From all indications, it is noteworthy that this must be one of the most distressing times for the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as two of its most prominent party bigwigs are engaged in a face-off which is already vitiating its capacity for tackling its most urgent mission now. And that is winning political power at the centre as well as elsewhere from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) come 2023. Even as the party like any other may have had its fair share of in-house crises in the past, hardly has it been saddled with a turbulent turn of events as the raging tiff between Atiku Abubakar – its presidential candidate in the forthcoming 2023 polls and Nyesom Wike the Governor of Rivers State. Having ‘successfully’ conducted its presidential primaries it is now facing the acid test of containing an avoidable implosion, whereby PDP fights PDP. And as the saying goes, few poisons are as potent as irreconcilable, in-house acrimony.
The political camp of Wike who came second in the presidential primaries that produced Atiku’s candidature had been belly-aching over the double tragedy of losing the presidential ticket of the party, as well as the palliative opportunity of serving as the running mate for Atiku in the forthcoming polls. The Atiku camp and the PDP hierarchy on the other hand, seem to be short of options and concessions with which to resolve the brouhaha, even as this remains the very first test of capacity for resolving the Nigerian question; this time starting at the home front.
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Even since, the avoidable face-off that ensued between the Atiku and Wike camps had spilled over with uncertainty across the rank and file of the membership of the entire party as well beyond to supporters and others alike. In fact, at the last count the dispensation had imposed a paralysis of sorts on the PDP leadership that it reportedly postponed a meeting to resolve it. Yet as the imbroglio rages into each new day, its impact tells not only on the fortunes of the PDP, but also betrays some of the latent and manifest negatives of the Nigerian political turf, which the cItizenry must have to come to grips with. It is not just a PDP matter but a general weakness of the country’s political system.
In that context lies the fact that one significant take away from the development is its betrayal of the hollow and tenuous commitment by the ruling class to the real concerns of the generality of Nigerians. Simply put, the Atiku-Wike tango resonates with several other manifestations in other political parties to reinforce the sad fact that self-interest, other than national interest, drives the race for 2023. While it may be argued that such is not new in Nigeria given the traditional, predatory and parasitic disposition of the ruling class to the fortunes of the wider society, the ongoing drama not only places the dilemma in sharper perspective, but raises questions over the outcome of the forthcoming 2023 polls. This is due to the clarity with which the tiff defines some of the issues that fall into the terrain of real politik in Nigeria, being the hard facts of the public space which politics needs to resolve.
Will the 2023 polls produce a new Nigeria, or just richer and more detached cash-driven political actors, along with further descent of the country into the vortex of incontinence in the face of existential threats, is a question that builds on the lack of evidence that the fight is about any specific populist theme, in the political conversation across the country. Yes it may be argued that the prospect of a power shift from the North to the South had been trending as what should guide the politics of the day, how that argument translates into more food for Akin in Ogbomosho in Ogun State, Tonye in Kula Rivers State, Umaru in Kontangora in Niger State is yet to be identified with the fight between these political juggernauts. Against the wide range of existential challenges facing the country like the ever escalating insecurity, degenerating economy and mounting despair of the ordinary citizen, how the Atiku- Wike face-off offers direct relief to the citizens is still a mystery. This is even as such a consideration qualifies to dominate the political discourse by now. In any case, If this argument is faulty, this author is expectant of a tutorial in that direction.
Against the back drop of the transforming state of the Nigerian public space – especially with the proliferation of information dissemination platforms and the saturation of the public space with the good bad and ugly streams of information, it is not in doubt that nothing short of pro-activeness by political party leadership remains acceptable by the wider cross-section of the country’s well-meaning citizenry. It should therefore not be surprising that the enterprise of political actors at all levels are presently being appraised through the prism of the expected play-out of pro-activeness.
The immediate implication of the foregoing is that it is not only what any political actor will offer the public that defines what the public will decide upon. The public now has a wider range of choices on opinions and insights to be guided by. This demands a new play-out by parties of assertiveness in defining boundaries that fall within the provisions of their respective constitutions and the expectations of the wider public. And as is beyond conjecture, this dispensation is not confined to the PDP which today is in the eye of the storm courtesy of the ongoing tiff. It rather remains the new normal for political parties and their actors.
Over to you then PDP, for the last word on the Atiku-Wike tiff.