The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, came into being during the transitional administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998 through the sacrifices and patriotic zeal of some 34 eminent Nigerians that stoutly opposed the transmutation of late military dictator, General Sani Abacha into a civilian president.
These eminent Nigerians that put their life on the line in the struggle to send the military back to the barracks include the outgoing governor of Jigawa state, Alhaji Sule Lamido; former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme; late Abubakar Rimi, Chief Audu Ogbe, late Sunday Awoniyi, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Lawal Kaita, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, late Solomon Lar, Iro Abubakar DanMusa, Prof Ango Abdullahi, Tanko Yakasai, Amb Aminu Wali and Ambassador Yahaya Kwande.
Others include Prof Jibril Aminu, Prof Iya Abubakar, Bello Kirfi, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Prof Daniel Saro, Dr. Sulaiman Kumo, Chief Iyochia Ayu, Chief Tom Ikimi, Ishaku Ibrahim, Senator Walid Jibril, Dr. Garba Nadama, Bamanga Tukur, late Abubakar Olusola Saraki, Sani Zangon Daura, Chief Tony Anenih, Musa Musawa, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Prof Jerry Gana, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo.
The founding fathers had gathered in Abuja on Wednesday, the 19th of August, 1998 and gave birth to the Peoples Democratic Party with lofty visionary aims and objectives that they hoped will transform Nigeria into a strong democratic nation. The PDP founding fathers had hoped to use the platform to tackle moral decadence in the society stamp out corruption and restore integrity in public offices.
Unfortunately, those that had the mandate of members of the party to manage the party gradually deviated from the ideals of the founding fathers of the party and failed to keep the covenant they signed with the Nigerian people during the formative stage of the party.
The first major blunder the PDP committed was during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo when the party leaders sacrificed the supremacy of the party to an individual by officially recognising the President as the leader of the party. This was unlike the scenario in the second republic and other democracies all over the world where all members of the party, including the elected president, operate under the supremacy of the party. This misnomer at the national level was domesticated in all the states where the governors were elevated above the party structures and venerated as the leader of the party in their respective states.
This misnomer gave rise to impunity in the party as high profile individuals alienated the party from the people who ordinarily are supposed to be the real owners of the party. PDP was gradually handed over to godfathers at different levels with reckless abandon. The godfathers in turn imposed unpopular candidates on members of the party and these individuals are eventually hoisted as elected leaders on the people of Nigeria through rigged elections. These imposed leaders that got into office through the back door owed their allegiance not to the party or to the electorates but to the godfathers that put them in public offices.
The impunity in PDP got deeply entrenched throughout the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo to the extent that the party was nicknamed military garrison with Obasanjo as the garrison commander. Uncomfortable with the state of affairs in the party, late President Umaru Yar’Adua, who incidentally is a benefactor of Obasanjo’s imposition legacy, commenced reform of the party to stem the decay in the party. Yar’Adua, who also started the reform of the electoral process, was very emphatic that the reform of the electoral process must begin with the PDP.
However, the then national chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, paid lips service to the reform until he left office. His successor, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, who came into office as an underdog, could not muster the political will to do the needful and only succeeded in dancing to the whims and caprices of PDP Governors before he stepped on the banana peel in the PDP national secretariat.
It was only Ogbulafor’s successor, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo that came into office with a well articulated programme on how to reform the PDP and return it to the path paved by the founding fathers of the party. Okwesilieze Nwodo understood the negative role godfathers played in diminishing the profile of the party and vowed that on his watch the PDP will be sanitised and returned to the people.
Part of Dr Nwodo’s acceptance speech after he was confirmed as the PDP chairman on 17 June, 2010 at the party’s national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, Abuja, reads: “The days of imposition of candidates by the PDP, are over and over forever. Our members aspiring to carry our banner in future elections must start now to market themselves and canvass their programmes aggressively to our party members and the Nigerian electorate. They must get hold of our party manifesto which we hope to update shortly and study it from page to page and imbibe both the letter and spirit of that document.
“We must bring back internal democracy, trust and confidence in our Party, credibility in our electoral process, all-inclusiveness in our membership, entrenchment of democratic ideals in our party politics and, above all, excellence as our hallmark in fulfilling our covenant with our countrymen and women. Loyalty to the party and the ideals enunciated by our founding fathers remain our beacon light.”
Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo also warned that unless PDP is completely reformed the party will be heading for the rock and imminent defeat in subsequent elections. According to him, “We rode to power on the massive support and enormous goodwill of the Nigeria people. Over the years, we have squandered this goodwill to the point that even some of our members are no longer proud to be identified as PD P members and other Nigerians say that the problem of Nigeria is the PDP.”
Nwodo was soon kicked out by entrenched interests in the party that have been feasting on the rot in the party. The cabal also ignored his warning that PDP has squandered the goodwill of the PDP and that the party is now perceived as the problem of Nigeria.
The cabals in the party bare their fang during the tenure of Dr Bamanga Tukur, who like Nwodo, came in with an agenda to make the ordinary members of the party the owners of the party. The reform agenda of Tukur was resisted by a cabal within the party and this caused very serious problems in the party. Unfortunately, the founding fathers of the party stood on the sideline while PDP burnt. It was as if the founders of the party were overwhelm by the looming implosion and would not want to be caught in the firing line.
Tukur’s resistance to the PDP cabal led by the Governors Forum culminated in the biggest crisis within the party when some members that are opposed to the reform formed a clique and tagged itself the “New PDP’. When they could not force Tukur out they defected to the All Progressives Congress. The defection of this had a telling effect on the party as it had a bandwagon effect on PDP all over the country.
While the face-off between Tukur and his internal opponents lasted former vice president, Atiku Abubakar raised the alarm that the crisis might consume PDP and pleaded with founding fathers of the party to intervene to forestall imminent implosion.
In a statement by his Media Office in Abuja, Atiku said he was particularly disturbed by the worsening polarisation of the party and internal divisions which might weaken the party structures at the state and deepen the crisis between Governors and the President.
The former Vice President explained that as one of the founding fathers of the party, he had a duty to call on other founding members to rise to the occasion and caution the forces that are bent on tearing the party apart and providing the ammo for self destruction
He lamented the failure of the National Executive Council, NEC, to meet in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution and the inability of the Board of Trustees to rise to the occasion of arresting this ugly development.
According to him, the bitter internal divisions within the PDP, has led to crisis in the party leadership in some states, division in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the suspension of a sitting Governor over disagreements on principle could have been avoided if the founders of the party had added their voices of caution and moderation.
With the challenges of providing good governance and the bid for re-election in 2015, Atiku noted that the PDP could not afford the current acrimony as it is undermining democratic structures at all levels.
He warned that if the crisis was left to get out of hand or not properly managed, the PDP might find itself weaker and politically vulnerable.
According to Atiku, a house divided against itself could not stand, adding that silence by concerned PDP stakeholders was a dangerous option at this point when the party faces the challenges of retaining its leadership in 2015.
Though Atiku has since defected with the G5 Governors to the APC, political observers are of the view that the founding fathers of PDP must take another look at his prayers to them, even if belatedly, in view of the forewarned calamity that befell the party during the last election. In spite of PDP’s defeat the party remains the biggest political party in the country with members in every polling unit in the country. If the Lamidos, Ekwemes, Tukurs, Ganas, Nwodos, and others still in the party that laid the foundation for the party are desirous of seeing the house they build restored to its lofty height the time for them to regroup and salvage the party is now. Their silence might lead to final requiem for the baby they sacrificed to nurture.

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