PDP and a conventional way forward
For holding a successful convention after a long battle in and outside the courts over its soul, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deserves the praise of all who believe in democracy and the fact that a vibrant opposition is an essential part of that ideal.
Uche Secondus is in as chairman with his executive committee members and their job is well cut out: rebuild a broken party and make it a deserving alternative platform for seeking power as well as service to Nigerians.
A political party that ruled for 16 years had come apart too soon and in too spectacular a fashion after losing power at the centre that, all the intrigues therein and allegations of fraud notwithstanding, its convention the other day would seem a welcome development, one that has the capacity to enrich the nation’s democracy.
Nigerians at home or abroad and believers in the government of the people by the people for the people who have up until now feared a descent into a dangerous one-party state are therefore justified to heave a sigh of relief that the Peoples Democratic Party can be seen as one again and can be counted not only as a platform for contesting for power but also as an instrument to be used for re-energising the country’s democracy.
However, PDP’s leaders should note that the citizens of this country have not forgotten the 16 years of bad leadership and governance, corruption and ineptitude that ended in 2015. The new lease of life it appears to have just received cannot erase its poor outing from the minds of a people who bore the brunt of its disgraceful years in power. It is a fact that if PDP’s years had deepened democracy as expected or built strong institutions of participatory government as desired, the now ruling All Progressives Congress would not only have had no other option than to continue to build on a 16 year-old good foundation, it would not have been so arrogant in its own equally appalling ineptitude so far.
PDP leaders should therefore reflect on their party’s poor 16-year stewardship even as they bask in the relative success of their just concluded convention. The 1999 constitution entrenches the political party system as the legal recruitment platform for the office of the President, governors and other elective offices in the country. No one gets to any elective office without being a member of a duly registered political party. And the nation needs platforms with competing ideas as well as men or women of character.
But unfortunately, the political parties that have been in power since 1999 at all levels have been far from impressive as platforms for leadership recruitment. Nigerian politicians, who have proven never to be loyal to any party or principles use such platforms as ladders for upward movement which they discard as soon as they gain the heights they desire.
As once noted by this newspaper, political parties are essential institutions of democracy that offer citizens choices of ideas and personnel and, while out of power, opposition parties can hold the one in government accountable to its promises to the people. Participation of citizens in political parties therefore offers unique benefits, including opportunities to influence policy choices and to employ political leaders of their choice for different assignments.
It is sad that in Nigeria, the modern-day political parties hardly attract the respect of citizens and are therefore hardly accountable to voters.Yet, a vibrant, accountable and inclusive multiparty system that offers citizens meaningful choices and opportunities for political participation is the ideal in a democracy that would serve the purpose of the people.
Since the PDP now has a new lease of life and can be a platform for leadership recruitment in the country, the party should seek knowledge of how to mend its broken soul and present itself as a credible alternative. Its leaders have been part of Nigeria’s destruction and the ruins are there for all to see. It is now redemption time.
The new leaders of the party need some soul-searching and a renewing of their minds if they want to be considered for nation building and transformation again. Like most purpose-driven political parties around the world in thriving democracies, the PDP must immediately set up research and policy development units that can make it a party of ideas. It must inculcate the values of internal democracy in all of its members and its leadership must open itself up for criticisms or ideas that can edify it. These are not difficult things to do. Indeed, they are the irreducible minimum expected of a political party that claims to belong to and seeks to serve the people.
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