By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has learnt nothing but the PDP must not die. It’s unfortunate that a party that ruled the biggest black nation for so long has not managed to acquire a soul. Wanton wastefulness, whether of goodwill or of financial resources, be it private or public, should have a saturation point. The point beyond which the consequences of prodigality, satiation of vulgar appetites and burnt out taste buds, and forces of regret begin to exert a determined pull towards reason. It is perhaps also the point at which those who will never recover, who are refractory to sobriety, fall off the cliff.
It’s true that PDP’s core approximated the amalgamation of treachery, greed and vainglory. The thin covering layer of peace, freedom and national unity may not have been deliberate altruism. Could it have been mere camouflage? Or was it the minimum condition for all inclusive, optimum exploitation of the country by a ruling class committed to denying the military a reason to return? They muttered, bickered and jumped from place to place but never touched the cords of national unity. They avoided a cataclysm but not the inevitable decay.
It is true that the founders were driven by self interest but it is doubtful they contemplated the sort of free for all trampling on moral ideals that the party’s rather precipitate degeneracy threw up. No contests of ideas, no principled controversies, just naked sharing and grabbing. Before long, a pathetic general descent into anti intellectualism, the sort that a late Ibadan political emperor and Obasanjo’s boys in Anambra typified , ensued. Whenever the party convulsed it was down to a clash of spiked egos propelled by selfishness. ‘Dividends of democracy’, ‘poverty alleviation’, ‘free and fair elections’ and ‘glory be to God’, became comical pieces of political buffoonery.
It was therefore predictable that any political field dominated and defined by the PDP and its ethos would naturally be a theatre of skullduggery. An infantile party of old men with constipated ideas had neither the tradition , nor the culture to save itself from derailment. It was an unending gluttonous jostling for private advantages. Inorganic, hurried, contraptions like the PDP are common post military rule tragedies in Africa. People who have never fought for any cause, who have no positions on moral and social issues bumble their way to power .
But anyone can argue that Obasanjo was well intentioned besides the demons of tenure elongation. And that Yaradua was simple and honest besides certain criminal elements he allowed to desecrate holy places. And that Jonathan was humble and meek besides perhaps Dasukigate and such like. The truth is that none of these good people had a vision for the PDP and none tried to instill moral values in that institution.
The PDP therefore didn’t and couldn’t have had any political ideology. It didn’t need to have the kind of ideologies prevalent in the politics of the West. But tragically it lacked any shared moral and political values. Without such values , the principles upon which the party should be built were non existent. So the PDP remained a fluid party of shifting opportunistic tendencies. The system fostered political exigencies that made intellectualism and integrity redundant.
Doves served hawks, brutes dominated thinkers. Loads of money , penchant for violence, familiarity with the judiciary were all that mattered . The power that belongs to the people was usurped by political prostitutes who turned up as party delegates and ballot boxes that could be snatched and stuffed. Tampering of results sheets, perpetration of deadly violence and manipulation of the judiciary became ropes new entrants must learn.
Those who came into power would surround themselves with woolly minds and sycophantic hands. And dissent was banished at all levels by dictatorial tendencies prevalent in many capitals. Little wonder then that legislative houses were turned into houses of zombies, making a mockery of separation of powers. Besides win at all costs, rent seeking mentality and prebendalism, what did the PDP teach the youths? And because the PDP was such a behemoth, and because the citizens were so prostrate with desperation, the opposition had to beat the PDP in its own game. The political field became thoroughly polluted.
But the PDP wasn’t all evil. In a sense, PDP was Nigeria. It may have closed its eyes to corruption but it allowed sufficient freedom. If it had the likes of Mugabe or Museveni , it could have been a different proposition. It may have been morally dissipated but it tried not to disrupt national peace. Because the PDP was such an umbrella that admitted all kinds , no ethnic or religious group felt excluded. No one ever accused the PDP of exclusionary politics.
