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OPINION: PDP, THE FURIOUS FIVE AND DARK CLOUDS

THEWILL APP ADS 2

November 16, (THEWILL) – I am of the conviction that no pundit had envisaged that the current chasm in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, would grow from a mere rift into a crisis of the monumental dimension that it has assumed.

Usually, after party primaries that are often rancorous, after being bitterly fought, healing balms are applied on bruised egos.

But it would appear as if the PDP has been bucking the trend since 2011 after Goodluck Jonathan won the presidency and the aggrieved members broke ranks with the leadership of the party resulting in the trouncing of the party in 2015.

The assertion above is underscored by the fact that the level of attrition and acrimony currently existing in the main opposition party was uncommon in the history of Nigerian politics until it popped up in the PDP between 2011 and 2015.

That is when a coalition of five (5) opposition parties: CPC, ACN, ANPP and APGA, including a splinter group from the ruling party that branded itself nPDP in cahoots with the opposition party, unseated then ruling PDP from Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power.

Although, in 2019, the party managed to remain together after the primaries held in Portharcourt, Rivers State, where the Governor, Nyesom Wike, who became the chief financier of the party, was doggedly fighting for the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal, current Governor of Sokoto State, as the party’s presidential flag bearer in a fierce contest that was eventually won by the current presidential candidate of the party, Turaki Atiku Abubakar (aided by the infamous ‘Kaduna mafia’), the fractured bones and cracked skulls from that epic dwell were quickly mended.

Curiously, the fallout from the party’s primaries in 2019 was not allowed to metastasize in the manner that the 2023 general elections primaries for the party to recruit political leaders in the next election have been allowed to degenerate into a very dangerous dimension.

So, what is going on, and better still, what political fundamentals and dynamics are currently in play or might have gone askew?

Is the fact that five (5) opposition parties collapsing into one party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, to oust the then-ruling party in 2015, and currently another five (5) furious Governors are badly jeopardising the chances of the PDP returning to Aso Rock Villa in 2023 an ominous sign?

And is the constant occurrence of the number five (5) in the misfortune of PDP a significant malaise?

If it is, would the building of a coalition of opposition political forces featuring Musa Kwakwanso’s New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Chukwuma Soludo’s All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dumebi Kachikwu’s Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Omoyele Sowore’s African Action Congress (AAC), and Adewole Adebayo’s Social Democratic Party(SDP) or even Chris Okotie’s Fresh Democratic Party (FDP), be the cure or panacea to the PDP bogey or jinx with the number five (5)?

For instance, I believe that Dr Kwakwanso’s NNPP is open for dialogue towards reaching an agreement for a coalition. The fact that his party actually initially negotiated with the Labour Party, LP to join forces but could not get to a yes, and a recent comment by the Presidential candidate of the party that becoming president of Nigeria is not a do-or-die affair to him, l am inclined to believe that he may be open to negotiation.

And why not?

NNPP has been recently revealed as fielding the next highest number of candidates for all the political offices after the ruling APC and main opposition, PDP. It is clear to even the uninitiated in politics that both the party and its presidential candidate have zero chance of taking over Aso Rock Villa after president Mohammadu Buhari exits office on May 29, 2023.

That is quite unlike the LP, who despite all the odds stacked against it, which makes its ambition to be the party calling the shots from the presidential Villa in 2023 more like a vaulting ambition than a realisable one, Kwakwanso with his NNPP is obviously not deluding himself or fantasising about succeeding President Buhari in Aso Rock Villa.

Before proceeding further, l would like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow me to deviate a bit to extol the virtues of Peter Obi and his team that infused life into the political grave-bound LP until about six (6)months ago, when it evolved into a high flying political party.

I would also like to credit him for igniting the interest of erstwhile politically dormant youths, who were at best engaged as political thugs.

Today, the youths surge in politics ignited by Obi has generated over ten (10) million new voters, which is a significant addition to the number of registered voters in Nigeria, which was only a little above eighty (80) million in 2019, and which is currently ninety-three (93) million that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has informed us would be expected to cast their ballots to determine who our next set of political leaders would be from 2023.

Of course, giving credit to Obi’s movement for rallying our youth force is not discountenancing, the critical role played by the National Assembly, NASS and the Presidency, in the electoral reform exercise carried out in 2022 via the new electoral act 2022, which has codified the introduction of the use of electronic transfer of election results to INEC database from the polling booths, and the use of Electronic Biometric Verification System, BVAS, etc, all of which have played critical roles in bringing fidelity into the electoral process, hence more Nigerians decided to take the civic responsibility of voting more seriously.

