PDP needs to wake up and act like an ideal opposition party [Opinion]

Even the ruling party believes the PDP is not a vibrant opposition party.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Uche Secondus. (PUNCH)

The ineptitude of the PDP to adequately check the activities of the APC has over the years made Nigerian democracy have the appearance of a one-party system. Even the APC is worried that the PDP has not been positioning itself as an ideal opposition party.

In a statement on Sunday, October 13, 2019, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu said, “Nigeria is becoming a one-party state because the PDP has not proved to be strong and vibrant opposition to the ruling party”.

Sometimes, PDP’s effort to play its antagonistic role ends up portraying the party as an unserious organization that lacks the wits to wrestle with the governing APC.

One of such instances happened on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, in Abeokuta where the party had a meeting with the United States Consul General, Ms Claire Pierangelo.

At the end of the meeting, the party’s National Deputy Chairman, Yemi Akinhanmi, told journalists that the PDP had to report the APC government to the Consular General to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.

As though travelling down to Abeokuta to report APC to a US government official was some sort of political victory, Akinhanmi said, “We have told the Consular General how the PDP has advanced democracy in Nigeria in 16 years. We told her how we took democracy from the grass to the top.”

What did the opposition party expect Ms Pierangelo to do to Buhari and his party? Did the party expect a Consul General, whose primary job is to facilitate the US diplomatic relationship with Nigeria to chide the president and his party in the media, or run to social media to attack Buhari and his online disciples?

Did the PDP even think it through before going to Abeokuta to tender their flat and dead-on-arrival plea to a US official, who had only gone to the city to talk with the state governor and other APC stakeholders?

That wasn’t the first time the PDP would be making moves that ended up falling flat on the party’s face.

In October 2019, after the former Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola goofed that Nigerian roads are not as bad as the media portray them, the PDP as an opposition party thought it wise to join the criticism against Fashola, but as usual, the party came up with weak claims that got it more knocks than kudos.

There are countless numbers of bad roads in Nigeria. Each state has enough federal roads in a deplorable state, but Nigerians were surprised when they found out that the PDP had to get pictures of bad roads in Liberia to justify its criticism of Fashola’s statement.

As a result, attention shifted from Fashola’s untenable statement to the PDP’s reckless over-sensationalization of the matter.

The PDP needs to understand that making lame statements and unfounded claims in checking the APC government has never worked against the ruling party; and may never work because the party has publicists, who have a better understanding of how to use official statements to turn threats to opportunities.

For instance, in the build-up to the 2015 general election, the APC, which was an opposition party at the time, did everything it could to not only batter PDP’s image but also won the hearts of many Nigerians through its incessant but constructive criticisms of Goodluck Jonathan’s government.

Despite the religious and ethnic sentiments, the PDP whipped up to disrepute the APC, the party’s communication and publicity machines were able to form political communities among the youths by aggregating their interests in political conversations ahead of the elections.

The likes of Rinsola Abiola, Ayobami Oyalowo, Jubril Gawat, Akin Oyebode, Olusegun Dada were used to endear and sell the APC agenda and promises to the online communities.

The party also predicated most of its comments, statements and conversations on everything it could use against the PDP. Using insecurity, corruption, unemployment, electricity, infrastructure, poverty and many other issues affecting Nigerians, the APC dragged the PDP out of power after 16 years of misrule.

Ironically, the APC is already in that phase the PDP was in 2014. Insecurity is worsening; Nigeria's corruption index is as bad as ever,according to Transparency International; unemployment and poverty rates are rising to the heavens under the APC administration, and instead of the opposition party to roll out its communication machine if it has any, the party decided to go to bed after losing the February 2019 presidential election.

Granted, the PDP drops statements once in a while, but the truth is, the opposition party is not holding the ruling party to account for its commissions and/or omissions. That’s why the APC is comfortable enough to discount a party governing 15 out of 36 states as a serious organisation.

The PDP is also not presenting itself as a better option to the incumbent administration by coming up with alternative ideas, policies, principles and ideology, as the APC did in the build-up to the 2015 elections.

Keeping touch with the citizens and promoting responsible and reasoned debate that could generate national conversations should ordinarily be parts of the roles of an opposition party to maintain its relevance amid the perceived failure of the one in power, but the PDP, like other mushroom opposition parties in Nigeria is not better than political spectators.

PDP’s former Presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe understands that the party is not doing enough to challenge the governing APC at a time the ruling party should be kept on its toes.

Okupe realised that the APC as an opposition party seriously engaged the ruling PDP in 2014, and it was its consistent engagement and criticisms of the PDP that endeared it to many Nigerians. Unfortunately, the present opposition party is too laid back to organise itself as a force that can rattle the ruling party.

“To defeat the APC in 2023, I want the PDP leaders to think of changing the name of the party. They must also make the party itself the arrowhead of a national movement to oust the present administration. We should not forget that this is exactly what the component factions of the APC did in 2014.

‘‘I think that if we engage the APC, as presently constituted, in a straight political duel, with 21 state governors against 15 combined with the possible reckless use of the power of incumbency, victory becomes a pipe dream”. Okupe said.

The support the ruling party enjoyed from Nigerians is waning. The resurgence of insecurity, the poverty gap and unemployment rate in the country are drowning many Nigerians’ interest in the APC administration. However, while the ruling party appears confused on all fronts, the PDP seems stupefied on what to do to bring itself back to the centre.

In 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari was the poster boy for the APC. Apart from engaging the PDP, the APC also rode on the back of the integrity of the retired general to sell an anti-corruption agenda to Nigerians.

In 2023, the use of Buhari to drive a campaign millions of Nigerians would buy, would not work for the APC. Nevertheless, if the PDP thinks maintaining this dormant approach to criticism of the ruling party will take it anywhere, the crisis-hit APC will probably implode and still remain in power beyond 2023.

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