Is PDP failing as an opposition party?
Unarguably, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the leading opposition party in Nigeria. But there is an impression that the PDP is failing as an opposition party, judging by the role played by the current ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) when it was performing the task of an opposition party.
The defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in particular, battled the PDP when it planned to completely remove fuel subsidy in January 2012. In a statement issued in April 2012, the ACN even asked former President Goodluck Jonathan to apologise to Nigerians for what it called his government’s ill-advised removal of the so-called fuel subsidy.
A statement signed by the ACN National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who later served in the same position in the APC before President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as the Minister of Information in December 2015, opposed the decision.
The party said the report of the House of Representatives Committee that probed the management of the subsidy had shown that the removal was an egregious error of judgement that had left Nigerians feeling swindled by their government.
“Against all informed pieces of advice, even from well-informed industry insiders and analysts, President Jonathan approved the removal of fuel subsidy and went ahead to defend it. Well, the President is human and therefore can also be wrong. But when he is, as it has now been proved, he should be humble enough to admit it and apologise,” the party also said in the statement.
The party also told the former President to revert the fuel price to the pre-January 2012 price of 65 kobo per litre and then proceed to implement the recommendations of the House committee without delay, especially the prosecution of all indicted persons and companies.
“In more-civilized climes, those who bandied spurious figures to Nigerians and hinted that the economy would collapse if the subsidy was not removed would by now have tendered their resignations - with apologies over the discovery that what the government has been subsidizing over the years are corruption and inefficiency, not fuel….
“In statements after statements, we told the President that there is no subsidy on fuel, and that what the government claims to be subsidising are corruption and inefficiency. We quoted informed analysts, who proved - with facts and figures that the average true price of a litre of fuel is N34.03. We suggested ways in which the government can truly deregulate the sector without inflicting untold hardship on Nigerians. But in the end, as always, the government ignored all the interventions and went ahead with its pre-meditated action,” the ACN also said.
Besides, the APC kept the PDP government on its toes as it monitored the war against the Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east.
On November 20, 2014, the party accused Jonathan of sabotaging his own administration’s war against Boko Haram on the altar of personal vindictiveness and political desperation.
The accusation followed an alleged attempt to prevent Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives from entering the National Assembly to consider Jonathan’s request for an extension of the State of Emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
In January, 2014, the APC directed its members in the National Assembly to block all legislative proposals.
“We commend our members in the National Assembly for their unequivocal support for our stand, and for understanding that filibustering or legislative noncooperation are veritable tools of democracy,” the party said in a statement issued in Lagos by its former Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed.
The APC was also vocal at rejecting the plan to postpone the 2015 general elections before the Presidential/National and Governorship /State Assembly elections were finally rescheduled from February 14 and 28, 2015 respectively to March 28 and April 11, 2015.
The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie -Oyegun, called the postponement of the general elections over security challenges “setback” and “highly provocative”.
The 2010 Report of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) states that the opposition is expected to offer alternatives to the decisions proposed by the government, improve legislative decisionmaking procedures, scrutinise the legislative and budgetary proposals of the government, supervise and oversee the government and the administration as well as to enhance stability, legitimacy, accountability and transparency in the political processes.
But can we say that the PDP is currently performing as a duty this role? At the early stage of this administration, the PDP which lost its 16 years’ grip on power to the APC focused on the actions and inactions of the new government when Chief Olisa Metuh was the party’s spokesperson.
At that time, Metuh bemoaned the absence of an economic team and went ahead to say that President Buhari’s regional tour to Niger and Chad exposed APC’s hypocrisy. It accused the governing party of double standard and insincerity for chastising Jonathan for seeking regional cooperation to solve the challenge of insurgency are now hailing President Buhari for toeing the same line.
The PDP also challenged the appointment of Lawal Daura, the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) for allegedly being a card carrying member of the APC and the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as the acting INEC Chairman.
The PDP activism, however, went missing when the Buhari administration increased the price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 per litre to raise money because the country was broke.
The crisis between Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi factions of the PDP had provided a leeway for the APC to catch-in on the parties weaknesses.
Since the change of guard on the political scene in 2015, the desire of many Nigerians is to have at least, one or more viable opposition parties that would constantly put the ruling APC in check.
This is, perhaps, sequel to the fear that the government might renege on its campaign promises or abuse power if there is no credible opposition that would provide constructive criticism.
Pundits say giving the party in power heavy bashing, to a large extent, improves socio-economic and political life of a nation and expands its frontiers.
Despite the existence of about 40 registered political parties in Nigeria, the hope for one that can at least, have some bite, lays on the PDP because of its strength and the fact that it held sway as the ruling party from 1999 to 2015.
But the PDP has remained comatose, following intense leadership tussle within its fold by former governors of Kaduna and Borno States - Senators Makarfi and Modu Sheriff.
The party has lost its strong voice against the ruling party as both camps only throw tantrums against each other. Observers say this is the opposite of what the APC did when it was in the opposition.
The APC, as an opposition party then, played a key role in deepening the nation’s democracy by constantly check-mating the PDP-led government and providing constructive criticism to some of the government policies and programmes, analysts said.
But when the PDP is in the news now, it is mostly when tongues are wagging over its protracted leadership tussle, making it difficult to do anything a potent opposition party should be doing.
It is imperative to note that the party has relaxed on certain issues it ought to have spoken against.
The PDP Young Leaders Forum in a communique read by its leader, Barr. Anthony Ahilebo, at the end of their meeting, in Abuja, said, “instead of fighting in-house, they should put acts together and fight the very people that are silencing, dehumanising, destroying and devastating the Nigerian people through inhuman policies and imprudent leadership.
“There is a need to rise up and stop the looming anarchy and doom stemming from the lack luster leadership of the APC.”
Similarly, the governor Seriake Dickson-led PDP Reconciliation Committee has urged the PDP leaders not to concentrate more energy fighting in-house but work towards challenging the policies of government where necessary to ensure good governance.
Observers have expressed dismay that the Sheriff camp of the party has never issued a statement or at any of its press conferences criticised any action or inaction of the APC-led government.
While the umbrella has been torn into shreds, key decisions and policies of the present government such as increase in the pump price of petroleum product; continued attacks in the north east; rising cost of living and the Dollar among others have not been critically assessed by the PDP.
Both camps have allotted more time and energy to in-house fighting than coming together as one united family to perform the main opposition role. Similarly, even when such criticisms were made by the Makarfi group, they don’t carry much weight because the party has been divided.
Our correspondent reports that most of the times the two spokespersons from the two camps disagree or differ on an issue of national importance and go to bed, while the crisis lingers, giving the government enough happiness.
Analysts learnt that the PDP has remained quiet on several promises which the APC made but could not redeem. It has been silent on the N-Power scheme designed by the federal government for unemployed graduates in which youths have been given offers and paid stipend only once or twice since December, 2016.
One of the beneficiaries of the N-Power programme posted to Nasarawa State, who pleaded anonymity for fear of being victimized, told our correspondent that since the programme started, he received alert only once.
Analysts express hope that the PDP will put its house in order and rise up to the occasion by putting the APC on its toes.
Ali Modu Sheriff