Success it is said has many friends, while failure is an orphan no one wants to associate with. In my place, there is a saying: a person who comes to condole with a friend who is grieving doesn’t usually spend the night at the friend’s house. After commiserating, he will go back to his own home to spend the night, leaving the bereaved to bear the pain alone. This is the reality of life.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is bereaved and in mourning – having woefully lost the 2015 general election. It is the first time the party is tasting the bitter pill of defeat since its formation nearly 17 years ago. It is a very unpleasant taste indeed. The party is finding out the hard way, that the core of its members never really believed in it – and that they had merely stayed with the party for the patronage – the largesse it could dispense. With its loss of power, the scaring reality has dawned on the PDP that most of its erstwhile members were mere leeches, out for what they could get for themselves, nothing more, nothing less! The fact is that it was never really about believing in, defending or projecting the party’s manifesto, that is if it has one, neither was it about Nigeria or its people. It was all about self-interest, the exact type that defines politics in our clime
The party, which once prided itself as Africa’s largest party and boasted that it would rule for 60 years, has been reduced to more or less a regional party struggling to keep its head above water – just to stay afloat. Its press releases have become setting off alarms of plots to snatch its scandalously disloyal and undisciplined members – plots to turn the country into a one party state; its swagger and confidence have vanished. In fact, PDP is limping. It now cuts a sorry and pitiable picture as it struggles to come to terms with its loss at the polls and new status as the opposition party. It is a strange terrain for a party used to winning – that has been at the helm of affairs charting the destiny of a nation of over 170 million people in the past 16 years. Its rival, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is clearly rubbing salt and pepper into the fresh wounds.
It is scoffing in mock pleasure and even offering free tutorials to the PDP on how to be in the opposition without the “deep purse.” Responding to PDP’s claim of luring its members, APC said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed: “Well, everyone knows the rate at which PDP stalwarts have been rushing to jump off the sinking ship called the PDP before it finally tips over. Our national chairman and president-elect have even spoken out publicly on this issue, encouraging the eager PDP defectors to stay back in their party; so that they can provide a formidable opposition to the new ruling party. How then can anyone accuse the APC of either luring away PDP members or seeking to destabilise a party that has done itself in?’’
Who would blame the APC? The party is just tasting victory – holding the big prize after snatching it from the PDP which had grown too big, complacent and out of touch with the people. And for that “mortal sin,” the party is now at the receiving end of life’s bitter lessons. Stunned beyond belief at its defeat, the mockery and consequences have been quite revealing: the gale of defections – which have been as shocking as the calibre of the defectors has worsened the pain of its humiliation and has torn to shreds the once formidable umbrella.
The roll-call of defectors is made up of big names and otherwise respected members of society, whose career in politics have been largely defined by the PDP. The sheer scale of the mass exodus from the once-upon-a-time “Africa’s biggest party” has been nothing but obscenely and nauseatingly shameful as member after member dumped the umbrella for the broom just a few days after it lost the presidential election. Imagine Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, a former governor of Edo State and an ex-senator on the platform of the PDP, lampooning the party at a rally when he formally decamped to the APC, saying: “The PDP does not have the interest of the people at heart”. Did you hear that? Oh my God! Does honour and principle have meaning anymore? Why has he suddenly realise that the party on which platform he became governor does not have the interest of the people at heart? My heart sank when I read the statement credited to the ex-governor – because these people are only playing games with Nigerians. The question here is: if the roof on your father’s house is leaking, do you move out to stay with strangers? The answer is No. You stay there and fix it. That is the stuff real men are made of. And where is it done that you stop answering your father’s name because you disagreed with him for separating from your mother and taking another wife?
I believe the decampees will soon find out, albeit the hard way, that APC is not any different from the PDP which according to them does not have the interest of the people at heart. Ninety-five per cent of APC bigwigs are ex-PDP members and so, APC must not be deluded about its new status – it is another PDP in new name. The same problems that brought PDP down are simply being transferred to APC. So, it should learn from what PDP is experiencing now. Size has its assets and liabilities. Any political party formed without a strong ideological leaning will surely flounder.
