PDP: Katakata inside the basket of Scorpions

February 4, 2016
5 mins read

THESE are certainly not the best of times for Nigeria’s former ruling party, the People Dempcratic Party, PDP. The juggernaut’s transition from power has been so painful, almost like a junkie forcibly weaned off an addiction, that recovery is becoming a frustrating experience. The ruthless vote-rigging contraption that used to arrogantly describe itself as Africa’s largest political party, has dissembled so rapidly, soon after it was thrown out of power last year. The crisis which power and lucre sharing could paper over, has blown out into the open and like Humpty-Dumpty, the PDP has apparently blown into several pieces. Last week, a group of political stragglers, some of the most gung-ho operatives of the Jonathan presidency, led by the former Political Adviser, Ahmed Gulak, organised their own “tilting against windmills”, by staging a rowdy takeover of the PDP’s National Secretariat. In the ensuing confusion, Gulak and his fellow stragglers headed for the National Chairman’s office on the third floor of the building, asking that the door be opened for him. Those in the building must have been shocked to see the noisome group attempting what was close to an intra-party coup. When that door was not opened, Ahmed Gulak and his band of dreamers made for the National Working Committee (NWC) Conference Hall to address journalists. As the media noted, Gulak sat on the National Chairman’s chair.

Gulak, the ultimate poseur with an over-exaggerated sense of self, told journalists that a high court had thrown out an application by Uche Secondus, PDP’s acting National Chairman, which sought to stop an earlier ruling that Secondus should vacate his position within 14 days. He was taking over, because the party’s leadership had refused to appoint a substantive chairman following the Abuja High Court ruling of December 2015.

Gulak take-over

But Ahmed Gulak and his group were swiftly countered by what remained of the NWC, led by National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwom; Gulak was told that he could not come through the back door to become the PDP’s National Chairman. He should go back to his zone, consult and lobby for the North East zone to submit his name for the position. The NWC probably knew that Ahmed Gulak cannot get such an endorsement; wasn’t he the same man that got just one vote when he submitted himself to be nominated as the party’s governorship candidate in Adamawa state?

It was therefore no surprise that he decided that his best option to nick the party chairmanship was to lead a band of his old Aso villa colleagues, without any electoral value like himself, to takeover at the Wadata House HQ of the PDP. Those in his “takeover” entourage included Doyin Okupe, and that just underlines how lightweight the ambitious political stragglers were. The fact that such an attempt was made at all, just underlines how sharply the party has deteriorated. Later last Wednesday night, PDP governors added fuel to fire, by directing the Acting National Chairman, Uche Secondus, to handover to the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladepo. The governors’ statement was read by Governor SegunMimiko of Ondo state. But Ahmed Gulak responded by saying that the party’s constitution precluded the National Secretary from chairing the NEC, NWC and the caucuses of the party. Similarly, Uche Secondus said he would not vacate office as directed by the PDP governors. Effectively, PDP now has three chairmen: Uche Secondus; Ahmed Gulak and Wale Oladepo!

It was the much-lamented late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, who insightfully described the PDP, as a basket of scorpions, stinging themselves to death. He made the observation as he angrily resigned membership of the party that he helped formed and nurtured, with the patriotic fervor to make it a genuine party of the people and of social democratic reforms. However, in the dictatorial hands of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the party was purged of its original ideals and even many founding members found themselves on the wrong side of a “re-registration” process. The new perspective was to consolidate the party as a dictatorial apparatus, made effective as a vote-rigging contraption, after a selection process that was tightly controlled and residing inside Aso Villa at the national level and the government houses in the states. While the party’s manifesto had assured of a social democratic vision, Aso Villa pushed a neoliberal agenda, and the sale of national assets to cronies in a controversial, often dubious, privatisation process. In the states, the governors imposed a personal hegemony run directly from their bedrooms and with the funds of the state becoming the extension of the purses of the governors, who literally had the power and resources to declare that men should henceforth be called women and vice versa. Internal party democratic space was completely emasculated! Then there was a prebendal chain of party godfathers, the likes of Chief

Tony Anenih, who enforced dictatorial party ethos, and were used to reward loyalty and sharply administer opprobrium on whoever failed to tow the line, often determined as the interest of the president at the centre, and those of governors in the states.

For as long as there was the power at the centre to enrich party loyalists, the glue of sudden wealth and influence peddling held the contraption firmly together. Everyone knew that if they behaved in the manner that suited the controlling interests, there was the possibility of sudden wealth and influence. That was the process which was kept going for sixteen years! The Nigerian people were treated to the most grotesque abuse of power and the display of irresponsibility, so unbecoming of a modern democratic country. The PDP and its grandees carried on as if elections won’t come again. They were in denial, about the suffering they have caused and the anger in its trail. They probably were deluded that they could continue to rig themselves back into power, for sixty years, as they boasted!

The 2015 rejection

In 2015, they suffered rejection by the Nigerian people. And almost immediately, the bottom dropped for the PDP. They have lost the glue of presidential power in Abuja and the entrenched processes of alienating the resources of the country for personal and group enrichment, within the party apparatus and the government. The PDP began to hemorrhage! Most of those who left early could not contemplate life in opposition; they would enter the new party of power, the APC, with hope that they can continue to find relevance. There are many party grandees who cannot see themselves outside the loop of power. Those who have stayed in the PDP are in a ferocious battle to take control. It can never be pretty, because power even within a severely, if not terminally, sick party, such as the PDP has become, remains a most vicious battle to the death. There is no gainsaying the fact that there is KATAKATA inside the PDP, Chief Awoniyi’s “basket of scorpions”!

In its very swift decline, the PDP reflects very much, the deeply opportunistic essence of neo-colonial politics as well as the manner that our ruling elite always passed over the opportunity to build the blocks of a genuinely great country. The wasted opportunities of the 16-year PDP hegemony must be turned into a source of lesson by our new set of rulers and their party. The problem for them is located in the fact that many of their leaders actually came from, and had been part of the irresponsibility of the PDP years of power. Far too many of the leaders of the APC, do not share the vision of change that has become the ruling mantra in our country today. They have merely entered the APC, just to be part of the chariot of power. It is in fact this segment of membership that constitutes the greatest danger to the idealism which swept President Muhammadu Buhari into power. If the genuine patriots within the APC do not “shine their eyes”, then their party stands the danger of going in the same direction as the PDP. If they allowed such a scenario, they won’t rule Nigeria for as long as 16 years. No way!

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