By Adigbo Stephen
It would seem that the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has forgotten in a hurry what it passed through during the party’s 14 months internal crisis, strategically sponsored by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) decimate the PDP.
We thank God for showing mercy to Nigerians and again for delivering the people through the landmark Supreme Court judgment of July 12 while President Muhammadu Buhari was away in London on medical vacation.
The worst thing that could happen to any country is for the main opposition party like the PDP to be destroyed by a totalitarian government (characteristics of the ruling APC)
To be sure, the decision of the Supreme Court that affirmed the resolutions of May 21, 2016 PDP National Convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which appointed the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee (NCC), and the events of the last few months in the party in particular, and Nigeria in general, had shown to all lovers of democracy that the PDP was back on its feet as a major opposition party and defender of the masses.
However, from what we are beginning to witness in the PDP and other political developments in the country, it appears as if the party is about to commit another blunder, which, if not avoided as early as possible, could mar its chances at the 2019 general elections.
The same alarm was raised in 2016 when some party stakeholders mooted the choice of Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff as Chairman to replace Dr. Adamu Muazu after the 2015 general elections, but the voices like those of some organs of the party were not heard. The rest is now history and that singular action took us 14 months backward and cost the party Edo, Ondo, Lagos LGAs with many members decamping to the APC.
It is therefore necessary to draw the attention of the National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and members of the National Caretaker Committee and critical stakeholders in the party to the following before it is too late:
The decision to zone party offices, as enshrined in the Constitution, is to allow for equal participation and equitable power sharing to all the regions of the country. However, in view of the happenings in the party, especially the leadership crisis and its humbling outing in 2015, it is important that the PDP allows eligible party members from the three zones in both the North and the South to contest for the offices of the President and the National Chairman respectively, since the two offices are zoned to the North and South. This will give party members the opportunity to select the best and most competent hands to manage the affairs of the country and that of the party.
Micro-zoning the President and the National Chairman will not only reduce participation but will also create loopholes for mediocrity. It is no longer news that imposition of candidates was the major problem that led to the PDP’s electoral losses in 2015. The records of the gubernatorial elections and previous elections show that 80% of APC governors today are former members of the PDP. The same applies to other candidates that won elections in the ruling party who were former PDP members but left the party when they could not find a level-playing field to run for elective offices.
We therefore wish to use this medium to call on party leaders to use the report and recommendations of the Professor Jerry Gana – led Strategy Reform and Inter-Party Affairs Committee to ensure our new internal electoral mechanism guarantees credible, free, fair and transparent primaries. Our great party, the PDP, must also guarantee the rights and privileges of members to contest for the offices of their choice. Tampering with delegates’ lists for PDP primaries or National Convention should be discarded if we must win elections going forward.
We again appeal to the leadership of our party not to impose any candidate either directly or by proxy into the NWC or any other party offices. Our governors and other PDP leaders/elders should please ensure that they do not impose any candidate on the party both in the proposed December 9, 2017 National Convention and other party primaries/elections either directly or by proxy.
What can excite and create positive ripples in the PDP at the moment will be a concerted and deliberate policy of ensuring a level-playing field in all its internal elections must satisfy democratic norms and be seen to be free, fair and acceptable.
Finally, it must be to stated that the party’s electoral fortunes and chances in the 2019 general elections will largely be determined by the success of the forthcoming December 9, 2017 National Convention. The way it conducts primaries and congresses will also determine success at the polls in 2019.
*Stephen, a political activist, is based in Abuja