By Ini Ekponta
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was once touted as the biggest and largest party in Africa following its stranglehold on political power at the centre and in most states for 16 years.
It commanded then, the major bigwigs in Nigeria’s political firmament, but the fortunes of PDP started ebbing when, without any atom of resistance and to the consternation of most Nigerians, then President Goodluck Jonathan, surrendered the mantle.
It was in 2015, when votes were still being counted by then Chairman of the national electoral body, INEC, superintended over by Attahiru Jega, a Professor from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State.
Jonathan conceded through a dry phone call to his major challenger. He hollered: “Buhari, you have won, congratulations,” even when then Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, was still in a lone fight with Jega, who intermittently declared the results.
The results kept pouring in from major states, sending tension down the spines of PDP followers across Nigeria, even with votes from the core APC state of Kano with 44 Local Areas were yet to be declared.
“Mr. Chairman, this unacceptable,” “You can’t do this,” Orubebe protested. Jega would pause and warned him to compose himself and not ridicule his position as a federal Minister as the world was watching.
However, it eventually dawned on Orubebe that he was fighting a lone battle; that the President had since conceded.
He adjusted his suit and disappeared, giving Jega the breather to continue churning out the results from more states which culminated in Buhari being declared the eventual winner.
However, “the biggest party in Africa with the biggest umbrella to accommodate everybody began to shrink” in number and influence, as politicians of different hue shaded their toga to join the new central party.
In 2019, the entry of former Vice President, Mr. Atiku Abubakar, a politician with deep pocket, again, bolstered the PDP, but his influence was curtailed when the ruling APC deployed the various forms of intimidation and blackmail to cow the Adamawa politician to submission.
This second failure led to further descent of the PDP as several followers lost hope and, in the character of Nigerian politician without any political culture, the migrations continue unabated.
And despite the glaring failure to live up to its promise of redeeming Nigeria from the vices of corruption, insecurity, nepotism and other bare-face criminalities, the nation sinks deeper into the current seeming irredeemable cul-de-sac.
Heavily enmeshed in heavy debt burden, underdevelopment, ethnicity and malignant corruption perpetrated and perpetuated by the few privileged Nigerians of the blue blood stock, the country bleeds under the watchful eyes of her pretentious leaders.
More baffling to keen watchers of the unfolding political melodrama is, according to Ntufam Ekeng Ubong, a community leader in Akpabuyo, Cross River state, the constant migration of more governors into the ruling APC from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Our governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, surprising defected to the APC, to the consternation of even some of his Executive members and close Aides. And, nobody really knows what he is looking for because his second term would soon expire in 2023.
“Maybe, he is looking to still be politically relevant or perhaps, he has some axe to grind with the law as his immunity would expire at the end of his tenure in 2023 when he would no longer enjoy the protection of the law,” he stressed.
With less than two years to the expiration of tenure of most governors who are currently in the last lap of their second term, Comrade Effiong Edward, a youth activist in Akwa Ibom, reasoned that “most of them have cornered large chunk of their state’s resources to themselves, so they must seek for cover in the ruling party to avoid being hunted and haunted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the expiration of their immunity.”
Governor Udom Emmanuel was strongly in the rumour mill as planning to dump the party that fetch him the current toga of governor, which he openly said he never bargained for, if it were traded in open bidding.
“If it were to be in an interview situation I would not have applied to be governor,” he told a media conference at the weekend, adding: “I only became the governor by calling,” as pressure continue to mount with several insults hurl at him over his choice of successor.
“I have been the most insulted governor concerning my successor,” he admitted, but begged the people of the state to shun the sentiments of politics and wait for God to choose who succeeds him in 2013.
The strength of the rumour forced him to counter the allegation, saying PDP remains the only antidote to fixing the country economically.
Currently, the PDP’s rank and influence continue to ebb with the defection of the Zamfara governor, Bello Mattawalle to PDP. There is rumour that his Bauchi counterpart, will defect to further deplete the party to a minority party in 2023.
And with the governor of Kano State, Alhaji Sule Ganduje, dropping further bombshell that “more governors would leave the PDP”, it is hardly likely that the once mega party could heading to extinction even before the general elections year in 2023.
Mathematically, with APC currently controlling 23 states as against PDP’s 13, observers believe that in the run-up to the polls in the next two years, the jamboree of defection would further hit the PDP as the ruling would likely probe into the financial recklessness of the PDP governors.
“They (the ruling APC) would likely deploy the anti-corruption trump card by unearthing the financial crimes perpetrated by some of the remaining governors including the die-hard Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel and others as a ploy to woo them into the APC,’’ Chief Ekanem Paul, social affairs analyst explains.
“This kind of strategy has precedents in former governor of Abia state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and others.
“Politicians in Nigeria are like professional football players. Today, you see them in the colours of AC Milan, the next season they adorn the colours of Man Utd., depending on which club butters their bread the most,” he noted.
The National Interim Secretary of the APC, Senator James John Udoedehe, during his last birthday interaction with journalists at the state Council of the NUJ, had pointedly averred that “this Udom Emmanuel that you see today, you don’t know where he would be tomorrow.”
Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari, on Niger Delta Affairs, has been launching scathing remarks against governors of the region, accusing them of squandering derivation funds, instead of deploying it to develop the oil-producing communities of Niger Delta.
And observers say the Federal Government could cash in on these allegations to cow the governors into jumping ship to seek refuge in the broom party “for their sins to be forgiven”.
Perhaps, the only card remaining for the party to have a formidable force ahead of the polls, Dr. Stephen Idiong, noted, “is to start building alliance s with other lesser political parties and adopt a new name with national outlook with a view to reasserting itself in national politics”.
“The then Action Congress (AC) did when the former founder, Asiwaju, transformed the party to wear a new toga and name: Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to be accepted as national party by Nigerians across the country instead of its South-West traditional base.
“I believe it was such transformation that gave it the popularity and strength to capture the South West and endeared itself to Mr. Buhari, who courted it in league with his party, the CPC and others to form a formidable force that eventually captured the central government in 2015, after two failed attempts,” he stressed.
Therefore, only time will tell the kind of magic the PDP would deploy into the rebuilding process that would galvanize the former ruling party into once again, taking its pride of place in the political calculus of the country’s top leadership cadre in 2023. The world is watching.