The unexpected loss of power struck it like a thunderbolt from outer space. Those who meant well for the party did not see it coming. They were blinded by optimism. Little did they know that saboteurs had infiltrated the party. They sold out when they were expected to hold the party aloft. The result was the momentous crash that has continued to elicit exciting responses and discourses. But more than two years after sojourning in the wilderness, a rejuvenation is about to take place. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the behemoth that lost the presidency, is about to spring forth again. The jeremiad is over. The party appears set for a recrudescence.
How did the rain begin to beat PDP? In the build-up to the 2015 electoral contest, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, was infiltrated by strange elements. They were close enough to discover his major weakness. He was uncritically credulous. It was easy to manipulate his brains and his thought process. That was how the wily wary actors crept in. They sold a dummy to him and he set sail without knowing that he was headed for a crash. Those who are close to the ex-President tell us that he harbours a huge sense of disappointment. He feels betrayed by those he trusted. Reality is always a late dawn. It is staring Jonathan nakedly in the face.
But the scar of the loss of the presidency in 2015 is not showing on Jonathan alone. The PDP, the party that fielded him for the election, was as bruised and battered as Jonathan. The loss was a rude shock for the party that ruled and reigned for 16 years. It least imagined that it would kiss the dust in such an ignominious manner. Since then, it has been faced with the task of picking up its pieces and mending its cracked walls. Its initial attempt to find its feet was almost as disastrous as its unexpected loss of power. An upstart had taken over the reins of the party. As an outsider who suddenly became an insider, Ali Modu Sheriff began to imagine things. Having been invited over to give the party a new lease of life, he began to engage in mental flights. He saw himself becoming a czar, indeed, the body and soul of the party. Seized by his wild imaginations, he began to unleash on the party a reign of divisiveness. He needed to do this to ingratiate his lust for higher office. His self-serving agenda was to throw the party into fits and starts. It took the Supreme Court to rescue the party from the stranglehold of the political marauder.
The locust, no doubt, has taken its turn. It has caused sufficient damage to the green field. But the cropper is not deterred. He is determined to sow fresh seeds. That is why the party that was out in the cold is making spirited efforts to rise from the ashes of defeat. In a matter of hours, the watching world will be in a position to know if the worst is over for the PDP.
The major test case is the national convention of the party slated for this Saturday. It is largely believed in political circles that the PDP is about to face a major litmus test. It promises to be a make-or-mar convention. It is, if you like, a convention to end all conventions. On that day, the party will either rediscover itself or sink deeper into the muddle. A number of fingers are already crossed in anticipation.
But there is an interesting twist to the tale. The national convention has been heralded by a bumper harvest. Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and one of the founders of the party, is back in the fold. He officially returned to the party in the week of the convention. This development is as momentous as the convention that is about to take place. It is, in fact, the defining moment that will set the tone of what is about to happen.
Atiku, a well-rooted and sagacious politician, was one of the nemesis of the PDP in 2015. He had joined forces then with the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Atiku was not alone. A number of other bigwigs defected from the PDP and pitched their tent with the APC. That brought about the disruption that the PDP is dealing with today. Atiku believes that he was a rebel with a cause. He said he had good reasons to leave the party at the time. That the party, which he helped to put together, abandoned its flag. It was hijacked by undemocratic forces who unleashed a reign of impunity never known in the history of the party. Atiku and some others like him were practically choked by this unsavoury development. They had to find an exit door to remain politically alive. For Atiku, the worst is over for PDP. He is relieved that the odds that made him to cross to the opposite side of the political divide have been dismantled. He now feels a sense of relief. That explains his return to the PDP.
This is Atiku’s story. But what does it portend for the party? Those who are in the know of developments around the convention say that Atiku’s return has altered a number of permutations both within and outside the party. It is believed that Atiku will play a leading role in deciding who emerges as the national chairman of the party this Saturday. If the outcome goes the way of the former Vice President, it would translate into gains for him by the time the party’s presidential primary holds sometime next year. In other words, the outcome of the convention will set the tone for the politics to come. With an arresting influence and strong financial muscle, Atiku is believed to have the capacity to muzzle his way through. His entry is, therefore, being greeted with disquiet in a number of circles. It has disorganised and disrupted the plans of some who, like Atiku, are nursing presidential ambitions.
It is on the strength of this fact that it is believed that Atiku has the capacity to tilt the convention in favour of his ambition that concerned partymen and women are sounding a note of caution. They have advised the organisers of the convention to ensure that the process remains transparent and credible. Those who want the party to survive are scared stiff of a situation where those who may be disgruntled in the event of a flawed electoral process at the convention would ship out of the party, possibly in droves, in protest, and find succour elsewhere. The worry here is that PDP cannot afford another crisis at this time.
The outcome of the PDP convention also means a lot to people outside the party. In the face of the inability of the APC to govern well, those who reposed so much confidence in the party and its leader, Muhammadu Buhari, have since lost hope. The change mantra that APC came up with has turned out to be a mere slogan. Nigerians are getting the exact opposite of what they were promised. Given this disappointing set-up, the need to change the change has become imperative. And in the absence of any other serious opposition party, PDP remains the only option and alternative that will rescue Nigeria from the shackles of bad governance. PDP is, therefore, being looked upon with great expectations. There may be trepidation in the air. But the least Nigerians expect from PDP is to get it right.
In all of this, we need not emphasise the fact that APC is waiting in the wings. It is watching with keen interest. Its hold on power is badly threatened by PDP’s return. If PDP fumbles, APC will be the happier for it. It is a case of one man’s loss translating to another man’s gain. The PDP convention is pregnant with these possibilities.