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Why PDP must reform

THE People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is easily the luckiest political party in the history of Nigeria. This is borne out by the fact that it has managed the affairs of the country for eleven years and produced three presidents.

Currently it has control of 26 of the 36 states of the federation and a large majority of elected parliamentarians at all levels of governance. It is possibly the largest political party ever formed in Nigeria and can quite rightly pass as the largest party in Africa. It is widely perceived in many parts of Nigeria as the party that, once a candidate gets its ticket, his chances of winning are almost sure.

But this giant of a political party is suffering from a myriad of image problems, the least of which is not the current trial being faced by its National Chairman, Dr Vincent Ogbulafor who is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) over corruption to the tune of hundreds of millions of naira allegedly committed when he was a political appointee of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

This is a party wracked by perennial internal crises mainly as a result of lack of vision and control and no tradition of adherence to its own rules of process. A ruling party that has been in power for over ten years has not been able to impress on Nigerians its mission in politics.

Few Nigerians can point to exactly what the PDP stands for other than to win elections and remain power. There is nothing to show that the regime of Obasanjo and that of the late Umaru Yar’ Adua belonged to the same political party.

Indications are already there that even the new government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan might walk away from the path beaten by Yar’ Adua. Similarly, all the state governments produced by the party are doing their own things their own separate ways. There is no one PDP way of doing things.

PDP is a party that members feel free to walk out of to contest election in other political parties and when they fail they return to it. A glaring example was the case of Mrs Uche Ekwunife, a member of the House of Representatives who was elected on the PDP platform.

Failing to get the Party’s ticket for the February governorship polls, Hon Ekwunife went to the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA), secured its ticket to run against the PDP and other parties, and when she failed to get elected, she returned to her seat in the House of Reps as a PDP elected member. She never resigned to contest on PPA platform, and she never re-registered in the PDP when she returned. The same thing is true of Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The greatest undoing of the PDP is its lack of internal democracy. The culture of impunity and imposition created under the leadership of Obasanjo has thrashed the democratic culture in the party. This factor, more than any other, was responsible for the many losses the party suffered at the election tribunals, which were widely applauded in the polity.

Today, the party is suffering a battered image and lacks public esteem and sympathy. The PDP is thus a bad example to the other smaller parties because, just like the PDP, the others are in no better condition or shape. There is no model “big brother” from whom they can learn to behave  well.

This is obviously the reason the so-called Reform Group has arisen out of the Party demanding a correction of the anomalies bedevilling it. Rather than give their suggestion a chance, the officers of the Party sought to throw them out.

It is a pity that a political party which had a noble prehistory has ended up this way. The PDP’s first beginnings was in 1995 when Dr Alex Ekwueme and other practising politicians staged the All Politicians’ Summit in Lagos shortly after the close of the Constitutional Conference set up by General Sani Abacha.

Their main purpose was to draw up a code of conduct for politicians and to prevent the military from succeeding themselves in power.

When it became clear, by 1998 that General Abacha was moving towards self-succession, the group came together under the G.18 and later G.34 to oppose him publicly. When Abacha died, the group transformed into a political party, but because of its wide appeal, it was hijacked by the military and given to General Obasanjo to use in taking over power from the military.

It is time for the party to wean itself from its undemocratic, quasi-military reflexes and return to the path defined for it by its founding fathers.

A reformed PDP will help occasion the enthronement of genuine democracy in Nigeria .


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