Also, it must be put on record that it is Obi and LP that have pioneered in Nigeria (in the course of this election season), the concept of party members collectively funding it via donations and contributions from members and well-wishers.

Before now, it was an anathema that members that are non-government appointees would be funding a party over a long period. The alternative used to be that money bags would form and fund the party. If it fails to make a significant impact in producing a president, governors, or members of the legislature in a relatively short period, soon after its formation, it gets atrophied largely due to a lack of funding.

So, traditionally sustainable funding for parties comes from the coffers of government via its appointees into public trust positions and money bags/godfathers, not party members. In fact, the tradition is that party supporters expect and receive money from politicians seeking to get elected into public offices.

But, funding for the LP is currently not based on the old template. Rather the LP has adopted a type of GoFundMe financial model that is a sort of crowdfunding practised in the private sector and basically what obtains in matured democracies like the United Kingdom, UK and United States of America, USA. That seems to be the method Peter Obi and the Obedient/OBIDATTI movement adopted in the current dispensation, which is commendable.

It is indeed a novelty, which may be adopted by other parties when they register their members in the coming dispensation.

And the impressively welcome phenomenon of funding political parties by members is being championed by Nigerians in the diaspora, who are presently disenfranchised by the current electoral system that does not permit diaspora voting in general elections.

Hopefully, the need to get Nigerians in the diaspora into a voting force would be part of the corrections that should be made in the electoral process the next time it is reviewed in the nearest future.

Incidentally, apart from the salutary improvements that the electoral act 2022 has had on the electoral system in Nigeria, there is another interesting model that might positively change the course of politics in Nigeria, and that is the party members registration initiative that has been introduced by the ruling APC but is yet to be fully consummated.

Circling back to Kwakwanso and NNPP’s outlook as the beautiful bride waiting for a willing and capable suitor, he and his party may be disposed to doing the most pragmatic thing to remain relevant politically, which is going into partnership with a party that it considers as having a very good chance to win.

And that would be the main opposition party, PDP, which is not going to be facing a referendum like the ruling APC, under whose watch Nigerian masses are suffering the most.

Therefore, the electorate may be very resentful of the party responsible for their present misery and its candidates and would punish it at the polls.

That is all things being equal.

Adjunct to that is the fact that NNPP, which is in its infancy needs to grow organically as opposed to merging with another or other parties, so it would prefer being a coalition partner that would enhance its capacity to remain on course for future electoral contests.

Another scenario is that, if the new party decides to remain standing on its own, it would be risking going into extinction before the next election in 2027 by running out of steam due to lack of funding as the pockets of its founder and driver may become empty.

So, my guess is that NNPP would as it were anxiously scanning the environment for suitors and PDP should no longer tarry in taking the bait.

Since all the other parties that l earlier listed as potential candidates for partnership with PDP share similar characteristics with NNPP in terms of survivability without being in power and not being funded by a money bag with very deep pockets, of which Kwakwanso and other backers of the respective parties are not, it may appear pedantic repeating the same narrative or singing similar refrain about them being beautiful brides waiting to be wooed by parties that have the means.

To put things in proper context, what l am proposing for the political system is akin to the banking sector consolidation policy that saw about one hundred (100) banks coalesce into less than twenty-five (25) banks about ten (10 ) years ago in our country. The big parties should build a coalition with the smaller parties and not merge, which is the model adopted to birth APC in 2013/15.

Given the scenario painted above, one thing that is still puzzling to me is that since the smaller parties are all brides, why is the current main opposition, PDP, hesitant to do to the present ruling, APC, what as an opposition party in 2013/15, it did to then ruling PDP, by giving it a mortal blow when it rallied five (5) political parties to collapse into APC as a Special Purpose Vehicle, SPV, used to topple then ruling party, PDP?

Returning to the issue of the divisive war raging in the PDP, readers should please allow me to offer a window into the origin of the discontent emanating from the Furious Five (5) or if you like Famous Five (5) Governors by providing some insights into how consistent perfidy or injustice to people or a person can develop into resentment, then escalate into incipient bitterness before blowing out into full-scale crisis with high potency to kill a hitherto thriving party.

As earlier observed, one of the reasons smaller parties tend to go into coalition and become part of the winning party is that it is too expensive to run a party if the members are not part of the government, as such, they may not have the means of sustenance.

