By Emmanuel Aziken
Though the word democratic stands at the middle of its name, many critics and adherents of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP readily confess that the party has for most of the past 18 years been anything but democratic in its actions.
Remarkably, it was a party founded by some of Nigeria’s greatest exponents of democracy in recent history. Among the founding fathers were Chief Bola Ige, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Chief Solomon Lar, Alhaji Sule Lamido some of who subsequently became the butt of the anti-democratic forces that took hold of the party.
Indeed, Chief Ige simply could not tolerate the sight of some anti-democratic elements who entered the fold even before the ink on the constitution had dried. He simply walked out to form the Alliance for Democracy, AD.
The first indication of the highhandedness that was to take hold of the party was the elaborate plot by elements in the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency to torpedo the decision of the emerging PDP Senate caucus to enthrone Chuba Okadigbo as Senate President at the advent of the Fourth Republic.
It was a particularly challenging development, given that Okadigbo had in the quest for the office visited all the PDP senators-elect in their constituencies to solicit their support.
So, it could be imagined how Okadigbo and his principled loyalists would have felt when the presidency in cahoots with some AD senators upended the decision of the larger PDP Senate caucus.
The second major act of highhandedness was again in 1999 when Awoniyi was outfoxed by the same presidency officials in his bid to become the national chairman of the party.
From that time the desecration of democracy ethos took hold on the ruling party reaching a climax in 2006 with the deregistration of several party chieftains who were perceived to be out of sync with the remodeling of the party in the image of the president at that time.
The reign of impunity eventually unraveled with the loss of the 2015 presidential elections just after passionate but parochial party chieftains waxing eloquently in error projected several permutations to advance the candidature of Goodluck Jonathan using among others, the undemocratic franchise of the ridiculously unbalanced doctrine of Right of First Refusal.
Given that both the purveyors of that reign of ignominy and their opponents are today agreed that internal democracy should take root in the party, it is the expectation that the PDP would use today’s convention to reinvent itself.
But habits die hard. Alas, cries of impunity are echoing around the country as party chieftains allege a plot by the party’s governors to foist a favoured list of candidates in all positions.
So, despite the most boisterous campaign for party offices by candidates in recent times, the prospects of the governors slamming their harmonised list of candidates is very much perceptible.
Central to the grip of the governors over the PDP is the fact that the funding of the party has been removed from the grassroots. PDP is a party where members do not pay annual fees. Membership registers are difficult to come by.
So, despite the fact that several of the candidates have gone round the country, the perception is that their campaigns and their visions for the party would be of little effect when the governors meet in the wee hours of Saturday to adopt a harmonised list of candidates for the 21 positions. That perception would not assuage the expectation of the party reinventing itself today and positioning itself to tackle the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Remarkably, the reign of impunity as it is now emerging, is not limited to the PDP. Even the APC, the party which came on the platform of change has adopted the same culture of impunity. It is a party which is now the object of ridicule in some quarters for its failure to hold statutory meetings including conventions.
Therein lies the dilemma for the country; to wit, that the Nigerian politician whether in PDP or APC is not bound by the letter of the law he preaches.