Beyond PDP’s perfunctory mea culpa
The recent public apology rendered by the national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, showed that the wrong footing in Nigeria’s political party system is responsible for the flawed democratic experience in the country.
When PDP organised a discussion on the theme “Contemporary Governance In Nigeria,” most people thought the party was gathering to x-ray Nigeria’s democracy in the past three years with its sixteen years’ control of the levers of federal administration as backcloth.
But, perhaps out of haste to court the people and garner some goodwill, the chairman apologized on behalf of the party for what he called their mistakes in the past sixteen years.
Uche Secondus must have forgotten that party politics is much like chess, where you calculate every move to ensure you are not leaving yourself vulnerable to successful attack.
The rendition of the apology, as well as the form of its delivery, left much to be desired. It was not well thought out. It was belated, perfunctory and ended up opening old wounds.
Undertaking such tricky communication require great expertise, research and collective approach. Timing was another critical issue.
Had Secondus delivered the mea culpa shortly after his election as national chairman, it would have great weight and helped to set the agenda or a new perspective for Nigerians to evaluate the party.
More importantly, such apology delivered on the heels of what was considered a repeat of PDP greatest sin, would have helped to douse the ire over Southwest’s loss of the office of national chairman.
THE national chairman identified impunity, imposition of candidates as some of the mistakes of the past, but he forgot the one deadly sin of the party.
Post election analysis must have convinced PDP leaders that it lost the 2015 presidential election for two main reasons. By 2011 Nigerians would have rejected PDP, but for the presence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on the ballot.
The general impression among Nigerians then was that the former Vice President represented a refreshing departure from the garrison command, which twisted every tenet of democracy.
Nigerians were therefore united in the resolve that he should be supported to clear the Augean stable.
But four years after, the same Nigerians who saw themselves in the picture of a President who once had no shoes or sandals as he trekked to school, were disappointed that their 2011 hero failed to walk the talk and rather chose to walk with the high and mighty.
PDP lost in 2015 to a doubtful alternative therefore, for two reasons, namely the breach of the zoning arrangement and the inability of President Jonathan to tame the fat cats, particularly under the obscure petroleum subsidy regime.
In recognition of these twin errors, Prince Secondus should have acknowledged the fact that it does not lie in his power to apologise vicariously for the former President, even though he was supported or indulged by the National Working Committee (NWC).
Consequently, what the national chairman should have conveniently done was to admit the complex challenges the former leaders grappled with and rationalize them on the fact that no institution or human being is beyond mistakes.
Then, if talking about yesterday is a must, PDP should have tried to situate its sixteen years in power by segregating them into Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan interregna.
Whenever the ruling party chooses to cast aspersion on PDP, it does that effectively by lumping the sixteen years together without direct mention of the Obasanjo years, which they supported through the infamous political accommodations of 2003 and 2011.
Had Uche Secondus taken that path, he would have invariably shown through clever association that the problem of Nigeria’s democracy and governance has to do with the impact of military tactics and mannerisms, something Obasanjo and Buhari shares in different styles.
But most importantly, a poignant fact that was sadly missing in PDP’s apologia is that taking initiatives without precepts disposes one to mistakes.
By 1999 when PDP took over from the military, there was no guide map or performance scheme; as such most of the leaders, including the playmakers of the current ruling party, had their own measure of faux pas.
The absence of in-depth analysis of all that constituted the pitfalls of PDP in party management, which would have come from extensive research, made the apology less susceptible to all manner of interpretation.
Prince Secondus would have made the declaration that under his watch, imposition and impunity would be unheard of without burdening his speech with the rendition of apology for sins committed by potentates.
The national chairman’s apology would have been necessary if either of Audu Ogbeh, Barnabas Gemade, Dr. Okwy Nwodo, Prince Vincent Eze Ogbulafor, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur or even Adamu Mu’azu committed any serious infringement that earned the party bad image.
Based on the foregoing, the PDP apology lacked consequence and being facetious, it provided the ruling party an opportunity to wallow in further holier than thou posturing.
Above all, by offering vicarious apologies, the national chairman has unwittingly created an opportunity for social ambush in view of impending trials.
ONE area where the new PDP chairman will surely face a baptism of fire is the forthcoming presidential primary of the party. Most people believe that in 2003 and 2007, PDP did not reflect its name on the processes through which candidates emerged on its platform.
The saving grace in 2007 was that the beneficiary of the imposed system, the late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, came out to not only denounce the election that brought him to power, but also pledged to change the narrative about Nigeria’s electoral system.
Former President Jonathan built on that electoral reform, even though he paid dearly for it. A month ago Northern elders regretted that most of leaders from their area are products of outside imposition, ranging from Yar’Adua to the incumbent President.
The leaders have therefore stated their intention to have the final say on who enjoys political leadership position from the north. The approach by the north seems to draw from the experience of the Southwest at the December 10, 2017 elective national convention.
Southwest had believed that given that it has never occupied the office of national chairman, the zoning of the position to the South suggested that it would be ultimately zoned to them. But that was not to be as the issue of micro zoning was defeated by internal intrigues.
It is perhaps against that political mischance that the Northern elders decided to open a conversation among them with a view to identifying quality candidates that could fly the party’s flag in 2019.
The committees were billed to submit their report at the end of March. However, when the shortlist of candidates is made public it would be left for Nigerians to see whether Secondus’ words that “we have learnt our lessons and we are ready to begin a new agenda,” hold water.
Snippets showed that the committee on 2019 looked at a set of politicians and evaluated them on the basis of such criteria as, national acceptability, political baggage, ability to grapple with the financial requirements of running for President, among other factors.
It is believed that the national chairman came into office with the tacit support of Rivers State governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. How far the chairman could go in ensuring internal democracy would determine whether Secondus’ apology was from the heart or calculated to deceive.
Battle For PDP Ticket
ALL those interested to contest the Presidential election are either state executives or former executives.
They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, former national caretaker chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, former Education minister, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa.
While speculations were rife about a possible defection to PDP by incumbent Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, it is not known how far his discussions with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu went after the visit. It is also feared that Tambuwal’s entry to PDP may cause the defection of Bafarawa and Shekarau.
But it was gathered that despite positive inclinations of Governor Wike to Tambuwal flying the PDP flag, most party stalwarts are wary of the implication of having the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, on the ticket.
Also, on Atiku, it was said that his hurry to pitch tent with PDP without consulting northern elders creates the impression that he wants to go it alone, even as some of his loyalists have identified with the Social Democratic Party (PDP).
One thing that is said to be going well for the former Vice President is his capacity to appreciably fund his electioneering.
Lamido, Makarfi and Gombe State governor, Dankwambo, are standing on the solid ground as loyal party men, but with Secondus’ apology and assurances that imposition would not feature, the forthcoming presidential primary of PDP would be interesting.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.