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PDP rebirth: Challenges of advancing purpose before process

By Leo Sobechi
27 August 2017   |   4:25 am
Riding back to national political fame and presidential contest in 2019 seemed to be the sole purpose of the recent non-elective convention of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Makarfi addressing delegates<br />

• Why Party May Experience Another Exodus
Riding back to national political fame and presidential contest in 2019 seemed to be the sole purpose of the recent non-elective convention of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That was the impression most Nigerians got as speaker after speaker gloated on how Nigerians have tasted the difference between PDP’s fall from grace and the alternative that filled the vacuum.
If what transpired at the convention ground last week was the test run of the party’s strategic communication model, then it is obvious that erstwhile largest political movement in black Africa is in dire need of ideas and common sense. None of the speakers harped on the critical issues that led the party towards political Golgotha in 2015.   
Former President Goodluck Jonathan started the wrong footing in the entire event as far as communication was concerned. It is not in doubt that the immediate past president is a good man with a fertile heart for the genuine practice of democracy. But he failed to convince most Nigerians that his goodness is better appreciated when he is silent.  

Jonathan forgot that he is an item of history and spoke as if he is the future. The best he could have done was to extrapolate on the circumstances that justified the breach of PDP zoning arrangement and the need to firm up that piece of proviso that serves as the holy grail of the party.
It is quite inscrutable that the former President had to broach the topic of corruption, because doing that was a poor job of effort to defend his track record; he reopened the sore point of his presidency. That way, he opened the party to a fresh dose of traducing by those who, excelling in propaganda, have evidently failed to provide better alternative.  