As a consequence, such mushroom parties tend to die quickly or may remain permanently dwarfed.

Take, for instance, the Fresh Party led by Chris Okotie or the Political Movement that was birthed by Tunde Bakare, both of whom are clergymen.

Okotie’s party has barely been surviving and even Bakare’s movement might have been asphyxiated owing to a lack of funding support to sustain them even though both Okotie and Bakare might have made the foray into politics with church money generated via the collective efforts of members of their respective flocks.

Another typical case in point of a party that got starved of funds and was on the verge of basically losing direction is the PDP.

Until it was practically rescued through the benevolence of a State Governor that has the financial muscle, it was literally withering after it lost power at the centre in 2015.

As it may be recalled, after its defeat by the APC coalition in 2015, PDP, the once bubbly party that was awash with cash since 1999 when it mounted the leadership throne in Aso Rock Villa, could hardly afford to sustain itself until oil-rich Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, came to its rescue.

And as the saying goes, “He Who Pays The Piper Dictates The Tune”,

Hence, the party was basically at the beck and call of the Rivers State Governor.

In any case, the situation is not really dissimilar to what was obtained with the APC which was also reportedly given a lifeline by Mr Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State, when the party was also literally gasping for breath in 2013/15.

As it may be recalled, Amaechi, a former chieftain of the PDP, moved from PDP to APC to give it the oxygen that it needed (financial support and national outlook), which enabled it spread its tentacles nationwide, hence it was able to campaign vigorously with Amaechi as the Director General of the campaign organisation that eventually facilitated the APC winning the presidential election in 2015.

It is ominous that the jumping out of the boat by Amaechi and other PDP stalwarts was precipitated by a disagreement that lead to a cataclysmic fracture of then ruling party, PDP, culminating in a significant chunk of the heavyweights flipping camps.

So by and large, the oil-rich Rivers State money and to a lesser extent, Lagos State money since the days of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, through Babatunde Fashola, till date, have been sustaining political parties in Nigeria (PDP, AD, ACN, APC), particularly since the return of multi-party democracy in 1999.

Arising from the assertions above, should readers continue to search for the reasons that ex-Governors of Rivers and Lagos States that are reportedly the agent provocateurs for the bolstering of the struggling opposition parties have been seeking to become the next president of Nigeria when it is self-evident?

Also, although it is not obvious to most pundits, past Governors of Rivers and Lagos States have been rewarded for providing financial muscle to the current ruling party.

Is it not remarkable that Rotimi Amaechi, was the Minister in charge of the Transportation and Aviation portfolio in 2015, before aviation was separated from his supervision and Babatunde Fashola, also had control of the Works and Housing Ministry as its Minister in 2015, before Housing Ministry being hived or decoupled from his purview, and both of the heads of the aforementioned lucrative and powerful ministries were once upon a time Governors of Rivers and Lagos States respectively?

In the light of the above, Nigerians can also decipher the origin, and if you like, justification for the feeling of entitlement to becoming president of Nigeria by the past and present Governors of Rivers State, beginning from Dr Peter Odilli (1999-2007), Mr Rotimi Amaechi (2007-2015), to Barrister Nyesom Wike (2015 till date), who have been instrumental to the sustenance of both the former ruling party, PDP and current ruling party, APC.

Ditto for Bola Tinubu, Ex Lagos State Governor, who sustained the party which morphed from Alliance for Democracy, AD, to Action Congress, AC, and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, before finally blending with the quadruplet earlier listed to form APC — a platform with which he is presently seeking to become president of Nigeria in 2023.

For Wike, in my reckoning, the continued flow of bile of disappointment into his mouth is the double whammy letdown that he has received from the PDP. That is basically what is firing him up.

And that may be because he believes he was not only robbed of victory in his quest towards becoming PDP’s presidential candidate for 2023 by the party chairman, senator Iyiorcha Ayu, who he is accusing of conniving with Sokoto Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, to collapse his votes into that of Atiku Abubakar’s; worse still, he is gripping that he was also sidelined by not being given the option of becoming the running mate to the presidential candidate, Turaki Atiku Abubakar.

So, by and large, after the messy process that first threw him up for the presidency and instead of him landing on the throne in Aso Rock Villa, he was literally flung under the bus with ignominy by being ditched a second time as the Vice President slot was given to Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, instead of him.

