Hurdles before PDP after Supreme Court judgment

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment validating the declaration of President Bola Tinubu as winner of the 2023 presidential poll, the People  Democratic Party (PDP) is facing an uphill task. For many critical observers, the PDP is now confronted with the onerous task of reconciling its members and rebuilding itself ahead of the 2027 general elections.

The apex court had in a unanimous judgement last Thursday, dismissed the appeal by the opposition party and its presidential candidate, former Vice President  Atiku Abubakar, against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) affirming Tinubu as winner of the February 25 contest.

The PDP, which is the major opposition party in the country, has been struggling to regain its glory, after a humiliating loss in the 2015 general election.

In its heyday, all it takes to win an election in several parts of the country was to secure the ticket of the PDP.

Therefore, it was not a surprise when the former National chairman of the PDP, Vincent Ogbulafor,  prior to the 2015 general election, declared that the opposition party will rule the country for 60 years.

However, the music changed for the political party that once dominated the Nigerian political firmament, after it lost the 2015 general election to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Apart from losing control of the reins of power at the centre, the opposition party also lost its majority in the two chambers of the National Assembly.

The then newly formed APC, supported PDP leaders, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal had also displaced the opposition party in many of the states to become the dominant party in the country. Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal and their allies had dumped the PDP, in the run-up to the 2015 election over their disagreement with former President Goodluck Jonathan. They have since returned to the opposition party.

The PDP, which was founded in 1998 by the G-34, led by late former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, holds the enviable record of Nigeria’s longest surviving political party. The party, which took over from the military in 1999 had governed the country for 16 unbroken years. Since it lost power in the 2015 general elections, things have not been same for PDP. 

The plight of the opposition party is compounded by its loss in the 2023 general election. The PDP, after failing to displace the APC in the 2019 election, had sought to use the last general election to relaunch itself as the dominant party in the country.

Consequently, prior to the judgment, leaders of the PDP, it was gathered, had expected a favourable outcome. However, their hopes were dashed with the validation of the election of President Tinubu.

Nevertheless, the PDP acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, said the party would not be deterred by the judgment.  Damagum, who spoke, on Monday, at a press briefing, addressed by the PDP 2023 presidential candidate, said party members must remain resolute, stating that the “battle”has started in earnest.

According to him, “we may be disappointed, but we are not deterred. We want Nigerians to know our position. I call on all PDP (members) that we are resolute. The battle will start from today.”

Nevertheless, analysts say the outcome of Supreme Court judgment will open a new vista for the battle of supremacy in the PDP.  Prior to the apex court verdict, there have been some form of realignment amongst PDP leaders, as they strategize on how to gain the upper hand in affairs of the party.

Recall that prior to the last general election, various organs of the opposition party were polarized, owing to a face- off between Atiku and former Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike. The fallout was after the nomination of Ifeanyi Okowa as PDP Vice Presidential candidate. That was to lead to the polarization of the party with Wike, Samuel Ortom, Benue; Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu, Seyi Makinde and their allies, on one hand and Atiku, the former national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, and their supporters on the other.

The Wike camp on the aegis of the G-5 had insisted on Ayu’s replacement with a Southerner as condition for peace. But both groups could not reach a common ground before the election.  Nevertheless, Ayu has since been suspended by his ward as member of the PDP. The former chairman, whose suspension was affirmed by a Benue High Court, has taken his case to the Court of Appeal.

In the aftermath of the 2023 election, PDP leaders, including Atiku, governors elected on the platform of the opposition party and other stakeholders, have met at least twice to brainstorm on how to pull the opposition party out of the woods.

The PDP leaders, after one of the meetings, in Abuja, with the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) in attendance, said they are committed to repositioning the opposition party.

The communique, which was issued at the end of the parley and read by the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Bala Mohammed, said party leaders resolved that “no individual or group of individuals will be allowed to undermine the unity of the party and its processes”.

Mohammed added that “the meeting committed to repositioning and stabilizing the party. To this end, the healing and reconciliation process are in progress and yielding results.”

Eight months after the 2023 presidential  poll, there is still no love lost between the Atiku and the former Rivers governor, who has already been appointed by President Tinubu as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT).The Wike/ Atiku fight, which has polarized the opposition party, according to inside sources is making it difficult for the PDP to reorganize itself, especially as the various organs of the party are currently sharply divided on the way forward for the opposition party. Daily Sun gathered that the battle of supremacy between the two-party leaders is having a serious toll on the party. 

Apart from the Atiku/ Wike fight, there are also packets of crises in different chapters of the PDP. Recently, some leaders of the opposition party, in the Southeast, including the acting chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Aldophus Wabara and National Vice Chairman (Southeast), Ali Odefa, demanded the replacement of the National Secretary, Samuel Anyanwu. Analysts say the move to oust Anyanwu, who is also the opposition party’s candidate for the November 11 Imo governorship poll, is an indication that all is not well with the Southeast PDP.

Therefore, pundits say the major task before the opposition party, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment is how to heal the wounds of the last general elections, and unite all feuding interests for the task ahead.  Not a few believe that ability of the party to regain lost ground will depend largely on resolution of the many issues within its fold.

Nevertheless, a former National Vice Chairman of the PDP in the Southwest, Chief Eddy Olafeso,  is optimistic that despite its travails, the opposition party will come out stronger.

Olafeso told Daily Sun that “Our future is bright. It is the people’s party. No matter the immediate challenges and concern, we will rise above it. There are many challenges facing us. But this party will always overcome…

“And I know a lot that may want to prevaricate at this time. They should recognize that they are chasing shadows. PDP is built to last. And let me tell you that nothing will ever kill us. As bad as things are, you know the number of governors we have today and the number of governors that may still be included to the ones we have right now. I am very optimistic about the future of our party.”


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