While there is little sympathy for PDP from many Nigerians, it must be stated here that: the party largely plotted its own downfall by refusing to deal with the imperfections of its creation. It became a victim of its own success. It failed from the very outset to appreciate that an individual or an organisation, more so a political party, must stand for something to be able to nurture a committed band of dedicated followers who will share in its dreams, fears and aspirations. This set of followers will therefore be ready to go to battle “blind-folded” to defend its ideas and values. The PDP either had no such followers or they were too insignificant to make their voices heard in the party’s affairs. Therefore, the mass defections have merely bolstered the suspicion all along that the party was populated by fortune-seekers and fair-weather members.
There is a saying in the land of my fathers: a squirrel that packs its mouth full with groundnuts to the extent that its cheeks are bulging out, will not be able to chew even one seed of the groundnuts until it spits out some. The PDP no doubt, had its mouth full and became overweight and needed to shed the chaff to separate it from the grain. It is either PDP was extremely naïve not to have realised this or lacked the will to do it or both. In this light, the ongoing mass defections may be a blessing of sorts for the party – an opportunity to redefine and reinvent itself. But it is left for the PDP to recognise this and move quietly to put its house in order or ignore it at its own peril. My father used to tell me: “If you wish to gather honey, you must be prepared to endure the painful sting of bees.” Amid the pain of defeat, worsened by the current mass defections, the hard work to reposition the PDP must begin now. The filtration process currently on must run its full course by allowing all those leaving to join the APC in search of appointments to leave. The party should also have the courage to expel from its ranks all those who have engaged in anti-party activities – that contributed in making it to suffer this huge reversal of fortunes.
Those who choose to remain in this most trying times will then constitute the new PDP to be headed and managed by a charismatic and visionary blood, hungry for success. The core values of the party should be re-evaluated: discipline, personal integrity, honour and party supremacy must be preached and practised as abiding articles of faith by its members. All those who defected from the party for greener pastures elsewhere must never be allowed back to the fold because the sickness of greed is strong. I can bet that if they fail to get anything from joining the APC and PDP wins tomorrow, they will say APC does not have the interest of the people at heart, therefore they are returning home to the PDP where they will claim they “rightly belong”. And don’t be surprised if PDP stages an elaborate ceremony to celebrate such despicable returnees.
Sylva Undermining Buhari’s Anti-corruption Pledge
W hen President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, declared that anybody with a whiff of corruption won’t play any role in his government, I was encouraged – even though I was cynical and doubtful whether he would have the political will to carry through that pledge. My cynicism was based on the fact that corruption is all around him. I wrote an article last week calling on APC to adopt Buhari’s zero tolerance for corruption as the new operational philosophy in all appointments into sensitive positions, be it for senate president, speaker, majority leader, etc. I was doubly glad when I read in the SUN newspaper, last Friday that Buhari had called for credible men and women of unblemished integrity to be elected to leadership positions in the National Assembly.
You can therefore imagine my shock and horror when I also read in the news last week that the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, is Co-chairman of the 27-man Buhari’s inauguration committee. I asked why? What is Sylvia doing on the panel? What message is Buhari sending out so soon after he made his anti-corruption pledge? What happened to his pledge that anybody with a whiff of corruption won’t hold any position in his government? For those who don’t know, Sylvia is currently facing multiple counts of money laundering, corruption and outright stealing of public money in a Federal High Court in Abuja in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CR/23/2012. The case has since been stalled in court just like cases against so many former governors who are now strutting around as agents of change today – some are even aspiring to higher offices in the land. Is it not an irony that these are the very same people who now want to help Buhari midwife the rebirth of a new Nigeria? What qualifies Sylva to even be on that panel, more so, co-chairing the panel?
Does this not violently undermine Buhari’s zero tolerance for corruption? Look, nobody is saying Sylva is guilty, but let him go and purge himself of those charges before he gets any appointment. It is appalling that some people will even try to defend him. We must set an example – we must send a strong message to the world that this change is real and meaningful. We cannot continue in the very same way these people condemned President Goodluck Jonathan on the campaign train when he appointed Femi Fani-Kayode as presidential campaign spokesman when he had a pending criminal case with EFCC in court. It is time to walk the talk: anybody with a whiff of corruption must not be allowed close to public office until he or she purges self of those charges in a court of law, period! It will be a strong message from the president-elect to Nigerians. You cannot give the keys to a vault to a man who had once robbed a bank and expect to meet the vault intact.