Although the other aforementioned victims of presidential attempts and failures of Rivers State extraction, such as Peter Odilli and Rotimi Amaechi, have taken the loss in their strides. Wike, fiery by nature, has opted not to acquiesce with what can best be described as the political ‘use and dumb’ syndrome afflicting the good people of Rivers State.

That is why he is kicking up the storm with the intent to inflict hurricane-like damage on PDP.

And he has found partners in four (4) other Governors- Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Emmanuel Ortom of Benue State, as well as Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.

Although they are unified in their anger against their party, their grievances are not of the same hue as Wike’s.

The four (4) Governors in my assessment are rebelling against their party because they are having a feeling that the south is shortchanged, if not cancelled out in the scheme of things within the PDP. And they have a point that the party can not afford to dismiss with a wave of the hand or postpone.

The collaborating Governors, in my view, are lamenting the fact that the South, which often prides itself as the PDP’s political base is being emasculated by virtue of it currently having its Chairman from the North, Presidential Candidate from the North and Campaign Director General, also from the North.

It is an abnormality, which is being deemed as the south being of no significance in the emerging political ecosystem of our beloved country.

The only ethnic or regional party that resisted merging with five (5) opposition parties in 2013/14 (although a significant portion was hived off) is APGA, which has an Igbo sociocultural identity.

Another party that escaped the political eclipse is Senator Ifeanyi Uba’s Young Progressive Party, YPP, which is also an Igbo-based party. Its survival stems from the fact that it is being sustained by the oil tycoon who has a very deep pocket.

To a much less degree, the PRP, with a proclivity towards the Hausa/Fulani tribe that is anchored in Kano, the heartland of the North, is also in the category of parties that did not join the 2013/14 coalition. When you add NNPP, it would be clear that the Igbos have two regional/ethnic parties: APGA and YPP, while the Hausa/Fulani can also boast of two: PRP and NNPP.

It is rather curious that although Afenifere, the Yoruba Socio-cultural Group is very powerful like the Arewa in the North and Ohaneze in the East, which are its equivalent for now, unlike their Hausa /Fulani and Igbo counterparts, the Yorubas have no ethnic or regional-based party.

While APGA currently has Chukwuma Soludo, Anambra State Governor, as the wind beneath its sail (a duty he inherited from Peter Obi and Willie Obiano, past Governors of Anambra state), hence it is still thriving, unfortunately, PRP does not have such luxury of having a seating Governor or elected public officer, as a member.

So, the party was tottering on the brink of collapse, except now that things may be looking up for it as Kola Abiola has emerged as its 2023 presidential candidate.

Incidentally, the only major ethnic group that has no regional party now is the Yoruba Nation, which is perhaps due to its unsuccessful experiment with ethnic parties (UPN, AD, and ACN) that prevented the Yorubas from ruling the roost on the national stage until the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo, as president in 1999 on the platform of PDP, which is a Pan-Nigeria party.

But given the present wrangling in the PDP bothering on the betrayal of the goose that lays the golden eggs, and the regional/ethnic identity supremacy battle wreaking the havoc that is capable of tearing the party apart, l will not be surprised if, after 2023 general elections, more regional and ethnic political parties re-emerge as the regions resolve to hold on to their local territories rather than cede them to a rampaging hegemony.

That is my current reading of the tea leaves concerning Nigeria’s politics.

The good news is that the storm that precipitated the dark clouds over the PDP, can still be cleared as it has become apparent that the Furious Five (5) are open to reconciliation with the mother party.

With the presidential election barely over 100 days away, the main opposition party, PDP, is racing against time and it must take reconciliatory measures to reunite itself with the aggrieved members much more seriously and urgently.

Let nobody be under the illusion that the Furious Five (5) have no capacity to transform into the Five Undertakers of the PDP.

If the harsh utterances from some members of the Furious Five (5), particularly Wike and Ortom, that have been recorded in videos that have gone viral in which they were issuing vile comments about the PDP presidential candidate, Turaki Atiku Abubakar, or seen hobnobbing with members of the opposite parties are taken into consideration, then the path to Aso Rock Villa for the PDP may be very rough.

My prayer is that the type of ill will that blew in its direction resulting in the misfortune of its inability to clinch the presidency in 2015 and 2019 would not befall the PDP once again.

In the sad event that such a misfortune occurs, a post-mortem to identify the poison that killed the party would easily reveal that it is basically the pride of not stooping to conquer when it was the efficacious antidote to an identified poison that nailed its death coffin.

As the saying goes, pride goes after a fall, and my prayer is: may such calamity not be the lot of the PDP.

*** Written by Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.