• Monday, May 20, 2024
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How lingering crisis, defections put PDP future under threat


…Party may not exist at national level in next election cycles – analysts

The future of Nigeria’s main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is perhaps, under threat following series of internal implosions which have aggravated in recent times.

Many would have thought the party leaders would put their differences aside after the 2023 poll, but the once acclaimed largest political party in Africa, remains disjointed a year later.

Prior to the 2023 polls, the PDP was already on a shaky note, losing the presidential election appears to have put the final nail in the coffin.

Many observers say it would be difficult for the party to offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) with its present state.

Read also: More defection hits PDP as Imo chair, 26 other defect

Interestingly the crisis in the PDP is not only at the national level, many state chapters are plagued with leadership crisis and power struggle over the control of the party structure.

In recent weeks, many members and chieftains have expressed discontent about the running of the PDP with some defecting to join the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Labour Party (LP).

Notably, among those who have dumped the party in recent weeks is Emeka Ihedioha, former governor of Imo State, who resigned his membership last Monday.

In an address to the PDP chairman in Mbutu Ward, Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, Ihedioha said the PDP has taken on a path that is at variance with his personal beliefs, noting that the party was heading in the wrong direction.

He said the party as presently constituted could no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress.

According to him, “I have had the benefit of serving and benefitting from the party at various levels. Regrettably, in recent times, the party has taken on a path that is at variance with my personal beliefs.

“Despite my attempt to offer counsel, the party is, sadly, no longer able to carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Read also: Emeka Ihedioha dumps PDP, gives reasons

“It is in the light of the foregoing, that I am compelled to offer my resignation from the People’s Democratic Party effective immediately.

“While this decision was difficult to take, I, however, believe that it is the right one. Despite this resignation, I will always be available to offer my services towards the deepening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.”

Few days after the former governor announced his resignation from the PDP, the Imo State PDP chairman, Charles Ugwu and 21 other chieftains also formally resigned their positions and membership of the party.

Others included the immediate past deputy governor, Gerald Irona, former vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri and one time education commissioner, Jude Njoku, Ikenga Eze (ex-rep member), Vin Udokwu, Ex-Chief of Staff, Imo government among others.

Many analysts have predicted more resignation of leaders from the PDP with the current situation, especially as the 2027 general election draws nearer, if the party does not put its house in order.

“I won’t be shocked if more political gladiators follow Ihedioha and co. and leave the PDP as we near the 2027 general election.

“I want to believe that they would experience a serious gale of defection to APC or even Labour Party in the coming days if the party does not sit up and it does not appear they are serious,” Kunle Okuade, political analyst, said.

Genesis of the current crisis

Although the PDP has not had stability since it lost the 2015 general election including the presidential poll to the APC in the 2015, many observers believed that the PDP did not handle the controversial issue of zoning its presidential ticket well prior to the 2023 election.

The debate over the zoning principle in the PDP ended in May 2022, nine months before the presidential election, following its decision to open its 2023 presidential ticket to all sections of the country.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the decision to throw open the ticket was in line with the recommendation made by the party’s zoning committee.

“After extensive deliberation, NEC aligned with the recommendation of the PDP National Zoning Committee that the Presidential Election should now be left open. The party should also work towards a consensus candidate where possible,” Ologunagba said.

But the PDP’s decision was totally at variance with the position of the Southern Governors’ Forum.

The disagreement was further fuelled by the refusal of the party’s presidential candidate to pick Nyesom Wike, who was then governor of Rivers State and had contested the ticket with him as his running mate.

Wike subsequently formed a bloc of five southern governors who worked for the victory of Bola Tinubu who was the APC’s candidate.

Any observers believed the major reasons that further diminished the party.

Calls for Damagum resignation/Wike’s sanction

Many members of the PDP are not comfortable with the decision of Wike to serve as Minister in the President Tinubu administration and would rather prefer he exits the party. They do not trust him again and see him as a mole in the party working for the APC.

Since he assumed office as Minister of the FCT, many have called for his resignation from the PDP and for the national leadership to sanction him.

But there are those who say the former governor has not done anything wrong since he informed the party before taking up the ministerial appointment. These divergent views among members and leaders have further polarised the party.

Also, upon the removal of Iyorchia Ayu as national chairman of the party, Umar Damagum, who was then the deputy national chairman was chosen to act in his stead.

About a year later, many party leaders, including PDP’s National Assembly members say it was time for him to be replaced with someone from the North Central where the position was zoned to, initially.

In recent weeks leading up to the party’s National Executive Committee meeting held a fortnight ago, some chieftains and about 60 federal lawmakers threatened to dump the PDP if Damagum does not step down from his position.

However, Damagun survived, with the NEC asking him to continue pending the election of a new chairman in August.

But many party leaders are not happy with the decision; they noted that the decision to allow Damagun continue in office was not the right decision and was a calculated move to undermine the party.

Elder statesman, Edwin Clark, challenged the acting national chairman, telling him to resign from his position and not to allow the party to collapse on him.

Clark, who stated this in an open letter he wrote to Damagum last Wednesday, also said the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) showed obvious weakness by allowing the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, to cajole everyone in the meeting, adding that no one was ready to speak truth to power.

