ON the eve of the 2011 presidential election, I received a text message from Raymond Dokpesi, urging me to vote for Goodluck Jonathan the following day. He adduced a host of reasons for endorsement of candidate Jonathan and why I should accept his choice.
I sent him a very rude reply for what I felt was an impudent message! Jonathan never appealed to me as capable of being our president; and the bitter intra-party struggle within the PDP, about what to do, in the wake of Umaru Ya’Adua’s death, had polarised the party and deepened the schisms associated with Nigeria’s political life.
Besides, I had unambiguously supported Muhammadu Buhari since 2003! My reply soured our relationship for a while and I didn’t see Dokpesi until April 2012, when we met at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, USA. We had been attending the annual conference of the American National Association of Broadcasters, NAB.
I have given this narration, against the background of Dokpesi’s frank admission last week, that Jonathan’s emergence in 2011, which had short-changed the North, was one of the reasons for Jonathan’s and the PDP’s defeat in the 2015 elections, amongst many other reasons. Dokpesi’s apology to Nigerians was incredible, even when Olisa Metuh countermanded him the following day, stating that it was Dokpesi’s personal view and not the PDP’s; or the more gung-ho and ‘Area Boy’ intervention by Doyin Okupe! In truth, Raymond Dokpesi’s admittance was rather like s**t hitting the PDP’s ceiling fan: likely to soil too many party grandees.
Irresponsible ruling party
The PDP would surely have won the grand prize, as perhaps Africa’s most irresponsible ruling party. Here is a party that used to describe itself as Africa’s largest political party, but which soon after it came to life, on the basis of the grand vision of idealistic founding fathers, was to immediately founder, against the backdrop of a combination of often, nation-destroying circumstances.
For 16 years, until its defeat at the last elections, the PDP did everything that made it impossible to succeed in the nation-building process, at a time that Nigeria needed it most. The party became Africa’s most ruthless vote-rigging contraption and so brazen would it become that it turned on its head the basic logic of a democratic society. So the more scandalous its excesses, the more votes it was able to garner in badly rigged elections.
It was as if the Nigerian people had entered into a covenant to regularly deepen their own sorrow through votes that they seemed resigned to giving to a most irresponsible political party. Sometimes it seemed reasonable to imagine that we had become a country of lobotomised cretins quite unable to determine what was good for us!
In 16 years, the PDP offered the best illustrations of the worst excesses of prebendalism, as party grandees and ‘tin gods’ like Chiefs Tony Anenih and Olabode George, for example, re-defined the ethos of democratic politics, as angling for the lowest common denominator in leadership recruitment.
What mattered wasn’t the overall health of the country,but the survival of a system which allowed these grand old men to continue ruling the roost. So individuals without any meaningful political and electoral value, made good, for as long as they could work their way through the manipulative,but patently undemocratic ethos which had been carefully enthroned as the ruling mantra of the PDP. And because they could “win” elections no matter which way the Nigerian people voted, it became clear that success lied not in working for the Nigerian people, but in how well one could work through the labyrinthine entrails of PDP politicking.
That explained why until an election had been conducted and sufficiently rigged, one couldn’t even be sure of who exactly was PDP’s candidate in the election. Candidates were often swapped several times before the election was held. In the long run, the Nigerian people had to learn by experience and came to the conclusion that this behemoth could not be nudged in the right direction.
It was far too lost in its ways to find the means back to the vision of idealist founding fathers like the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi. In the hands of Olusegun Obasanjo, the PDP became a monstrosity and it must have been painful for Chief Awoniyi to see the party he laboured to midwife become eventually, in his words, “a basket of scorpions, stinging themselves to death”! Wole Soyinka described the same party as “a nest of killers”!
This is the party that Dokpesi and others are desperately trying to reform. They certainly have their work cut out into the future. The PDP has so messed up the hope that it initially inspired to be of any redeemable functionality into the nearest future of Nigerian political life.
Its best bet is to hope that the ruling party, the APC, would make such a mess of the mandate it has been given by the Nigerian people. Unfortunately, the tendencies within the APC and their struggle for hegemonic dominance of the party can open up the aperture for the PDP to reclaim the space of public perception. If such a calamity should befall Nigeria, then Dokpesi’s s**t wont have hit the PDP’s ceiling fan in vain!