When frontline parties suffer derailment


In an election year, there is an unusual uncertainty in the political space. The parties, as they are now, seem too constrained to be decisive and act in the manner of parties. Therefore, in place of careful planning and shuffling of cards to unveil priorities, in terms of choices, what we have are untidy speculations that don’t add up. You cannot tell what is going to happen. Even the best of election analysts can’t tell for sure what 2019 looks like. The parties are distressed and in disarray.

Just last week, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) offered some more explanations regarding its intentions for 2019. In the absence of serious politicking in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a resurgent SDP did make heads turn. The party has added a few prominent erstwhile members of the PDP, who had fallen out with their party after the national convention that produced Uche Secondus as national chairman. Prof. Jerry Gana and Prof. Tunde Adeniran are two such politicians whose presence now makes the SDP appear as a major player.

The SDP has been around since 2014, having been floated by former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae. The party has a strong voice on national issues, taking a cue from the founder, but hardly a similar capacity to make strong electoral impact, at least in 2015. What was striking for the party is the strong semblance it has with the older and defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of the two parties that were licensed by former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, to operate during the aborted Third Republic.

That older SDP was socialist by inclination and pro-people in disposition. The central attraction was its presidential candidate, Chief M.K.O Abiola, whose down-to-earth populism won substantial victory for the party in the 1993 presidential election, which was later annulled. That development consigned the party and its rival National Republican Convention (NRC) to the archives.

Now, the SDP seems to have found its way back. Perhaps, it’s in the name, which has the tendency to evoke imageries of defiance and appeal. The SDP also share similarities with the PDP, as both pretend to be socialist. A good number of members of the older PDP found their ways into the PDP during the transition programme of 1998/99, including Gana, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and many others. The PDP was the closet anchor to where they were coming from. And now that the two prominent parties of this dispensation in disarray, the SDP again seem to offer hope to many election contenders. As far as they are concerned, any party with a good following is good enough to anchor.

Signs that the PDP was set to delete itself remarkably from the political landscape, was in the manner it constricted itself instead of expanding. At its elective convention of December 2017, the PDP had a good opportunity to revive itself after that monumental loss in 2015 election. The party needed to regenerate after the trauma of court processes in the hands of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and other pretenders who were out to trade with its name. But that was not what happened. A new set of traders took advantage of the pussyfooting in the Southwest, where a crowd of aspirants refused to harmonise their interests and present one solid outing.

Granted that politics is more about the capacity to win and win big. But the PDP started out as a real umbrella that took onboard many persons and groups from more geopolitical zones than any other party. That was the starting point that gave the party a robust beginning, which others didn’t have. It is therefore reasonable to expect that good students and practitioners of politics do not take the umbrella’s capacity and willingness to carry all segments for granted. That was taken for granted at the last convention of the party. It was willful self-destruction for some elements in the PDP to assume that the entire Southwest could be taken for granted and the convalescing party will not suffer more damage.

Right now, the party is in the hands of persons whose experience at party management is suspect. It is for that reason the party has been unable to heal fast after the ego of the Southwest was bruised at the December convention. It is for that reason the likes of Jerry Gana and Adeniran have opted out of the umbrella.

Towards 2019, how is the PDP managing its affairs, in terms of planning for higher caliber of aspirants and eventual candidates to fly its flag; is the leadership of the party well versed in the art of negotiation, as well as conflict management, so that the affairs of the party are not further mismanaged in a crucial election year? So, far, there is nothing from the party’s stable to show tact and wisdom in the manner expected of a party that once presided over the affairs of the country for 16 years. We hear more of party owners, not leaders, thinking of how to benefit unduly from the platform. We hear of plotters shopping for their kind who are not particularly stable, characters who once ditched the party and helped the then opposition APC to gain upper hand.

Now that Gana and company have taken a walk, are there still some elders left to rein in exuberant Turks who now see the party as some article of trade? Can the PDP return to its decent days of party primaries and return it to a higher reckoning among Nigerian voters?

If the situation with the PDP is bad, that with the APC is pathetic. This is a party the people hoped would translate their frustrations into victory, but in three years has added more to their afflictions. As 2019 beckons, what should the APC be doing to assure voters that though there have been mistakes, it is willing to learn and do better if given another chance?

So far, there are no signs the party is on the match to 2019. What with the surrender of the party instrument to a President Muhammadu Buhari, who has not decided whether to test the waters of 2019 or not. At a time more voices are cautioning African countries to stop deluding themselves in their choice of leaders, the APC is yet to hear the call of wisdom and throw the gates open to contest. Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese-British billionaire and champion of good leadership in Africa is miffed that African countries are still acting puppetry with governance. In his quest to put governance at the centre of Africa’s development, he recently charged young Africans to wrest the mantle of leadership from elders who exhibit physical and mental fatigue. He could have had Nigeria in mind, especially our APC that was given power, but does not know what to do with it.

The recent tenure elongation fraudulently gifted to the party’s national leadership and their counterpart in states is the height of self-ridicule. The implication is that the party will connive with those in government to determine 2019. And that is why governors have abandoned their states to throng Abuja to beg Mr. President to run. Mr. President is not too sure of himself, so he is waiting.

Hence the mushrooming of parties for those who are willing to run, but are afraid to confront those who are reluctant. Hopefully, SDP and a few others will make some difference. But pray! How much time does the SDP and other fringe parties have to quickly articulate and market themselves? How much capacity do these emerging and fringe associations have to market and reach the nook and cranny before the next election? And when there is so much division out there, will that not be playing into the hands of a tired and reluctant incumbent?

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