PDP: Atiku’s many challenges

After the 2023 general elections, all eyes are on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to provide a virile opposition for the country. As the main opposition party, apparently aware of this expectation, the acting national chairman of the PDP, Umar Damagum, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment, says the party is ready for the task ahead.

Damagum, while speaking at a press conference, at the PDP National Secretariat, Wadata Plaza, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment affirming President Bola Tinubu as winner of the 2023 presidential poll, had stated that the opposition party would not be deterred by the apex court’s verdict. The PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had lost out in their bids to get the courts to nullify the declaration of President Bola Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Nevertheless, the PDP chairman, who declared that the battle has just begun, charged party members to remain resolute.  He said: “we may be disappointed, but we are not deterred because we know what is underground. We know what happened. Everyone is so sad in this country.

“You can see they are not celebrating.  That is the exact situation we have found ourselves. We want Nigerians to know our position. I call on all PDP members that we are resolute. The battle will start from today.”

Since it lost power in the 2015 general elections, the PDP had been consigned to playing opposition in the politics of the country. And with the failure of the opposition parties to sack the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 polls, the party will still continue in its opposition role for at least the next four years.

Like the PDP chairman, Atiku, who is also a former vice president, said the opposition party has entered a new phase in the struggle to deepen democracy in the country.  The former Vice President while speaking at the press briefing had stated that “as for me and my party, this phase of our work is done.

“However, I am not going away. For as long as I breathe, I will continue to struggle, with other Nigerians, to deepen our democracy and rule of law and for the kind of political and economic restructuring the country needs to reach its true potential.”

Recently, Atiku had also tried to rally the opposition parties together to take on the APC.  The PDP leader, while playing host to members of Inter- Party Advisory Council (IPAC), had stated that it is imperative for the opposition to unite in the interest of the country’s democracy.

According to him, “truth of the matter is that our democracy is fast becoming a one-party system; and, of course, you know that when we have a one-party system, we should just forget about democracy.

“We have all seen how the APC is increasingly turning Nigeria into a dictatorship of one party. If we don’t come together to challenge what the ruling party is trying to create, our democracy will suffer for it, and the consequences of it will affect the generations yet unborn.”

Pundits say Atiku’s stance suggest that he might want to take the front stage in the opposition going forward.  Being a former vice president and two-time presidential candidate, the Adamawa-born politician, is more or less the leader of the PDP, especially with the absence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan from the party.

However, critics say the former vice president has not played this role effectively in the party, in the recent past. In the aftermath of the 2019 poll, Atiku had reportedly abandoned the party for Dubai. He only returned few months to beginning of electioneering for the last general election to the consternation of party stalwarts.

Therefore, with the former Vice President’s declaration that he was not going away, and that he would continue to struggle alongside others to deepen democracy in the country, the question, therefore, is if Atiku can provide leadership for the PDP to play its role as an opposition party effectively?

A member of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), Eddy Olafeso told Daily Sun, in a recent interview, that he has no doubt in the ability of the former Vice President to provide leadership for the opposition party.

“Many of us believe in his (Atiku’s) leadership…I am very optimistic about the future of our party as long as Waziri Atiku Abubakar is our leader; as long as we continue to do the right thing in the interest of the Nigerian people, spending sleepless night into looking at how best we can do things better, in this unfortunate eight years and two months of the APC, “ Olafeso had stated.

Nevertheless, a former presidential on the platform of the PDP, Cosmos Ndukwe, told Daily Sun, that Atiku is not in a position to provide leadership for the opposition party at this material time.

Ndukwe said, “Atiku cannot be a strong voice for the opposition. His age and the little time he spends in the country; how long does he spend in Nigeria? For you to lead an opposition, you must be a very strong voice. You need to move around. You need to shake hands across the Niger.

“What the people want is someone who can associate with them. And not somebody, who is on a high horse. Let him come down from his high horse if he wants to lead the opposition. You can’t run opposition from Dubai.”

Analysts say the former Vice President’s ability to champion the cause of the opposition, beginning from the PDP, will lie principally on two major factors. The first factor is his ability to midwife genuine reconciliation in the PDP.

The opposition party has been divided, between the supporters of the former vice president, and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),  Nyesom Wike. The crisis, which arose from politics of the nomination of PDP vice presidential candidate for the 2023 polls, has adversely affected the cohesion of the various organs of the opposition party. It is also believed to have contributed substantially to the PDP abysmal performance in the 2023 presidential poll.

Therefore, pundits say going forward, the PDP must find a way to bring all its feuding members together as that will, to a great extent, determine the fate of the party in the months ahead.

Secondly, analysts say how far Atiku can go in giving direction to the opposition will also depend on whether or not he is still interested in contesting for the Presidency. The former vice president is known to nurse a lifelong ambition to be President.

In the last 30 years, since 1993, Atiku had aspired to be President six times. The former vice president first aspired for the Presidency, under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in the botched third republic.

The Adamawa-born politician, who has crisscrossed different political parties in the pursuit of his presidential ambition had lost out in party nomination thrice. However, he made it to the ballot in three general elections in 2007, 2019 and 2023, as presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC) and the PDP respectively.

Regardless, in the aftermath of 2023 polls, it is not clear yet, what Atiku’s next political plans are.  This is especially as the former Vice President had stated, after his loss at the Supreme Court, that the struggle to deepen democracy, “should now be led by the younger generation of Nigerians who have even more at stake than my generation.”

However, while a school of thought believes that going forward, the former Vice President, should forget about contesting for the Presidency and instead focus on the rebuilding of the PDP, another school of thought says it is within his constitutional right to contest the 2027 presidential poll, if he so desires.

Nevertheless, pundits argue that Atiku’s ability to galvanize his party for future challenges, will depend largely on whether or not he wishes to contest the 2023 presidential poll, as well as his ability to get all the feuding groups in the opposition party to bury the hatchet.


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