With Uche Nnadozie
At the beginning of this government in 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was evidently confused. Being a party formed in 1998 as the military prepared to return to the barracks after a lengthy reign in power, PDP was born into government. It took off in 1999 with our first full democratic experiment since the last day of December 1983. So for 16 years, PDP saw different versions of opposition elements. Of course, it never hid its hatred for opposition politics. From the word go, it sought and got leading figures in the opposition to make up its fledgling government. The defunct All Peoples Party, APP and the Alliance for Democracy, AD suffered strategic poaching.
This poaching weakened these parties and were not meant to recover or so it seemed. The PDP was happy to destroy other parties. But they didn’t reckon the political space will be liberated through a judicial process initiated by Gani Fawehinmi. But before then, big wigs continued to cross over to PDP. Truth is they didn’t think much of the opposition. They did not see themselves wearing that toga. They did not figure how they will need to work hard to win. The intricacies were strange to them. After all, they had set a timeline, 60 years was it according to their then chairman. In fact, for them, the leaders of the party at the time this prophesy of arrogance was made in 2010 had prepared a place for their children and grand children.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, the party in spite of what seemed like its invincibility lost out in 2015. since then it had tried various ways of opposing this government beginning with frontal attacks of whatever it was the government was doing post May 2015. When the government blocked its initial moves as it revved up its anti corruption crusade, PDP changed tactics by going quiet. It went quiet because truth is told, it just does not have any antidote to the slew of corruption charges against some of its leading members. The tar on party faithful was too much to bear. Some of the offenses were too glaring and too shameful. The party, whether knowingly or not, took a back seat. Instead, they activated those who benefitted from their years in power.
Their first battle cry was the so called 2014 confab report. They wanted the report of the confab implemented willy nilly. Former conferees took up the gauntlet and fired from all cylinders. The lead activists were not necessarily PDP henchmen. All the same, they had to do one for their former benefactors. Within the same period, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB was gathering momentum. It was in sequence. Then came the almighty restructuring of the polity. Notice that this group includes both PDP, 2014 conferees and a few others. They are not saying anything new but a rehash of all the things we hear. They talked about restructuring of the polity as though we have landed on the moon just by mouthing it. They said it to make the government look stupid. For me that, with IPOB are the greatest weapons that the opposition PDP have employed.
The problem though is that IPOB’s brand has been damaged. IPOB is still popular among a section of the Igbo elite and people but it is not as it was just three weeks ago. How PDP will manage that popularity up till 2019 is left to be seen. Not even now that it has been declared a terrorist organisation. Even so, the gains PDP recorded from its alleged clandestine support for IPOB was at best limited. IPOB comes with its own hunch back, it is a group that is hated outside the south east. This means that PDP south east raised IPOB to help it retain power in the region, not necessarily to build a pan Nigeria coalition. Well, don’t fret, that’s politics. Politicians are normally selfish people. And where the larger PDP has nothing to offer as an opposition, any activity tending towards anti government is welcome; even if it is to the detriment of the larger party.
It appears to me therefore that the initial setback suffered by PDP forced it to change tactics and instead forced it to ship out its responsibility as an opposition party to disparate groups and ideas. PDP took the back seat so as not to attract serious broadsides from the ruling party. After all, they were in power for 16 years, why did they not restructure the country if it was this important. Of course that is a valid question. Also, why not use it to campaign if PDP feels its enough trump card? The strategy is to use outsiders to taunt the ruling party so much that Nigerians begins to think that the party in power knows nothing or do not want the country’s progress. It’s also a good strategy in opposition politics. The challenge for PDP is again how it will harness the goodwill generated from trumping restructuring come 2019.
Compare this strategy with the APC while in opposition, the difference is clear. APC it was who made a song and dance about insecurity as evidenced by Boko Haram. They also cried about corruption. It was those two issues they used to campaign and defeat the incumbent. They did not stay in the background and allow some groups and individuals dominate the political space. They took the bullets themselves. They became the beneficiaries when it was time to count the ballots. PDP hasn’t done that although they have good things to oppose the government on, unfortunately, they are too shy to step up and till date, no other party has tried to register its presence. Things are likely to change going forward, but it is left to be seen.