One year the leaders, members and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will not forget in a hurry is 2019. It is a year, the party’s hopes and dreams of regaining power at the center were dashed and its spirit dampened.
Surprisingly, the year had started on a very high note for the major opposition party. Therefore, the party was optimistic that the 2019 general elections will provide it an opportunity to relaunch itself as the ruling party in the country. Its optimism was understandable.
In 2018, the PDP had proved bookmakers wrong by organising a crisis-free presidential primary election, where it nominated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate for the 2019 general election. Not a few had predicted that the opposition party’s presidential nomination exercise was going to throw the party into crisis.
Before then, the party had in July 2018 formed an alliance with other political parties in its quest to sack the All Progressives Congress (APC) from government. The coalition christened Coalition of United Progressives Party (CUPP) and involving 38 other opposition political parties was to add impetus to the PDP quest to pull off the rug from the feet of the APC.
Also in the preceding year, PDP had secured the support of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo for its presidential candidate and the opposition; after some eminent Nigerians brokered peace between the former president and Atiku in October, 2018.
Obasanjo had fallen out with the latter, who was his former vice president from 1999 -2007, during their second term in office.
Besides, Obasanjo had joined forces with the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari against the PDP candidate, former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 general elections. The former president’s support for Buhari is believed to be part of the factors that led to the PDP’s ouster in the 2015 polls.
Therefore, for the opposition party, with Obasanjo in its fold, coupled with the seeming wide acceptance of its 2019 presidential candidate across the country, the presidential contest was for it to lose.
Also, across the states, the PDP had equally had a fairly peaceful and credible gubernatorial, National Assembly and state assemblies’ primaries.
Twenty hours to the the presidential and Assembly polls, the PDP National chairman, Uche Secondus had boasted that the PDP will win the elections convincingly. He accused the President of trying intimidate voters and the electoral umpire and urged Nigerians to remain steadfast.
“I wish to thank Nigerians who overwhelmed us with their support in all the states and gave us the needed impetus to enter Saturday’s election as victory is ours already. I want to urge everybody to remain steadfast and focussed refusing to be intimidated.
“When the President ordered soldiers to shoot voter’s at sight, the motive was to scare you out of the polling booth to enable them manipulate the result but with God on your side, they will fail.
“When the President threatened the electoral commission with probe after election, the intention was to frighten and cow them into playing along in the APC agenda…But I urge you Nigerians to refuse to be intimidated or provoked but remain focussed and fix your eyes on the ball, which is victory which is coming on Sunday,” Secondus had stated.
Similarly, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, stated that the opposition party will sweep the polls across n the six geopolitical zones, including the Norh West hitherto considered a strong base of the ruling party. He added that all the stakeholders and factors that gave Buhari victory in 2015 were working in favour of Atiku.
Big losses, marginal wins
However, at the end of the day, the PDP was defeated by the APC at both the presidential and National Assembly contests, which held simultaneously on February 23.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Buhari polled a total of 15.3 votes to defeat Atiku, who scored 11.3m votes.
Disappointed with the outcome of the presidential election, the PDP took its case to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal and the Supreme Court. Unfortunately for the opposition party, its case was dismissed in both courts.
At the parliamentary elections, the opposition party also suffered a serious blow as it failed its quest to produce majority of lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly, as it had anticipated. The party had lost its majority in the National Assembly in 2015 and came close to regaining the majority late in 2018, when disenchanted APC lawmakers cross to the opposition party.
Consequently, the PDP had sought to consolidate its hold on the National Assembly through the parliamentary polls. Alas! That was not to be as APC swept the National Assembly seats, resulting in the key PDP lawmakers, including the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, losing his seat in the Senate.
In all, the PDP won 127 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 seats in the Senate, against 213 seats and 64 seats won by the APC in the House and Senate respectively.
At the governorship level, the PDP lost Saraki’s home state of Kwara to the the ruling APC. Regardless, the opposition party retained all the other states it controlled prior to the general elections, and equally defeated the ruling party in Imo, Oyo, Bauchi and Adamawa states. This increased the number of state controlled by the party from 13 to 16.
However, the opposition party’s quest to regain control of Kogi State, which it lost in 2015 fell like a pack of cards, as its candidate in the November 14 governorship poll in the state, Musa Wada, lost to the APC candidate and incumbent governor of the state, Yahaya Bello.
The opposition party equally suffered a humiliating loss in the Bayelsa governorship poll, also held on November,14, as the APC candidate, David Lyon, defeated Senator Diri Douye, who flew the PDP flag in the contest.
Bayelsa, apart from being a PDP state, is also the home state of the party’s national leader, President Goodluck Jonathan. And since 1999, no other party other than the major opposition party has won the governorship seat in the Niger Delta State.
The party is yet to recover from the shock of the November 14 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls, especially its loss in Bayelsa.
The former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope told Daily Sun that the loss of the two elections leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
“I tell you the loss of Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections is something that cannot make one to be happy. The loss of Kogi and Bayelsa is something which is not helping the situation at all. It is something which is very baffling to the mind; something which is offensive to the year; something that can make somebody to cry,” Babatope told our correspondent.
Loss in NASS presiding officers
After the PDP failed to gain majority of seats in the National Assembly in the 2019 polls, it shifted its gaze to the election of presiding officers of the two chambers of the federal legislature.
In the last two assemblies, the opposition had influenced the emergence of the presiding officers of the National Assembly, particularly in the House of Representatives.
And the PDP, despite its minority status, had sought to determine who leads the Ninth assembly. Consequently, on the eve of the inauguration of the Ninth assembly, the PDP leadership after a marathon meeting with its members in the National Assembly, endorsed Senator Ali Ndume for the position of President of the Senate and Umar Bago for the position of speaker of the House of Representatives and directed lawmakers elected on its platform to vote for both men.
The APC had endorsed Senator Ahmed Lawan and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila for the positions of President of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively. Unfortunately, for the opposition party, its candidates lost out in the election of presiding officers of the National Assembly.
While Lawan secured 79 votes to defeat Ndume, who polled 28 votes, in the Senate Presidency contest, Bago lost to Gbajabiamila in the contest for the speakership of the Ninth House. Gbajabiamila scored 281 votes, while Bago polled 76 votes.
PDP political woes in the National Assembly were far from being over, as the party equally lost out in the emergence of the leadership of the minority caucus in the House.
Gbajabiamila had named Honourable Ndudi Elumelu, Toby Okechukwu, Gideon Gwani and Segun Adekoya as minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip respectively against the wish of the PDP national leadership.
The opposition party had nominated Kingsley Chinda, Chukwuka Onyema, Yakubu Barde and Ajibola Muriana as its choice for the positions of minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip respectively.
In its immediate reaction, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) slammed a one-month suspension on Elumelu, Okechukwu, Gwani and Adekoya and and referred them to the National Disciplinary Committee for further disciplinary actions.
Also suspended in connection to the emergence of the House minority caucus leadership are Wole Oke, Lynda Ikpeazu and Anayo Edwin.
The opposition party was to later designate Chinda, Onyema , Barde and Muriana as leaders of its caucus in the House, saying that the minority leadership cannot represent its interest in the Green chamber.
Today, the once cohesive PDP caucus in the Green chamber has been torn into factions on account of tussle over the leadership of the party caucus.
PDP leaders will remember 2019 as a year the party set out to achieve much, but suffered deadly political blows, resulting in unimaginable electoral losses.