By Tonnie Iredia
The title of today’s article is taken verbatim from a speech by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 2015 National Conference of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Dokpesi spoke in Abuja last Thursday during the conference.
The forum whose goal is to rebrand the party was no doubt well attended making it obvious that PDP is well positioned to offer viable opposition to the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). The nation watched on national television an assembly of many politicians in the party who are yet to decamp to the ruling party as politicians normally do after every election in the country. The PDP thus ensured that so far Nigeria has not become a one-party state. But whether members of the party will be able to hold on for long in the opposition is too early to tell. This is because as large as Thursday’s forum was, it was easy to see that it was different from the usual flamboyance of the party. The normal bright colours of the PDP were not there; Abuja was not brought to a standstill as the party was used to doing whenever it organized any activity in the past. The paucity of media coverage was also observed as only Dokpesi’s Africa Independent Television gave the event partial LIVE transmission which was interrupted at a point and replaced by the coverage of another event-the 7th Anniversary of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governor of edo state. Could it be that the PDP did not have the financial muscle to sustain a LIVE coverage?
Again, it was easy to see that perhaps all was not well. May be because visitors interrupted our viewership, I didn’t see former President Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past national leader of the party, former Vice President, Namadi Sambo and founding fathers of the party such as former President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Alex Ekweume, former Senate Presidents, Ken Nnamani, David Mark, former chairman of the PDP, Ahmadu Ali, former minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia among others, some of whom had been advertised as confirmed participants at the conference. Even Chief Anthony Anenih, the immediate past chairman of the party’s board of trustees generally described as “leader” by a cross section of party members was not there. Apart from Babangida who had publicized his unwillingness to participate, no one knows why they other leaders stayed away. It was however obvious that many party members had different ideas other than the conference for rebranding the party. Perhaps the decision of the national executive of the party to distance itself from Dokpesi’s earlier apology for what he called the party’s past mistakes may have turned some of them against the conference. It will be recalled that the party’s national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, said that Dokpesi’s apology was his personal opinion and not that of the party’s National Executive Committee.
However, Dr Dokpesi’s posture is in our opinion a more realistic approach as Nigerians showed at the last election that they deprecated PDP’s attitude of self denial. The party being a human organization is not infallible as Metuh insinuated. Indeed, it made so many mistakes in its 16-year rule; a notable example being its constant effort at sweeping issues of public interest under the carpet. For example, there was a serious allegation that an audio recording provided by a Captain in the 32nd Artillery Brigade stationed in Ekiti State, revealed that some top officials of the then ruling PDP planned and successfully rigged the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State. The said Captain who the Press says has since fled the country recorded the conversation on 20th June 2014 when he accompanied his Commanding Officer, a Brigadier to the meeting held at Spotless Hotel in Ado-Ekiti. The government of the day did nothing about such a pointed allegation. Instead, it used its might to appoint one of the accused as a Minister of the Federal Republic. While it is true that an allegation does not mean guilt, government should have investigated such a serious allegation to allay the fears it imposed on the psyche of the nation. Allegations concerning the inappropriate purchase of armoured vehicles and the daily hiring of private aircraft against two influential female ministers were similarly discountenanced by the then PDP government
At last Thursday’s conference, PDP members drew attention to alleged failures or wrong doings by the APC; thereby putting the government on its toes. While that is good for democracy, it cannot rebrand PDP because it was essentially a rally to sell itself for the 2019 general elections instead of a forum for introspection to identify what it did wrong in the past with a viewing to correcting them. It would have been wiser for the party to thoroughly examine why for instance it always rubbishes any person that emerges as its national chairman as if it enjoys being a body without a head. Is the party waiting for anyone to warn her that a party executive from the south-east acting as national chairman when the position is zoned to the north-east till 2016 is a potential source of conflict? Second, the party needs to orientate itself to fully appreciate the expedience of internal democracy and resolve to put an end to its well known habit of fielding unpopular candidates that emerge from party caucuses instead of party primaries. Third, it should design strategies for winning elections in view of the changes the nation has recorded so far in electoral technologies. If not, the old rigging styles known to the party cannot work in this age of biometric registration of voters and the use of the card reader.
Finally, the party should come to terms with the fact that the Judiciary is constitutionally empowered to settle election disputes. As a result, it is uncivilized to engage in abusing judges wherever its candidates are not successful in an election petition instead of appealing such decisions. A party that “will certainly not die” must observe the due process of law.