A bleak future for Nigeria’s opposition PDP

Nigeria

Published on Thursday, 21 December 2023 Back to articles

Rivers States PDP governor Sim Fubara (L) and his predecessor and former mentor Nyesom Wike (R)

The future of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), once the governing party and now the main opposition, looks bleaker by the day as it struggles to rebuild after losing three consecutive elections. The party has not had a substantive chairman since Iyorchia Ayu was removed by the courts in March. Umar Damagun has acted as chairman since the courts refused to reinstate Ayu. 

Damagun is perceived to be a loyalist of Nyesom Wike, the immediate former governor of Rivers State and now minister of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. Wike still insists he is a member of the PDP, but his actions show he is now loyal to President Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), under which he is serving as minister. Wike openly backed the APC during the February presidential elections. Damagun has refused to act against Wike. Wike dared the party to suspend him, but nothing happened. 

Three days after Wike was seen in a viral video singing and dancing to Tinubu’s campaign anthem, 27 lawmakers in the Rivers State national assembly announced that they were defecting from the PDP to the APC, citing alleged divisions in the PDP. The 27 are known to be loyal to Wike, who has been at loggerheads with the state’s PDP governor Sim Fubara who he helped install as his successor. The 27 lawmakers have threatened to impeach the governor and their movement to the APC is part of the plot to remove him. 

The PDP is divided into a pro-Wike camp and another that is loyal to Atiku Abubakar, the party’s candidate in this year’s presidential elections. Wike remains a PDP member mainly to weaken the party and ensure that the pro-Abubakar camp is not able to reorganise the party into an effective opposition. There are those in the party who do not support Wike but are also unwilling to back Abubakar because of the perception that he is still nursing a desire for another shot at the presidency in 2027 – despite having lost in both 2019 and 2023.

Age is not on Abubakar’s side – he would be 80 in 2027 – but he is refusing to rule himself out of another shot at the presidency. This is already creating tensions in the PDP. Bode George, a founding member of the PDP and the party’s former deputy national chairman for the south, warned on 11 December that the PDP will become ‘history’ if it fields another northern candidate for the presidency in 2027. George insists it is the turn of the south to fly the party’s flag in 2027 and 2031.

The PDP’s woes have been compounded by the fact that it is on the verge of losing two states, Zamfara and Plateau, unless the Supreme Court overturns the judgments of the Court of Appeal that ordered a rerun in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Zamfara and sacked the governor in Plateau state. That would reduce the number of states the party controls to nine from 11. Among the states it still controls, the loyalty of Oyo State governor Seyi Makinde is doubtful. He is a close ally of Wike and looks to have cut a deal with President Tinubu that enabled him to win a second term in the March governorship election in the state.

There is talk within the PDP about luring back former members, including Peter Obi (see above), in a bid to rejuvenate the party. Chances of making this happen are low, since the party has almost nothing to offer former members. The Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) look to have better prospects now than the PDP. The PDP’s elected members look more aligned to the APC than acting as an opposition party. There is no indication that this will change unless the party can elect a new chairman who is not loyal to Wike. The chances of the party breaking into factions is higher than of it becoming a united front ahead of 2027.

This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Nigeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

The December 2023 issue of Nigeria Focus also includes the following:

Spotlight

  • Six months in: what we have learned about the Tinubu presidency
  • Implications
  • Profile: All eyes on Zach Adedeji, the revenue man

Politics & Society

  • A new form of opposition politics?
  • A bleak future for PDP

Economy & Finance

  • Christmas 2023 will not by joyful
  • Multinationals exit from increasingly difficult operating environment

Energy

  • Dangote Refinery fires up production
  • New oil price template threatens crude sales
  • Fox Petroleum Group’s phantom US$7.5 billion investment in NNPCL

Security

  • Breakthrough on the security front?

Forecast for 2024

  • Domestic Politics & Policy
  • International Relations
  • Economy
  • Energy
  • Security
  • Sport

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