JOHN ALECHENU examines the options being considered by aggrieved members of the defunct nPDP bloc within the All Progressives Congress and the factors that are likely to lead to their final decision
The decision of the aggrieved members of the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party bloc within the governing All Progressives Congress to air their grievances against the party did not take many political pundits by surprise.
Growing discontent about power sharing and distribution of patronage since the APC took power in 2015 has been a major source of disharmony.
Much as the APC hierarchy tried to gloss over the party’s internal crisis, those with a keen eye on the day-to-day running of its affairs could tell that the struggle for power among contending power blocs will soon take its toll on the thin thread that holds the party’s symbolic broom together.
A former National Chairman of the defunct nPDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, led other aggrieved members of the bloc to register their displeasure to the party leadership recently. The group accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration of sidelining, harassing, intimidating and victimising its members.
While listing their grievances, Baraje said, “In the constitution of the Federal Executive Council, the New PDP bloc was generally sidelined as virtually no position was conceded to it.”
He also complained that there had been no significant patronage and or appointments of its members to executive positions in the boards and parastatals of government agencies. The group equally lamented that the harassment, intimidation and persecution of former nPDP leaders by the APC government remained an ongoing affair.
The APC, which was formed in 2013, is an amalgam of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change, All Nigeria Peoples Party, a faction of All Progressive Grand Alliance and the nPDP.
However, a group within the defunct splinter group, under the leadership of Senator Adamu Abdullahi, distanced itself from the position of the Baraje-led nPDP.
The group alleged that the Baraje-led nPDP was simply trying to use the platform to fight proxy wars on behalf of key members who had personal grievances against the President.
The leadership of the APC realised the potential danger in allowing the protest by the Baraje-led group to degenerate into a full-blown rebellion, and quickly agreed to a meeting.
The interface has since been suspended following what the group described as the bad faith exhibited by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led Federal Government negotiation team.
It is no longer news that a day to the rescheduled meeting between leaders of the defunct nPDP and the Vice President, the Nigeria Police invited the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who is one of the leaders of the defunct group for questioning.
Saraki was invited by the police to explain what he knows in the Offa bank robbery and the unholy relationship between him and a gang of suspected armed robbers who executed the bloody raid where no fewer than 33 persons were killed including nine policemen.
Following the suspension of talks, political observers argue that members of the aggrieved group are fast running out of viable options.
Members of the splinter group have so far been unable to agree on a common ground with respect to what the most viable option should be as they ponder on their individual and collective political future.
A member of the group from one of the core northern states, who asked that his identity be protected out of concern for his safety, said, “For people like us, where I come from, leaving the APC now will be a political suicide.
“The reason is simple. Already, our opponents are spreading rumours that we are ganging up against President Muhammadu Buhari and you know some of our people consider him a god. Your family, property and business could be attacked.
“We will prefer a situation where we remain within the party and fight it out. We can at least get something (political patronage) if we remain members of the party.”
A vocal member of the defunct nPDP, Mr. Timi Frank, however, said members of the group were leaving their options open, noting that “all options”, including defection, were on the table.
Assessing the situation, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos, Mr. Joseph Anuga, said the aggrieved group had found itself in a tight corner largely due to the fact that most of its members did not subscribe to a clear-cut political ideology.
He explained that viable options left for members were on the decline on a daily basis because of changing political dynamics in Nigerian politics.
Anuga stated, “I think viable options left for members of the group are shrinking. I say so because it is difficult to see what political ideology the group subscribes to. The truth is if they choose to remain within the APC fold, can they regain the trust of members and leaders of the mainstream APC?
“If they chose to leave at this point, can they regain public trust since they left the Peoples Democratic Party to join forces with others to fight their former party?
“By switching political parties with just a few months before another major election, the impression they would be creating in the minds of Nigerians is that of a group of people who only think about personal comfort as against the general good.
“Now, to go into an election with such baggage has the potential of creating its own problems for the politicians involved.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa, explained that Nigeria’s political situation today was different from what it was in 2015.
He said, “In 2015, members of the group negotiated their entry into the APC from a position of strength. They had five governors who defected and were given control of the party’s structures in their various states.
“Today, the ‘Class of 2015’ is seriously depleted. They (nPDP) no longer have the strength to seriously negotiate. The situation is now so bad that most of their leaders have lost control of the structures in their home states as is evident in the composition of State Executive Committees after the just concluded state congresses.
“They had a common objective back then. The main objective was to get the then President Goodluck Jonathan out.
“What will you say to an nPDP member who is now a governor, desires to get a second term and has total control of the APC structure in his state?
“Also, if you look at what is happening, each state now has its peculiarities and each member of the nPDP bloc is more likely to pander to the tendencies in the local politics of his state.”
The activist foresees a situation where the final decision will be left to individual members to take.
Although some argue that treachery is part of politics, it is also true that while they say there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, in Nigeria, there are “political sins that are difficult, if not impossible, to forgive, according to a Jos, Plateau State-based public affairs commentator, Samson Pam.
He cited the example of the late Premier of the Western Region, Ladoke Akintola, whom he said was not forgiven for what some considered “the mortal sin” of betraying his former political mentor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed optimism that members of the group would sooner than later return to the PDP “where they truly belong.” He explained that the mistakes made by the party, which led to their exit in 2015, had substantially been addressed.
“We now have a party that is ready to carry everybody along. We now have a party that is ready to provide a level playing field for all members to legitimately pursue their political aspirations. Our party, the PDP is now the party to beat,” the PDP spokesman stated.
He also expressed optimism that ongoing talks with members of the group would yield the desired outcome.
The Deputy National Chairman (North) of the APC, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, disagreed. He expressed confidence that the aggrieved party members were only interested in being treated better but that there was no indication that they would be heading back to the PDP.
Shuaibu said, “No, I don’t think any of our members is planning to leave us to join the PDP, certainly not the PDP, which is a damaged brand.
“I even heard that they (PDP) are trying to change their name to something else because they know Nigerians will never again trust them with power. As a nation, we have yet to recover from the damage that the successive PDP administrations did to our polity.”
The Executive Director of Partners for Electoral Reforms, Ezenwu Nwagu, said contests for political positions were usually the fiercest within the ruling party, especially in developing nations such as Nigeria.
Nwagu added, “This is because politicians in such parties see the ticket of the party as a sure path to victory.”
Members of the defunct nPDP will have to take a decision on their political nests sooner than later if they are to be taken seriously, going forward.
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