PDP: From grand delusion to painful reality…By Niyi Akinnaso

The people were led to believe, and soon appeared to have believed, that the Peoples Democratic Party was the only party in town or the only party that mattered. Before long, the PDP deluded itself into believing that it would rule for 100 years. As some opposition parties began to flex their muscles in a few states, the number was cut down to 60. The voters were led to believe that the party’s slogan meant what it said, that is, Power to the People. They emptied their lungs in shouting the slogan on top of their voices whenever the party leaders said “Pee Dee Peeee!” Successive PDP governments claimed to have fought corruption one way or the other, but corruption thrived to the point of eating up the workers’ salaries even faster than the dip in oil prices. And probe panelists investigated corruption to the point of being corrupted themselves. At the end of the day, corruption ate the PDP at the centre.

After 16 years, it became clearly evident that higher oil prices did not translate to significant improvements in education; health; housing, and the infrastructure needed for development, especially power supply and roads. The people had begun to realise that the PDP governments were nothing but a farce. By the time they saw through the grand delusion, they had discovered the true meaning of the party’s slogan: It was not power to the people; but power to a few people.

Recent revelations show that corruption reached a head as former President Goodluck Jonathan was preparing for a re-election. After corruption and dwindling oil resources had conspired to dry up funds, Jonathan turned to the recovered loot on former military dictator, Sani Abacha. In the words of a former Central Bank Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Jonathan simply turned the Central Bank into an ATM, using the immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, as the conduit.

True, Abimbola Adelakun has warned us against “hyperventilating” over the ongoing corruption scandal, involving Dasuki, but her recourse to “the good that corruption does” in redistributing resources, in a system that shuts out many citizens, overlooks “the bad that corruption does” in stifling development that could benefit millions more.

The processes involved in the diversion of funds that we have come to know as #Dasukigate are as nauseating as the consequences of the diversion: Jonathan headed a meeting at which the withdrawal of part of the recovered Abacha loot was approved for arms purchase to fight the insurgency raging in the North-East. The money came directly from the CBN and was funnelled to Dasuki, who then disbursed it, on instructions, in aid of Jonathan’s presidential campaign.

For example, part of the money went to a former Chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, who then disbursed it to various recipients, as instructed, including Chief Olu Falae, who admitted that he received a sum of N100m, which he forwarded to various chapters of his party, the Social Democratic Party, in support of Jonathan’s re-election campaign. The serial reporting of these revelations, as they occur, and the analyses of their implications for security, development, and even morality cannot be dismissed as hyperventilation.

Take the Dasuki-Anenih-Falae money trail for example. Who could blame Falae for believing that the money he got might have come from the over N20bn reportedly raised by the PDP for the presidential campaign? How could he have known that the advertised fund-raising was only a ruse to cover up the real source of funds for the campaign? The implication here is that an otherwise honourable statesman has had his name soiled by being linked to dirty money. Some critics have argued that it serves Falae right. Why, they argue, would he think that Jonathan was re-electable in view of all we knew about him leading up to the election? Yet, others argue that the money Falae received from Anenih was dirty money, regardless of its source, because it was used to buy the votes of the SDP voters for Jonathan.

The initial reaction of the PDP officials to the #Dasukigate was a continuation of the cloak of delusion the party wore for 16 years. The party’s major spokespersons and propaganda machine said all they could to delude the public about the revelations: Never mind Muhammadu Buhari, they implored the public; his anti-corruption war is one-sided; he must have gone after Dasuki in revenge of the latter’s role in the coup against the former; Buhari wants to wipe out the PDP; and so on. The garbage of words continued until it was discovered that the party’s spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, himself had cornered N400m. Then, another garbage of words … Oh, they want to poison Metuh while in custody, and all that rubbish.

One would have thought that the defeat of the PDP in the presidential election would teach its leaders a lesson and that the party would reorganise and reposition itself for the 2019 presidential election. Nothing of the sort has happened beyond the successful coup against the All Progressives Congress during the elections of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Up till now, the party has not been able to elect a substantive chairman, either for its National Working Committee or for its Board of Trustees. Conflicting self-interests within the party have thwarted all attempts at reform.

The PDP is only just now learning some lessons as some of its members began to understand the scale of atrocities perpetrated by their leaders and the weight of the delusion cloak they all have been wearing. Partly in realisation of the seriousness of the party’s illness and partly for self-preservation, many a member of the party has defected to the ruling APC. The situation is now so bad that some members of the PDP are reluctant to identify with the party.

The implications of these developments are far-reaching. First, the scale of the plundering of state resources is beyond pardon. The estimate of stolen and misappropriated funds since 2001 ranges from $150bn to $250bn. What is worse, the bulk of the money is stashed away in foreign banks or otherwise invested overseas, while the majority of the Nigerian population languish in poverty. Clearly, the number of Nigerians that could have benefitted from this loot is far less than the number that could have benefitted from its appropriate investment by the government in domestic development programmes.

Second, something much more serious needs to be done beyond merely fighting corruption, if someone like Falae could be dragged or deceived into the cesspool of dirty money. I know Falae and truly believe that he could not have willingly taken dirty money. However, bringing his name into the discussion at all says something about the nature of Nigerian politics – politicians are not a good brand in Nigeria; you are more likely to be like them if you join them, or, at least, you will be perceived as such.

Third, our judicial system urgently needs to be reformed. Our corrupt judicial system helps to perpetuate the impunity with which politicians plunder our resources. Lawyers in turn arm corrupt judges by using delaying tactics in courts that give room for negotiations. At the end of the day, lawyers and judges are great beneficiaries of corruption by partaking in the loot by way of legal fees and bribes. In a sane judicial system, Jonathan would have been indicted by now, and his men could never have escaped jail terms, in addition to the recovery of their loot, if the case against them is eventually proved in court.

Finally, the million dollar question: What’s next for the PDP? Perhaps the way to go, as suggested in some quarters, is a rebirth under a new name, and in collusion with other minority parties, rather than resurrection of the old party. Whichever option is chosen, the PDP as we knew it is all but dead.

Copyright PUNCH.

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