Reconciliation stands out as the greatest challenge to PDP’s reinvigoration. There are a lot of issues and personalities to reconcile in the party. Chief among the issues begging for crucial attention is the core value of the party, which borders on internal democracy and inclusion.
What to do with the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff presented an immediate test for the party to show tolerance. Sheriff was not the problem of the party, but the lack of proper respect to statutes and laid down procedures that paved the way for the former Borno governor into the highest echelon of the party. It happened that those who procured Sheriff found out that he had a mind of his own. Had the party been standing on functional organs, the idea of two or three persons settling for an acting national chairman should not have arisen.
When PDP started, power resided at the national headquarters. But no sooner had President Olusegun Obasanjo mounted the saddle, garrison politics, with its attention to might, rather than right and the rule of law took over. PDP leaders should have used the non-elective convention to reinforce proper structural pillars to ensure a sound governance system based on transparent organogram.
It could be seen that the party is still tending towards money politics and preeminence of state governors over the members. Insofar as PDP does not broaden its decision making process, through informed debates and discussions, the journey to the future would be rough and tempestuous. Most of the stalwarts of PDP seem to forget that it takes democrats to practice democracy and that without democracy, PDP lacks meaning for Nigerians.
The Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee (NCC) merited the four months extension granted them, because of their comportment and humble disposition. Party management does not conduce to bullies.
But it could be because of its quietude that the stamp of the NCC was not much advertised. What road map did they chart for the future wellbeing of the party? Apart from zoning party positions, what considerations would determine who occupies what post? What is the place of zonal endorsement, or is it as obtained during the Dr. Bamanga Tukur days when a candidate that failed zonal congressional approval was ultimately imposed on the party?  Would the party retain the delegate system of electing its officers or encourage the participation of card-carrying members? What about funding, must state governors be left to be the ones calling the piper?
With words making the rounds about possible back channel discussions with potential presidential aspirants, it is obvious that PDP was placing purpose before process and that is fraught with many hazards.  
Unless PDP is bold enough to admit that it provided the arsenal for its defeat and elects to start on a clean slate, whatever it does to regain reckoning will be like chimera, because Nigerians are sick and tired of some characters in the party. They should take a backseat and let new blood flow.
PDP must learn to pursue honesty of purpose. For instance, saying that the party has zoned the post of national chairman of the party to the south, without being bold to categorical about southwest, suggests symptoms of old affliction. You don’t zone for personalities.
As such zoning the presidency to the north without recognizing the imperatives of the six-geopolitical format is a lurching danger.
The dissolution seven state chapters became the first test of the NCC to blend the party into a cohesive whole. But it is not known how much of persuasion and harmonization of views preceded the action.
Some party faithful complain that they were targeted in the dissolution for their roles during the leadership tussle. Those who supported Sheriff are hinging their gripes on the dissolution of state executives. In a statement signed by former spokesman for the Sheriff faction, Hon. Bernard Mikko, disclosed concerns raised by committed members of PDP.
He noted that majority of party members continue to dream desire and pray for a united party devoid of divisive tendencies with the hope of quickly recovering the lost grounds. Mikko however, regretted that concerned members of the party, committed to internal democracy; justice and rule of law, are disappointed by recent negative developments. 
He recalled that “after the Port-Harcourt Appeal Court judgment affirmed the legitimacy of the then National Working Committee (NWC) led by Senator (Dr.) Ali Modu Sheriff, the Governor Dickson Committee set to work on genuine and comprehensive reconciliation and came up with, a template that was acceptable to majority of members.”.
“Members urged for political solution rather than legal conclusion. (As such) the then NWC led by Senator Sheriff, declared a policy of “No Victor; No Vanquished,” he added, saying that the genuine peace efforts then led to a resounding electoral success in Osun West Senatorial election with the then National Chairman leading the campaign.
Mikko maintained that the desire of all legal and peace loving members of PDP is to see a leadership that will forge a lasting political solution through robust consultation to ensure true reconciliation.
He stated: “Majority of members see the Supreme Court judgment as an opportunity for the party to come together as one, guided by the constitution of the party and the rule of law. The expectation is that those saddled with the responsibly of running the party will not put personal interest and ambition at the front burner. They are to bring all members together under one united strong umbrella to consolidate on our recent gains.
“Unfortunately and ironically, the six-man caretaker committee under the chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Makarfi is rather celebrating and pursuing the implementation of for the fractionalisation of the party. The NCC, goaded and guided by some ambitious presidential aspirants had shown clearly that the paths of constitutionality and rule of law is not theirs to follow.
“How can the Chairman of the NCC for instance explain the dissolution of executive committee members of states that were duly and legally elected to serve four years from April 2016? It is most worrisome that the Supreme Court judgment is rather seen as a license to victimize millions of party members.”
The concerned members lamented that some of PDP elders have remained indifferent or condoned the campaign of calumny that is capable of destroying our party, stressing: “The Governor Dickson reconciliation report has been thrown to the gutters. Threats, such as those suggested in page 14 of Professor Jerry Gana’s so-called strategy report, are now being brandished on those perceived as the vanquished.”

Threat Of Another Exodus
With the complaints by the Sheriff loyalist and the back channel discussions over the presidential ticket, there is every indication that PDP may witness another round of mass defections. The party has not shown serious contrition over its past misdeeds and acts of willful omission.
Perhaps it is based on the alleged secret talks on the presidential ticket and non specification of the geopolitical zone to produce the presidential candidate that some stalwarts from the northeast have started strategizing on the way forward.
Politicians from across party divides in the zone are gearing up for a major contest, insisting that it is the turn of northeast to produce the next president. That resolve may have actually informed the recent decision by immediate past governor of Bauchi State, Malam Isa Yaguda, to join the Green Party Nigeria (GPN).

Yuguda, alongside his former commissioners, campaign directors and supporters, including former PDP national organising secretary, Alhaji Umaru Dahiru and  Alhaji Habibu Aliyu, joined GPN.
The former governor had while resigning from PDP months back explained that he was leaving the party for its declining reputation, stressing that revelations of embezzlement of the $2.1bn meant for arms procurement shocked him. He noted that unlike PDP, GPN has a clear ideology on how to reduce the sufferings of Nigerians.
It is possible that unless PDP shows serious signs of wanting to do things right and play fair, more members may jump ship as happened at the Eagle square in 2013.