Since the change of baton on the political scene in 2015, the dream of many Nigerians is to have at least one or more credible opposition parties that would checkmate the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
However, despite the existence of 18 political parties currently recognised by law in the country, the hope for one that can at least have some bite lies on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) because of its longstanding might while it held sway as the ruling party between 1999 and 2015.
But pundits say the PDP has remained almost comatose, a drama-addled former behemoth with memories of a great past and consequent defeat.
Now, when it is in the news, it is mostly when tongues are wagging over its protracted crisis making it difficult to do anything a potent opposition should be doing.
Major crises after losing power
The PDP has experienced two major crises since it lost power in 2015. The first was triggered as a result of the leadership tussle between a former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and a former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
That time, the party was torn into two parallel shreds with both Senators Makarfi and Sheriff claiming legitimacy to the leadership of the party.
The crisis was so intense that the internal organs of the party and its internal mechanism of resolving the crisis could not help the situation resulting in litigation upon litigation.
The issue dragged on for so long until the Supreme Court finally ruled on the matter, recognising Makarfi as the authentic leader of the party.
But the consequences were not far-fetched. The leadership crisis had caused severe damage to the party, resulting in the loss of the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections.
Also, the party’s national secretariat in Abuja had been under lock and key in May, 2016, when it was sealed by the police. Since then, activities at the party’s secretariat were shelved, as workers were left in distress.
But what continued to baffle many was the inability of the founding fathers and various organs of the party to take decisive action, by outrightly ditching the two prominent gladiators for peace to reign, and for a return to past glory.
Party faithful and political analysts had questioned why Sheriff and Makarfi had not been ousted for a fresh national convention to be conducted for new leaders to emerge, considering that the party was gradually sputtering to a stop.
But some pundits say the founding fathers could not ditch the two heavyweight political gladiators because of their profound pedigrees, contributions to the party, deep pockets, high network of connections and their relevance to the party, until the issue was decided upon by the apex court.
The second major crisis that has engulfed the PDP since defeat arose on account of failure of a former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, to clinch the presidential ticket of the party prior to the 2023 general elections.
Wike from the South South had campaigned vigorously ahead of the PDP presidential primary but lost to a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, from the North East.
The twist that gave birth to Atiku’s emergence, many believed, was the withdrawal of a former governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, from the race. Tambuwal had announced his withdrawal from the contest on the convention ground for Atiku. This, analysts say, gave birth to Atiku’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate.
After Atiku’s emergence, the quest for a running mate commenced. The party and its presidential candidate launched a search for a running mate from the South who would represent a strong pillar in securing votes from that zone and bringing victory for the party.
There were many aspirants from the southern zone, including Wike, but to the surprise of Wike’s political allies, supporters and loyalists, then governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, was picked as Atiku’s running mate, leaving Wike out of the calculation.
This development received heavy bashing by Wike and his supporters including some of his colleagues in the PDP Governors’ Forum who felt he was not treated fairly.
The then Rivers’ governor, now a Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), did not hide his grievances as he came out openly to say he won’t support the party for victory.
The crisis occasioned by this development reached a crescendo when Wike had successfully convinced four governors on the platform of the PDP and formed a movement called G-5.
The G-5 governors were Wike (Rivers), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), and Okezie Ikpeaz (Abia).
The G-5 had insisted that the party’s national chairman, Sen. Iyiorchia Ayu, under whose watch the presidential primary was conducted and later, a running mate chosen, must resign to pave the way for a southerner to emerge as chairman.
They had successfully ousted Ayu, while the party is currently in the hands of an acting national chairman.
A chieftain of the party who craved anonymity said, “The PDP is suffering now because of the venom it produced to kill itself. PDP is in the coffin now and is waiting for final interment. This fight will continue and the party will lose future elections.
“Remember, we have off-season elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo in November and this party is going into these elections with a divided house. What do you envisage as the consequences? It’s obvious the party will lose.”
PDP loses presidency
While the previous crisis in the party had resulted in loss of governorship elections in some states of the federation, the current crisis in the party has cost the party not just some states but the presidency as well.
The G-5 governors who were members of the party had campaigned for various parties of their choice and abandoned the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had eventually declared candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as winner of the February 25 poll, the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, filed a petition against Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
But the tribunal on Wednesday upheld Tinubu’s election, but Atiku has vowed to challenge the judgement at the Supreme Court.
Addressing newsmen on Thursday in Abuja, Atiku said he asked his lawyers to proceed to the Supreme Court, adding that the “war is not over.”
He said, “I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation. I am therefore here to tell you that, though the judgment of the court yesterday (Wednesday) is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept.
“I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.
“Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court which, in the instance, is the Supreme Court. It is my conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate.”
Effort for truce
While the crisis rages not only at the national level but in some state chapters, the party’s top echelon has been meeting to provide a lasting solution to it.
The PDP had held several meetings before and after it lost the 2023 presidential election and other states, but analysts say no significant results have been achieved.
Recall that Wike had during a Channels TV programme ‘Politics Today’ said PDP leaders must apologise to him before he would consider working for the party, though he insisted that he was not defecting to the ruling APC which made him minister.
Daily Trust gathered that in spite of the push by leaders of the party to bring an end to the problem, the alleged division among party stakeholders and even the National Working Committee (NWC) members is seen as a serious impediment in achieving a peaceful atmosphere within the party.
One of the stakeholders who spoke toDaily Trust on condition of anonymity said many organs of the party are divided and loyal to different top shots in the party.
He said, “If the party wants peace, they will have to start all over, even the NWC and the PDP Governors’ Forum that are championing the reconciliation process are divided and loyal to either Atiku Abubakar or Nyesom Wike.
“The NWC is even worse; they are very much divided. It would be hard for them to come to a compromise on the way forward. All of them are looking at each other with suspicion and also trying to outwit one another. There is no way these NWC members can come together and make any decision against who or against their own members?
“If you remember, just before the election, during the thick of the crisis, some members of the NWC said they were paid a certain amount of money and came out publicly to say that they were returning the money. How was the issue settled? The only thing I would say is that when they are ready for peace, they know what to do.”
But reacting to the situation, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, said reconciliation is ongoing, adding that, “Reconciliation is not a one-hundred-metre dash, but a marathon.”
He said the PDP is a party of laws, rules and processes and all the laid down rules and regulations will be followed in reconciling members of the party.
However, it is left to be seen what happens at the end of the day.