People & Politics

June 22, 2009

PDP’s debt to Nigeria

By Ochereome Nnanna
AN  old saying has it that to whom much is given much is expected. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), truly the largest party in Africa, does not seem to understand the full weight of the responsibility which being the ruling party in Nigeria in her first ever 10 years of unbroken democracy imposes on it.

The levity with which leaders of the PDP hold the party’s status in our polity owes chiefly to the fact that none of the people running its affairs at the moment (and very few of its current major stakeholders) were part and parcel of the original foundation members. In fact, those of them in control at the Wadata Plaza were not even inheritors or disciples of the founding fathers of the party.

The said founding fathers, such as Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Professor Jerry Gana, Chief Solomon Lar, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Atiku Abubakar, among the rest, are either out of the party or on its fringes.

These were the people who started the G.34 movement that resulted in the mega party today known as the PDP.

The G.34 charter more closely related to the genuine essence of the PDP than any of the documents currently being used in running the affairs of the party.

Had the military not hijacked the party and driven away its founders from the core of its decision making, it is obvious that those who are running the party would be the second generation of its leadership, which would make them feel compelled by their proud pedigree to continue to uphold and advance its original vision. This vision had two legs.

The first is that the PDP was used to ease the military out of power. It started off by being a forum of elder statesmen committed, at their own risk, to ensure that the late General Sani Abacha did not complete his transition programme only to assume power as a civilian president. They fought it because it would not result in genuine democracy.

The rough and lawless ways of the military would become our political culture.
It was an irony of fate that when the military eventually handed over power to the PDP, they gave it to General Olusegun Obasanjo who, even as a retired officer, had continued to canvass an ideology of totalitarian democracy.

Now that Obasanjo and his rampaging political camp have effectively been ousted from power in the party, it is only right and proper for the new group to resume the course the party had set out on initially – vigorous democratisation.

This, in fact, is the second leg of the original PDP charter. This much is evident in its slogan of “Power to the People”.

During Obasanjo’s days as the leader of the party, he had retained the services of mercenary politicians, such as Chief Tony Anenih, to deploy the tactics of winning elections with very little electoral appeal.

This involves the adoption of wiles and subterfuges that take away the voter’s right to determine who emerges as his leader through ballot box; a total negation of the notion of “Power to the People”.

The leaders decided what they wanted to achieve and merely designed charade balloting to make believe that democracy was at work in the party.

The arrival of the pair of President Yar’ Adua as the leader and Dr. Vincent Ogbulafor as its National Chairman, as I once noted on this forum, is like having a coherent tag-team partnership.

Yar’ Adua’s era has been defined by a policy of largely leaving the party in the hands of its elected officers to run its day-to-day affairs, while the President minds state business.

The heat of the Obasanjo era occasioned by day-to-day meddlesomeness of the former president is off. Ogbulafor, a compromise candidate who is neither for an all-out war on the Obasanjo camp nor on a mission to restore his hold on the party, came on the platform to reunite the party and push harder to democratise its affairs.

He has already done a lot in this direction, the depth of which will be evident when the next political season comes into play.

Perhaps for the first time in the history of the Party, Wadata Plaza is showing concern in the performance of ministers appointed from among its ranks.

They have answered invitations to present their scorecards to a panel of the National Working Committee (NEC) of the party.

A source close to the party’s National Chairman disclosed that apart from helping to fast-track performance, the leaders of the party want to know exactly what they would tell the electorate as efforts made to deliver on campaign promises. The party also wants to align government functionaries to the President’s Seven-Point Agenda.

The ministers now know that they are not only being monitored by the Presidency but also the party.

If PDP succeeds in what it says it is doing, gone would be the days when the President’s activities bore little resemblance to what the party touted to the public as its manifesto or programme of action.

The Ogbulafor regime must really push with greater vigour the policy of continuous democratisation of the party’s processes. We want to see a PDP whose members actually decide the affairs of the party, rather than a few people at the top.

A political party like the PDP, with its electoral appeal, should be able to convince its members to pay their subscription fees, which will enable them to have a voice in the party’s affairs.

Once the PDP is able to cultivate a culture of having active and paying membership, other parties in the polity will take up the same approach.

PDP must see itself for what it is – the first born of our renascent democracy – which every other party looks up to, whether they admit it or not.

At this stage of our democracy, PDP is saddled with the responsibility to dictate the pace and direction of our political development.

The ball is in the court of Dr. Ogbulafor and company.