The poor may have been raped by their leaders but nearly every village had one such rapist. In a fractious agglomeration of ethnic nationalities complicated by divisive religious politics ,PDP has ,in being a free wheeling and dealing vehicle, lubricated national unity. Many African nations are set ablaze not by corruption but by divisive and exclusionary politics that exiles certain groups from national leadership. The traditional trouble makers and political pyromaniacs who would feast on primordial sentiments and revel in conflagrations were waited on by a prodigal PDP. Except perhaps Yusuf and Shekau.
The defunct Action Congress was decidedly in a private pocket. It was a house of arbitrariness. The ANPP was not really a party. The ANPP was so shortsighted it flirted with religious fundamentalism. APGA was a tiny house of perpetual commotion. Labour party was where those suffering from the political diarrhea caused by toxins of ‘godfatherism’ went to relieve themselves. At some point no one would have been shocked if all the parties had run under the big umbrella ‘in the interest of national unity’.
Like an infantile self absorbed adult, PDP’s ambition was to rule forever. A self indulgent bag of egos , it never had the capacity for sober self reflection. Buccaneers came and buccaneers left and PDP remained , in there own words , the greatest party in Africa. The ANC has a rich history, the experience of a protracted struggle , the benefit of the exemplary selflessness of Mandela and Walter Sisilu, Govan Mbeki and others. And yet that party is floundering. The PDP’s performance perhaps wasn’t totally woeful. The heroes of the first republic had since left.
The second republic was too short to allow any character milling and political maturation . So many actors of PDP’s third republic were coup plotters and their cohorts, money bags and inexperienced political hustlers. The money politics that followed swept aside integrity, experience and patriotism.
PDP’s greatness was hollow. Rich in numbers , actual and contrived. Destitute of values and virtues. From Ekiti to Borno, from Rivers to Osun, it’s a motor park collection. Obasanjo claims he has resigned from the madness of the PDP but he contributed immensely to its sorry state. He owes the PDP so much yet unrequited. We can’t forget easily that it was a sanctimonious Obasanjo who handed some state chapters of the party to political touts, moral reprobates. His close friendship with those characters spoke volumes about opportunism, greed and contempt for history. He set bizarre political precedents in adoption , sanctification and promotion of political brigandry by proxy. Jonathan, they say, is a strong leader too.
But how would a president who left office a few months ago allow the party , whose defacto leader he should be, be in such wretched tatters now? You look at the fellows, tearing their dresses, struggling to take control of the PDP and you weep for the country. The PDP is a national institution in which the nation has invested resources and men. Who inflicts on us leaders who can’t leave any political legacies ? What did the PDP gain from touted combined visionariness of three presidents besides ephemeral power, its intoxication and stacks of money?
The APC doesn’t appear to have learnt from the misfortunes of the PDP. It doesn’t appear to have the capacity for self reflection either. Besides Buhari , besides hypocrisy, how is the APC of today significantly different from the PDP? The APC lacks the all inclusiveness of the PDP and perilously has its fortunes concentrated in the hands of two men. But since the APC has managed to build an oversized reputation, it must quickly devote itself to solidifying its ethical foundations .
The immediate negative cost implications of instituting principled party politics must not deter it. Political parties are vehicles for nation building. While in opposition it had to play the game of the PDP, now it can lay down new markers. It can sanitize the whole electoral process. Buhari’s performance would be adjudged more woeful than that of Jonathan if he fails to stamp out corruption in his party’s nomination processes. Practical expression must be given APC’s talk not only at the federal level but also in the states they control.
But none of these would happen if the nation slipped back into a one party state. The nation was perhaps particularly fortunate that the PDP was blessed with unending internal wrangling. The opposition parties at some point were too weightless to irritate let alone hinder the PDP. Obasanjo and Atiku clashed and tenure could not be elongated. Jonathan and Amaechi &co wrestled, and a strong electable opposition was built. Okadigbo, Tambuwal and some others helped accountability with their rebelliousness.
While such dissents served well, we cannot organize oppositional politics around such luck. A reformed PDP with it’s rich history and national foundation will be not just a check on the ruling party but also a veritable electable alternative. A new party may be fashionable but realistically that’s a long term project. The country needs an immediate robustly competitive opposition. An alive and reformed PDP is of paramount national importance. President Buhari must help to keep the PDP alive ,well and competitive. He belongs to no one and belongs to everyone.
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