Nige­ria’s op­po­si­tion in soul-search­ing af­ter loss

PDP claims to be only ‘cred­i­ble’ institution

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ABUJA: Its for­mer na­tional chair­man once boasted that the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) would rule Nige­ria for 60 years. In the end it man­aged only 16. Muham­madu Buhari’s All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) dumped the PDP out of power in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in March, in what was the first win for an op­po­si­tion party in the coun­try’s history. As at­ten­tion shifted to Buhari and his plans to tackle en­demic cor­rup­tion and de­feat Boko Haram Is­lamists, the PDP and its for­mer pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan went quiet. On Twit­ter - the main tool for the party’s mes­sage in the elec­tion cam­paign - there were no more posts from the party from May 18, but on Oct 29 it an­nounced: “We are Back!!!” The PDP has been find­ing its voice again since then and on Thurs­day the party held a na­tional con­fer­ence in the cap­i­tal Abuja to set out its plans to re­gain power. Its lan­guage was typ­i­cally bullish, de­scrib­ing the gov­ern­ment as “the fas­cist APC regime” and ac­cus­ing it of hu­man rights and con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions as well as abuse of power.

Buhari’s crack­down on cor­rup­tion has seen sev­eral for­mer and serv­ing state gov­er­nors ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of cor­rup­tion while he has ac­cused the PDP of leav­ing the coun­try vir­tu­ally bank­rupt. But the PDP de­clared: “Par­tic­i­pants noted that the PDP re­mains the only cred­i­ble na­tional po­lit­i­cal institution com­mit­ted to na­tional in­ter­est and the deep­en­ing of demo­cratic tenets and ideals.”

Strong Op­po­si­tion Tub-thump­ing rhetoric and per­sonal crit­i­cism has long char­ac­terised Nige­rian pol­i­tics, which re­lies heav­ily on pa­tron­age, elite con­nec­tions and, very of­ten, hard cash. The PDP per­son­ally at­tacked Buhari dur­ing the elec­tion, ac­cus­ing the for­mer mil­i­tary ruler of be­ing an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist, an un­re­formed dic­ta­tor and un­qual­i­fied to hold of­fice. In the run-up to the vote, though, dozens of PDP law­mak­ers switched sides to the APC, com­plain­ing that Jonathan had re­neged on a prom­ise not to stand for a sec­ond term. There have been more de­fec­tions since then, in part due to PDP per­cep­tions of an APC “witch-hunt” against its mem­bers over cor­rup­tion.

An­a­lysts at­trib­uted the PDP’s elec­tion de­feat to its fail­ure to se­cure a con­sen­sus in a re­li­giously and eth­ni­cally di­vided coun­try - and also that af­ter 16 years, peo­ple were ready for a change. Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Chris Ng­wodo said to build on the demo­cratic de­vel­op­ment of the APC’s his­toric win, what the coun­try needed now was not rhetoric. “Trick­le­down pol­i­tics of the worst kind”, where pow­er­ful elites be­stowed pa­tron­age on their supporters, was in the past, he said.

To be­come rel­e­vant again, the PDP “has to think more deeply” and come up with poli­cies that ad­dress the lack of so­cial and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for Nige­ria’s young pop­u­la­tion across the coun­try. Sim­ple crit­i­cism was “not mov­ing any­body” he told AFP. “There’s no real sense of hav­ing an op­po­si­tion party. This is a party shell-shocked from de­feat, still grap­pling in the dark. It needs to de­fine it­self,” he added. —AFP

ABUJA: A pic­ture taken on May 29, 2015 shows for­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan wav­ing to the crowd as he leaves the of­fice dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Mo­ham­madu Buhari at the Ea­gles Square. —AFP

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