Stakeholders are worried that the Peoples Democratic Party might not be able to provide strong opposition to the All Progressives Congress federal government in view of the seeming weakness of the party now. SESAN LAOYE, YUSUF MOHAMMED and OBINNA EZUGWU report

The declaration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd) as the president-elect has put paid to the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as political party at the centre.

Apart from this, Buhari’s election has brought a new dimension into the political process and movement in the country because it would be the first time that Nigeria will be governed at the centre by a progressive party. It also became a landmark election and victory which for the first time since the country has been practicing democracy the conservatives would be in the opposition.

Also, since the advent of democratic governance in Nigeria, this is indeed the first time that an incumbent President would be voted out of power.

Buhari’s emergence has now put the current ruling PDP in a tight corner because its dominance of the political scene in the past16 years, since the beginning of this republic has effectively ended.

Before now, the PDP had boasted that it would rule the country for upward of 60 years but that hope has now been dashed.

In the last 16 years, the PDP has produced three Presidents in succession at the helm of affairs. In 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged and he spent eight years, while he was succeeded by the late President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua who only spent two years in office before he died of a terminal ailment. He was succeeded by the out-going President Goodluck Jonathan who at the end of his tenure in May would have spent six years in office as President. The first two years was the continuation of the tenure of Yar’Adua, while he got his own four years mandate in 2011.

The last 16 years of the PDP in power was a game of winners takes all. The party before it was voted out of power in the just concluded election had dominated the politics of Nigeria and being in control of 27 states where it won the governorship. But the defection of the G5 governors reduced the number of states controlled by the PDP to 22.

The PDP was also in full control of the National Assembly before the crisis that followed made some members of the party to move to the APC. Despite the defections the PDP still had the majority seats in both chambers.

PDP was ahead with 64 Senators while the APC controlled 41. It was the defection by Senators from PDP during the crisis that swelled the number of the APC members in the upper chambers just as it happened in the lower chambers.

The current election has now changed all this as the APC is now clearly ahead of the PDP with 64 Senators while the PDP which has turned to an opposition party now has 45 seats, with Labour Party having only one member.

This development no doubt would alter the configuration of the leadership in the coming 8th Senate that is expected to be on board in June this year.

With this new development, the PDP has completely lost out as the APC which is currently in minority has become the majority and it would constitute the principal officers.

All the current key officers in both Houses of the National Assembly would automatically lose their positions.

For instance, the current Senate President, David Mark who was re-elected for the fifth time will no longer be the Senate president as an APC member would automatically clinch the seat.

The change in the chain of leadership will as well affect other principal officers, like the Deputy, Senate President, Senate leader, Deputy Senate leader, Chief whip and Deputy Chief Whip.

This will follow the same order in the House of Representatives where the APC would hold the key positions including the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader etc.

What would be devastating to the PDP is the fact that the Senate President who has always been very powerful both in the NASS and federal government will lose all the respect being accorded him for the past eight years. Also the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba-Egba, his Deputy, Abdul Ningi, Chief Whip Bello Gwarzo and his Deputy Hosea Agboola, all lost in their second bid to the Senate at the primaries.

The situation at the corridor of power would also change as from May this year when Gen Buhari would have been sworn in as the President.

As expected, a new cabinet would be formed and all those now wining and dining with the president in office would be shown the way out. There is no likelihood of anyone being retained but there were speculations that the only minister who could be retained may be that of Agriculture, Professor Akinwunmi Adesina.

It was learnt that since Professor Adesina is a product of the former President Obasanjo, and has been a man who has never been deeply involved in the politics of the country and even that of the PDP but concentrated on the improvement of the country’s agricultural policy with result, he may be spared to continue his job.

The 20 ministries where drastic changes are expected are the petroleum and energy as the new president would not hesitate immediately he gets into office to overhaul them and inject professionals that would turn things around.

Reacting, the Chairman of PDP in Ogun state, and member of board of trustee of the party, Chief Bayo Dayo said that there is nothing wrong with being in the opposition. He said that PDP would be a strong opposition and would not be like the APC which would always castigate the government. “It is only APC that does not accept defeat. Their coming to power was through rigging due to under aged voting in the North which Professor Attahiru Jega refused to investigate. He however commended President Jonathan for conceding defeat which averted what could have led to bloodshed in the country.

Onyekachi Ubani, former chairman of Nigerian Barr Association, Ikeja said, “They have to re-strategize in other to perform a strong opposition. It would be difficult for them because the party since 1999 that it has been in power has not built a very good reputation, which is one reason it lost the presidential election.

 

But what will help them is for them to field candidates with good antecedents, people who have good reputation. That way people may look at those individuals and vote for them.

Whether or not they will disintegrate however may depend on their performance in the upcoming governorship election. If they do well, there is a strong possibility that they will remain a strong party. But if they suffer abysmal failure, they might not be able to stay strong.

It is important nonetheless that they do re-strategize and stay united as it is good for our democracy.”

 

In telephone chat with Hallmark, Eni Onyekachi, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State said, “The PDP will remain PDP, some people may move on naturally; normally, some people don’t like the idea of staying in opposition party, so they will move on. I will not be surprised if many people leave the party. Already, the PDP is embroiled in internal crisis in some states due to lack of internal democracy.

 

The way the party’s primaries were handled in some states led to many leaving for other parties. In Ebonyi State for instance, many PDP members defected to Labour Party due to this lack of internal democracy. The party may be weakened as a result of this development, if they want to stay united; they will have to come up with a strong ideology so that those who love the ideology will remain with the party. Generally, many people will leave PDP and the party will be weakened.”

Professor O. Onajole Head of Department, College of Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital said, “I believe that the party should regroup so as to help the country grow. They should avoid a situation where the country becomes a one party state which will not be good for our democracy.

The party needs to realize that being in opposition is also being in government; they should therefore come together and form a formidable opposition.

Meanwhile the PDP has accused the APC of plot to hoist a one party state on Nigerians. The party raised the alarm following defections of top PDP chieftains to APC in the wake of the Buhari victory. National Publicity secretary Olisa Metuh told journalists in Abuja that it decided to raise the alarm because the APC is trying to instigate crisis in the party so as to destabilize it and impose a one-party state.

Also the APC Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed advised Metuh to enroll for a crash course on speaking for the opposition to enable him function well. But Metuh and the PDP rejected the idea, saying that PDP is strong enough to be an opposition party.