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First week in opposition: PDP struggles with the challenge of new status

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ABUJA, the nation’s capital city, on Friday, May 29, played host to world leaders. That day, global attention shifted to Abuja for the inauguration of Nigeria’s fifth democratically elected President, Muhammadu Buhari.

Ahead of the inauguration, a sitting president contested an election, lost, conceded victory and handed over to the opposition candidate.
When historians settle down to document the history of Nigeria, it would be part of it that 16 years into PDP’s permutation of close to a century it would be in government, the former ruling party suffered a crushing defeat by the opposition APC, the first time such would happen in our nation’s political history.

Besides the removal of former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP from office in the election by Buhari, the PDP was also defeated at both the Senate and the House of Representatives elections which it controlled.

PDP, before it crashed in the March 28 election, controlled the National Assembly. In 1999, it had a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives with 214 seats; in 2007, the number rose to 263, but dropped to 208 and 137 in 2011 and 2015 respectively. This period was enough to be a stock taking one for the ruling party, it would have been a period for re- assessment, putting things right and discard the regime of impunity and lack of internal democracy at the time it lost a large number of 55 seats in 2011.

The PDP could not manage its success. At the upper red legislative chambers, the party had 87 seats in 2007, 71 in 2011 and crashed to all time low of 49 in the 2015 general elections. The party would have also seen the handwriting on the wall when it lost 16 senatorial seats in 2011. The bandwagon effect that happened to PDP was not only at the legislative level, but also with the governors which number dropped from 28 states controlled by it in 2003 and 2007 to 23 in 2011 and 13 states in 2015.

With the take off of the APC government of Buhari, the PDP, now in the opposition, will no longer control the government at the centre.

Loyalty
The national secretariat of the party would have been very busy now, but the hands of the clock has changed to the national secretariat of the APC because failure does not have friends. Loyalty must shift and that is beginning to happen with PDP members dumping the party for the APC.

In the first week of being in the opposition, the hitherto very busy Wadata Plaza, the national secretariat of the PDP, has suddenly become virtually empty as the staff do not have work to do, some only come, stay briefly and leave.

Uncertainty is boldly written on the faces of the staff at the PDP national secretariat. They fear there may be downsizing of staff at Wadata Plaza, Peoples Democratic Institute, PDI, and the Legacy House, even as a meeting slated for Monday, May 25 at the National Executive Committee, NEC, hall has been shifted indefinitely.

The leadership of the party, according to a memo signed by the National Director of Administration, Alhaji Gurama Bawa, on behalf of the National Secretary, Professor Adewale Oladipo, dated May 22, with official no PDP/NS/EST/124 and addressed to all the Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors, Heads of Departments and all staff, would have used the meeting to brief the staff on the PDP opposition status, the issues on ground and how to adjust to the new challenge.

Members of the National Working Committee, NWC, are also not left out against the backdrop that since President Buhari’s inauguration, penultimate Friday, it was only last Wednesday that they showed up at the national secretariat. But the absence of the leadership of the PDP may not be unconnected with  the one-day retreat of the party’s elected members into the forthcoming National Assembly held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State,  Monday, June 1 even as it was gathered that, on Thursday, some of the NWC members travelled to Ekiti State on a solidarity visit to Governor Ayodele Fayose.

The PDP, in its first week in opposition and to prepare for the new challenge, had to organise the one-day retreat which  involved  senators-elect and House of Reps members-elect.

The retreat became  the first official outing of the new governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, to host some of his colleagues from other states, party leaders and stakeholders. Also present at the retreat were Senate President David Mark; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu;  Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha;  Governors Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State; Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe, Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu,  and Chief Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, represented by his deputy. Former President Jonathan was absent.

Formidable opposition
The retreat, put together by Ekweremadu and held under the theme: “The role of the opposition in facilitating development and good governance”, was  apt and reflective of the promise by the party to present a formidable opposition to the ruling APC.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary,  Chief Olisa Metuh, who promised that the PDP will provide a strong opposition to the APC, said, “Our supporters may think we are weak, it is not being hailed in the social media. Let the President settle down; what we will do is that after one week we clock the mileage, one month, six month, one year, periodically we will assess the between the progress they have made and what happened with the PDP government and Nigerians on their own will decide which party is best to progress democracy in this country.”

If the PDP had won the election at the centre and holding a retreat of this kind, members, supporters,  stakeholders would have been falling over one another because of the large turn out that would have been at the function.

It was a brilliant decision to have been taken by the opposition PDP to hold the retreat in Port Harcourt, Rivers, a South-South state, to save cost and for proximity, especially considering the fact that almost 80% of its elected legislators are from the zone and the South-East. At the  moment, PDP has only four governors outside the South-South and South-East: Darius Isyaku of Taraba ; Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe; Segun Mimiko of Ondo and Fayose of Ekiti.

Speaking at the retreat, Ekweremadu urged PDP members in the yet to be inaugurated National Assembly to  hold the APC accountable to its promises like the release of the Chibok girls, creation of two million jobs every year, among others. “Members of parliament have always been the springboard for their parties’ return to power each time they suffered defeat. The PDP lawmakers in the 8th National Assembly should hold the ruling APC accountable on each of its campaign promises.”

Now that the PDP has rounded off its first week as an opposition party, we watch as it faces the new challenge and as events unfold.

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