A Political Party in Decline

Every good student of Nigerian politics expected the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be in free fall after losing power at the centre this year. But no one knew it would fall so soon. Just two months after May 29, the party that had been in control for 16 years is showing signs of serious ill-health. On Wednesday, the party’s national secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, wrote a letter informing the staff that the party was broke and could no longer pay their salaries in full. The PDP workers should accept a 50 per cent salary cut from August, he said. The aggrieved workers have responded, accusing the party’s leaders of sharing an estimated N12billion raked from the sale of nomination and delegates forms just a few months ago.

If the intra-party fight could start so early, one would wonder what had been sustaining the PDP staff for 16 long years. Were the party’s members in government dipping hands into the public treasury? It’s likely. Bogus contracts were awarded so that the contractors could “support” the party. Those appointed to “strategic” positions in “juicy” agencies were expected to “make returns” to the party. And, during electioneering, elected officeholders, appointees and contractors had to donate generously to fundraisers. All these and more explain the sources of the billions donated to presidential campaigns. Nothing goes for nothing, you know.

One explanation for the PDP’s sudden decline is the winner-take-all posture of Nigerian politics. Once you are not in the ruling party, you don’t get a job or contracts or friends in high places. So politicians who know their onions avoid playing opposition politics. It’s the fate that befell the All People’s Party (APP), even though it was running neck to neck with the PDP at the1999 elections.

That the PDP’s decline has come so fast confirms that few Nigerians have really received the gospel of strengthening democracy with a virile opposition. The PDP is being abandoned so early because few believe the party is worth investing in anymore. Beneficiaries of the party’s largesse are now more concerned about hiding their loot than strengthening the party ahead of the next general elections. These are uncertain times, and the future looks even more uncertain.

If all that President Buhari would achieve in four years is ending a culture of impunity in the running of public affairs, he would deserve high marks. My guess is that the PDP is dying because key loopholes have been plugged. In this space, I once mentioned that NIMASA was paying a woman N500million monthly. It’s from the agency that a governorship contest was funded. Now NIMASA’s head has been cut off! And NNPC? That name has become an anathema; it’s the slush fund of important PDP leaders. By the time President Buhari releases the names of oil thieves (reportedly given to him by Americans), nobody would be left in doubt about how the PDP was funded.

So, the party is broke indeed; Prof. Oladipo was not lying. And, in the weeks and months ahead, the party’s condition is likely to deteriorate further. Its workers’ salaries may be slashed again and then become un-payable. Right now, Mr Olisa Metuh, the party’s spokesman, is getting free publicity for his statements. In future, he may have to pay for his press releases and press conferences, until he convinces his party to support existing media with adverts or float more media platforms. With many media houses going down the pan on account of advert drought, even the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may have to pay for its releases or have its voice muzzled in the private media. Somebody has to pay the bills.

It’s time to sing a dirge for the PDP. There will be an opposition party to fight the APC in 2019, but I’m not sure it will be the PDP in its present form. The party is likely to merge with others and consequently acquire a new name and a new logo. But funding of the probable new-old party will be hampered by the current campaign to block leakages and probe the ancien regime. No money, no friend – and no viable party!

Yet, Nigeria must not be allowed to become a one-party state. Not even a two-party state. I still remember the advice Zik gave us in 1993: Two-party system is autocratic; there should be a minimum of three parties, he said. The Buhari administration should let other parties survive without destroying the APC. One sure way to do this is by letting the people build their parties and significantly reducing the influence of moneybags. Nobody in government should be allowed to back his party with stolen funds. In any case, that’s what Buhari’s sanitisation programme is all about.

Change doesn’t mean replacing one set of looters with another. And I hope APC members would understand this. This time round, Buhari should be helped to put Nigeria on the path of sanity and accountability. We found out too late that accusations of “slow pace of action”, “stubborn and ill-advised unilateral actions”, “misuse [of] power to the detriment of our national aspirations and interest” [apologies to Brig. Joshua Dogonyaro] levelled against him 30 years ago were false and misdirected.



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