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PDP crisis not good for Nigeria’s democracy

For the People’s Democratic Party, Nigeria’s ruling party for 16 unbroken years, the journey since it lost power last year has been swiftly downhill. Following the epic 2015 Presidential elections in which the All Progressives Congress(APC) flag bearer Muhammadu Buhari defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, the party’s fortune has gone from bad to worse. Though many saw the electoral defeat coming, it was still earth shaking. Revelations of primitive stealing of public funds by party members in government brought odium on the party.
With its reputation, or what was left of it destroyed, the PDP also witnessed an exodus of its followers to the new party in power. But rather than picking itself up and beginning a dignified process of self cleansing to properly function as the new opposition party, it appears to be sinking deeper. In a manner similar to the bad behaviour that cost it the 2015 polls, the party is now engulfed in a struggle for power. At least three factions are laying claim to being the rightful occupant of Wadata Plaza. One faction is led by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; another by Ahmed Maikarfi; and the third by Ibrahim Mantu.
Trouble started to brew after Sheriff, formerly of the APC and the All Nigeria People’s Party before it, surprisingly emerged as national chairman. Some ranking PDP members, shocked by the development, set out to reclaim the party. This is in keeping with a Yoruba proverb, which says it is impossible for the head of a newborn child to be deformed when an elderly person is in the market. However, Sheriff would not relinquish power quietly.
What is disheartening is that there seems to be nobody of repute who can rally the PDP troops. Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who controlled state and party affairs from 2010 until May last year would have been a natural choice. However, he is busy globetrotting, as an international statesman. It does not appear the internal affairs of the PDP are causing him sleepless nights. Former PDP President Olusegun Obasanjo also cannot be approached to arbitrate for obvious reasons. Long before the last elections, he had publicly torn his party’s membership card. For a party that controlled the centre for about two decades, it would be assumed that there cannot be a shortage of reputable persons to mend things when they are broken. In the case of the PDP, you would be mistaken if you held that view. Other power brokers who could have offered wise counsel have either been brushed aside or are principal actors in the circus show.
Without a strong PDP, observers believe the APC would  become complacent, even arrogant. It was Bola Tinubu, one of the founding fathers of the APC, who was quoted as saying that a worthy opposition party is the first step toward progress as it will help “to ensure the sanctity of the ballot box, foster respect for the rule of law and to build (enduring) democratic and economic institutions,” all of which are essential for Nigeria. Where there is no viable opposition, impunity sets in. To prevent such a scenario, we need to have the alternative side to the government’s story all the time. The PDP must put its house in order before it can effectively play that role.
PDP leaders can learn a lesson about sacrificing personal ambition for the general good like leaders of the APC. If they fail to quickly put the current crisis behind them, it is likely that more PDP members will defect or form new parties as some party activists are already suggesting. The result is a weakening of the PDP that will cost it the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states. Finally, if nobody or group succeeds fixing the party, ordinary citizens and civil society organisations may have to step in to ensure the country doesn’t become a one-party dictatorship. It is in our enlightened self-interest to help the APC government serve us better.

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