I am inclined to think that the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, committed a Freudian slip. He did not set out to apologise to Nigerians, in the strict sense of the word, over the much-touted mistakes of the party. If anything, he wanted to score a political point. He wanted to give the party an image of newness. He wanted PDP to come away as a reinvented and renascent party in the eyes of the public. The overall objective was to create the impression that the party has broken the yoke of its unflattering past. To hit at what he aimed at, he, unwittingly, employed an objectionable word. The word did not fit. It echoed an ugly and discredited past.
An apology is supposed to invoke images of repentance. It is intended to portray anyone tendering it as a convert to a new order. An apology is a rejection of what was.
When, therefore, Secondus said that PDP was sorry for its past mistakes, the statement sounded innocuous to him. He dropped those lines with the best of intentions. But as a statement made in political circumstances, its full implication was obviously lost on him. He might have meant well but the statement, in its pure form, was impolitic. It was not well considered. It simply gave the party away. It portrayed the PDP as having accepted hook, line and sinker all the criticisms being levelled against it even when a good number of them are uncharitable. With that seeming capitulation, the party has made itself a villain. It can come under any manner of umbrage. That is why the party has been immersed in controversy since the statement was made. If only Secondus had weighed the statement.
Secondus, no doubt, would not have known that he committed a faux pas if the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) had not cashed in on his statement. The leadership of the APC must have had a good laugh when it listened to Secondus. The PDP, through its national chairman, played into the hands of the enemy. It has provided it with more ammunition. The APC did not let the opportunity slip through its hands. It jeered and jibed at the PDP. The former ruling party had scored an own goal and the APC was the happier for it.
After having a hearty laughter, the APC then retorted. It told the PDP that an apology was not enough. It asked the party to return all the money it allegedly stole from the treasury, if it was serious about the apology. APC’s interjection has since led to unintended consequences. PDP has challenged it to publish a list of the looters. And APC, surprisingly, has responded very feebly to PDP’s demand. It drew up a list, which PDP has described as laughable. And it is, indeed, laughable. It is without substance. It is a poor job. The PDP has since thrown it back to the APC with a long list of APC faithful most of whom were former members of the PDP. As things stand, none of the two parties is standing on firm ground.
But why did Secondus imagine that PDP got it wrong? I suspect that his imagination tricked him into blaming his party because power slipped out of its hands after being in the saddle for 16 years. His predilection for regret must have been deepened by the crisis that the PDP slipped into after losing the presidency. The party was battered from all fronts while the APC ruled and reigned. While all that lasted, it was as if Nigeria was under a spell during the era of PDP. APC looked like a breath of fresh air; a radical departure from whatever was wrong with our immediate past. That was how it seemed. But the reality did not bear this out. The APC, which has ridden the crest, could not sustain its stay on the high horse. It crashed down too soon. Nigerians have so many tales of woe to tell about the ruling party. So far, it has proved that it is not better than the party it overthrew, even if by default.
Indeed, it is the failings of the APC that is giving the PDP some excitement. The former ruling party is eager to dethrone the APC, since it has not proved to be a viable alternative. And, perhaps, the leadership of the PDP feels that the quicker route to power is to blame itself for whatever it must have done wrong in the past in the hope that such show of humility and forthrightness would endear it to the people. This was the route Secondus was passing. It is the route that has now led to a blind alley.
But the PDP is blaming itself for the wrong reasons. APC did not grab power because of the failings of the PDP. The then ruling party played its part well in the build-up to the general election of 2015. Whatever went wrong emanated from the Presidency. The Goodluck Jonathan presidency did not know what it was in for. It fiddled when it needed to show leadership. And since any ruling party in Nigeria is usually controlled from the presidency, the PDP could not do much to save the situation. The party was hamstrung by an inept presidency, which saw political contest as a tea party. The PDP is, therefore, not to blame for the loss of the presidency. The complacent presidency of the time was behind the woes that befell the party.
But even when blames are to be apportioned to political parties for whatever goes wrong, we cannot, seriously speaking, single the PDP out for blame. The party had and still has its weaknesses. There were many things that it did not get right. But the same thing is true of other political parties. The ruling APC of today has not fared any better. The party is even afraid of its own shadow. That is why it is shying away from holding a national convention. It is afraid of its own systems and processes. The fate of the party is, therefore, hanging in the balance. It is treading precariously into the future. Therefore, if PDP made mistakes as Secondus said, the other political parties, including the ruling APC, are equally guilty.
I do not even blame the political parties for whatever they are not getting right. They are only responding to the peculiarity of the Nigerian environment. In Nigeria, there is no difference between the leadership and the led. One is as loose, corrupt and corrupted as the other. Political parties do not exist for their own sake. They are there to serve the interests of the people. The leadership is only a microcosm of whatever any party stands for. The leadership acts in certain ways largely because it knows what the led want. Therefore, because the leadership and the followership are one and the same thing, the mistakes of the past are bound to be repeated. PDP did not lose power because it made mistakes. Nigerians did not reject the party at the polls. PDP will, therefore, not get back to power by appealing or apologising to the people. The apology from Secondus is, therefore, needless. It will serve no purpose. PDP might bounce back to reckoning if the APC, in the Nigerian fashion, shoots itself in the foot as it is already doing.
In this matter of apology, there is no need to play the sanctimonious game as the APC is doing. The party cannot, in good conscience, accuse PDP of corruption without hurting itself. One is as corrupt as the other. None can seize the moral high ground. They should concentrate their energies on the next trick that can work for them. Whoever comes up with a smarter strategy will carry the day. Apology or lack of it will play no role in the politics to come.