Nigeria: Ruling Party Crises: New States Up For Grabs
By Frank Onuoha
Many of us have been following judiciously the political crisis in the People’s Democratic Party and other ruling parties across the states. While some may be shocked at the latest developments like the emergence of a ‘new PDP’ led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and seven governors of the party or the emergence of a two APGA candidates in Anambra governorship election, I am not.
I believe the crises were imminent and many PDP chieftains may have also seen the looming unprecedented storm but felt hapless, indifferent or immune. Judging by the way the Tukur-led administration in conjunction with the president, has piloted the affairs of the party with so many rancor from every quarter, we can say the signs were all over the place. Nonetheless, I do not agree the part is about to disintegrate as many commentators believe.
However the crumbling of the once super-structure of these ruling parties means interesting times for politics in Nigeria. Going into 2015, some opposition parties who are smart enough to keep their house together; maintain harmonious stability, may increasingly become the center of attraction for millions of Nigeria voters across the states. Some of the states that may become hotspots for takeovers include: Anambra State
In November, thousands of voters in this state will troop out to elect their new executive governor. At the beginning of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, provided the list of governors which include Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Chris Ngige for until 2006. All Progressive Grand Alliance caused a major upset when a court ruling sacked the government of Chris Ngige and declared Peter Obi the right winner of the governorship in 2006. From 2006 to 2013 APGA therefore has piloted the affairs of the state not without some internal altercation.
For one, the endless tussle for the position of national chairman of the party has blighted the political image of the party since it was created in 2003. The emergence of factions and growing discordant voices within the party may have ensured that the prospect of putting up a united front in any election is almost zilch. The unresolved ghost of party merger and they suspension of Rochas Okorocha governor of Imo State for ‘anti-party activities’ may hunt them eventually. Presently the party leadership appears lost and unable to contend with the emergence of two candidates on Monday 1 September 2013 for a governorship election that will hold in a month time. If they ever amend their broken walls, one hopes it may not be too late. The opposition parties are not sleeping.
It is said that one should not meddle in the quarrel of two politicians because behind closed doors they are having a good laugh at the mediating public’s expense. This notion appears not to be the case in River State. This is one state that the hope of reconciling warring factions within the ruling party may be lost. The dirty linens of the ruling party, PDP in Rivers State have been in the public domain for more than a year and none of the actors involved appears to be sheathing their swords anytime soon. Virtually anyone – even a child, can tell the story of PDP in River State. The state PDP chapter with the alleged connivance of the Presidency is irredeemably pitted against the state government.
The governor has upped the ante by joining the seven breakaway governors in PDP and now resolutely pursuing a new agenda for the party going by the new court action they brought against the national leadership. The prospects of Governor Rotimi Amechi joining a prominent opposition party in the coming days are high. When that eventually happens, that is another ruling party state gone to the opposition.
It used to be the strongest enclave of the Peoples Democratic Party particularly when Dr Olusola Saraki – the strongman of Kwara politics, was alive. Following his death, the ruling party in the state is no longer what it used to be. There have been rumors of disaffection between the Saraki’s family and the Abdulfatah Ahmed government which both have dispelled. However one if all is well at home, it may not be the same abroad. It will be recalled that the Kwara State governor was one of the seven governors that walked out from the Special Party Convention the PDP held 31 August 2013.
The fallout of the crisis in the party may not be unconnected to the council election in Kwara State in which the new opposition party All Progressive Congress nearly defeated the ruling party’s candidate Uthman Ajidagba. The result of the election is still a major issue of contention. Pending when the national leadership of PDP successfully completes their reconciliation overtures with the angry governors, it is safe to say Kwara State is up for grabs.
The political crisis rocking the state, many have said,, is reminiscent of the Yar ‘Adua episode. The difference however is, the governor of the State is alive and has addressed his citizens even though his words were slurred and many have argued his speech appeared to be the product of his ‘desperate’ allies. Nevertheless, all is not well in Taraba. The hope that all can still be well may rest on who blinks first between Governor Suntai and his Deputy Garba Umar. If Garba Umar blinks as many expects, it is doubtful the both will still maintain a cordial relationship or whether the State Assembly will be willing to ‘forgive and forget.’ The situation will play into the hands of a discerning opposition because the warring parties may be eager to forge new political alliances. Taraba State in 2015 may be the opposition’s gold mine.
The state may have an anti-Jonathan governor, but the presence of a PDP kingmaker, General Ibrahim Babangida makes Niger a bit unpredictable. Since the new democratic experiment in Nigeria, the former military president has been wooed publicly and secretly by various formidable opposition parties but has stayed faithful to PDP. However, analysts have observed that the activities and utterances of Governor Aliyu may actually enjoy the backing of the former military president in view of the fact that he avoids discussing publicly issues that involves the governor. Will Governor Aliyu migrate to another party? He has often denied any future plans of leaving but as one commentator stated “when a politician denies something you ought to take that thing seriously”.
2015 elections is a make or mar for all the ruling parties across the state. There may be other states that will be lost to the oppositions; all it takes is one unchecked crisis. Any step in the wrong direction will cost any incumbent party dearly. Meanwhile for those who already found themselves on the wrong part, the road to redemption may not be too far behind. However it will require a lot of commitment to truth and loyalty, trust-building, respect of the views of minority no matter how insignificant they are and trashing of egos. Are they willing for the high way?
Frank Onuoha is a historian and public affairs analyst.