Africa

Nigeria election: Could the PDP lose power?

PDP supporters waving flags in Lagos, Nigeria - February 2015 Image copyright Reuters

In our series of letters from African journalists, Sola Odunfa considers the likelihood of Nigeria's People's Democratic Party (PDP) - which has been in power since the end of military rule in 1999 - losing the forthcoming elections.

This time four years ago, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was riding the crest of strong public support.

As a village boy who had braved poverty in a politically and economically repressed environment to rise to the pinnacle of academic and political attainment, he was the poster boy of many Nigerians who regarded him as their soul-mate in the fight for justice and equity in the country's governance.

On top of his personal attainments he was standing on the platform of the most formidable political machine in Nigeria - the PDP.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Jonathan is seeking his second term in office and is again facing Muhammadu Buhari

When the PDP was formed to contest the elections of 1999, it was on the solid foundation of the northern political elite, the club of retired military generals and the established political leadership in the south - minus only the south-west.

It has since won every national election comfortably, and so confidently that a former chairman of the party, Vincent Ogbulafor said in 2008 that the party would rule Nigeria "for not less than 60 years".

At the 2011 presidential election Mr Jonathan polled 22 million votes against his major rival's 12 million.

It has taken only four years for the glamour to fade from the Jonathan poster.

A lack of security, unbridled official corruption, ethnic favouritism and economic mismanagement have been the culprits.

In that period there have been large-scale defections of PDP state governors and other leaders to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), the most prominent being Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives.

And so the PDP is now a minority party in the house which it had dominated since its inauguration.


Sola Odunfa:

President Jonathan is like a desperate Cristiano Ronaldo before a full house at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium


This year's presidential election was initially scheduled to be held on 14 February.

If it had been, all indications were that the Jonathan presidency would be history now and the three-times vanquished Gen Muhammadu Buhari would have become president-elect.

Injury time

Fortuitously for the PDP, the election was postponed by six weeks to allow the military to quell the insurgency in the north-east and the electoral commission to improve on its preparation.

At least, that was the official explanation.

It has turned out to be akin to injury time in a football final.

The PDP is firing on all cylinders and President Jonathan is like a desperate Cristiano Ronaldo before a full house at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The PDP has been campaigning hard in the extra campaign time since 14 February

I have covered all PDP election campaigns since the party was founded but I have not seen it fight this vigorously and viciously. No holds barred.

So much dirt has been hurled at Gen Buhari that the barrel must be empty by now.

My heart bleeds when I read about the alleged huge sums of dollars being distributed among religious leaders and in traditional palaces for mobilisation of support for the president - and I am not comforted when the inevitable denial comes.


Nigeria decides 2015

Image copyright EPA
  • Nearly 70 million eligible voters
  • Two main presidential candidates: Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP and APC's Muhammadu Buhari
  • A candidate needs more than 50% of the national vote and at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states to win

In the past two months the president has felt the need to go beyond his parish church to seek God's assistance.

He has been worshipping in various church denominations and attending night vigils in Abuja and Lagos, accompanied by large retinues.

It has not come to public knowledge yet that any of the officiating pastors have pronounced certain victory for PDP next Saturday.

Should the momentum for Gen Buhari continue and President Jonathan lose, the PDP - the election-winning machine - would be thrown into a situation never imagined.

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