The elder statesman who decried the state of the party under Damagum’s leadership said the chairman has confirmed allegations that he was doing the bidding of Wike.

He said: “It is alleged in some quarters that Wike is very instrumental to your being appointed the acting national chairman, and you, therefore recognise him as your boss.

“So, it appears to some people the obvious role you embarked upon, playing down the powers of NEC. It does also appear that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), is made up of Wike’s men, which includes your good self as Acting national chairman.

“The national secretary, the National Publicity Secretary, some leaders such as Dan Orbih, who unfortunately is not a chip of the old block of his father, the late MCK Ajuluchukwu, a great politician. We were all together in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), in 1979.”

PDP members are surprised that the party leadership under Damagum has not taken disciplinary action against members who worked against their interest in the 2023 polls.

The members say such individuals must be sanctioned for peace to reign in the PDP and to serve as a deterrent.

Read also: Troubled PDP survived implosion threats, plans internal healing

“I thought the party was soft on them, Wike and co, many leaders who worked for the opposition in the 2023 general election. So, it means someone else can do the same and go away next time.

“Many members are not happy that after campaigning, on election day, leaders asked members to vote for another party’s candidate and it happened across the country,” Toke Lawal, a PDP chieftain, said.

Speaking on calls for the party to sanction Wike, former PDP deputy national chairman (South), Bode George, said the party will resolve its internal problems like a family and will not make it a marketplace matter.

George, who explained why PDP did not sanction Wike for alleged anti-party activities, said the party is not ready to start firing people because two or three persons are still angry over the outcome of the 2023 election.

According to him, “The PDP has a committee that will carry out a post mortem analysis of the crisis and reunite its members; we are going to settle our own matters like a family.”

Analysts react

Although some political analysts say disagreement was part of party politics, there was the agreement that the present PDP needed surgical reordering to be able to regain power at the center in 2027.

The analyst said it was obvious that some individuals had put their personal interests above the overall interest of the party, wondering why Wike and his co-travellers were not sanctioned and being afraid of.

They said the inability of the PDP to sanction members who played anti-party roles in the 2023 general elections would continue to hurt the party till 2027.

Many agree with Ihedioha, former governor of Imo State, that the party as at present had been hijacked by some powerful individuals and that the PDP could no longer carry out internal reforms, enforce its own rules or offer credible opposition.

“This is one of the challenges facing Nigeria’s political system, where personalities and individuals are perceived to be more powerful than the political parties.

“Ideally, the party should have punished Wike and his group for their pre- and post- election behaviour so as to serve as a deterrent to others.

“With this, the party would assert its supremacy and gain public trust and confidence among electorates”, Temitope Musowo, political analyst said.

Dokun Olamide, public affairs analyst, said the greatest problem facing the PDP and other political parties in the country is lack of respect for party constitution and inability to enforce its rules on members because some people think they are bigger than the party.

He also said that the PDP as presently constituted was on the downward slide and was no longer attractive to the electorate and may not win any state in the off-cycle gubernatorial election later in the year in Edo or Ondo States.

“I’m not sure these sets of leaders would put their personal interest aside and work for the growth of PDP, everyone thinks they are too big.

“The party is losing steam, except there is a major turnaround. I don’t see them challenging APC in 2027, not even with the emergence of the Labour Party,” he said.

Public Affairs Analyst and Communication Scholar at Peaceland University, Enugu, Nduka Odo, said the PDP was floundering not because Wike was too strong nor because of the strength of his tactics or manoeuvring.

According to him, Wike and others who press the neck of the PDP leadership, romance with the opposition, and attend NEC meetings with braggadocio were doing so because people have lost interest in the party.

Odo warned that if the PDP doesn’t put its house and acts in order, and atone for how it treated its strongholds, it may no longer exist at the national level in next election cycles.

He said: “People are getting it all wrong. What is happening is different from what most people and even the press described.

“I don’t see it as Wike having a strong grip on the PDP. For you to appreciate the situation properly, I want you to take a look at the forces that got the party where it is today.

“The party became blind to the sensitivities of its stronghold. The South-East has been the strongest base of the PDP. That’s followed by the South-South. When individual interests overrode party and national interest, the party hit rock bottom.

“The party thought it wise to give its presidential ticket to Atiku, a northern Fulani Muslim, to replace Buhari, a northern Fulani Muslim in a country that has been run based on alternations.

Speaking further, Odo said: “Now, the party is floundering, not because Wike is too strong. He seems to have a strong grip on PDP leadership, not because of the strength of his tactics or manoeuvring.

“Wike or anyone is able to press the neck of the PDP leadership, romance with the opposition, and attend NEC meetings with bragadacio because people have lost interest in the party.

“Future is no longer associated with the party at the national level. That’s what happens when individual interest overshadows party or national interest. Is it not recently that Emeka Ihedioha resigned from the party?

“There is a reduced interest in the party at the national level. So, Wike or anyone can run the party anyhow and nothing will happen.

“If the PDP doesn’t put its house and acts in order, and atone for how it treated its strongholds, the party may no longer exist at the national level in two election cycles. APC is out to swallow career politicians. Labour Party is out to sweep up the younger generation disillusioned by the others.”