PDP, PLEASE WAKE UP. By Kassim Afegbua.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party – PDP, the number one opposition party in Nigeria appears to have taken a sleeping pill in recent times, and are yet to wake up from slumber. The party has not learnt its bitter lesson that led to its ouster from power in 2015. There is too much of egocentric show of power, such individualistic cultivation that has failed abysmally to reposition the party in contending for political power. The executives of the party prefer their self-serving position than any deliberate effort to holistically rejig the party for stronger contention for power. From the National Chairman to the last ex-officio member of the party, the executives are behaving like overfed men and women who are suffering from indigestion. There are quite a number of efforts being put in place to make the party occupy some media space, but as an opposition party desirous to defeat the ruling All Progressives’ Congress, APC, in 2023, it must be seen to be doing more than its present slumbering. It must consciously undertake a number of reforms to firmly reposition the party and make it a viable alternative for Nigerians who are dying in the hands of the Buhari-led APC.
As a member of the PDP, I would naturally have used internal mechanism of the party to pass across these observations, but the executives of the party, typical of Nigerian big men, are damn too busy to listen to any voice of reason. Aside from the Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who regularly issues long, boring statements, the voices from Wadata Plaza have remained weak and incoherent, lacking any agenda-setting kind of. There is no doubt, internal struggle for control of the party’s structure especially by those who feel that the present National Working Committee, NWC, are not interested in the fortunes of the party, but that of their pockets. Only recently, the ostentatious vibrations of the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, have in their own little way, helped to convey the impression that the party is ready for reconciliation and for business. I have seen him go round to meet some aggrieved members of the party in trying to reconcile them with the overall objective of the party, and perhaps put a halt to the perenial defection. This is in realisation that the party is losing members on a regular basis to the ruling party, when the reverse ought to have been the case, on account of the ruling party’s leadership diarrhoea. With the shithole level that the APC has plunged the country, one would expect the PDP to continue to reap from the APC, instead, APC seems to be waxing stronger by the day, with strong and politically savvy PDP members joining its fray.
Due to the PDP’s sluggish leadership, the APC is all of a sudden gaining erection despite its lacklustre leadership that has crippled Nigeria’s economy and sent millions out of jobs. Unemployment rate has risen to a ridiculous 33% with increasing poverty and embarrassing statistics of disjointed realities all over the country. Under APC’s watch, the naira has been crawling on its knees, unable to firm up against the dollars, thus crippling the purchasing power and rubbishing the disposable income of the average Nigerian. Under APC-led Federal Government, with a president that has been enjoying sleeping on duty, insecurity has taken over the country, walking on the streets, and making everyone to seek for self help. Governor Ortom of Benue state escaped assassination in broad day light and yet the PDP hierachy has not deemed it fit and proper to stage a protest march. When APC was preparing for power pre-2015, the party sat to articulate what it wanted and plotted the modalities to actualise its objective. The APC successfully demarketed the PDP to the point that Nigerians yearned for change. Even as an old man, president Buhari, took part in many of the organised protests to pass the message of disavowal to the public. The victory of the APC in the 2015 election was already foretold. That was the power of strategic thinking.
Despite the fact that the APC has become an albatross and a monumental disgrace, it is still courting and wooing PDP members into its fold. As an opposition, the PDP appears cowed and uninspiring. You hardly know its position on very critical issues affecting the country. The 2021 budget has since been passed with very odious budgetary allocations that easily exposed the hypocrisy of the ruling party, but we are carrying on in a manner that suggests we haven’t learnt our lessons. I expected the PDP to dissect the budget, expose the flaws, educate Nigerians on why the APC has largely impoverished Nigerians, and come up with a viable, workable and realistic budget that could respond to the growing inflation and unemployment in the country. Our bigmen executives are too busy hiring private jets to criss-cross the country on merry-go-round adventures that are never politically productive. By now, the PDP ought to have set up a shadow cabinet, peopled by intellectually and upwardly mobile sound minds who will continuously put APC on its toes. A shadow cabinet will help Nigerians to have informed and alternative perspectives on salient national issues, and collectively carry them along in the build-up to the next election. PDP is too busy with ego trip, it is the reason why the “tax collector” stigma has refused to abate.
An opposition party of PDP’s configuration must take deliberate effort to assemble bright minds who would be put in the laboratory of ideas to work out the plausible route that would factorise its journey to Aso Villa come 2023. The last time I checked, the PDP national office, does not have an effective bank account. When I tried to contest the general election in 2019 into the Federal House of Representatives, I had to pay the allocated fee of N1.5m through one P.O.S that I was told, belonged to a private individual. I was made to understand that due to huge debts, the party’s official account was under garnishee and should money accrue to it, the garnishee order would be enforced immediately. That is not a good signal for an opposition party that should lead by example, and allow Nigerians to see the beauty of the alternative voice. As a country and a political party that is desirous to take control of power through the ballot box, the party cannot afford the luxury of sustaining its present uncreative leadership. It has to do novel things and present initiatives that would stimulate a buy in from members of the public. The APC has sent Nigeria backwards, ridiculed Nigeria through monumental corruption, leadership atrophy, and a shrinking of the political space by its sustained doctrine of nepotism and cronyism. There is national anaemia, lack of cohesion, a season of anomie, amid a sharply divided Nigeria never before witnessed in the history of Nigeria.
Take a sample of APC’s blindfolding nepotism, you will understand the import for a more result-driven opposition engagement. Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF, is dominated by young turks from the North. The Aviation sector also smells of nepotism. Even the zones that produce the oil hardly get recruited. Visit NNPC and see the list of its management team, 95% Northern, yet no petroleum is produced from the northern zones. See the list of the Court of Appeal Justices, you will understand why this contraption called Nigeria cannot further endure. These three examples are just a tip of the iceberg but they typify in graphic details the structural imbalance and skewed federalism that is being germinated and watered by the ruling APC party. Of recent, the APC has retooled the EFCC by appointing a 40-year old chairman who was hurriedly promoted to earn qualification. The desperation to sustain an ailing APC party by those power blocs has been enabled by PDP’s leadership inertia. If PDP must compete for power in 2023, it must take deliberate steps to rejig its leadership structure. The present composition of the national executives has become a pain in the neck. PDP must regularly engage, interact and share in the aspirations of Nigeria. The party ought to be in a stronger footing before the idea of zoning or no zoning is presented to its leadership.
As a member of the PDP, I reserve the right to critically interrogate the processes within the party. This idea of always thinking members cannot interrogate the party they belong is out of fashion in this contemporary era. PDP must urgently rejig its leadership by injecting strong minds who are more aggressive towards improving the fortunes of the party than any other consideration. The only item on its menu list presently is the 2023, which to me is the least of my worries. A viable opposition will create a veritable platform for Nigerians to ventillate ideas and viewpoints, a healthy exchange of ideas, that would help douse tension across the land. If the APC leadership has assumed a monologue, the PDP should be able to promote dialogue. It should be seen by Nigerians as the solution to their problems in a country that is dastardly ravaged by kidnapping, banditry, insurgency and rape under the APC. The PDP should put sentiments apart and commence the process of recruiting utility-driven executives that can midwife the political process henceforth. Leaving the party in the hands of its present leadership is to compound its woes. The time to act is now.
Kassim Afegbua can be reached on: