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Published On: Mon, Aug 21st, 2017

Frozen in the past: PDP’s special convention, a match back in time?

At the end of last week’s non elective convention of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); the 75th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held in Abuja, one thing was clear. Despite its prolonged challenges, the party remains the country’s major opposition party, and this is not likely to change soon, not minding the growing talks of a new mega party coming on stream before 2019.
The convention obviously well attended, was a scene reminiscent of the good old days of the once largest political party in black Africa- which like the Titanic, once appeared unsinkable, and whose leaders had boasted would remain in power for the next 60 years.
It was pride, negligence and even an element of God-daring that caused the tragic end of the Titanic, the PDP fall in 2015 was a consequence of all the above plus impunity; flagrant imposition of candidates and sundry misdeeds. And as the party looks to regain a measure of its old self ahead of the all important 2019 general election, the key question is, has it learnt from past mistakes? It doesn’t seem likely.
A lot of back and forth; accusations and counter accusations between the party and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) trailed the convention of Saturday last week. More of it should be expected as 2019 draws near. It is propaganda war which will assume full force in the coming months, and it is a reason the PDP may likely suffer a repeat of 2015 misfortune in 2019.
Apparently, most Nigerians are upset with the APC, a party which assumed power amid high expectations, but which has over the past two years, failed to deliver on practically anything. As one of its key members, Kaduna Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai put it in a memo to the President Buhari months ago, “our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting Boko Haram insurgency and corruption.”
Indeed, since the APC came to power, there has been, according to renowned journalist, Mr Nosa Igiebor, “a general air of frustration; of disappointment and as a matter of fact, even betrayal.” Contrary to expectations, the coming of the APC heralded increased poverty, loss of jobs and massive inflation. The country officially went into a recession late last year, and has remained in it ever since. Buhari himself had spent over 100 days in London on account of ill-health despite severally speaking against medical tourism on his campaign trail prior to 2015 polls.
It is expected that the PDP would cash in on these failures of the APC. At Saturday’s convention, former president, Goodluck Jonathan noted that the opposition party was able to “tame inflation at a single digit, maintain price stability, and drove the economy to become the largest in Africa,” an obvious attempt to emphasize the failure of the ruling party in this respect.
The APC immediately hit back through their numerous spokespersons, but the most vitriolic response came from Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu who stated that President Muhammadu Buhari inherited an economy that was ravaged by the PDP and Jonathan, prompting yet another response from the former president who insisted he can’t be intimidated, and that the PDP would excel in 2019.
This is propaganda war is hardly any difference between both parties. The APC won in 2015 partly because of its very effective propaganda machine with which it succeeded in inflicting an almost irreparable damage on the image of the PDP and Jonathan. The PDP could not muster an effective response to the APC onslaught that year, and observers say it is unlikely that it would do so now, which could be part of their undoing in 2019.
“PDP is not skilled in propaganda,” notes Dr Dan Ekere of the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos. “When it comes to propaganda, APC is the epicenter of propaganda, and they are masters of the game.
“That is why today, there is not much hue and cry about mis-governance by the APC. Nobody is talking about all the promises they made but failed to fulfill, nobody talks about it.”
Yet, it is not only the propaganda war that the PDP appear to be losing, it is also getting its strategy wrong, it would seem. For a party that suffered huge damage to its image, and is now almost synonymous with corruption, it ought to be projecting new faces; faces that have not been tainted with corruption, but from the recent convention, it is obvious that the party is still all about Jonathan as well as past and present leaders, including former Delta State governor, James Ibori who was appointed into the convention committee despite his well-known conviction in London for graft.
Therefore, while it is obvious that a great number of Nigerians are unhappy with the APC, they may not still be keen on the PDP.
“They seem not to have learnt from their past mistakes,” said rights activist, Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Suleiman “If they fail to do so this time, I don’t think they will get it right again. It is important that they do so because Nigerians have tested the APC and the party has proven to be a total failure.
“If they can get their acts together, they would be able to provide viable opposition to the APC in 2019. So, I think it’s a welcome development that they seem to be putting their acts together.
“But I know that their problem is often greed and self interest, that’s why you see many of them moving to other parties. But if they can stick together now and become a vibrant opposition, it would be good for the Nigerian people because no matter how you see it, PDP is the only party you can truly call an opposition party.”
Sticking together, as Suleiman noted, will be of paramount importance to the party. But at the convention, Ali Modu Sheriff, the hitherto factional chairman stayed away, and so did his right hand man, Senator Buruji Kashamu.
The convention is already subject to litigation by both the factional South West Zonal Executive Committee and the Ogun faction of the party under the leadership of Adebayo Dayo, both of which have filed suits at the Federal High Court, Abuja seeking the nullification of the convention and the decisions reached therein.
The recent Supreme Court judgment which recognised the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led caretaker committee as the authentic leadership of the party put and end to the protracted leadership crisis at the national level, but it has not done so at state levels. It is a party standing on division. This coupled with a battered image is a recipe for failure.
“In terms of the PDP providing a viable opposition, I’m not too sure,” opined Barr. Wale Ogunade, Lagos based lawyer and activist. “Because the PDP itself is the party that put us in this mess,”
“They can be a viable opposition, but I know that the Nigerian people are not swayed; they are not moved by the PDP. That’s why despite all the fumbling and wobbling, and the way the presidency has been behaving, Nigerians still support this government.
“If Nigerians don’t support the government, by now there would be noise; activists and other Nigerians would have been shouting. But those who are shouting now are those who are the beneficiaries of the old order.”
Ogunade may not represent popular opinion. The APC is facing ever growing criticism, but in 2019, the odds might still favour the country’s faltering ruling party.

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