The opposition political parties which, prior to the 2015 general elections, collapsed into one another and birthed the All Progressives Congress (APC) correctly read the mood of the nation at the time. They perfectly took advantage of the shortcomings of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which, after sixteen years in power, manifested some signs of fatigue to merge together and present a common platform that was instrumental to the change of government.
Although it was the PDP that laid the foundation of real party politics and civil democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999, it eventually suffered both crises which caused clear structural and operational defects that rendered it a victim of the manipulation and outright intimidation by the APC. The situation was, in fact, so bad for the PDP that a lot of its members and leaders not only dumped it but even worked for its defeat in 2015.
There was a dominant impression that the PDP went into 2015 elections in disarray and came out of them severely wounded. Even the 2019 elections were, in terms of fortunes, only a little better for the party.
Now, having been out of power for six and a half years, the PDP must have been terribly pained by the realities of its new position, which is clearly the reason for all the reflections on the past that it has embarked on. The admission of past mistakes, intensive interrogation of the governance style of the APC and the consistent submission of fresh ideas or alternatives for consideration by Nigerians are all indications of not only an acknowledgement of its current disadvantageous position but also an expression of resolve to take back power.
As the country nears 2023, the PDP is practically taking steps to re-position itself through both the re-enactment of some old and therefore familiar traditions and the introduction of some fresh measures for the execution of campaign strategies. Somehow, the PDP is creating the impression that its state of preparedness for elections is better now than it was in both 2015 and 2019 and it is therefore more likely to be a lot more successful this time around.
Although this is a very contestable position, the fact remains that the prevailing circumstances are a lot different from what existed during the last two sets of elections. The factors that are likely to determine the pattern and the outcome of the next elections will definitely not be exactly the same as those of the last elections. While the contest will be done without President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC as a direct participant, such other factors as the clear public disapproval of some policies of the government and the argument over power shift, which is stronger in the APC than in any other party, are potential game-changers. Already there have been permutations which have continued to indicate the emergence of a scenario that is likely to finally give rise to a new political reality.
On its part, the PDP is desperately trying to show that the wounds it got from the 2015 and 2019 elections are healing or have even healed. In spite of the reservations over the legality or appropriateness of the steps taken towards its last convention as expressed by some elements of the party including the party’s last Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who is still in court over the matter, the general outcome indicates that the PDP has already put itself on the course to re-discovery.
It has evidently recognized the sensitivity of power shift as well as zoning and micro-zoning of positions which, in the context of Nigerians politics, are major determinants of the performances of political parties during elections. The zoning of the chairmanship position to the north which was later micro-zoned to the north central and the declaration of the presidential slot open for contest by interested members, have solved more problems than they created.
In fact the emergence of Dr Iyorchia Ayu as the National Chairman of the party after some noticeable squabbles, which however quickly subsided, has created the belief that the PDP’s capacity for the resolution of internal crises has been substantially restored. It has equally re-enforced the confidence that the issue of the nomination of the presidential flag-bearer of the party will be similarly treated.
A lot of Nigerians are keen observers of the happenings within the PDP, not because they are opposed to the ruling APC or they are fully confident that the PDP will or can take over power in 2023, but just because of the recognition of the necessity for the existence of an alternative that can be deployed at the time of need. Whether or not such time of need has already come, the major challenge for the PDP is the adoption of strategic measures towards the 2023 elections.
The PDP is not new to challenges to which it, at various times, lost huge fortunes that are yet to be substantially recovered. The formation of the new PDP and the resultant defection of some of the party’s bigwigs including former national chairmen and state governors just before the conduct of the 2015 elections was unarguably the severest set-back that it faced since its formation in 1998.
It is therefore expected that such an experience should help the party to, as it warms up for the next contest, demonstrate abundant skills in the management of its internal affairs and the execution of campaigns. It is only the application of utmost caution, on the part of the new leadership, that will make the PDP a competent challenger of the ruling APC.
Those who believe that the future of the PDP is getting brighter are, at the same time, expressing the fear that such a good future may turn bleak if necessary steps are not taken to safeguard it. The fear that some frustrated elements of the PDP may turn into spoilers is making a definite conclusion on the scope or nature of its electoral chances quite difficult.
If the current PDP is truly an improved version of the old one or is, at least, a promise of a reliable option in the near future, those unprincipled politicians who are always on the look-out for platforms for contest will infiltrate and take it over. The same kind of people who, on the arrival of the APC on the scene, almost literally confiscated it from the real strugglers for positive change are paying more than usual attention to the events within the party and will act at their own time.
The PDP is, as first a winner of elections and later loser of the same kind of exercise, has a full knowledge of the entire political process in Nigeria, which it should not fail to fully utilize. The relative success it recorded in the conduct of some of its recent activities should be backed up by the consistent supply of answers to the numerous questions being asked about its past, present and plans for the future.