It is moments such as we now have at hand which bring to the fore the poignancy and fecundity of the mind of the much-lamented Chief Sunday Awoniyi. As a founding member of the PDP, Chief Awoniyi said it was conceptualized as a “broad church” to convey the hopes of the Nigerian people for democratic renewal, after years of military dictatorship. Unfortunately, the party fell into the hands of the old dictator, General Obasanjo, and in a remarkable flight of erudition, Chief Awoniyi said the party transmogrified into a monster; the PDP, he remarked had been turned into a basket full of scorpions and the tendency was for these rival scorpions to sting themselves to death! Well, the events of the past few weeks are beginning to vindicate Chief Awoniyi’s observations. The suspension of leading members of the party; the arraignment of the party chairman for corrupt practices, an allegation exhumed from 2001; the advice by General Babangida that the party should not return to “Garrison” methods, in obvious dig at Obasanjo, all come in the wake of the refusal of Jonathan Goodluck to sanction a NEC meeting for weeks.
Observers have spoken of a vicious struggle for the soul of the PDP and they are broadly right since in the end, it is a struggle to determine which of the contending tendencies will control access to presidency in 2011. The fate of Chief Vincent Ogbulafor and by extension, his entire executive, was sealed when he announced, soon after Jonathan Goodluck was invested as “Acting President”, that the candidate of the party in 2011 will come from the north. That essentially disqualified Jonathan, a consummate schemer whose eyes were firmly set on removing President Yar’adua from the scene while also emerging PDP candidate in 2011. He enjoys the active connivance of General Olusegun Obasanjo and it is therefore not a surprise that Jonathan lapsed into the Obasanjo method of using the anti-corruption agencies to run after enemies: EFCC against James Ibori, a leading member of the Yar’adua inner circle and one who helped to shape the Yar’adua presidency away from Obasanjo’s control and the ICPC on the tail of Ogbulafor who had the effrontery to state that the party was going to stick by its agreement about power rotation. It was the basis upon which the PDP had inflicted Obasanjo on Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 in any case.
So we behold a most comical situation of an Acting President arriving at equity with badly soiled hands since the EFCC, under the Nuhu Ribadu that he effusively praised in America two weeks ago, had alerted Nigerians that Madame Patience, Goodluck’s beloved wife is a thief, caught with huge amounts of Bayelsa state dollars/naira (and still to be disproved), prior to Jonathan’s emergence as Yar’adua’s running mate in the 2007 elections. Such a small matter of a thieving wife is obviously no handicap for Jonathan to finish with whoever might stand in the way of becoming candidate and eventually Nigeria’s president in 2011. The ground was softened for Ogbulafor’s arraignment for corruption, through a well-oiled media campaign for weeks. But by going for Ogbulafor and the present PDP executive, Jonathan is also taking the fight to the powerful governors’ caucus of the party; a method that has all the hallmarks of an Obasanjo flanking movement.
It should be recalled that the governors seized the party machinery and went on to help whittle down incrementally, Obasanjo’s influence in the party culminating in a disgrace that he suffered within the BOT at the end of last year. Jonathan’s fateful accession to acting presidency has offered the opportunity for Obasanjo to seek his pound of flesh and the unforgiving general is baying for blood. If the ICPC and EFCC can succeed with Ogbulafor and Ibori, the PDP governors know that they will not find a hiding place; this is especially true of the second-term governors, but even the first term ones can be denied the ticket. So they are obliged to fight back and they will fight dirty because their lives depend on it! Unfortunately for the governors, their arrogant hegemony in the party alienated a broad category of members such as the Masaris and Ken Nnamanis and they will not have a lot of sympathy in the fight currently unfolding within the party. And since the Ogbulafor executive has publicly announced that the party’s candidate will still be from the north, it is in the interest of aspiring candidates like General Babangida to public condemn the return of the “Garrison” politics which Obasanjo used to hold everybody to ransom.
They either fight for their space or see their ambitions go up in smoke. Goodluck Jonathan and his mentor Obasanjo are determined to bury the party’s understanding that the presidency be rotated between the north and south, with each section having two terms. This is the essence of the fight for the soul of the PDP; the reason why the PDP scorpions will sting themselves to death! Let us not forget that the party lost its idealism almost as soon as it was formed by making the mistake of foisting on itself Obasanjo as its first presidential candidate. Its problems have only worsened over the past decade. What remains is a monstrous shell kept alive by a ravenous appetite for power. With a near-total control of the nation’s political space and confronted by an impotent and flabby opposition, it is no wonder that the enemy of the PDP resides within itself. There is no running away from the laws of nature or of political science: the PDP is in the throes of a violent and painful death but its stranglehold on power is not about to be broken; just yet!