At the centre, the president runs a fractured government. The weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings have, more or less, become a platform for awarding juicy contracts. Cynics say some of the contract awards are mere conduits employed in mopping money for the 2015 general elections.
Shehu Sani, Kaduna-based human rights activist, hit the nail on the head recently when he told The Nation newspaper that ‘there is no government in Nigeria because …all the attention, emotion and passion of the President and his cabinet are now chained to the PDP crisis.’ Nothing can be truer than that. The president and his men are so sucked in by the struggle over who flies PDP’s party’s flag in 2015 that they rarely have time for meaningful governance. Though he routinely cautions his fans not to bog him down with the politics of 2015, saying he wants to remain ‘focused’ on delivering good governance to the people, President Jonathan’s body language suggests he is neck-deep in the struggle. Consequently, issues of development have been relegated to the background.
In its present fractured state, it is extremely difficult for the PDP government to formulate any formidable roadmap for Nigeria’s economic and political development. This is part of the reasons why the federal government has not been able to convince striking university teachers to return to the classroom, almost three months after. It also accounts for its inability to fix our decaying infrastructure, fix health, fix power, fix energy, fix security, and so on.
The situation is not significantly different in most PDP-controlled states. Most of the governors, on both sides of the conflict, have virtually relocated to Abuja. They are hardly on their beats, a situation which forces commissioners and aides to always carry files to the nation’s capital for approvals. In the process, valuable man-hours are lost. And governance grinds to a halt because most of the governors operate like emperors. Everything revolves around them. Nothing moves whenever they are out of station. As if that is not bad enough, they waste tax- payers’ money on meaningless propaganda, proxy wars, phoney trainings, travel allowances, as well as vehicle maintenance.
Ask ordinary Nigerians what they think about the war in PDP, and they would tell you it is not about them. It is not about service delivery. It is not about delivering the dividend of democracy to the toiling masses. Rather, it is about grabbing political power for personal aggrandizements.
God bless Nigeria.