by Alabi Williams
This week, the troubled Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) returns to Port Harcourt, to try out another national convention, after the one of May 21 was ditched at the instance of Modu Sheriff. The antics of the former Borno governor, who has been hopping from one court to another, and which have heightened the party’s predilection for trouble, have brought yet another collision with former president Obasanjo. Obasanjo does not have kind words for the PDP, and each time the man opens his mouth to engage the party that gave him the most fertile era of his foray into political leadership, it is with imprecation and curses. And some would admit that a stream of invectives hurled by an elder has a way of sticking, if not atoned or vacated.
The occasion for this latest round of curses was the misleading association of Obasanjo, with ongoing attempts to hold the PDP convention, this Wednesday, all things being equal. The man had gone to attend a separate event at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja on Friday, August 5, that had nothing to do with the gathering of PDP members meant to announce a convention committee, which was also staged at a different wing of the centre. Some nosy news hunters saw Baba at the venue and concluded he had come to be part of the PDP fence mending. Some had gone ahead, without crosschecks, to publish text and graphic materials of the event, informing that he had returned to the party, which got the old man raging. He cursed both the carriers of the fake news and used the opportunity to remind the PDP that it will continue to asphyxiate.
Hear him: “I have told the whole world that I have quit partisan politics and that is final, and anybody who tries to drag me back will fail like any man feeding mice to a dead cat. Those who know me know that I have publicly announced my quitting partisan politics and those who will believe the purported story will believe anybody who tells them that his or her mother is not a woman. If I quit a party, when it was alive and seemingly united, how could I go back to a now divided, factionalised party gasping for breath?”
Indeed, PDP is groping to recover itself after it lost the 2015 general elections. But there is more to its trouble than the loss of the election. After all, there were parties that did not make it to the centre, since they were licensed in 1999, until 2015. They survived because they stayed focused. They survived because they had not tasted the ‘forbidden fruit’ of an awesome federal power. And now that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has tasted it, we can see owners of the party already convulsing.
PDP tasted power, but lacked the discipline to manage it. The powers behind PDP in 1998/99 did not prepare its managers for the task ahead. The powers behind the party needed a democratic platform to act on its behalf, preserve their privileges and hold the country together so that they could continue to feed fat. And the closest person they found was Obasanjo. But the man is never anybody’s stooge. He soon recreated the platform under his own imperial majesty. The chaos in today’s PDP could be traced to the hegemony he tried to establish, which his successors rejected. The curses are also embedded in all of that.
Obasanjo had been left for dead; after he was roped in some phantom coup he knew nothing about, together with other activists. But he got reprieve from the government of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. Not only did he enjoy clemency, he was packaged as PDP flag bearer. He won the election for the first four years in 1999. He won another term in 2003; and even asked for more years, which he now denies vehemently, so that he would be on record to have spent three terms of 12 years; in addition to the years he spent as military head of state. When that failed, Obasanjo still empowered himself as a political godfather to nominate, some would say, impose late president Umar Yar’Adua as presidential candidate in 2007. Not done, he was alleged to have engineered the re-writing of the party constitution, so that only former presidents may chair the party’s Board of Trustees.
Such was the love the man had for his party, which he dearly loved and wanted to groom for everlasting success, a destiny which a former party chair mistook for a mere 60 years of back-to-back dominion over Nigeria’s political landscape. Obasanjo, who loves to play God, had enacted what happened between God and Adam in the Garden of Eden. God gave Adam everything in the Garden of Eden to tend and live in bliss forever, but when man failed he was cursed. Obasanjo wanted the party to rule forever, provided his laws were not violated.
But no sooner had the big man relinquished power, than the man he planted in Aso Rock, Umaru Yar’Adua, to tend it on his behalf, erred gravely, when he abandoned the wise ways of the old man. Many good projects Baba had carefully put in place were reversed without consultation. The new government took back the refineries, which he had sold on the eve of leaving office, to prepare grounds for the long-awaited privatisation of the oil industry. The fuel pump price he jacked up to help the new government make more money from hapless citizens was reversed. It was one act of impudence after another, as if matters were orchestrated to rubbish the good works Obasanjo had suffered to put in place.
Not done with reversing policies and acts of government done between 1999 and 2007, some ungrateful party men hatched the plan to remove the former president’s larger than life image from the party. They plotted an amendment of the party constitution to reverse the old one and make any former president less relevant. At that point, Obasanjo gifted in Solomonic wisdom, quickly resigned from active participation in party affairs. But he told the world he wanted to devote more time to document the secrets that happened under his watch in eight eventful years, and also have time to manage the presidential library he procured for himself and humanity. The art of writing is another way of sharing his leadership experience, especially when idiotic young men think they could chase him out of the party he forcefully programmed for electoral conquests. In writing his experiences, he could, after all, expose the crooked things that took place in hidden corners of the corridors of power. But he knew that sooner than later, the foolish young men would run into trouble and they will come for help.
That was exactly what happened when a Goodluck Jonathan, whom he also helped to be vice president in 2007, needed help, when power mongers nearly chased him out of Aso Rock, when his principal took very ill. Obasanjo rescued him. He again rescued him in 2011, when he wanted to run for the presidency, against the PDP zoning formula, which had given 2007-2015 to the North.
Jonathan was to also turn against the old man. According to him, all channels of communication between him and the Jonathan government were blocked. So, he resorted to writing public letters, waiting for when the boys would need help again. Soon, it was count down to 2015. Jonathan and the PDP were gasping for breath. And he had told Jonathan to respect the party’s rotation clause and return power to the North. But Jonathan was adamant, and also had the effrontery to join issues with the old man in public. Obasanjo was enraged, and he tore his membership card. That act was the symbol of a party divided against itself. Sheriff’s divisive acts are the present day manifestation of that division sown by the old man.
The real challenge for this democracy is that individuals (moneybags), not the ordinary people, own today’s political parties. The people do not own even the APC and that is why it has commenced very early its own journey to perdition. We do not mock any party, but pray that stakeholders will put an end to the curse. Let party democracy survive!
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Alabi Williams/Guardian