Matters Arising

November 14, 2009

PDP and the rest of us

By Kunle Oyatomi
Every passing day,  events unfolding  in the run-up to 2011 are lowering hope for a credible political process that is deemed democratic.

Especially the intra-party crises’ rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) portend real danger and a further blight on Nigeria’s democratic credentials.

Several  state congresses of the party are enmeshed in crises  which  threaten to tear the party apart, but none at the moment surpasses the Anambra governorship candidate issue. At the heart of the crisis is the process through which Professor Charles Soludo emerged as the candidate recognised by the central body of the party.

Soludo’s opponents are claiming that he is an imposition because the constitutional process stipulated by the party for a governorship candidate to emerge was breached by the national executive; as a result, those who lost out are raising hell and calling for the head of the national chairman of the party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor.

Everyday, the crisis gets murkier with aggrieved members holding their grounds in rejection of the official candidate. And, in response, the national executive of the party has gone ahead to dissolve the Anambra State executive and the latter is refusing to stand dissolved, etc, etc, etc.

At stake in this crisis is the democratic credentials of the party itself. From Plateau to Ogun and, Enugu to Anambra, the PDP state chapters are in crisis either within themselves or with the  national executive whose alleged high-handedness and “undemocratic interference” are creating more problems than the party can solve.

In the Anambra situation, it would appear that the national executive had preference for a particular candidate, and had to ensure that the person emerged against all odds. Some may say that’s PDP politics, but it gets a lot bigger than that in the context of Nigeria.

PDP, we should remember,  prides itself as “Africa’s biggest  political  party”, which should translate into the continent’s democratic power house. But, going by  what we already know about the party, added to what is going on currently within the party, it would appear that the PDP is simply “mighty” in size  but “small” in democratic content. If the national executive of the party cannot provide internal leadership, how can we expect it to give leadership to the rest of Africa?

Something is definitely wrong with the content and procedure of our democratic process at a more fundamental level. The military culture is  too  much  evident in what we call our democracy. This anomaly of “military fiat” is becoming malignant in our fledgling democracy.

After nearly three decades of military rule, and a majority of military politicians swarming into the PDP, it is becoming increasingly  difficult for that party in particular, and a number of others in general to be aculturized with true democratic norms.

Even the PDP  constitution  that the national executive is relying on to interfere in state congresses and executives borrowed the thought of imposing a candidate on the state from the military command structure.

In a federation like ours, what really is the business of the central body dictating or imposing candidate on any state that is supposed to be an autonomous unit on  its own? It is this type of undemocratic military politics which is at the  heart of instability in the federation, and  is now manifesting with negative consequences in the PDP.

This military mentality transplanted into, and which is being forced to become a Nigerian democratic culture,  is totally unacceptable to most people in the first instance, and the politicians who are directly affected by it. The retired military politicians are everywhere in the social and  economic lives of this country trying to influence every aspect of our lives negatively, against our democratic preference.

This is the crux of the crisis in the PDP. Anambra State could well be the flashpoint from where the whole shenanigans  will crumble, but what should give us concern is how the effect will impact on the entire political process.

Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the PDP lacks the wherewithal to provide democratic leadership for itself, how  much more for Nigeria or Africa. At least, it has not demonstrated any such capability in the last 12 years; for, under its watch, the democratic process in Africa’s largest “democracy” has suffered significant setbacks. And the future doesn’t seem to promise anything better, at least going by what we know of the PDP over the years.

The Anambra situation should prompt the  democrats within that party thinking of how to reposition the party for greater democratic credentials. As it stands, the PDP cannot survive further storms within its fold. Dictatorial tendencies within the party leadership cannot survive true democracy in Nigeria. The military has quit politics for good.

Their politics should also be thrown out of our democratic culture. The two are parallel lines that should  never meet. The present “forced co-habitation” of the two diametrically opposed tendencies is bound to implode.

There is no way of knowing at the moment which of the two will survive the implosion, but, unless the PDP reforms itself into a truly democratic institution capable of providing credible leadership, its very existence as Africa’s largest political party is critically under threat. The democrats there must watch it, and act.