Some leaders of the former ruling party are not oblivious of the distress and danger of fighting from the trenches.
Anyone in doubt of how the vicissitudes of life have hit the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP should have seen the arrangements for the one day retreat of the party’s elected members into the forthcoming National Assembly.
The retreat in Port-Harcourt involving senators-elect and members-elect into the 8th National Assembly was held in Port-Harcourt on Monday, June 1, 2015 and was remarkably the first official outing for the new governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike and the handful of the PDP governors inaugurated the previous Friday.
The occasion would have been the first outing for former President Goodluck Jonathan since his retreat from Abuja last Friday, but the former president did not turn up.
For Governor Dankwambo, he has become like a rare or endangered item, being the only PDP governor serving a second term.
However, everything about the retreat, from the timing, venue, packaging, duration, theme and the attendance reflected the hard times that have hit the political party that once boasted that it would dominate the Nigerian polity for an unbroken 60 years in the first instance.
In respect of timing, the retreat was like an afterthought after the exciting but controversial two-day retreat organised by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC for its senators-elect and members-elect in Abuja. The two day retreat held for each of the two set of legislators by the APC in Abuja in the opinion of some observers may have ended in an anti-climax given the fact that the understated reason of getting a consensus on the new leadership for each of the two chambers was not realised. However, that did not take away the fact that the two day retreat for each set of legislators by the APC had its glitz, grandeur and gambles.
However, the event by the PDP was seemingly an afterthought reportedly spearheaded by one of the outgoing principal officers on the platform of the party in one of the chambers of the National Assembly.
Though the acting national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus was present for the one day event, there was every indication that the party officers were there merely as officials more than the organisers that they should have been.
The venue of the meeting also showed how far the PDP that once boasted of being the second unifying factor in Nigeria after the security services has been seemingly reduced to a sectional enclave strong only in the South-South and Southeast regions of the country.
Few months ago only few would have imagined the PDP holding a national retreat and taking it to Port-Harcourt. However, now with almost 80% of its elected legislators coming from the South-South and Southeast, it looked feasible for the party to save already diminished funds in finding a central location for the majority of the returning members and Port-Harcourt seemed feasible. Even more, the party has only four governors outside the South-South and Southeast; Taraba, Gombe, Ondo and Ekiti. Taraba and Gombe were far from the base of the majority of the conferees while Ekiti now in the eye of the storm upon the issues around Governor Ayo Fayose was simply not under consideration. For whatever reason, Ondo was also ruled out.
The harshness of the times was reflected by the fact that unlike the APC, which hosted its elected members in the two chambers to separate two day functions, the PDP restricted its outing to a one day affair with the members elected to the two chambers put together.
The retreat with the theme: “The role of the opposition in facilitating development and good governance” was especially apt and was reflective of the promise by the party to present a formidable opposition to the ruling APC.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who was reportedly one of the rallying points in organising the conference said the party’s members in the forthcoming National Assembly must hold the APC accountable to its promises including the release of 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.
Erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC Mallam Nuhu Ribadu who was also the party’s governorship candidate in the Adamawa State, however, affirmed that the party must purge itself of its bad attitudes if it would mount a reasonable challenge to the APC.
“But to keep government on its toes, ensure fiscal discipline, minimise corruption in the system and ensure strict compliance to appropriation and due process laws, the guard – here, you the legislators, have to go to equity with clean hands. You must demonstrate personal will and commitment to be above board if you really want to checkmate others.”
The incoming lawmakers in their communiqué released at the end of the day resolved that they would shun defection, speak with one voice, and benchmark the activities of the APC to the benefit of Nigerians.
In an eight-point communiqué issued at the end of its retreat, members of the Forum of PDP National Assembly Members-elect said they also undertook to “provide the nation with a healthy, robust, vigilant, and responsible opposition, to promote democratic good governance, and development”.
The communiqué notes that PDP leaders and Governors attended the retreat en masse and promised to avail their contingent to the 8th National Assembly all necessary support and cooperate with other critical stakeholders to provide a responsible and effective opposition in the polity.