Six months back, I made bold to predict the death of the People’s Democratic Party as a national party. I have restated that a couple of times, as I dug deeper into the realm of futurology. But even with the benefit of Nostradamus’ goggles with which I peeped into the future, I did not see the party breaking into three factions and holding two parallel conventions so soon.
Apparently, impunity is such a trademarked family affair within the party that it will take more than the goggles of Nostradamus to be exact on the dimensions its internal struggle for power will take. But what I have learnt from some of the responses to my submission about the impending death of PDP as a national party is the wish by many Nigerians for what they call a ‘strong opposition’ party. Some, as a matter fact, misread my prediction as hatred for the PDP and a vote for a one-party state. Wrong, on both counts.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of Simbo Olorunfemi and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.
Apparently, many of us never really bother or take time to put these things into historical perspective, study how parties emerge, work or even die, or take on new forms. We simply wish for the ideal, forgetting it usually takes a bit of process and years of hard work to get the system right to the point where you have two major parties, as we have in some popular democracies. I doubt if there has been any attempt anywhere in the world, apart from the stunt by General Ibrahim Babangida to legislate two parties into life by executive fiat. He wanted a party without founders but only joiners. Good dream. Difficult to tell, for sure, if that was an act of boldness or naivety on the part of the military president.
We cannot simply wish a ‘strong’ political party into being. It will have to grow organically, with realignment, death, resurrection and re-creation as part of the bargain. So, if we want a strong opposition party, as many seem to desire, we will have to build it. We do not have a choice in the matter, really. If the condition does not push us in the direction, realisation will soon dawn on us that we need to do so. The ideal is for a coincidence of the right condition and proper realisation to come upon us and we seize it.
As I have argued, on the strength of history, taking a cue from dialectical materialism, the future does not really belong to the PDP, so it will be foolhardy to place such enormous expectation of chaperoning the future on its bruised shoulders. The best you can get from the party, all things being equal, is infrequent whimper in some corners that it will continue to control, for a while, either on account of sentimental attachment, opacity in the electoral process there or the preponderant mercantile nature of political negotiations and culture in some of these areas.
There is little that can be done, under the circumstances, to save the party. Its death is almost inevitable, given the manner and circumstances of its birth. PDP was a hurriedly-assembled contraption without a foothold on solid soil. Yet, before it could crawl, it proceeded to erect a skyscraper on quicksand without soil test. Soon, it proclaimed to the world that it had taken over the moon and would pocket it for sixty years. That obsession with power for the sake of it is its undoing. The liability of a crack in its foundation is haunting it. Having anchored its fate, for 16 years, on the back of raw political power cornered by occupants of public office, the party now feels like fish out of water, unsure of how to position itself or seek relevance. But for the court pronouncement in the last days of the seventh Assembly, which was interpreted to have made the vacation of seat a must once a legislator cross-carpets, many PDP legislators would have since crossed over to the APC.
The dire situation of the party might have now hit the leaders, as they seek to find their feet, out of power, but is it not late in the day? The party has no rallying point or leader they defer to. President Goodluck Jonathan is too busy with other duties to take on the responsibility of a rescue mission, it seems.
So for those who desire a thriving opposition party, it is good, but not in the direction of the PDP. If anything, the PDP, in its soulless form, needs to die, for democracy to thrive, in its true form. It was only a special purpose vehicle (SPV) fit for use at a point, and it has run its course. The desire for opposition to the governing party is not necessarily a lifeline for the PDP to help it survive the lethal medication of impunity it has administered on itself. Opposition is not something to be conjured from the hat. It takes selfless, visionary leadership; years of sacrifice and hard work; ability to understand the signs of the times; and a good strategy to take advantage of the situation at hand for an opposition party to be relevant and functional. PDP does not have all that. It does not seem to have the ability to overcome its internal contradictions and obsession with power for the sake of personal aggrandisement. Its capacity for self-immolation is legendary.
You only need to see those at the fore-front of ‘reform’ within the party to see that they do not even understand the meaning of the word. The PDP might have broken into three factions, but that is not even the point. Whatever is happening today is only a manifestation of a seed planted years back. A faction places its salvation in the hands of old warhorses to help it shape the future; another believes the future lies in hastily zoning the presidency to a region of the country it felt was not entitled to it only a year back. They are both mistaken, still hung on the formula of the lost era. The future, they think, is about power-grabbing and sharing. They never seem to be able to bring welfare of the people into the equation. You cannot leave a legacy of rot and be preaching to the victims what the future should be like. The future does not belong to such primitive thinking. The future does not belong to a party that is incapable of renewing itself.
Though this might be about the PDP, but still it is not about the party. It is about the overriding tendency within the party, and historical antecedence. With the state of the nation and the desperate desire for inclusive growth and development, one can safely say that the future does not and cannot belong to the right. It belongs to the left of the spectrum. The contradictions within the PDP resolved itself in favour of Nigeria, leading to a paradigm shift towards a little to the left. If contradictions within the governing party are not speedily resolved to the satisfaction of its progressive tendency, it will only hasten the birth of a strong opposition outside of its control. The APC will then find itself pushed to the right, for the opposition of the future to take its place, further to the left of the spectrum.
In that case, the death of the PDP, as a national party, will have little or no significance to the fate of Nigerians or the future of this democracy. The death of the party, in its soulless form, is necessary for the sake of tomorrow. The future does not belong to the PDP. Who would have thought we will need as many as four Chairmen to concurrently preside over the affairs of the party, even if it is to plan its funeral rites?
Simbo Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy. Tweet@simboolorunfemi
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.