Ideology and PDP’s Resurgence at the Political Scene

Sanusi Muhammad

Sanusi Muhammad

Its recorded casualty at the 2015 presidential and some gubernatorial elections in major states, was a devastating blow to the solar plexus of the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And despite its organizational fragility and lack of cohesion having been hurriedly cobbled together for the polls as an election winning machine, the All Progressives Congress (APC) moved with lightening speed to attempt putting a seal of finality on PDP’s coffin of electoral mummification in 2015.

The party found most handy in this regard the alleged reckless looting of humongous amounts of public funds by assorted leaders of PDP extraction; salacious evidence of which it regaled the public with understandable relish.

In the titillating saga of the $2.1billion arms procurement bazaar for which former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki was thrown to detention, for instance, top members of the military high command under former president Jonathan and chieftains of the PDP, allegedly shared the money among themselves even as our ill-equipped and demoralized troops perished unaccountably on the Boko Haram battlefront.

Many of them have so far refunded part of the loot even as their trials in court for corrupt enrichment, proceeds at snail speed through Nigeria’s ponderous judicial process.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. At a press conference in 2018, then acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, unfortunately now thrown out, for the umpteenth time reveled how much the ravenous vultures had feasted on Nigeria’s commonwealth during the PDP years in power. In his words, “Following court orders which granted our prayers for interim and final forfeiture of looted funds, the recoveries under my watch from November, 2015 to 2016 are as follows: Over N794billion recovered. Over $261million recovered.

The pounds sterling recovered stood at 1, 115, 930.47 pounds. The Euros recovered in the period was 8, 168,871. 13. There is also the sum of 86,500 CFA”. He went on to list other looted physical assets recovered both within and outside the country.

There is no doubt that when he dared to name those associated with those recoveries of looted assets, minister for information and culture, Lai Muhammed, believed that he was permanently sealing the fate of the PDP, which seemed incapable of recovering from the seemingly fatal damage to its morale and image especially by the incurably corrupt toga foisted on it so mercilessly by the APC.

That’s exactly why the performance of the PDP in the 2015 general elections of February 23 and March 9, 2015 was nothing short of a miraculous resurrection from the dead. In the 2019 presidential election, the PDP candidate, polled 11,262, 978 votes representing 41.2% of total votes cast nationwide while the APC candidate scored 15, 191, 847 votes constituting a 55.6% share of total votes cast nationwide. While APC won in 19 states, PDP actually carried the day in 17 states. PDP’s outing in the governorship election was even more remarkable. The PDP won 13 governorship seats to the APC’s 15 and with the opposition PDP gaining grounds in Adamawa, Benue, Bauchi, Oyo, Sokoto and Zamfara states while barely losing in Kano and Plateau States.

When Atiku Abubakar emerged as a presidential candidate at the party’s national convention in Port Harcourt in 2019, his critics alleged that he had procured the party’s ticket through a stupefying deluge of naira rain. This perception seemed to have compounded the moral baggage of corruption, with which he had been tarred particularly by his erstwhile boss, Chief Obasanjo even though no court had ever found the Wazirin Adamawa guilty of any corrupt practice.

Rather than force Obasanjo to prove the truly damaging allegations against him, a task which would have proven quite daunting in several views, Atiku chose to beg and grovel before the vindictive Obasanjo who affected to had forgiven his former deputy on behalf of Nigerians even as he steadfastly refused to withdraw the hook in which he maligned Atiku’s character and integrity from circulation. Even then, the APC certainly had cause to ponder on the PDP’s impressive outing at the polls despite the perceived wide gap between the integrity credentials of its candidate and that of the PDP.

Atiku most certainly brought some sharp ideological clarity to the PDP campaign in the 2019 elections. Hitherto, hardly anybody in the PDP hierarchy had ever discussed the party’s value orientation and policy agenda in any detailed, coherent or serious manner. Atiku changed that narrative. His policy overview document running into nearly 200 carefully researched and well articulated pages touched on virtually every aspect of Nigeria’s political and economic problems providing detailed diagnoses of the problems and the candidate’s policy prescriptions. Of course, the document was rendered in largely technocratic terms with the ideological coloration only coming out vividly in snipets of policy prescriptions.

