‘PDP must return to the principles of its founding fathers’
Dr. , former Deputy National Coordinator of Goodluck Support Group (GSG), the platform of all the associations that supported President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2015 elections, told NIYI BELLO in this interview, why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the poll. Excerpts:
Why the PDP lost FOR so long, the PDP did not take into consideration the importance of internal democracy and that played a major role in the determination of candidates and in fielding them for the 2015 elections.
We played the ostrich burying our heads in the sand and exposing our rumps and refusing to recognize the pains that ordinary Nigerians are going through.
Because of the fact that we did not take our internal democracy very seriously, a lot of candidates just came through godfathers and messed up the opportunities that we have. PDP came into existence in July 1998 with the expectations of uniting Nigeria but it soon degenerated to individual struggles among the leadership of the party to the extent that the dream of uniting Nigeria was no longer as important as what we get from the system at individual levels.
To me as an insider, I feel pained because we have seen this defeat coming for a long time. We lost five of our governors in one single sweep to the opposition and so many things happened.
Even the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party that should have been the custodian of the principles of the party suddenly abandoned ship and resorted to bickering among themselves bordering on individual struggles for what they could personally gained from the process.
When eventually the Presidential Campaign Council was inaugurated, the party was already much divided and the campaign council, the working committee and the other bodies were not working in tandem isolating the presidency on one hand and keeping themselves busy bickering and fighting among each other.
There are many allegations and counter-allegations of corruptions, of people taking money from aspirants and never delivering on promises and many more. We acted as if we were in Rome under Nero.
Nigeria was burning and we were not in tune with the challenges of bringing our party to the position of responsibility. Another valid reason for our loss was that for once, the opposition presented a common and united front.
With the coming together of the CPC and the ACN the North and the Southwest were effectively brought together and the APC became nationalistic in outlook and having the strength and capacity to challenge the PDP.
That eventually helped them in defeating our party. With all these going on and with our inability to reorganize ourselves to get stronger and deliver on some of the promises we made, it was obvious that the end was near.
Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that the party and its government did not perform. Even when we were performing, we left the Nigerian people behind; we were not carrying them along. It is one thing for you to do something for the citizenry, it is another thing for the beneficiaries to be brought on board and be part of the successes.
We left Nigerians behind. We performed wonderfully well but it was as if the people were not carried along and so they detached themselves. And we did not connect with them properly. Anyway that is the essence of democracy.
They came and told us that enough is enough, you have done sixteen years; let’s have a change. To me the most important part of the reasons for our loss is the quality of men at the helm of affairs in the party.
If they are patriotic enough, by this time, they should have resigned and allowed the party to move forward. All these grandstanding about tenure shouldn’t have arisen.
You have lost an election and the best thing to do is to allow for a change of leadership so that a new direction can be charted for the party to survive.
Now more than ever before, we have decisions to be made about the future of the party and they must allow us, they must step aside for us to take these decisions so that we can be relevant in the country’s political space.
If they didn’t step aside, they will kill the party and Nigerians would be denied a strong opposition party that will strengthen our democracy. The hate campaigns The hate campaign is also another terrible blunder that the PDP committed in the build-up to the elections.
We have enough to showcase to Nigerians about the achievements of our party and government to solicit their votes than focusing on certain issues especially the School Certificate issue of Buhari.
The truth of the matter is that anybody that rose to the status of a Major-General in the Nigerian Army that we knew, that we still know, cannot be an illiterate.
And there is no reason why we should assume that the person cannot, by virtue of qualification and training, have more than a School Certificate.
Beyond that, we focused too much on opposition candidate than the one we should be selling to Nigerians. People were tasking us on what we have been able to do for Nigeria.
Our challenge was to explain what we have been able to do not about the personalities in the opposition parties. And in the process of doing that, we ended up buying sympathy for this man who, to me does not have extra-ordinary capacity more than his opponent in the PDP.
So the hate campaign as we saw in the certificate controversy, the insinuations about somebody’s state of health and direct attack on others within the opposition, contributed immensely to our defeat.
At this point, I think we should be honest with ourselves. Why should we focus more on the past deeds of an opposition candidate than the present deeds of our own? Implications of loss The problem that the country would be facing now is that all the projects and programmes that the PDP government had commenced in the area of power generation, public transportation, infrastructural and agricultural developments and other massive strides may have to experience a new beginning in this new administration.
And they will have their own learning course and may not be able to jump into it as quickly as Nigerians want. No matter how optimistic you are the possibility of the APC coming in and solving all the problems at once is not there.
Again, the new administration will have to begin its own because we certainly cannot be looking at solutions to the country’s problems from the same perspectives.
Of course their own idea could be different in the executions of some of these programmes and that would increase the time of delivery.
They will come with their own solutions, which could be fraught with mistakes and errors. Their learning process would certainly cause us a few things.
And there are also implications for the party because many committed PDP members across the country that devoted their time, energy and resources to the victory of this party, unknown faces, many of who will never be known, are the ultimate losers, not those in Abuja that would be carting home a lot of retirement benefits.
The ordinary Nigerian that should have benefitted from the dream of a bright future, whose expectations have been truncated by the personal ambitions of a few, is the loser of that election. I only hope that the APC would come out with the recognition that resources are becoming very scanty.
The earlier they realized that some key projects must be continued and delivered, the better. I am talking about such projects like the Lagos-Ibadan road rehabilitation, the Shagamu-Benin road, the second River Niger Bridge, the deforestation of 11 Northern states for which the Federal Government has already spent N10 billion.
I am also talking about all the programmes that have been earmarked for the emancipation of the Northeastern part of the country. These are some of the things that would have to wait a little while before the APC settles down to the real process of governance.
I believe these are some of the casualties of our defeat apart from the individuals that have committed themselves but at the end of the day, would not get any benefit for working so hard for the party.
The way forward Our party would have to look inward and reinvent itself and go back to the principles of the founding fathers. We should recognize the importance of rebuilding and confronting the new government so that we will remain relevant.
I believe what we have done in the last years are good for Nigerians. So we must reorganize ourselves and apologize to the people for letting them down.
The leadership, which actually let the party down, must apologize to the members. The honest truth is that the leadership let the party down. There are some formidable governors that have actually stood up to defend the party.
Ondo and Ekiti state governors did the best they could for the party in the Southwest. We should recognize this and allow this their commitments translate to future victories for us.
I believe also that there must be change in leadership. The leadership must, as quickly as possible, show commitments. Look at what happened in the just concluded UK elections, the leader of the Labour Party, despite their impressive showing, resigned his position likewise the leader of Liberal Democrats.
They did that to allow the parties take decisions that would usher them into the future. The NWC and the NEC of PDP must recognize that there are sacrifices to be made and they are supposed to be on the firing lines for these sacrifices to be made.
They have led the party to failure and should be held accountable so that our party can move forward. Of course there must be restructuring of the party. It cannot continue to be business as usual.
Even if there is a change of leadership and the party is not restructured, it will boil down to the same thing.