Nigeria’s opposition in soul-searching after loss
PDP claims to be only ‘credible’ institution
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