BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
Those who malign the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as an unreconstructed behemoth weighing the nation down often have genuine reasons for their assertions. It is one movement forward and one step backward. Party apparatchiks at the end of a strategic retreat last weekend sent a mixed message on confronting the behemoth
ONLY fools dare where angels fear to tread. The national and state officials of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who retreated in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State last weekend were certainly no fools.
However, one of the principal demands at the parley of the National Organising Secretary, National Publicity Secretary and their state equivalents certainly calls for caution given the past vengeance of the party’s governors to some of the recommendations of the retreat.
One of the principal recommendations at the retreat was that the party be opened up to internal democracy through the process of online registration. Online registration or e-registration is, however, not a new issue for party members. So it was surprising that given the cavalier dismissal of the e-registration project by the governors and even the president in 2010, that the party apparatchiks went along to adopt the recommendation.
Even more surprising was the presence at the retreat of Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, the former chairman of the party who was dismissed from office in a plot orchestrated by the governors. Nwodo it is recalled, was the original architect of the e-registration idea and had allegedly sold the idea to the presidency as the most viable means of freeing the party from the grip of the governors.
It was as such not surprising that the governors led the brutal offensive that led to the removal of Nwodo from office in early 2011. Before that, they had compelled President Goodluck Jonathan who had already been registered to abandon the project.
In proposing the adoption of the e-registration system, the gathering of party operatives in their communiqué said: “the retreat notes that there is no alternative to internal party democracy. To enhance this therefore, it recommends, as a matter of urgency, the introduction of e-registration and computerisation of party membership. This will ensure transparency in party electoral processes.”
But how determined the party can go in limiting the influence of the governors is another story. Just like Nwodo whose clash with his governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime led to his own downfall, the present national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is already enmeshed in his own clash with his own governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State.
Nyako, who in any case was passionately against the emergence of Tukur as national chairman earlier this year, is alleged to be persuading fellow governors to his side in a possible clash with the national chairman over the structure of the party in Adamawa State. The adoption of the resolution calling for e-registration and even the phrasing of the recommendation would no doubt be received by the governors as a call to battle from the national executive of the party.
The meeting in Uyo was part of the strategic moves of the ruling party to redefine itself in the minds of its critics within and outside its fold. It was as such not surprising that the chief host, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State who was praised in the communiqué for hosting the event and for his “uncommon transformation agenda”, frowned that the party has given latitude to the opposition to intimidate it.
Governor Akpabio took out for mention the Action Congress of Nigeria’s spokesman, Lai Mohammed who he claimed has given shape and character to the opposition party. “PDP has taken a lot for granted, we have left public communication to the opposition to tell the stories,” Akpabio said as he hoped that the retreat would help PDP “in developing how to tell our stories.”
Despite their seeming devotion to the wellbeing of the party, the party officials in another recommendation betrayed their own personal interests. One of the other recommendations of the party officials was that “The party must encourage loyalty and hard work through incentives, patronages, merit awards, letters of commendation among others.”
In other words, the party officials were calling for more patronages like contracts, appointments and such like that come the way of typical Nigerian politicians. The party officials it was reported were particularly miffed by the appointment of technocrats into top government officials. Such technocrats they lamented only talk technical things and do not know how to spread patronages and service the local chapters of the party.
State chapters that have been particularly vociferous against the trend include Lagos, Ebonyi, Ondo among others who have such technocrats as ministers. Lagos PDP officials have consistently faulted the appointment of Mr. Segun Aganga who they claim not to be a party man, having been recruited from an international financial firm in London.
Dr. Abel Chukwu, the Minister of Health according to one report was also the object of criticism from Ebonyi PDP officials who claim that he is totally disinterested in the affairs of the party in the state. The two major recommendations from the PDP retreat show as always, the difficult and often tough challenge facing the ruling party. How the party resolves its internal issues will no doubt help move the country forward.