News The African Way

Nigeria Decides 2023: Why Party Business Is Our Business, By Ayisha Osori

PDP does not deserve the votes of Nigerians in 2023 and there are at least three reasons why.

The last ten days have been bad for Nigeria. Actually, the headlines have been no more depressing and scarier than over the last few years, when it comes to murder and the loss of lives, but the audacity of terrorists is escalating. First, the attack on the Kaduna airport on March 25, which accounts suggest were aimed at hijacking planes, with passengers still on the tarmac. Then the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train three days later, with at least eight dead, 26 injured and 21 missing persons reported. Unfortunately, that is not the full picture, because we might never know the complete number of people kidnapped or how many were actually on the train that night. Why? Although the train has a capacity for 840 passengers, only 362 tickets were validly sold and there might have been as many as 970 people on it. Only another day in the mindless theft of public resources, with serious implications for accountability.

Yet, our leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unable to be the type of opposition we need – vocal, clear on recommendations and leading the charge to empathise with those who are suffering. This is the first reason why the party should be boycotted. Despite the consistency of the onslaught on Nigerians, socially, economically and politically, as a result of APC’s unthinking policies and unbridled state capture, asides from a few statements, PDP has not engaged the public half as well as APC did when it was Nigeria’s leading opposition party. PDP’s comatose posture might be a testament to the care that APC has taken to close the civic space and muzzle dissent, but it is also an indication that PDP has learnt nothing from its 2015 defeat: the party and its members were out of touch with Nigerians.

Another reason to boycott PDP in 2023 is that 11 months to an election with promise, where the incumbent in Aso Rock is not on the ballot, PDP is still undecided what zone its presidential candidate is going to come from. Section 7(3)(c) of PDP’s constitution provides that in furtherance of the party’s objectives it will ‘adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices’. There are at least three permutations that contribute to the difficulty the party faces: One, that PDP’s last president (2011-2015) was from the South and as such the presidency should be zoned to the North. Another is that President Jonathan, as the party’s presidential candidate in 2011, created a break with zoning and third, that since Nigerians have endured eight years of a president from the North (regardless of party), PDP’s presidential candidate should be from the South.

For onlookers, this situation that PDP is grappling with has been inevitable since the 2019 presidential election results were announced. This means PDP has had seven years to determine this question. However, instead of resolving the question of zoning early and definitively, to give its presidential candidate time enough to win the hearts and minds of Nigerians and convince sceptics who see no difference between the PDP and APC, we have, at the last count, at least 13 contenders – five from the North and eight from the South, with only one woman so far. A party that boasted, at the height of its reign, that it would stay in power for 60 years, should have learnt from the last two election cycles and worked hard to preempt this situation. The inability to be focused and think strategically about the internal workings of the party, indicates a lack of political will to tackle Nigeria’s challenges, as we have witnessed over 16 years of the PDP presidency. PDP’s avoidance of their zoning question also signals that the ruling members have no sense of justice and equity and are prepared to ignore rules, even theirs, to get what they want; the same way they indulge themselves at the expense of the public, when it comes to managing public resources.

Finally, those who represent PDP have no sense of rectitude. During a week of ASUU strike, no-end-in-sight fuel scarcity and nationwide power outage, Governors Wike and Obaseki took the edge off our pain with distracting drama. The trade in words was a show that should induce shame but Nigerians, from impoverishment of the soul and the pocket, no longer think much of shame; it has no purchasing power and it is not required to capture and wield political power. Again, like the attempted coup within the APC’s national executive team in the run up to the APC convention, the squabble between the two governors is about control of the party and how the PDP primaries will be determined. Nothing to do with us and the trials of Nigerians.

APC and PDP do not deserve our votes in 2023 and there are logical reasons why. However, it will be near impossible to shake them up and out with our votes, without massive concerted effort. This is not only because Nigeria has been evolving towards a two-party system (represented now by these two platforms) but in addition, there are deep subliminal and popular beliefs about not wasting votes on outliers and candidates that do not fit the profile of abusive use of power, and then there are those invested in strengthening narratives about the inevitability of the victory of the APC and PDP at the polls.

We are not doomed to a non-choice between these parties that are not even two sides of a coin but a cheat coin with the same sides. There are elements of what it can take to win from a non-mainstream party, with a review of Soludo’s win of the Anambra gubernatorial election last year – albeit through a party with some track record at the State and national levels. Emmanuel Macron’s win in 2017 also gives us a study of what a combination of luck (acts of God or in our case the man-made incompetence of the APC administration and the history of PDP’s governance, which when used strategically could be a tsunami of disadvantage), focused partnerships, consistent messaging and an energised electorate can achieve.

There are no examples of oppressive systems reforming themselves without a demand – how we vote in 2023 will signal our determination that we deserve and want better. If we vote for either party in 2023, we will be rewarding ineffectiveness and entrenching the sense of entitlement – unless and this is a big exception, the parties give us candidates who are a deviation from the norm.

A lot of work is required but voting in candidates not from the two main parties is not impossible. The louder the voices telling us we have no choice, except those two, the more determined we should be to prove them wrong because there are enough ethical, competent Nigerians to fill all the elective and appointive positions in Nigeria – we need to keep repeating this until it sinks in and becomes our reality.

Osori, author of Love Does Not Win Elections, will be writing for the Nigeria Decides 2023 series every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.

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