This might not be peculiar to Idomaland in central Nigeria but that is where this reporter knows to be the case that when old men and women who only move with the aid of a walking stick want to sound off in relation to local rascals considered to have crossed the Rubicon, they do so by saying that the giant cockroach which loves sleeping is bound to wake up in the mouth of the giant agama lizard. That is if they didn’t say the same thing this way: he who never listens to human beings ends up listening to animals”. Perhaps, it is mystification, perhaps it is not. But those to whom this is directed almost always end up badly and some of us then grew up in awe of the aged in the hamlet and crave their endorsement of one’s over all behaviour. And no amount of modernity can erase this fear.
In relation to the ongoing crisis of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), it would not be a terrible thing to say that after experimenting with violating democratic ethos within and outside the organisation for nearly two decades, the giant cockroach has finally woken up in the mouth of an agama lizard. Yesterday in Portharcourt, Rivers State, it was locked out of the venue of its planned National Convention. A convention at which candidates had, in the hope of being elected to one position or the other, canvassed across the country for various positions turned up to be a non event. The police said it acted in the context of conflicting rulings, one illegalising while another legalized going ahead with the convention. So, a caretaker committee runs the PDP for the next one year, hoping it would have sorted out the creases by then.
It is great to hope but anyone who cannot see that the party has entered trouble might be in need of political glasses. When Nigerian courts start to give conflicting rulings, then you are dealing with a situation akin to the helplessness of the lizard as far as the privilege of the sitting position is concerned. The lizard has the aspiration to enjoy the sitting position like others but the tail it carries would not allow it. It cannot be that the Nigerian Judiciary from which many African and Commonwealth countries sought judges in the past might not have wished to handle the litigations emanating from the PDP without dishing out conflicting rulings. Rather, the courts might not have been able to do so because of an unseen tail. Of course, this one could be emanating from a new judicial puritanism within the judiciary itself but no less a tail, especially in the light of resemblance between current multiplicity of rulings and similar case of the June 12th, 1993 presidential polls. The question is whether the PDP is in an organisational state of being to survive this. The Social Democratic Party, (SDP) and its progenitor, never survived it.
The answer to the question cannot be attempted without recourse to the yesterday of today. First, was the dramatic emergence of Modu Sherriff as the party’s interim Chairperson in February 2016. But, how did the party arrive at calling on Modu Sherriff to provide it leadership at that point in time? An interest was at work but an interest that, from the benefit of hindsight, must be so mediocre. For, subsequently, the CNN, for instance, labelled Sheriff Boko Haram founder. There was something a bit casual about that because it still fell short of the sort of evidence that would conclusively prove the linkage. But a discerning party would not have found in Modu Sheriff the right person for that job in the light of that perception because there is no other truth beyond how something, someone is perceived. Not the PDP or its current set of governors. It is not in their character to give a damn.
By the time a segment of the party came to grips with what the governors had done and/or when the party realised that Sherriff has got everything to become too entrenched an actor by 2018 should he consolidate the chairpersonship, it could be said to be too late. Sherriff’s political engine was already motorized. He had even bailed out the party here and there.
Now, Sherriff is to be negotiated with. He even has terms. The stage can be said to be set for Sheriff to escort PDP out of politics into extinction if the PDP is not careful. PDP’s excessive love for and culture of arbitrariness could be said to have landed it in the mouth of a giant lizard, ready to munch it with glee, with no feelings for its bones. Does the PDP deserve that fate? There can be no consensus on that. There are those who would say it does because they are reaping from the arbitrariness, impunity, rigging and similar attributes it has sowed within and without it between the year 2000 and 2015. There are others who would say it doesn’t deserve such a fate because only a certain tendency came with that coarse tradition of politics into the party. Otherwise, the PDP was formed by too sophisticated a set of politicians anyone would associate with such culture of politics – the Alex Ekwuemes, the Solomon Lars, the Adamu Ciromas, etc. So, as the argument goes, the real founders do not deserve such reward because they added fundamental organisational values to party formation in Nigeria.
A meeting ground between these two opposing responses hardly exists. What exists is how the crippling or death of the PDP could position Nigeria to making another negative contribution to the democratic tradition – operating multi-party democracy without functional political parties. The All Progressive Congress, (APC) is broadly considered to be a badly organized, friction-infested and incoherent party. Perhaps, for staging a national dancing fiesta a day after over 200 school girls were abducted from their school in Chibok, the PDP deserves any fate at all. But that is if the APC is anything superior to the PDP, both as a party and as a government. No honest poll in Nigeria now would pass off the APC led Federal Government as superior to the PDP. Perhaps, Nigerians have not sufficiently contemplated the party dimension of the current phase of crisis in Nigeria.