Sweet victory, right? Yes. You cannot blame the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders of the Ahmed Makarfi faction for being so euphoric since the Supreme Court handed it the final legal victory last week. It had been a long, nasty and gut wrenching intra-party struggle. It has caused deep wounds on both sides. It has left the party haemorrhaging badly. And now the once largest party in Africa that ruled us at the centre and in the majority of the states for some 16 years faces an uncertain future; not only in the hands of the electorate but more importantly in the hands of its own leaders and supporters at all levels. It is all too scary.
No one should think lightly of the problems the party faces at this time. A legal victory is easier to secure than the victory over wounded pride and a sense of alienation. The PDP leaders would be making a huge mistake to think that their problems are over. They are just beginning.
The Modu Sheriff faction would occupy itself with worse than licking its wounds. No one should be surprised if some of its members, unable to handle or live with their loss, flock to All Progressives Congress (APC) or other political parties to put a balm on their wounded pride and throw the mud in Makarfi’s face for the heck of it.
I have no particular love for the party. Whether it dies or survives would not make much difference to me as a person. But as a citizen of a black nation that has managed all these years to squander its riches and opportunities and abdicate its divine right to lead black nations and be the pride of black people everywhere, I do worry about our democracy, the nature of our party politics and what it portends for the present and the future of Nigeria.
I have repeatedly argued here and elsewhere that we would be doing our country, our democracy and our party politics enormous damage if we let the leaders of the PDP kill it. Killing it would make all the difference to how we are governed or misgoverned even. I have a passionate feeling about political pluralism. It is what makes the huge difference between democracy and other forms of government. The absence of political pluralism leads to a one-party state, an anachronism in the 21st century; and that leads inevitably to the worst form of government known to man: dictatorship, the nasty and absolute rule of one power drunk man.
So, let us encourage the PDP leaders to save their party. Its survival in a robust form strengthens the pillars of our democracy; its demise or weakened state weakens them.
Let the party leaders end the euphoria and face the facts of their problems. The party has been a pathetic sight since it lost the 2015 general elections. Some of its leaders and prominent members immediately began to jump ship and cross over to the new party, APC. Part of the problem relates to a political affliction peculiar to our country: crass political opportunism. It is not about ideology; it is not about conviction; it is about the stomach. The party that promises to end the growling in our near empty stomach is, in that particular point in time, the right party. If you are part of them, you have a full stomach; if you are not of them, you have a biting hunger to contend with.
However, the more important reason the party suddenly found itself at the mercy of an ill wind from the four corners of the country, is that its leaders did not prepare for and could not manage its loss at the polls. They failed to do immediate post mortem to understand how their party lost to the new party, a patch work of political parties that marketed nothing of itself but only the person and personality of its then presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari. They made no efforts to stop the bleeding. The bleeding was subsequently worsened by the factionalisation in the party and the acrimonious legal tussle that bedevilled it for so long.
Because of their huge ego, politicians are often driven by the psychological need to massage it to live a lie rather expansively. The PDP leaders are treating the end to their leadership problem as a resurgence of their party. Some of its leaders go so far as to tell APC to prepare to pack out of Aso Rock and the various government houses where it holds sway in 2019. That is a potent mix of hope and delusion. Not always a reliable barometer of life as it is lived on the political lane.
This heady feeling might lead the party to the cliff where it might look down and see the ugly skeletons of its past and still consuming mistakes borne out of pride and arrogance. I ask the party leaders to sober up. I do not think it wise for them to try to cross the bridge before they get there even if they find it necessary to demonstrate that their party has emerged from the crucible stronger and more united. It would be taking living a lie a little too far.
Their immediate challenges are big and daunting. Let me offer the PDP leaders some advice gratis. Firstly, they have to rebuild their party. It is their number one challenge. Everything else hangs on how they approach this task. They need to use their heads, not their hearts.
Secondly, they need to urgently stanch the haemorrhage and take on the delicate task of wooing back some of the big names that have left the party to forage for crumbs under the table of the ruling party.
Thirdly, they must approach their challenges with a measure of honesty by putting the party above their personal interests, ego and self-pride. Fourthly, their possible emergence from their twilight zone should help to remind them that there is more to political power beyond its capacity to unfairly distribute fame and fortune.
Fifthly, their party symbol, the umbrella, now badly leaking, is no longer seen as a shelter from the rain and the harsh elements of politics and life. We, the people, now see it more as a refuge of scoundrels. What this means is that the party owes it to itself to remake its image. It would not be enough for it to be seen as an obverse side of the APC coin. This won’t be easy either. Not many of us would so soon forget the years of PDP power that witnessed its leaders strut the political stage with arrogance and made impunity their article of faith.
I would think that a reinvigorated PDP, warts and all, seen as a good force in our national politics, has a chance to do better in the next election circle, particularly given that the APC has, unfortunately, been hit by a rash of poor luck. President Buhari, the man who symbolised hope in the party in 2015, is ailing. His vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is ably steering the ship of state for him. Good. Nothing shaken.
But under the APC watch, we are now paying for the years of poor and outright mismanagement of the economy. The recession owes as much to the mistreatment of the economy under the PDP for 16 years as it does to the inevitable verdict of nature: the chickens never fail to come home to roost.