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In the last couple of weeks, Nigerians appear to have started feeling, once again, that there is more than one political party in the country. Hitherto now, the political party that traversed the political landscape, without much challenge, was the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), while the voices of the other parties were drowned out. It looked then as if the country was operating a one-party state or heading for it.
However, with the Supreme Court’s judgment, bringing to rest the intractable crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigerians are beginning to hear other voices. Suddenly, political parties and individuals, who were mute, are now talking. And we are having a semblance of politics, wherein the majority will have their way, while the minority will, at least, have their say.
Yes, the PDP, as a political party, has come back alive. The Supreme Court had decided that the Senator Ahmed Makarfi Caretaker Committee is, indeed, the authentic leadership of the party, while the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction was not only described as an interloper but also sacked. For the majority PDP members, the Supreme Court could not have been more right. The Sheriff faction, despite the fact that the Court of Appeal earlier affirmed it as the leadership of the party, was not really in charge. The fact that no governor of the PDP, out of the 12 states’ chief executives, came out openly to identify with Sheriff showed that his faction had no strong following and was bound to crash.
Now that the issues are settled, one hopes that the PDP, as a political party, the governors and other stakeholders, as party members, have learnt their lesson. It is hoped that the party and members will be more circumspect in handling their affairs, in the area of choice of leadership and actions. Yes, the crisis that rocked PDP was avoidable. It is inconceivable that some governors and other stakeholders of PDP could foist Sheriff on the party without doing due diligence or political DNA on him. In their naivity, they brought a man, who became a divisive factor instead of a uniting force. Their indiscretion did put the PDP in trouble and nearly killed the political party.
The PDP really went to hell. A once vibrant political party, which controlled about two-thirds of the country and produced the president for 16 straight years, suddenly became a shadow of itself. After losing a major election in 2015, wherein the political party lost the presidency and could only produce 12 governors (three in South East, five in South South, two in South West and two in North Central), the PDP went deeper down the valley, owing to leadership crisis. The party was battered and broken. And it was on the verge of death, as, going by what has been said after the Supreme Court verdict, many of the governors elected on the party’s platform and other top-notch members were planning to defect to other political parties, had the judiciary decided otherwise.
There is no doubt that the PDP mismanaged its success. It is apparent that the 16 years run of the political party at the top level of politics in the country got into the heads of its leadership and members, to the extent that they started misbehaving. The party and its elected members lost touch with the people, got intimidated by the opposition and lost the support they hitherto had. Owing to foolishness, the party and its leadership did not see the thunder coming. And when the thunder struck, it scorched everything on its path.
For one, when the APC was registered, the PDP and its members said it was a flash in the pan. When APC started moving round the country, shopping for prominent members, they did nothing to protect themselves and ensure their members remained intact. The PDP stood by and allowed five of its then governors, in Rivers, Kano, Adamawa, Kwara and Sokoto, to join the APC. This accounted, mainly, for the party’s loss in the 2015 general elections.
As the PDP has got back its soul, the onus is on the political party to reinvent itself and work hard to gain Nigerians’ confidence once again. It is normal for the PDP to boast that with the resolution of its crisis, it will flush out APC, as some of its leaders and members had said. However, taking back power or bouncing back to political reckoning does not come by mere saying it. The PDP has to work for it. Now is the time for the party to start reconciliation, with the view to having a common front. The leadership of the party should bring everybody who believes in the party and what it stands for together. Those who are not ready for peace or to work with others should be made to go, instead on becoming nuisance and danger within. Towards this direction, Sheriff and his supporters should sheath their swords since the battle is over, if they really have the interest of the party at heart. They should either join others for the good of PDP or check out, so that the party will have some peace.
PDP leadership should do what APC did in 2014, when it was registered, by going members-shopping. There are some PDP members, who left because they were not happy with what was going on. Some of them are not members of any political party at present. PDP should, therefore, woo such people back. The party should also woo members of other political parties, who could become assets to it, if they cross over.
Most importantly, the PDP should discard its previous misdeeds and turn a new leave. Some of these misdeeds include imposition of candidates, failure to organise proper primary elections or congresses, disrespect for zoning structure and feeling of the people, arrogance and aloofness. The party should properly zone its offices and ensure that credible, popular and competent hands are presented for such top positions, as presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate and party national chairman, among others.
The return of PDP is good for democracy in the country. It is also good for good governance. This is because when it becomes obvious that there is an alternative, the citizens’ hope that there is a window for change rises. When there is a strong opposition, the political party in power and those in government, knowing that they could be removed from power in next election, behave better. My happiness with the resolution of the PDP crisis is simply because the drift to one party state, as seen in the avalanche of defections to APC by PDP members, owing to the crisis and fear for the future of the party, will stop. Besides, there had been a monologue in the political space, with only APC and its elected leaders saying and behaving the way they like. With a united PDP now, APC will no longer take things for granted. Doing so will be at its peril.