By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
THE pioneering national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo’s awareness of the original focus of the party can hardly be questioned.
Equally, given his experience in the hands of later day joiners who ironically jolted him out of the party, Nwodo’s understanding of the brutish and unrefined democracy habits of the PDP could also not be faulted.
It was perhaps not surprising that once he returned to the party and was made national chairman he went with zest in pursuit of his reforms. The first leg of that reform was the e-registration of members, a process that was aimed at opening up the party and which would have eventually realized an estimated N6 billion for the party.
“Hitherto, because of the factions that existed in the party, if one faction collected the membership cards and registers, they only register their faction and they will deny other people registration. And this caused a lot of disharmony within the party. So, we want to remove that obstacle,” Nwodo had said when flagging off the exercise last August.
“We hope this (registration) will go on until about the middle of September when we will start to organise our primaries. We have to stop when the constitution says we should stop. But it is on-going. Once you are 18 years, you can register even after the election.”
The e-registration exercise which Nwodo had successfully sold to President Goodluck Jonathan according to PDP insiders would also have freed the President, the party and nay, Nigeria from the “blackmail” of the PDP Governors. The e-registration would in reality have made all party members equal members as all persons irrespective of money or position would have been equal joiners.
The PDP Governors, however, were crafty enough to see through the ploys of the PDP chairman and were quick to abort the process despite the fact that the President had flagged it off.
The decision of the PDP Governors to suppress the e-registration exercise was undoubtedly aimed at sustaining their grip hold on the party.
So, given the assumed notoriety of the PDP in the past it was like a welcome relief when penultimate Thursday, November 18, 2010 that the PDP national chairman unveiled a campaign to re-brand the party.
Dr. Nwodo was in the company of the party’s national publicity secretary Prof. Rufai Alkali and other senior officials of the party at the media outing of the campaign aimed aptly themed: Restoring True Values.
The original values of the PDP which had been bastardized on account of the many shenanigans espoused by party members in the past.
In his address at the session, Nwodo said: “In my acceptance speech on June 17 2010, I bemoaned a situation where the party has been handed over to “godfathers” who, with “reckless abandon, impose candidates with questionable character and no leadership qualities whatever and clear the way for them to run for elections under our party flag.
“Such people elected under our party banner have consistently brought public odium on our great party to the chagrin of our party members and the nation at large,”
“I also stated that the process of choosing our candidates must once again be subjected to internal democracy, to the dictates of our party constitution and the extant rules.
“Since then my co-NWC members and I with the support of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Party have been at working hard to create a better image for the party and all its members. We sought to restore the image of our party, because the image of our dear party, the largest political party in Africa, has been grossly eroded due to strife, imposition of candidates, godfatherism, money bag politics, injustice, and lack of understanding of our Party manifesto.”
“For us, internal democracy could not only be the exclusive right of a few. It has to include the right of every PDP card carrying member. We have to create a level playing ground for all. There should be equality before the law in accordance with the highest law of the Party – our constitution, which mandates us to build a non-racial, non-sexist and a prosperous political party”, Dr. Nwodo said.
Noting the critical role of the media in the media campaign of restoring the true values of the party, he said: “To achieve our objectives, you, the media have a big role to play. Nigerians need to know the true situation of things in our party; they need to be informed and educated, we cannot achieve this without your co-operation. The reason is simple; as the ruling party, if we get it right, Nigeria will get it right. You are an important stakeholder in all of these.
“Let me reiterate once again, “The days of imposition of candidates by the PDP, hoping to foist such leaders on the people of Nigeria are over and over forever. Our members aspiring to carry our banner in future elections must start now to market themselves and canvass their programmes aggressively to our party members and the Nigerian electorate.
Alkali, on his part said the media campaign would run as an integrated marketing communications campaign that would exploit all medium of mass communications and social media.
Following the speeches, what could count as a true value of the re-branding of the party and the commitment towards internal democracy and transparency came in the question and answer session. A journalist asked the party officials to state the value of money being expended in the re-branding effort.
The answer was wholly a regurgitation of the old order that the re-branding team had indeed castigated.
“I don’t want to even place a figure on it,” Nwodo said to a bout of laughter from the seated guests. What we are selling to you cannot be quantified in material terms but what is important to me is that if this message is resisted PDP will lose some States because Nigerians would want to vote for their true leaders,” the national chairman added.
Another bobby trap that was equally raised at the media launch was the involvement of the party’s major stakeholders including Governors in the reformation process.
“Have the Governors bought into his reform agenda,” Nwodo was asked?
Given the ongoing face-off between him and the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, the question was perhaps discomforting but he responded nonetheless. His response was, however, vague on the issue as he did not address the issue as to whether the Governors who are generally known to play by their own rules have subscribed to his agenda.
“It is not all Governors that are insensitive to this thing.
The only Governor who will be insensitive to this thing is the Governor who does not want to take himself to the people, it is that Governor who still runs primaries in his own house and runs elections by instructing INEC to write results,” Nwodo himself a former Governor of Enugu State said.
The inhibitions and challenges nonetheless, the whole concept of re-branding would be welcome to the majority of Nigerians who have in the last eleven years of PDP rule been constrained by the ill-values that now dominate the party. Even if Nwodo is unsuccessful in changing the colour of the leopard, his attempt no matter how feeble is indeed welcome. After all, he has made an attempt!