Foremost Nigerian professor of political economy and management expert Patrick Utomi, in a recent interview with the Punch Newspaper fearlessly spoke about the origin of one of Nigeria’s biggest political parties – PDP and the factor which led to it becoming one of the giants in Africa’s political terrain.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview:
Being a presidential candidate in the 2011 presidential election, what would you say has changed in terms of political campaigns?
‘One of the more important changes, which was something I was campaigning for partly, was to have parties that are almost of equal strength canvassing positions. The mentality of 1998/1999 was the mentality of how we could reasonably share the resources of this country between us as the elite.
And so, the elite all clustered into one party called the Peoples Democratic Party, trying to work out different formulae for getting their share of the (national) cake. The PDP, really, was never a political party; it was a vehicle for an occasion of largesse. Those who more or less did not accept that view or did not get their share inside the PDP generally ran into alternative platforms, which were often very small parties against the machinery of the PDP that had access to state resources.
They really never had a chance. But in the nature of the prebendal culture that has emerged very well in Nigeria – looking at state level – it is fascinating that many governors found accommodation for those people. The PDP person wins the election and he makes a small budget for keeping all these other guys in other parties happy and that kind of general booty sharing arrangement continued to go on.
A few people driven by principles or other motives kept arguing for the need to bring together political parties to have a formidable other party. This was quite elusive; it was the very reason why I got involved in partisan politics; to see if I could advance that course because I thought it was of great value to the future of democracy. In 2011, we came close to a coalition. The idea was that every party should bring a candidate, get together on the eve of the election and everyone steps down for one person. It turned out that at the last minute, it failed. It led people like me to becoming a little more pessimistic. One of those that kept trying to persuade me on that project was the leader of then Action Congress of Nigeria, Senator Bola Tinubu.
After the election of 2011, he called me and said ‘let us do this thing you have always wanted us to do.’ The bottom line is that he succeeded in pulling off the APC arrangement.’ He added.