Short Essay 15
By Dr. Aliyu Tilde
PDP: The Day of Reckoning is Here
Parliamentary elections are taking place in Nigeria today. In the polling booth just few meters from me, it is expected that the ruling party, the PDP, will suffer a terrible loss. Ahmadu, one of the busybodies in the village, just left here, confirming my fears - or say delight - about the mammoth, saying, PDP fa ta tafi, meaning PDP is gone. The story will be the same in many parts of the North and the Southwest. What will permit it to linger on with some degree of strength is the inability of other parties to field in candidates in many constituencies, as someone correctly observed in an interview yesterday. It will lose its dominance in the National Assembly if the elections are free and fair.
PDP will not die right away. No. I do not think so, for two reasons. One, the opposition parties are too weak to give it a lethal blow now. Two, it will reinvigorate itself especially when the opposition fails to do better in office particularly at the centre. People would begin to compare the present with the past. And in most comparisons between the two, human judgement has favoured the past that it is remote, forgiven and barely remembered against the present that is here, dominant and biting. This has happened in Kano and Bauchi states where the ANPP ousted the PDP, on both occasions with the help of Buhari, in 2003 and 2007 to the extent that in Kano today, Kwankwaso, the former PDP governor, has bright chances of winning the gubernatorial race. In Bauchi too, the masses are anxiously waiting to humiliate their one time saviour, Yuguda, and whom they have dropped like a hot potato.
The opposition must therefore know that victory is a burden. In Nigeria it should only celebrate it briefly; thereafter, the it must rush to face the daunting task of meeting the high expectations of Nigerians who are as impatient as a baby awaiting delivery. This is an area we will dwell on in later discussions.
If the PDP loses substantial number of seats in the National Assembly but keeps the Presidency by a small margin, it will serve its future well if it uses the next four years to redeem its image among Nigerians. It must run a transparent government with a clear commitment to break away from it's notorious culture of corruption and incompetence. It must also give up its culture of impunity that has generated so much hate against it in the hearts of citizens and prevented it from meeting our expectations. In 1999, the expectation was that Obasanjo would save the country from its path of collapse. We dubbed him the messiah, then. However, in less than a year, his dictatorial tendencies and tolerance for corruption made him lose every goal he aimed at and miss his every target he set. His successors, who he handpicked, have not proved to be better administrators either. Today, PDP at the centre has little to show in 12 years. This failure was its greatest undoing. I, like many Nigerians, would not care which party is in power, so long as it performs.
Then came the anger the PDP generated from rigging elections. The party at all levels blocked any attempt by Nigerians to peacefully register their protest at the polls in 2003 and 2007. Despite its dismal performance at the centre, the party continued to wax stronger and stronger with every election until it was controlling at one time 27 of the 36 states we have. Incumbency was at its worst. Now the people have found their voice. In areas where they feel aggrieved, today presents them the opportunity to unreservedly demand for their pound of flesh from the PDP.
Finally, the opposition in the North has gained a lot from the zoning controversy in the PDP. In fact, a lot of the votes the party would lose in this part of the country will be as a result of Jonathan's intransigence. He has seen how he was coldly received in every gathering he attended in the North, despite the billions he dolled out and the promises he made. It was a big miscalculation that he was impervious to our advice when he assumed office as President: conduct a free and fair election and leave, then return as a celebrated statesman in 2015 to be received warmly across the country. Instead, he chose to use incumbency to win the ticket of his party. If a northerner were given the PDP presidential ticket, the opposition would not have garnered so much support. Many PDP supporters in the region will now be voting for the opposition in the presidential elections.
Well, I will not be surprised if the PDP tries its tricks once more in the following hours. In the senatorial by-elections in Bauchi and Gombe states, we saw a rehearsal of what is likely to happen today. The PDP will allow free and fair elections in cities and semi-urban areas while it will rig them in rural areas where traditional institutions are still strong and the population is less enlightened about its right. Election officials and materials will be diverted to unknown locations for ballot stuffing and people will be repressed if they attempt to protest at collation centres. The government has not hidden its strong disapproval of the vote protection strategy of the opposition. Money will be used to induce election officials, of course. Many local governments have already refused INEC trained agents, claiming that they have trained their own. INEC at the bottom remains as rotten as ever. These were the flaws that characterized those by-elections. Yet, INEC under Jega said they were free and fair! I hope it will not be so this time. How successful will the PDP be in executing its plan remains to be seen; but both the precept and the possibility are here.
The outcome of today's elections will give a lot of insight into the chances of the opposition in subsequent elections. The strengths and strategies of both sides will become clear. It is a legitimate source of worry that the opposition has not united behind one candidate as we pleaded. Perhaps, the results of the elections today will bring home the wisdom for such a unity.
Whatever happens, we do not expect that the PDP will have a smooth ride this time. The paper is spread and the ink that is chronicling its decline is already flowing through the votes of the Nigerian masses.
9 April 2011