One thing that was clear is that, in contrast to the current substantially state driven infrastructure provision and social inclusion welfare policies of the APC, Atiku committed the PDP to an essentially free market-led approach to economic recovery and ultimately sustainable development. He pointedly promised to “reduce the size of government and make it leaner and more efficient in service delivery”. This appeared to tally with the neoliberal perception of the state as an essentially necessary evil that must only be tolerated and its reach continuously curtailed. In contrast, the APC’s policies indicate its belief in the inevitable imperative of the extensive developmental state that actively intervenes with the processes of the market especially when these are likely to deepen inequalities and injustices in society.

The Atiku plan pledged a “firm commitment to the promotion of a private sector driven, competitive and open economy supported by efficiently run public institutions”. It promised to lift at least 50million people out of extreme poverty by 2025. Atiku intended to do that through the “provision of skill acquisition opportunities and enterprise development for job and wealth creation, rather than direct cash distribution”. But even if people were empowered with skills, could the operations of the free market as envisaged by the PDP candidate provide them with readily accessible credit on the scale currently being undertaken by the APC? It is very doubtful.

Thus, the Atiku plan envisaged “working with Micro Finance Banks in each of the 774 local governments to administer a new N15.48billion Community Micro Enterprise Fund (CMEF) to stimulate community enterprise development”. In the same vein, it promised that a PDP government would “work more closely with Non-Governmental Organizations, the private sector and other developmental partners to mobilize resources for the effective implementation of the empowerment strategy”. And still with its focus on a private sector led economic recovery as well as poverty amelioration policies, the Atiku plan intended to “encourage bank expansion services to rural areas, providing easy banking with simple processes easily completed by people with low literacy”.

True, the APC also accords robust private sector partnership with the public sector a central place in the articulation and implementation of its economic agenda, yet, it recognizes that the private sector in Nigeria is simply incapable of mobilizing resources on the same scale that government is able to do as demonstrated in its current intervention schemes targeted at reaching millions of vulnerable Nigerians that the free market is simply not designed to care about.

The Atiku market-led plan appeared to assume that private sector actors including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Micro Finance Banks are philanthropic outfits which can be persuaded to offer succor to the weak and poor segments of the society. Nothing could be further from the truth. The free market model has the primary objective of enabling those individuals and groups in the society capable of competing to maximize profit. It has no place for the weak and feeble as the Atiku plan assumed.

Atiku himself is a hard-nosed capitalist that he should know. Can he then with all honesty afford to play the philanthropist with his huge personal investments scattered across Nigeria and Dubai? That is why the state must lead the drive to radically modernize infrastructure and alleviate poverty in parlous economies like ours.

During the campaign, Atiku espoused neo-liberal right wing policy options such as privatizing the NNPC as the answer to its current undesirable opacity or floating the exchange rate and leaving the naira at the mercy of market forces as advocated by some international financial institutions. But this kind of ideological dogmatism should ponder the words of the world renowned intellectual at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Prof. Noam Chomsky who argues that “How did Europe and those who escaped its control succeed in developing? Part of the answer again seems clear; by radically violating free market doctrine. That conclusion holds from England to the East Asian growth area today, surely including the United States, the leader in protectionism from its origins. Standard economic history recognizes that state intervention has played a central role in economic development”.

Whatever one may think of Atiku’s brand of politics, he has helped in redefining and refocusing the PDP ideology. Surely, the PDP has bounced back to life and kicking as the strongest opposition party which is certainly good for the survival of the democracy and majority is now for its bouncing back to power for fear of institutionalizing corruption in our facets of life by the claimant of anti-corruption war, the APC. If one may ask, has the situation changed for the better in Nigeria under APC brand of leadership or catapulted the rating higher? Corruption is more of a state craft in Nigeria today. Where is the claimed anti-corruption posture of President Muhammadu Buhari and his coterie of image launderers?

The executive arm, fans and nurtures corruption as the judiciary shields and protects the corrupt for a share of the loot while the legislative arm is the negotiator, dancer and drummer boy that beats the drum of corruption.

Despite the shenanigans, allegations and hate speeches against the PDP, in a place like Wase Federal Constituency in Plateau State, APC that has been in power since 2015, is yet to justify the mandate it enjoys from the electorates. Standing tall within the Federal Constituency are legacies of the PDP till date.

As the APC approaches its final destination in governance, it seems determined to bequeathed Nigeria institutionalized corrupt practices, rising rate of security challenges, abject poverty, absence of basic necessities of life, failed economy and above all, a near collapsed country. President Buhari is surely vacating leadership as a confused and clueless leader mistakenly trusted by the majority to lead. The coast should be cleared for better leaders to take over in 2023 and PDP seems to have stored the best crop of leaders that can change the narrative for a better country.

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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