Since the announcement of the results of this year’s general elections and the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have continued to bemoan their fate in the hands of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, government.
Different individuals and groups within the PDP have adduced one reason or the other for the abysmal performance of the party at both state and federal levels. The latest was the allegation of fraud raised by PDP national secretariat staff against the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, whom they accused of embezzling the sum of N12billion election fund, an allegation which the workers retracted last week in widely circulated media publications.
One thing the PDP members must realise is that a new dawn is here; a new government is in power. Like the biblical Israelites, Pharaoh who does not know Joseph is now on the throne. The PDP’s mourning period is over; hence, it is proper and legitimate for the party to begin to take concrete steps towards repositioning itself across the states as well as the national level. For a better illustration of this subject, let me use Imo State as a paradigm because of its unique experience both before and during the last general elections. Besides, and more importantly, Imo is a special case because it is one state which remains basically a PDP state but which has, unfortunately, become a serial loser of the governorship elections in the last eight years.
In 2007, a non-PDP governor emerged in the state after series of political and judicial rigmarole. Although the person who emerged as governor rode on the back of the PDP under an arrangement, the PDP was never the same as a result of the crisis and eventual factionalisation that followed the 2007 governorship election in the state. The governor in question, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, eventually returned to the PDP, but the party was to again lose the state to the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, under circumstances that are still being debated.
The 2015 general elections provided yet another opportunity for the PDP (over 80 percent of the state is PDP) to regain state control, but again, against all expectations, it lost. As a matter of fact, the 2015 loss poses a bigger puzzle to observers because compared to what happened in 2011, the stakeholders in the party fought for the recovery of the state on one page, at least up to the primaries. Unlike in 2011, there were no factions. Indeed, all the top political gladiators who had defected from the party in 2010 to join the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria returned to the PDP at least one year before the 2015 general elections. And against the backdrop of the growing disenchantment of the political elite, plus a good chunk of the masses, on the incumbent regime, book makers were upbeat that the PDP was set to retake Imo. But that did not happen.
What happened is perhaps well known to warrant a full length disclosure here but it is important to point out that the whole thing boils down to one; which is the imposition of governorship candidate on the Imo electorate by the PDP. This point ought to be emphasised and put in proper perspective because it will enable us make one other vital point, which is that the Imo electorate were not necessarily against the PDP governorship candidate, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, as a person. What Imo people, those who had sympathy for the PDP (and they were in the majority) were against, was the flawed process that threw Ihedioha’s candidacy up. In other words, it was not that the Imo electorate hated Ihedioha, contrary to what some pundits would want the world to believe, but that they wanted to prove a point that the state had no room, any longer, for fraudulent electoral processes, at any level.
Agreed, the other rival parties might not have been less guilty but the fact was that the good people of Imo State looked up to the PDP to present them with a transparent ambiance to operate on. Having learnt their lessons from the mistakes of 2011, the people expected the PDP to lay a fresh foundation for good democratic practice in the state. By 2013, it was no longer in doubt that the people of the state had realised that what they thought was an island (in Governor Rochas Okorocha) was nothing but the back of a Whale. The disenchantment with the Okorocha regime was pervasive, despite the pretences of the governor for running a pro-people administration.
They thus looked up to the PDP for a succour, to present a more credible alternative both in terms of governance and in democratic practice. But the expectation was dashed.
Worse still, the campaign for the primaries turned into a bazaar as aspirants sought to outspend each other through obscene display of emergency opulence.
Hence, for the first time in the history of the state, it took no effort for the people to buy into the allegation that the primary election was manipulated. What followed was simple. One, a section of the electorate quickly rekindled their interest for the sitting governor who, in any case, was making good efforts to represent himself as credible. Two, the PDP again broke into two factions – one in support of the man who allegedly emerged as candidate, Hon. Ihedioha, and the other in support of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume who came second in the primary election but was believed to be the actual winner of the (primary) election.
The people there and then decided to vote for the PDP in the state and National Assembly elections but to look elsewhere for the governorship election. And that was how and why the PDP won all three senatorial seats, eight out of nine House of Representatives seats and a reasonable number of seats for the Imo State House of Assembly.
Perhaps, the most vivid illustration that the people of Imo state were for the PDP was what happened in the Orlu senatorial zone where Governor Okorocha hails from. There, PDP won 90 percent of national and state Assembly seats but lost the governorship to APC.
Despite the outcome of the 2015 general elections, there are things to show that the PDP could still get its acts together and regain its strength in 2019. But to do that, there should be genuine reconciliation of aggrieved members across the country so as to bring them back under one umbrella.
More than ever before, the disenchantment of Nigerians on the current administration has heightened for reasons we need not go into here. Therefore, if the PDP makes proper use of what it has, it can exploit the obviously dwindling political fortune of the APC, regardless of the grandstanding going on in Abuja.