It will be out of place for political narratives in Nigeria to be conclusive without the Peoples Democratic Party; PDP, being on focus. This is because, starting from the First Republic, no Political Party had held sway as much as the PDP in Nigeria. The Northern Peoples’ Congress, NPC, with Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister, was in power for only six years, 1959-1966(January 15). The National Party of Nigeria, NPN, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as Executive President, reigned for only four years, 1979-1983. On its own, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was in charge of the affairs of the country for sixteen consecutive years. The Party is still strongly in contention
Both economic and political observers are in a fair position to point out if the Party was a blessing or not to the country. It is, however, on record that apart from restoring and consolidating Democracy in Nigeria, many achievements stand for the Party. Modernization of the Communication Industry will always remain as a legacy by the PDP. Consolidation of Finance and Banking Sector, including the introduction of Bank Verification Number, BVN, is a clear evidence that PDP actually meant well for the Nigerian State. Resuscitation of the Nigerian Railways is the brainchild of the PDP.
Legal framework of foundation for war against corruption was the handiwork of the Party, via Economic And Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC. Education and Agriculture received a boost under the PDP. Even the worst pessimist or sadist would find it a herculean task writing off the existentialism of PDP.
Before the coming into existence of PDP, the Nigerian Military, which held power, had shown no sign of willingness to relinquish power. This was especially under late General Sani Abacha who had become a Maximum Dictator and was hell-bent on succeeding himself. It took exceptional courage and maximum risk by some politicians to dare the Military.
At the head of that crop of daring politicians was the late first Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Alex Ekwueme, GCON.
Prior to the formation of PDP, Dr Ekwueme had initiated and formed what became known as G-34. It was an assemblage of eminent Nigerian politicians, cutting across the various geo-political divides in the country. It was this G-34 that would metamorphose into Peoples Democratic Party. It was also nurtured by Dr Ekwueme.
The Memorandum of Understanding binding the proposed Party together was signed in the Law Chambers of a Lawyer of South-East origin, Barr Onyeabor Obi on 13th August, 1998 on the 13th Floor of Western House in the Central Business District of Lagos Island.
On the day the Memorandum of Understanding was signed, a notable northern member of G-34 and PDP, by name, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, had, in appreciation of Dr Ekwueme’s untiring effort in confronting and retrieving power from the Military, suggested that Dr Ekwueme should be an automatic Presidential Candidate of the Party the subsequent election. That attractive suggestion was, however, turned down by Dr Ekwueme. The former Vice President thought that becoming an automatic Presidential Candidate of the Party was more of a dictatorship than a democratic process. He, however, successfully proposed that one of the Cardinal Principles of PDP should the Zoning.
In the Party’s first National Convention that took place in Jos on the 14th of February, 1999, to elect its Presidential Candidate for February 27th Presidential election in 1999, a combination of factors, including subterranean influence of the Military and betrayal by some top Igbo politicians, made Dr Ekwueme, who had resigned as the first National Chairman of the Party, to lose to former Military Head of State, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, who had just come out from Prison where he was incarcerated in Yola by the dictatorial regime of Gen Sani Abacha.
The loss by Dr Ekwueme was a rude shock to the Igbo in general. Political pundits had, therefore, predicted that the Igbo would vote against the Party. Contrary to that prediction, the people of South-East went out en masse to vote not only Gen Obasanjo but equally elect five Governors of the region on the platform of PDP.
The South-East region has since remained a Major Nucleus in the Electoral Dynamics of the Party.
By 2023, which is fast approaching and in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding entered into by founding fathers of the Party and the Constitution of the Party, the Presidential ticket of the Party should be given to an Aspirant from the South-East.
From all indications, so far, it appears the Party is yet to make up its mind. As it is often said, Conscience is an open wound that only truth can heal.
The Igbo have gone through lots of trauma in Nigeria, especially since and after the Nigerian Civil War. It had been expected that fifty years after the war, meaningful reconciliation and integration should have taken place, just as it happened in Rwanda.
Without wanting to sound immodest, as long as the Igbo are left as an Ethnic group that should not attain or actualize Nigeria’s Presidency, it would simply mean that Nigeria is still at war with itself.
Starting from the turbulent days of the struggle for Nigeria’s Independence, the Igbo were at the forefront. The military coup of January 15, 1966 led by some young Igbo Military Officers, was strictly a development within the Nigerian Army. It was not, in any way, a decision by the Igbo. There were also soldiers from other ethnic groups that were involved. Even at that, the counter coup of July 1966 was a revenge too awful to discuss. The pogrom that followed the counter coup, apart from shattering the Igbo economy, led to painful death of more than Three Million Igbo.
For goodness sake, why can this war not end? Should it rage and rage ad’infinitum? Is the Nigerian State better for it?
Even though there is limit to human endurance, the Igbo will be the last Nation to wish Nigeria’s disintegration. Other ethnic nations could easily contemplate Nigeria’s dismemberment because they do not have much at stake. Apart Lagos and Abuja, hardly would other Nigerians point at their property outside their ethnic regions. To the contrary, the Igbo have property in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. The Igbo have repeatedly made their stand on Nigeria clear. They, like the Yoruba, South-South and Middle-Belt, want a Restructured Nigeria. They want to have a replica of what Nigeria was as a result of the 1963 Republican Constitution.
The glaring case of insincerity on the part of the national leadership of PDP obviously appears to have become worrisome and unbearable among some top Igbo leaders in PDP.
There are three geo-political regions that make up the South of Nigeria. They are the South-East, South-South and South-West. Of the three, South-West and South-South have each produced Nigeria’s Presidents in the persons of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr Goodluck Jonathan, respectively.
Unarguably, the next President of Nigeria, after incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, should be a Southerner. On what head or leg of equity should a South-Easterner not be the next President in a just and equitable Nigeria?
Nature makes it imperative that he that is rejected in his group should not reject himself. Politics is all about interest. If any group does not offer protection of one’s interest, one is bound to seek protection elsewhere. After all, in politics there is no permanent friend but permanent interest.
If PDP decides to render the Igbo in South-East politically irrelevant, no law or social regulation would debar them from seeking for a greener political pasture elsewhere.
It should, however, be seriously noted that an exodus of the South-East from the Peoples Democratic Party will terribly deplete and affect the Party. It would not remain a National Party again.
The attendant consequences are avoidable. Let an Igbo man of South-East origin be supported to run as the Party’s 2023 Presidential Flag bearer. That there are many Igbo in PDP who are, in every ramification, competent and capable of steering the ship of Nigeria does not call for an argument or a long discussion..
Those of us who were Conveners of the Party in 1998 and have remained as committed transparent Members of the Party will not like actions or inactions that could lead to the demise of our Party, a Party we laboured so much to bring about. If steps are not taken and urgently too, where our Leaders go, there we would go.