Four months to Nigeria’s next general elections, a crisis of no return has engulfed the Peoples Democratic Party. Although leaders of the party continue to express optimism about a resolution, the party’s naked dance has gone far into the marketplace, and chances of a retreat are almost non-existent.
This must feel like an unfortunate event to many Nigerians. In 2015, when Nigerians voted for the ruling All Progressives Congress, they invested all their hopes in the venture. Eight years on, Nigerians are worse off though members of the party try to manipulate the facts. As a result, countrymen and women now desire a replacement for the APC. The PDP, claiming a rebirth from its previous misadventure in power, presented itself as an option, and it looked good for it until the current fight to the finish.
This column has dealt with the undercurrents over the past few weeks. It is therefore pointless embarking on a long examination of the issues at stake. Suffice it to say that the candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, must take more blame for allowing this issue to fester.
The English say a stitch in time saves nine; failing to engage Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his co-travellers early enough took the issue out of his hands in a way that he may regret. And it doesn’t matter whether the governor’s group is right or wrong.
After winning the ticket, Atiku became the party’s leader, the one with the highest stake and the onus for peace, by all means, shifted to him. He should have sought peace by all means for two reasons. First, he cannot win an election when the party is divided. It is a no-brainer. The PDP experienced this in 2015, through a move in which Atiku was a major player. He should know better. This and a desire to rescue Nigeria should have made him descend from his high horse and nip that crisis in the bud much earlier. That may be too late now. This is not to exonerate Wike of blame and that is a point we shall get to. However, as the Yoruba say: a pot that desires to taste the soup must be ready for the heat. Hence, Atiku’s initial inertia baffled observers.
But whichever way it goes for the PDP, Nigerians must learn one important lesson about politicians. This is that nothing is as important as their personal interests!
Wike tries to make this look like some ideological conflict but it is about what’s in it for him. A couple of months back, for instance, the PDP had a southern president, Mr Uche Secondus, an erstwhile Wike ally. When the Rivers State a started nurturing the idea of becoming President, he realised Secondus may become an impediment to his ambition and worked for his replacement. It was only after losing the presidential primaries that he realised sacrificing the former chair was foolhardy. This is especially true since Atiku has tried to avoid Dr Iyorchia Ayu’s removal, even though Ayu promised to would step down if a northern candidate won the presidential ticket.
It is not just that, the current attempt to hold the party to ransom is about protecting Wike’s interest if Atiku becomes president. As it stands, he would not be governor post-2023. Out of office, a former governor is helpless and may become a stranger to the same party, where he wielded every power hitherto. Wike’s fight is an attempt to remain in reckoning within the PDP post-2023. While his group is proposing the removal of Ayu, they are preparing a successor whose ear they have. Besides other requests for the opportunity to nominate people for certain other important positions. These efforts are for Wike to remain in the corridors of power if Atiku wins. You can attribute his refusal to budge to two things: Atiku’s initial dismissal of his group’s protest and the candidate’s alleged infidelity to promises. So, they know that getting Ayu out of office will become herculean post-election and they will lose out. Resolving the crisis, therefore, depends on having irrevocable compromises on paper. That may be part of politics but how much of it is about Nigeria?
It is also not about the PDP. At the rate the PDP is going, it may not just lose the presidency, it will lose the states it governs and it may as well become a mere fringe party. Except for moneybags like Atiku and APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, political parties in Nigeria rely on state resources to fund the so-called structure. As a result, the fewer states a party wins, the slimmer its chances. Therefore, these gladiators only see the party as a vehicle to their destination. It could be any vehicle tomorrow as long as it succeeds.
This mindset informed Tinubu’s popular “emilokan” utterance. When he facilitated the APC and Buhari’s candidacy in 2013 and 2014, the politician’s game was for the 2023 ticket!
Power had to return to the North since the South ruled Nigeria for five years. He knew Buhari could win the election and worked for him. And since he couldn’t be a running mate then, he calculated that it would be a smooth run for him to get the ticket after eight years, hence that Abeokuta assertion.
It was the reason for Atiku and the five governors to leave the PDP. Although they presented their case like it was a fight for Nigeria’s survival, these men moved out of the PDP because they had lost out! They joined the APC with hopes for better standing and the legacy parties’ attempt to frustrate that plan resulted in the Saraki/Dogara coup de main of 2015.
So, if the PDP and its members have Nigeria at heart, why is difficult about making concessions in the country’s interest? Why has Ayu, who was Senate President about three decades ago, refused to resign? For peace and Nigeria’s urgent need for redemption, why has Atiku refused to take the bull by the horns and put a stop to this crisis that is fast becoming hydra-headed? Why has Wike, who shouts every day about APC’s misrule, not agreed to see reason and join forces with Atiku? The answer is that they all have personal stakes. It is that they are all parasites on the resources of this poor nation.
Therefore, a few months into electing a new National Working Committee, allegations that the NWC has mismanaged billions of naira and paid millions into its members’ accounts are flying around. Politics is a business for the people and they will go to any length to keep it. To sustain this mindless grip and maintain their stakes, they would do anything and everything. Personal stakes are so high that they will sacrifice both the country and their party in this pointless battle.