Perspective: PDP’s suicide by Opeyemi Agbaje.

Until Saturday December 9, 2017, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had a huge opportunity of deposing the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2019 Presidential elections. The APC government at the centre in Abuja, and even APC administrations in several states such as Imo, Jigawa, Osun, Oyo, Benue, Plateau, Nasarrawa, Kaduna and other places have dissipated significant goodwill from voters since 2015.

In Imo state, the state government of Rochas Okorocha is now more-or-less a joke;

Nasir El-Rufai’s administration in Kaduna has chosen to oppress significant portions of his state’s electorate;

I’m told the governor of Jigawa appears to be on a permanent holiday;

and there is absolutely little to inspire anyone about the quality of governance in Governor Ajimobi’s “constituted authority” in Oyo State; and in spite of all his pre-election posturing as a pro-labour “comrade” and socialist, Rauf Aregbesola has not been able to fulfil the simple duty of paying salaries!

On his part, President Muhamadu Buhari has been a big disappointment to many of those who voted for him, including in large parts of Hausa-Fulani, Muslim, Northern Nigeria.

My informal surveys of local politicians in Northern Nigeria suggest Buhari’s popularity has been significantly eroded by prevailing hunger, poverty and despair in the land, and that he may be vulnerable or will at least have to compete for votes against any formidable Northern presidential contestant.

On its part, the PDP had been re-energised and revitalized since the Supreme Court saved it from the political mortuary by helping it get rid of the treacherous Ali Modu Sheriff who seemed to be on a mission to subvert and destroy the party from inside.

A team of sensible, loyal and experienced politicians constituted in the former governor Markarfi led National Caretaker Committee had revamped and re-organised the party and managed its affairs admirably in the run-up to the December 9-10, 2017 national convention, and PDP’s futures appear bright again.

However we under-estimated PDP’s capacity for self-destruction and the inclination of its South-South/South-East core to take foolish political choices especially whenever it involves the South-West! In its earlier scheduled aborted convention of 17th August 2016, the party was poised to elect leading Lagos politician Jimi Agbaje as Chairman until Modu Sheriff’s antics scuffled that exercise.

It seemed clear that everyone in the party had agreed up to that point that the party chairmanship would go to the South-West Yoruba zone where Agbaje and other contestants like Chief Bode George hailed from. That move would have positioned the party to at least compete in the South-West where its fortunes had declined since 2011.

However once the Modu Sheriff obstacle was removed and things seemed brighter, hubris set in and the party, especially its leaders in the South-South/South-East exemplified by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike began to toy with the self-destruct button.

Wike and his allies then decided to take the chairmanship for themselves and presented Prince Uche Secondus from Rivers State for the chairmanship. If there was any ambiguity about their attitude to the South-West Yorubas, Wike made himself very clear, declaring in the run-up to the chairmanship vote that “…I also asked them that when the South-West produced the president, what was the fortune of the party and how would the national chairman of the party change the fortune of the party in the region…” Wike’s assertion is in fact historically false!

In 2003, the PDP won over five of the six South-West states essentially because of Obasanjo’s presidential incumbency; the Yoruba Alliance for Democracy (AD) declined to present a presidential candidate to challenge Obasanjo and its leaders explicitly collaborated with Obasanjo in that year’s election.

It was indeed the willingness of the South West to find accommodation with PDP presidency under Obasanjo that led to the destruction of the AD. PDP produced several governors at various times in the South-West (Daniel, Oyinlola, Ladoja, Akala, Agagu, Segun Oni, Mimiko and Fayose), as well as many senators and members of the House of Representatives).

In the event, Wike and other PDP governors, essentially from the South-South and South-East turned their backs on the South-West and all the formidable candidates it had offered for the chairmanship (Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Jimi Agbaje, Chief Rasheed Ladoja, Chief Bode George and Professor Taoheed Adedoja), and overwhelmingly supported Uche Secondus as PDP Chairman. It is safe to predict based on the South-East PDP’s pre-vote endorsement of Secondus that the quid pro quo is probably the vice-presidential ticket for the South-East; so the South-West, as under the Jonathan administration, is likely to be completely sidelined if the South-South and South-East politicians in PDP have their way.

So the PDP in effect seeks to exclude Nigeria’s largest bloc vote, the Yorubas from their election calculations for 2019 thus effectively short-circuiting their chances and opting to remain in opposition till 2023! It was an unforced error and deliberate self-sabotage motivated either by malice, revenge or antipathy towards the South-West or at least naivety about politics.

I suspect that the South-West voting masses have come to some conclusions about the PDP’s attitude towards them! There is historical support for the emerging hypothesis that the South-South and South-East have a propensity to construct political alliances that exclude the South-West – during Jonathan’s government (in spite of the fact that the South-West voted for Jonathan in 2011); during the 2nd republic with the NPN-NPP accord; in the first republic, Azikiwe’s NCNC opted to be a junior partner in alliance with NPC, than be the senior partner with Action Group; and the East was the only geo-political zone that did not give majority support to MKO Abiola in the June 12, 1993 elections.

The outcome of the December 9-10 2017 PDP national convention potentially shuts the party out of the South-West and unless major remediation is done, easily presents the APC with a second term in power.

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