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Can the PDP re-invent itself?

In 1998,34 distinguished Nigerians (politicians, businessmen and retired soldiers) gathered to lay the foundation for the party that latter emerged as the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP). This group known as G-34 metamorphosed from an original G-18, which was formed to oppose General Sanni Abacha’s move to succeed himself, pushing for a return to true civilian democratic rule. Among these men were Alex Ekwueme, Bola Ige, Jerry Gana, Adamu Ciroma,Abubakar Rimi, Solomon Lar, Sule Lamido and Elder Awoniyi and others, some of whom are late now. They were soon to be joined by men from other political groups, such as Atiku Abubakar who came from the Peoples Democratic Movement( PDM). Subsequently they were joined by a number of retired military generals including Ibrahim Babangida who succeeded in attracting General Olusegun Obasanjo, whom they eventually elected as their presidential candidate for the 1999 elections.
The PDP enjoyed a lot of support at inception and became very popular. The calibre of its founding fathers, the broad membership ethnic base cutting across all the regions and zones of Nigeria, coupled with its democratic promises and the right of the centre economic slant all combined to help it win the 1999 General elections, beating the All Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy( AD). In 2003, it also won the elections as Obasanjo was returned with a massive 61.9% of the popular votes. In the Legislative elections, PDP won 223 seats in the House out of 360, while it won 79 out of the 90 seats in the Senate. In 2007, PDP won again, increasing its control of the house to 260 and senate to 85. President Yar’Adua could not complete his first term as he died early in 2010, making way for Dr Goodluck Jonathan the Vice President to become President. A major crack occurred in the PDP in 2011as Goodluck Jonathan stood for elections for a four-year term, after completing Yar’Adua’s term. A significant number of PDP members crossed over to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The North did its best to stop Jonathan from becoming President, after completing Yar’Adua’s term. Indeed, he was nearly stopped from becoming acting President when it was clear that Yar’Adua’s health could not let him continue in office. Jonathan’s struggle to become acting President, then President( to complete Yar’Adua’s term) and then to seek a full 4-year term severely strained the party.
The demand by some of the Northern members of PDP that the North should be allowed to complete its 8-year term, led to internal sabotage within the party. But when Jonathan decided to seek a second term in 2015, the division in the party enlarged drastically. And when they could not stop him, an internal revolution occurred causing a fission of the party to form the “New PDP “. The “New PDP” eventually merged with the Action Congress of Nigeria( ACN) to form the new mega party, All Progressives Congress( APC) which swept PDP out of power at the last general elections in 2015. With a margin of 2.6 million votes, President Muhammadu Buhari of APC defeated the incumbent, Dr Goodluck Jonathan of PDP. Thus after 16 years in power, PDP became the opposition party.
Beyond the all-consuming determination of the North to produce the President, which first led to the crack in the party, and latter anti party activities of most of the Northern political leaders, other factors contributed to the fall of PDP.
Among these factors is impunity within and without the party. A party that was founded on democratic principles began to impose candidates and force its ways. Next was arrogance, being in power for so many years gave the party leaders a false feeling of invincibility and they began to behave as if Nigerians had no other choice. Indeed, it did not seem to care when hordes of its membership began to defect to other parties .The third was that the party went cold on fighting corruption. Though it pursued fairly aggressively, the economic programme of privatization and deregulation, which took power and discretion away from public servants as a way of minimising corruption, and introduced some electoral reforms that minimised electoral corruption( Jega & Card reader for example), many Nigerians still felt that corruption was proliferating. Fourth was that the party became incapable of disciplining its members. Nowhere was this incapacity so visible as in the Presidency. Poor performance was tolerated and many public servants were treated as untouchables. Fifth, the party seemed to have lost any ability to resolve conflicts, as it seemed to move from one crisis to another. Up till date, Anambra State runs parallel party leadership. Lastly, PDP became a party run by geriatrics. I believe all these factors combined to humble the party at the 2015 elections.

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