What’s gwam’? is the title of a song by the Nigerian reggae artist Ras Kimono released some years ago.
For sure, I still do not know the meaning of gwam till date but the message it conveyed when the musician first used the word was unmistakable: something wrong of alarming proportion in the air- real apprehension everywhere in the land. I enjoyed playing and dancing to that song when it newly came out. It was hot and irresistible.
But today, as I celebrate my birthday, the story is different: I no longer do the song as I used to. Something new is on stage in the music scene arresting my interest. The Nigerian youth have invented something fresh for my soul. As it were the old tunes have gone stale.But that is life.
And that is how I see the rapidly sinking fortune of the PDP- a once beautiful and powerful political party- but now sick, pale, weak, disorganised, powerless, disoriented and seems on the path to disintegration. What a pity!
It once held high hope for real national unity, meaningful development and prosperity and thus commanded the respect, love and support of many citizens. This was largely because of its national spread.
Now it is no longer in that position of grandiose power and favour, having fallen from the graceful high-horse of authority to the plebeian grass land of ordinariness .
Today the party is ridden by a seeming unending self generated crisis and self imposed conflicts. The internal strife is deep and well entrenched and it is fueled by well endowed , wealthy rivalry groups of elite within the party and outside it as some have suspected.
In a way, the ambition of some Nigerian elite is really the problem and greatest source of threat to the party. Political wars are elite’s game and it could be very bloody because each party has the wherewithal to test the will of the other.
However, as the Bible teaches, everything on earth has its season. In politics every party has its turn and in a democracy, the voters determine whose turn it is to be in power. This sure is the season of woes for the People’s Democratic Party in Nigeria.
For 16 years it ruled the country unchallenged and unchallengeable. One way or the other it was the ‘choice’ of the people, the acclaimed ‘darling’ party of the voters- with the immediate plan to rule for the first 60 years from 1999. But today things have changed for the worse for the party. It is no longer in power. Since 2015 when it lost the presidential elections, its fortunes had rapidly sunk deeply into the troubled sea of confusion, treachery and death. It has not been able to manage failure- to get up to its feet since its fall from power.
From all indications, it looks it is going to take some long time to retrieve it from the danger zone. The reports from the war zone are depressing and disappointing. Attempts to mend fences had continually failed. A good example was the peace meeting called in April 2017 by former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan which again failed to achieve the desired result as one the key gladiators -Sherriff – the party’s court certified chairman worked out of the talks. Consequently an important member of the party-Governor Ayo Fayose, Chairman PDP Governors’ Forum vowed never to discuss with Sherriff on the matter again. These are bad enough for a patient on oxygen at the intensive care unit.
Already there are signs of wide blisters from a freezing cold winter and it promises to be a long nasty season for the party. It has been observed that those the gods want to punish, they first made mad and there are grounds to wonder if the gods are perpetually angry with the PDP.
It can be said that in democracy, the political parties voters want to punish, they first made to lose power. Ever since 2015 when Nigerian voters showed the PDP the red card, the party has never known peace. It has been behaving like mad person and jumping from one crisis to another without resolution. Internal strife, leadership crisis and disunity had been its lot.
When the feuding parties went to court, I thought the end of the crisis was near in sight. Alas, I was wrong. When judgement was made in favour of Sherriff, some interested party big wigs to the feud, refused to accept the court’s judgement.
I think the court actually offered some windows of opportunity to resolve the party’s crisis. There is the need to respect the judgement, appeal if necessary. But first thing first: the respect for the rule of law is the first principle of representative democracy. This is playing by the rules of the game – rules set before the game- and not during or after the game. Without respect for laws, we are in the wild jungles where only the fittest survives .
Not long ago, President Trump, just after being sworn in as President of the USA issued some orders concerning visits to the U.S. It was challenged in a court and the court made a ruling that was not in favour of the President. Eventually, the American President complied even as he seeks other ways to achieve the same goal. The judiciary was strengthened, the American institutions were better off.
Methinks the PDP should get all parties to the feud to respect the court ruling and use other legal means to redeem the party from its avoidable path to perdition. Men erect and nurture institutions by words and actions. A disdainful attitude to national institutions is not the way to build and strengthen them. Let the Nigerian elite learn to respect our public institutions. It is the best way forward.
Like the Ras kimono’s ‘gwam’, I do no not know much about the PDP. But I know now that the party needs to be saved from the hands of some of its very selfish elites. This is in spite of its sad history of misrule and high tolerance for corruption . Today, I am worried by the party’s current macabre dance in the market place and its possible negative effect on democracy. It holds the possibility of promoting an unhealthy culture of one party system in the country.
There is nothing wrong with a party losing an election. The greater strength is in its ability to learn and reorganise for the next contest with the hope of winning it. The PDP has found this very hard to do. But this is usually easier for a party with strong ideological foundation. From what we see it is clear that PDP lacks a noble and binding ideology beyond the personal greed for power and wealth by some individuals.
Other than the greed for political power and wealth for selfish reasons, the party had no sound philosophy to bond members together under the rain or in the sun, no party sentiment and discipline to cause attachment and deference to it.
The party’s interest was subjugated to interest of many individual members. In a word it was a hollow party of many money bags bereft of noble political ideals.
The negative effect is too obvious to be ignored today. The PDP is down and in very bad shape and thus It can hardly be counted on as alternate power- party. Yet, the country needs a strong opposition to avoid the baneful effect one party dictatorship. Thus, it is in our collective interest that the PDP is saved from crashing. I believe in two party system and a place for strong opposition party. And the PDP initially held that prospect until it went into disarray. Now with very serious internal strife rocking it since its fall from power, it has lost the steam to play well the opposition role.
It would not be the first time of having the opportunity to develop a two party system but allowing it to slip off. We saw the benefit of a two party system in Nigeria in the 1990s when General Babaginda created the National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) along ideological line of a ‘little to the right and little to the left’ political parties. Though it was later abrogated there were lessons learned. Significantly, it reduced ethnic tensions during elections, introduced discipline and party loyalty and eventually produced a clean winner from a clearly free and fair elections in which Chief MKO Abiola won but was denied the presidency by the military government.
We were getting nearly suffocated by the excesses of the PDP in office when the APC emerged as a mega party, played well the opposition role and eventually won the 2015 presidential election and took over the reins of power. This was the role expected of PDP till it becomes strong again to win political power.
From all indications, it is going to take a long time for the party to recover from its mistakes and mis-steps. The party needs deliverance especially from its self-centered elite. The leadership tussle had taken more than its fare share of the political space. It needs to be curtailed before much more harm is done.
I am really concerned with the negative effect of the PDP crisis on institution- building in Nigeria including democracy. There has been much lawlessness or disrespect for the rule of law going on in the country. The political elite are adept here but we must all do our best to nurture the growing positive culture of two party system. The PDP must be saved from self- destruction for the sake of national interest.
Dr. Abhuere is the founder of Centre for Child care and Youth Development, Abuja.