The inevitable trial before any great man, nation or organization is the responsibility to exist among smaller men, nations or organizations of similar bearing, calling or stature but who are not fortunate to be counted among the great.
This is a task because of the attendant feelings of suppression, dominance, rancor and inequality that the situation breeds because of a subsisting sense – either real or imagined – of supremacy on one hand and subjection on the other.
Scholars, thinkers and philosophers through the ages have indicated that it is an explicit constituent of the human condition, and have pondered on this perennial phenomenon with a view to effectively defining it, and advising government institutions on the best way to adjust their policies and appointments in order to avoid frictions in their various interrelationships.
During the feudal era, a Squire was expected to go around the communes of the commoners to get acquainted with their problems, demands and underlying attitudes in order to convey to the Knight the right message for effective administration; and on the other hand have the acceptable face to deliver to the people the decisions of the Knight concerning them.
Likewise, during the time of the emperors, the idea of ombudsman came into being in order to make even the foreign settlers have a sense of being part of the empire and as such radiate unalloyed allegiance to the empire. In this our contemporary time, the twentieth century social anthropologist, Hubert Blalock, coined the term middleman minorities to refer to minority entrepreneurs who mediate between the dominant and subordinate groups; their customers are typically members of marginalized racial or ethnic groups that are segregated from the majority group.
In Nigeria today, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is an undeniable monolith. It is a great party existing in a great nation; and, just like the empires and feudal enclaves of old, there is a stubbornly growing need for a middleman to sit beside the leader at the top.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines middleman as a person who helps to arrange things between people who do not want to talk directly to each other. To start with, there are various interests in the party at loggerheads. Secondly, there are dissenting voices in the nation today who feel that the PDP does not have human face, just because they do not want to talk to the party.
But most important is the fact that in Nigeria, just like in many nations of the contemporary world, there is a persistent friction in the intercourse between the executive and legislature. This is important because the leader of the party, the president, is of the former, while the many PDP lawmakers, are of the latter.
The decision that the PDP shall make at the coming national convention is of vital importance not only to the party and the nation, but to the practice of democracy in the country. Evolving democratic practices worldwide tend towards the strengthening of partisan platform through the hands of an intermediary as the party leader at the centre of the fulcrum.
Bearing this in mind, I painstakingly scrutinized the long list of aspirants for the position of the party’s national chairman, and, at the end, I found that Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji fits into the person I can confidently classify as an ombudsman and mediator.
It seems as if he has been honed by experience, appointments, and providence, to stand between men of differing proclivities, even to the pitch of fine art. And I believe that he was prepared for a time like this in the history of our great party.
As a member of the fifth Senate, he was elected the minority whip of the upper house. He was vocal yet approachable, resolute but conciliatory, and was able to effectively secure the support of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and PDP senators for his bills and motions.
It is a widely recognized fact that he served as a valuable and timely bridge between the senators of the majority and minority parties. Maybe this was why it was natural to appoint him as the Adviser on National Assembly Matters to the late President Musa Yar’Adua and to President Goodluck Jonathan, which he diligently served until last June.
As a member of Friends of Democracy for Goodluck Jonathan, which he served as the chairman; I found an unwavering leader with a strong belief in the unity of our great country.
He exhibited great skills at the navigation of common interest, and showed an uncanny ability to inspire faith and confidence in followers, while giving everybody a sense of equal stake in the corporate project. He talked eloquently like a charismatic politician, but applied first-hand knowledge like a seasoned administrator.
PDP today is in search of an arbitrator, and an interface that can pull the party together and reconcile its members. We need somebody who will not only make PDP win elections, but also win the hearts of the common Nigerian; a transformational chairman who is acceptable to the six-geo political zones of our country; a firm and decisive person, with a strong character, a goal getter, a reformer, one who has zero-tolerance for graft, and believes in the transformation programme of the president.
The task before all of us as party members is to carefully sift through the long list and pull out the middle man from the stock, for he is the one we need at this moment.
*Mr Kenny Okolugbo was a member of the PDP presidential campaign council.