The unlikeliness of President Muhammadu Buhari candidacy in 2019 is making the ability of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) to bounce back a matter of strategic concern among those rethinking their future in politics across the political parties, the All Progressives Party, (APC) inclusive. The overarching threat analysis within and without the PDP is former President Obasanjo’s remark that the party is due for burial. This is broadly interpreted to mean his awareness that the PDP has been strangulated. As a former insider and having won all his battles against every other fraction of the elite in every contest for power since 2007, many are reasoning that the starting point in deciding their way forward is that statement.
But deciding the way forward is now a must for quite many. For those in APC, it has to do with the tussle for hegemony feared to be impending over succession. The fear is that the APC will not be an exception to the turmoil that attends succession of charismatic leaders historically. Even though the party might gather itself back because “power and its benefits will provide a glue for a core that would stick after President Buhari leaves active politics”, the process would consume many. And all those likely to be consumed or made redundant are thinking of what the future holds, politically. In such circumstance, the PDP offers a strategic opening for former members who gravitated to the APC or who now have to find new political party shield.
Within the PDP, however, the self-rediscovery process is practically stalled. A month or so after the rousing re-union engineered by former President Goodluck Jonathan, there is a stasis. At what turned out a sort of home coming, Dr Jonathan announced himself the convener and former Vice-President Namadi Sambo or Senator David Mark in that order where he is not around. While Jonathan’s acceptance is cutting across in the face of adversity, that arrangement has, however, left the process driven by nobody and lifeless. Not only is the 40-member committee that was constituted wieldy, it has not got cracking.
Some party thinkers are decrying the gap, saying that allowing such a gap does not suggest that the PDP knows that it is being fought. “Being under siege as we are now on all fronts, this is no time for this lull”, Intervention was told by those who feel that this is the time for avalanche of spade work by party mentors, intellectuals, field and leg workers and experts. While attacks on many fronts by the APC which succeeded it was expected, that being what the PDP also did to all other opposition parties between 2000 and 2007, the PDP did not anticipate the Modu Sheriff dimension of its problem, it is said. The fear is whether the PDP can survive its current National Chairman. Those thinking along this line are recalling Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano State governor’s remark sometimes back to the effect that Senator Modu Sherriff is in the PDP to work for the APC.
The lull is also being read as a stress on the rump of the PDP to move on its well known adversaries. In other words, it raises the question of the PDP’s fighting capacity. Many agree that it is depleted in terms of a reserve force of people with the moral high ground to deter the APC armed with anti-corruption missiles. Founders and party elders are demoralized, some have withdrawn while some left the party entirely. There are still retired Generals but whose own approach to politics is professionally informed or structured as opposed to what they consider ‘noisy’ approach of conventional politicians. Additionally, they meet their match in Obasanjo, a warlike typecast of Generalissimo.
PDP is, in every respect, comparable to Nigeria in character and situation. A mega party with a striking appeal in its power sharing pact but which was ruined by militarism. By 2015, nobody was prepared to buy PDP for a penny because it had ruined Nigeria. Subverted right from within, it was dispensable. The question is whether those trying to revive it do understand the complexity of what is involved.
Quite many want the party to survive even if only as a fitting tribute to its genuine or original founders who are some of the very best of politicians ever in this country and as a defeat of backward, neoliberal militarism. But, can it still be done? Where is the astute politician to carry the burden based on his or her moral high ground, transnational stature and narrative that can fire the imagination of Nigerians? Where is that detachment of the elite with the knowledge and courage to back up such a leadership and mount the most audacious bid for power in the history of Nigeria?