Truth be told, Nigerians need another national party that is formidable enough to keep the APC on its toes. Otherwise, a Poverty Developing Party that subjected Nigerians to servitude for 16 good years does not deserve our sympathy and support. In order to really re-brand and re-build itself, the PDP now needs to step-up its game and start delivering good governance in the states it governs; just rechristening the PDP as an Izon or Kanuri party, or sharing rice during electioneering campaigns simply will not substitute for good performance, especially now that Nigerians are becoming more politically savvy by the day.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is right now trying to get up from its knees, after it was terribly shellacked in the past general elections by the All Progressive Congress (APC). The PDP’s comprehensive defeat at the state and federal levels has apparently prodded the party to review its membership policy, in order to accommodate more youths. According to a report in Premium Times on September 5, the membership review “would enhance the participation of youth in political activities, and would see more young Nigerians clinch tickets for senior political positions across the country”.

The PDP that once touted itself as the largest political party in Africa and had vowed to rule Nigeria for 60 years like the world’s longest ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico, is set to re-package itself, in order to appeal to the youngsters who led the bloodless revolution and clamour for change that propelled Buhari to power, which was certainly instrumental in ending the PDP’s reign of impunity and misgovernment.

Ordinarily, such an initiative should be a plus for our democracy and should constitute good news for then Nigerian youth. But the PDP’s effort is certainly not enough. The party is now only giving some priority to addressing its youth members as “future leaders”, while nothing was done to actually groom them for future leadership in all its years in government. But the pessimism aside, maybe one can now hope to have in the PDP’s rank of elected officials a 20-year-old like Mhairi Black, the politician from the Scottish National Party who won election as the youngest British Member of Parliament since 1667? However, I feel we should not be clapping for the PDP at this time for proposed a strategy seeking to resuscitate and redeem the political platform. Likewise, Nigerian youths need to be vigilant so as not to be used by bigwigs in the PDP to achieve their selfish ends.

Certain pertinent questions now arise for the former ruling party that was full of hubris as it wielded power: would the PDP have considered this strategy if it were still in power? When did Nigerian youths, who have been at the receiving end of PDP’s years of maladministration, become so important and relevant to the PDP? Besides, why is the party’s initiative directed at Nigerian youths coming up now after the PDP had squandered its goodwill and has since become a liability to its members? The duo of Jimi Agbaje and Nuhu Ribadu, whose political ambitions suffered setbacks due to the bad public perception of the PDP can tell more about this.

It is worthy to observe that 16 years of the PDP in power only left Nigeria with a liability of over 50 percent unemployed youths. We know that no government can meet all its citizens’ employment needs but the kleptomaniac leaders that PDP offered Nigeria were more interested in selfish yam-stealing and eating, than yam-growing for consumption of all. Could one imagine that for 16 years of PDP’s reign, nothing was done to revive the country’s textile industry that once employed more than three million people and still has the potential to do much more, or the Ajaokuta Steel Company that has a potential for 600,000 direct and indirect jobs that went moribund under its rule?

I can offer two instances to illustrate the unemployment situation in Nigeria. First, the story of six Ph.D, 704 Masters and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders who applied as Graduate Executive Truck Drivers at the Dangote Group of Companies in 2012; second, the widely-reported instance of six million young Nigerians who in 2014 applied for available positions of less than 5,000 within the Nigerian Immigration Service. That recruitment exercise ended in tragedy, with about 18 of the job seekers losing their lives.

The devastation of unemployment in Nigeria has forced many youths to seek spiritual help, all in a bid to get jobs. In fact, many potential breadwinners are still bread-beggars today, often no thanks to job-racketeers in the public sector who have not ceased to exploit the desperate and unemployed without fear. Considering the aforementioned, just how much more could the PDP have “tortured” young people, especially with its 16 years at the helms of affairs in this country?

What about the frequent strikes in the institutions of higher learning during the years the PDP wielded power? In other words, the country’s universities became as epileptic as the power sector, due to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strikes that prolonged young people’s years of study beyond the regular academic calendar. The situation contributed immensely to why Ghana’s economy receives about US$1 billion annually from tuition fees and others payments made by Nigerian students’ in the country, while the annual budget for all the federal universities in Nigeria is just about US$751 million! This was according to Lamido Sanusi, former governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank. Sadly, history had it that in 1975, four Nigerian universities were rated among the top 20 in Africa.

So sad.

Mind you, our bastardised educational system, which the PDP administration did nothing to reform, has no effect on children of the PDP bigwigs, who either school abroad or attend private schools. Perhaps, it was a strategy to give their children advantage over others in the polity.

The PDP also redefined elections in the country as “do or die” affairs. While it would not be fair to exonerate other political parties from this regrettable situation, the PDP as the largest party in Africa then played the lead role in and took electoral malpractices to its zenith, using the teeming masses of desperate and jobless youths as its political thugs during elections.

Successive administrations of the PDP handled Boko Haram with kids gloves and allowed the insurgency and terrorism to fester, from a group of machete-wielding riffraffs to a more sophisticated terrorist group that has wreaked serious havoc in North-East Nigeria. We cannot deny that majority of the people who were killed, internally displaced and abducted by Boko Haram were young people.

Why is the PDP now turning its attention at this time to the youths it had long-plagued with unemployment, poverty and poor education? Even if the PDP fulfills its promise and we see Nigerian youngsters between ages 20-30 become senators, House of Representatives members or governors, would that make-up for the colossal havoc PDP’s leadership has caused Nigerians for 16 years?

No!

Truth be told, Nigerians need another national party that is formidable enough to keep the APC on its toes. Otherwise, a Poverty Developing Party that subjected Nigerians to servitude for 16 good years does not deserve our sympathy and support. In order to really re-brand and re-build itself, the PDP now needs to step-up its game and start delivering good governance in the states it governs; just rechristening the PDP as an Izon or Kanuri party, or sharing rice during electioneering campaigns simply will not substitute for good performance, especially now that Nigerians are becoming more politically savvy by the day.

More importantly, we hope the APC learns from the rise and fall of the one-time largest party in Africa, some of whose members it now harbours. It took PDP 16 years to squander its goodwill; I’m sure Nigerians will not give more than four years to any political party to deliver or get kicked out.

Ahmed Oluwasanjo writes from Abuja and can be reached on ahmedoluwasanjo@gmail.com.