History of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria


The PDP is a major, contemporary political party in Nigeria with a major reach in regions such as the South-South and the South East. Despite falling out as the main, central party in Nigeria, the PDP has managed to survive and fairly competed against the reigning party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The PDP has always been surrounded by controversies, even as the main political party in Nigeria. Since its emergence in 1998, the party has had major internal crisis, owing to selfish interest of its members; one of which led to its fall as the most formidable political party in Africa at some point.

In this post, we talk about the history of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria and everything there is to know.

History of PDP in Nigeria

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is a Nigerian political party founded in August 1998 by members of numerous groups and organizations, including the groups known as G-18 and G-34. It was Nigeria’s major political party from 1999 to 2014 before it was dethroned under then President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the All Progressives Congress (APC). The first president to emerge from the party is former President Olusegun Obasanjo.


Earlier in 1998, the G-18 and G-34 had openly opposed the plans of the military leader at the time, Gen. Sani Abacha, to continue his rule. Following Abacha’s death on June 1998, the government announced that democratic elections would be held the following year, ending 16 years of military rule.

First Party Chairman of the PDP

In preparation for the election, political parties were formed, including the PDP. Alex Ekwueme, a former vice president of the country, was the first party chairman of the PDP, and Jerry Gana was the first party secretary. The party had a broad membership drawn from traditional chiefs, academics, and businessmen and proved especially popular with the army, as some 100 retired senior officers joined, including Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader of Nigeria (1976–79) who joined the party soon after its inception. Under his guidance, the PDP quickly became the country’s dominant party. In the 1999 elections, the PDP won a majority of seats in the legislature and Obasanjo was elected president. In the 2003 elections the party maintained a legislative majority and Obasanjo was re-elected as the president.

Zoning in Nigeria

Zoning in Nigeria, in a democratic setting started under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP had an unofficial policy of rotating the presidency between candidates from the predominantly Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north.

In 2007 the party’s candidate was Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a Muslim and the governor of the northern state of Katsina. The vice-presidential candidate was Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian and the governor of the southern state of Bayelsa. Yar’Adua was declared the winner of the 2007 presidential election, although international observers strongly condemned the election as being marred by voting irregularities and fraud.

In 2010 power shifted unexpectedly to Jonathan, who assumed the role of acting president in February after Yar’Adua fell ill; he was sworn in to the presidency following Yar’Adua’s death in May. Jonathan’s announcement in September about his intention to run in the 2011 presidential election generated much controversy leading into the PDP’s presidential primaries, held on January 2011. However, his overwhelming victory over his closest challenger, northerner and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, showed that Jonathan had considerable support, even in several of the northern states and in spite of the fact that his candidacy would be a deviation from the party’s unofficial rotation policy. Jonathan was victorious in the country’s 2011 presidential election, which was deemed largely free and fair by international observers.

As the 2015 elections grew closer, the longtime ruling party found itself in a weaker position: infighting had resulted in several members leaving the party; Jonathan’s administration was under fire for not doing enough to combat corruption or to eliminate the threat from the deadly Islamic insurgency led by Boko Haram in the northeastern parts of the country; and many Nigerians felt that general living conditions had not improved.

Furthermore, in 2013 much of the perennially fragmented opposition had united to form one party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the APC chose a strong candidate, former military head of state Muhammadu Buhari, to face Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. Buhari defeated Jonathan, signaling an end to the PDP’s grip on the presidency, which it had held since 1999. The party also lost its majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives to the APC in the legislative elections. In the 2019 elections the PDP chose Atiku Abubakar as its flag bearer, but he too was defeated by Buhari. The PDP also did not win a majority of seats in the Senate or House of Representatives.

Why did PDP lose the 2015 elections?

The PDP lost the 2015 presidential election because of internal crisis. Besides this, corruption had peaked and then President, Goodluck Jonathan was accused as being weak for allowing women, namely his wife, Patience Jonathan, Diezani Alison-Madueke (former petroleum minister), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (former finance minister), Stella Oduah (former aviation minister), Arunma Oteh (former Director-General of the Securities Exchange Commission). These women were considered ‘too powerful’ for Jonathan to handle. Another factor was that of security in the northeast, led by Boko Haram.

Who is the Current Party Chairman of the PDP?

Prince Uche Secondus (Rivers), is the present national party chairman of the People’s Democratic party.

When was the PDP established?

The PDP was founded on August 1988, after the death of dictator and military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Who Founded the PDP?

A group of politicians known as G-18 and G-34 founded the PDP. From among them, they had traditional chiefs, academics, and businessmen and proved especially popular with the army, as some 100 retired senior officers joined, including Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader of Nigeria (1976–79) who joined the party soon after its inception.

How many years did the PDP rule?

The PDP ruled Nigeria for 16 years (from 1999-2015) before the All Progressives Congress, led by Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan at the 2015 general elections.

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