By OWEI Lakemfa
WHEN the arrogance of power, even where hidden, becomes institutionalised in politics to an extent that it glorifies, or even merely appears to glorify criminality, we recognise immediately the preliminary steps towards the enthronement of fascism—Â Wole Soyinka on the PDP in his essay Dancing On Igeâ€™s Grave.
THE ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) according to its then leader, President Olusegun Obasanjo had a garrison commander in Ibadan, Lamidi Adedibu who must be obeyed by the party members and leaders in the state without question. Last week, one of the partyâ€™s ideological gurus and current Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, made similar reference and justification for the military-style antecedents, culture and ideological foundations of the party.
Lamido, a former Foreign Affairs Minister said: â€œThis government is a creation of the collective effort of the PDP in 2007 led by (Ahmadu) Ali. Obasanjo was our commander-in-chief while Ali (then PDP chairman) was our garrison commander; they led us and we courageously conquered our enemies…My duty in PDP is to conquer oppositionâ€.
As we know, except in the military, it is only in mafia or fascist organisations do we have garrison commanders, and see opposition as an enemy that must beÂ destroyed. In contrast, a political party is an organisation of peopleÂ with shared views and vision,Â and usually, with a common ideology.
They also have an agreed programme which they sell to the electorate with the promise of implementation if given the mandate. In other words, a party is not a military or paramilitary outfit that is run on commands and instructions which members must obey without question. It is also not a theocraticÂ organisation where its programmes and documents are God-given and therefore cannot be questioned, modified or even changed. Political parties are dynamic associations that should run on ideas.
Therefore, internal debates and contention of ideas should be part of their very existence. We have had cases in history where political parties so evolved that they came to represent the opposite of what they initially stood for. This is the case of the two leading parties in the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties. Another famous example is the Labour Party in Britain.
It was founded in 1900 on the principles of workers interests, trade union control, public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and state intervention. Ninety four years later, Tony Blair leading the so called â€˜New Labourâ€™ completely changed all these, making the partyÂ far less distinguishable from the Conservative Party.
But in the case of the PDP, talk about change or a challenge to the ruling ideas is tantamount to treason or heresy. When the PDP Reform Forum led by some party stalwarts challenged the leadership style of the current leadership, they were accused of treason.
The partyâ€™s National Publicity Secretary, Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali announced that the PDP had uncovered â€œthe activities of some political actors who have set out to undermine the stability of this countryâ€.
The evidence against the Forum is that it publicly attacks the leadership for not being proactive, failure to generate ideas for good governance and lacking in integrity.
The PDPÂ Â last Thursday, summoned the Reformers to appear before the same National Working Committee of the party which they want dissolved. Alkali claimed that this was in consonance with the partyâ€™s â€œcommitment to the principles ofÂ justice and fair hearingâ€.
The Reformers, conscious of the fact that their appearance would be like cockroaches presenting themselves before a jury of chickens, declined appearance on the basis that they were not invited as summons through a press statement cannot validly be an invitation.
Ordinarily, this is correct, except that it is in the PDPâ€™s character to summon even organ meetings through press statements or announcements. Apparently, the party has no effective means ofÂ internal communication. So much for the â€˜largestâ€™ party in Africa!
The next day, 19 Reformers ,including two former Senate Presidents, Ken Nnamani and Adolphus Wabara, and former House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari, were suspended from the party through a press statement. How can a party that lacks internal democracy run a democratic government? It simply cannot give what it does not have.
It is like the military giving democracy to a people when it lacks the democratic culture, temperament, experience or inclination. Part of the lack of internal democracy in the PDP is the way the partyâ€™s chairmen are removed and imposed.
The party in its less than 12 years of existence has had five national chairmen. One of them was forced out by simply being kidnapped by heavily armed security agents, driven round Abuja and sufficientÂ fear instilled in him. The incumbent, Vincent Ogbulafor was not a front line runner. He was one of those used and dumped in the early years of the Obasanjo presidency.
Then the word went out that all those hoping to run should drop off in their own interest as Ogbulafor had been anointed as the new chair. The same method was used in picking Umaru Yarâ€™Adua as the partyâ€™s presidential candidate in 2007.
In most cases as in Imo, Rivers and Edo states, the gubernatorial candidates were simply imposed. In the elections proper, the PDPâ€™s rigging machine was simply unstoppable. Things were so bad that some beneficiaries like President Yarâ€™Adua openly complained, while the courts upturned gubernatorial elections in 10Â of the 36 states.
In a typical mafia-style move, when last week, the case of N104 million fraud against Ogbulafor was assigned to a Federal High Court, rather than being reflective, the party and its state chairmen chose the moment to publicly endorse him as the fittest man to be their chairman.
That the PDP says it is a political party because it is so registered, does not mean it is a party; it lacks the essential ingredients of a party.
Permit me to end with another quote by Professor Soyinka. â€œThe conduct of the PDP, apart from its provable electoral criminality, goes beyond indecency. It is a national obscenityâ€.