If the great Jewish seer, Nostradamus, the man who saw tomorrow, had predicted the reversal of fortune between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) four years ago, millions of Nigerians would have called him a prophet of doom.
Four years ago, the PDP achieved what many thought was impossible. The party presented a minority candidate for presidential election and won massively in all six geo-political zones including the South-West which has a long history of voting against candidates that contest on the platform of the conservatives.
In the National Assembly elections, the party won majority seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Many of its governors were returned, and it looked like the prediction of the former party Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, that the PDP will rule for 60 years was definitely coming to pass.
But by 2015, PDP lost all its gains. From May 29, 2015, the largest party in Africa with heavy presence in all the nook and crannies of Nigeria will become a local champion in a few states in the South-East and South-South geo-political zones.
It has lost the Presidency, Senate and the House of Representatives to the main opposition party, APC.
If the party’s loss is limited to the elections, it would have been better as a united family can regroup within four years to battle the ruling party in 2019. But the problem is, PDP itself is no longer a haven of peace.
Things have so fallen apart that rumours of crisis between major factions in the party is now in the open. The PDP governors are blaming the party chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, and his executive committee members for the party’s defeat.
Mu’azu was walked out of the party’s meeting in Abuja recently by some governors. He was accused of playing a double role during the general elections.
The National Working Committee (NWC) is also up in arms against the governors for the treatment meted out to Mu’azu. They accuse the PDP governors of plotting to hijack the NWC for their selfish interest.
At the state level in all the geo-political zones, it is one crisis or the other between the state executives and aggrieved contestants who lost at the general elections.
But how did the party come to this sorry state? How did the umbrella that had withstood torrential rains in the last 16 years, become torn to shreds that cannot cover members from dew.
The party umbrella started shredding immediately after it won its biggest victory in 2011. During its glorious days, internal democracy was alien to the party leaders, probably because of the military background of some of them. It was always order from above.
There was also a class of leaders who believed that the word of the godfather is gospel, and those with contrary ideas or opinions can leave the party.
The first crack in PDP that led to its defeat in 2015 was noticed in 2011 when it failed in its bid to impose a leader on the House of Representatives. Younger elements in the party believed the house should be allowed to choose its leaders, and they went ahead and elected them.
Though a major blow to the party, the leaders, instead of making amends, saw it as an affront and vowed to deal with young “radicals”.
Its inability to manage success was also evident in the cruel treatment of party leaders who played a prominent role in the success of party at the polls in 2011.
It was just the president and a small kitchen cabinet of sycophants who could not deliver their wards during the elections that were calling the shots.
Post-election, chairman of the party, Bamanga Tukur, instead of dialoguing with aggrieved members who had good reasons to be discontent, adopted the village headmaster approach believing they should be made to fall in line.
Before anybody could say Jack, the group of those discontent with the party and the president grew to include state governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, ministers, other categories of elected and appointed officials, and party leaders at states and federal level.
Destined to self-destruct, PDP, instead of dialoguing with these groups, started threatening them with suspension and expulsion.
Meanwhile, as the PDP umbrella ripped daily, the three biggest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) – and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) started talking to the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), the breakaway faction of PDP.
After months of talks, the parties merged in February 2013.
From the merger of APC in 2013 to winning the election in 2015, the party’s journey has been smooth. Like new converts to a new religion in one accord, the party’s congresses, at local, state and national level were free of rancour and internal crisis that have characterized party politics in Nigeria.
The APC congress held in Lagos last December where the party’s presidential candidate was elected was adjudged by local and international observers and media as the best ever in the history of Nigeria.
All the party leaders and followers in all the geo-political zones sacrificed heavily to ensure that the APC emerged as the first party in the history of Nigeria to defeat an incumbent government at the Federal level.
But as the party begins its countdown to forming a new government on May 29, there are ominous signs that party may not have learnt any lesson from factors that led to the fall of PDP.
Already there is wrangling among party big wigs and stakeholders on zoning of principal positions in the national assembly.
There are also unconfirmed reports that certain sections of the country want to corner all the “juicy” ministerial appointments.
Initially, the party was reported to have zoned the position of Senate Presidency to North Central, now there are reports in the media that certain godfathers, because of personal interest, want the position zoned to North East, ditto the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
APC must learn from the mistakes of PDP and allow National Assembly members elect its principal officers, while the party concentrates on sourcing credible ministers that will deliver dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
Mismanagement of the success achieved at the poll by APC could lead to cracks in APC. Broom, the party’s symbol, can only sweep well when it is a bunch.
Once the bunch falls apart and disenchanted members begin carpet crossing, the party’s fortune may reverse in 2019, just PDP’s fortune was reversed at the last election.
Mr. Balat wrote from Jos, Plateau State.