By Heather Murdock
VOA, September 25, 2013
ABUJA — Nigeria's ruling party remains
deeply divided after splitting in two late last month. And while some
politicians say they can re-unite the two parties, the split is already
raising tensions ahead of what could be a violent 2015 presidential
Since Nigeria transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, every
president, including current President Goodluck Jonathan, has been a
member of the People’s Democratic Party, or the PDP. And even though it
is still 2012, Nigeria’s 2015 election season is already in full swing.
Late last month, seven of Nigeria’s governors declared a new PDP
leadership, a move the old leadership called “self-seeking and
treacherous.” The party is now split into two groups popularly referred
to as the PDP and the "new PDP."
The "new PDP" accuses the government of incompetence, corruption and of
failing to stop security crises. They demand Jonathan cancel his
expected - but not announced - 2015 run for reelection.
Muhammad Lawal Isa, chairman of the "new PDP" in Bauchi in northern
Nigeria, says the local chapter was supposed to establish a game plan on
Saturday, but when they showed up for the meeting they were dispersed
by armed police.
At the inauguration of a new "new PDP" office last month in River State
in the south, police declared the meeting criminal and took down the PDP
and Nigerian flags outside the building.
Since then, leaders of both parties have been hurling insults at each
other in the local press, with both sides claiming the other is trying
to weaken the nation.
But some PDP members say the division is temporary and that the two
parties will not be competing, but re-merging after negotiations that
are set to begin October 7.
“They have set a committee which will now draw the final agreement and
then based on their demands and then the peaceful steps taken by Mr.
President so that the entire dissatisfaction will be finally resolved
once and for all,” says PDP spokesperson Mohammed Jalo.
Others say reconciliation is impossible because neither side will agree
not to field a candidate. Supporters of opposition parties, which
recently merged into one "mega-party," say the split is a good thing,
because it will also divide public opinion, giving the opposition a
better chance at winning in 2015.
In his office in the Niger Delta, the heart of Jonathan’s support base,
Isitoah Ozoemenea, the head of the political science department of the
College of Education in Warri, says elections in Nigeria have never been
fully contested because of PDP domination.
“So I am one of those persons who wishes that not only the issue will
expose the rot within the system but will give the opportunity for the
emergence of credible opposition,” says Ozoemenea.
But in Nigeria, elections are not just about gathering votes.
Politicians are known to hire unemployed young men to intimidate
opponents, and political loyalties are often based on religion,
ethnicity and Nigeria’s invisible north-south divide.
Yusuf Arrigasiyyu, executive director of Muslim League for
Accountability in Kaduna, a city in an area called the "middle belt,"
where more than 800 people died in post-election violence in 2011, says
if the ruling party remains divided, 2015 could be worse.
“If they insisted that Jonathan must not contest in the next elections
than I’m seeing from the threats from those people from the Niger Delta
creating problems. Therefore the grassroots starts taking sides. And
if they start taking sides I’m afraid Nigeria will be in what we don’t
want,” he said.
He says the upcoming election is already mired in confusion and post
election violence is expected no matter who contests. The "new PDP," he
says, may be just another divide to fuel the fighting.
Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta, Ardo
Hazzad from Bauchi, Ibrahima Yakubu from Kaduna, Peter Clottey from