The last time I had a meeting with former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Dr Bamanga Tukur, we were enjoying a dinner at his now famous theme park and zoo in the posh Abuja neighbourhood of Wuse II with his lifelong friend Otunba Eddie Aderinokun and others. This time around it was conversations with the octogenarian on the state of the nation in the dining room of his residence.
The basis for the discourse was the front page piece mischievously titled “PDP NOW PARTY OF SHAME” in the Sun newspaper of 20th March, 2018. The paper reported that the former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Godsday Orubebe said that the “PDP had crossed from pride to shame” in an open letter to new PDP chairman, Mr Uche Secondus. Mr Orubebe who wielded enormous power during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan added that the party was “suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and would need sustainable ideas to bounce back to reckoning”.
The former PDP Chairman had forewarned Orubebe and fellow chieftains of the PDP at the height of their power about the dangers of the party drifting from the sanctum of party supremacy to the embers of party leadership preferring selection rather than election and imposition of candidates for primaries and other elections rather than imbibing democratisation processes in all its affairs. The former minister of Niger Delta was very worried that the PDP was exhibiting “dangerous levels of undemocratic behaviours…and still lost in depression and suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder”
Dr Tukur’s main concern was that he had warned severally members of the PDP national executive committee which happens to be the highest decision making body in the party when he was the National Chairman. Everyone in the party’s leadership especially the governors hated the doctrine of supremacy and no one took any notice of his warnings and postulations about the situation being the basis of party strength and future success. He had produced at the time, a powerful address to the national executive committee of the party on Thursday 20th June, 2013 at its national secretariat, Abuja titled MY STEWARDSHIP AND THE WAY FORWARD, a document which he handed a copy to me during our conversations.
He had started by saying that it was “very significant for me to make a presentation on various issues affecting the party, leadership and also suggest the way forward”. He said that “from 1999 to date, we have maintained a solid leadership position and control of Nigerian politics and this is a testimony of our deeper understanding of the political terrain as we can always resolve issues amicably”. But all that fell on deaf ears and today the prophecy has come home to roost.
The former governor of the short-lived Gongola state added that “political parties all over the world serve as vehicle for democracies. How do we then make sense out of this tradition and make our internal democracy workable, achievable and believable?
“In responding to the above, democracy serves as a function for political reasoning and impresses on the political parties to be more focused in developing objectives, choosing alternatives, establishing collaborations and selecting goals for the organs to operate efficiently”; Tukur, who once chaired the African Business Roundtable added in his well-ordered speech to his party leaders.
“In our efforts to achieve success, we must rededicate our genuine political beliefs, change our attitudes and identify our political needs. These good values cannot be realized without accepting the supremacy of the party constitution as key instrument that ensures progress, stability and internal discipline.
“We must strengthen our democracy through determination not personalization, correction not manipulation, collectivism not individualism and sacrifice not disservice. If these pronouncements are substantial, then, the party should quickly take urgent steps to achieve higher levels at least by coming to terms with democratic norms and practices.
“Glaring apathy to party funding by members is rife, I hope it is not a deliberate attempt to weaken the party leadership. Open confrontation with political administration exposes our political weaknesses. Fighting the party from within is unhealthy and dangerous for our image and aspirations. Overheating the polity because of inordinate ambition contradicts our perception for democratic orderliness”. It is clear that what Tukur was saying four of five years ago is relevant to all the political parties around today and if we heed his advice, the Nigerian people are bound to gain a lot from his wise sayings.
“As good leaders, let us not forget that, we have an obligation to serve and serve the people very well. Those who resort to thread the path of dismal performance should never underestimate the political awareness of Nigerians who keep track of every single political development in today’s Nigeria”.
Bamanga’s words to his national executive committee if heeded would have saved his party the disastrous performance two years later in the 2015 general elections when it was blown apart by the amalgam of opposition parties called the All Progressive Congress, APC. The ruling party under President Muhammadu Buhari found the weak points of the former ruling party and pulled the trigger which was to send the party to an early grave from where it is now struggling to re-emerge for another crack in 2019.
The likes of Orubebe now crying shame on the PDP would have avoided the mess the party now found itself. Before the Bamanga Tukur episode in 2013 while addressing the national executive committee, five governors were on the brink of leaving the party because they felt that Tukur was talking bollocks and would not surrender to the important matter of party supremacy. They felt that as Governors who incidentally were the pay masters of the party, their authority was supreme and not party chairman would come to lecture them about party supremacy.
The APC also has failed to learn lessons from the disaster that befell the PDP. They have mastered the art of impunity and disobey court orders with careless abandon and treat Nigerians as if their views don’t matter.
In some of the pointers he made in his thesis for the way forward, the former Chairman included a “resolve that internal democracy should triumph over the current practices of imposition of candidates during the party congresses thus collectively we sustain the political hopes and aspirations of Nigerians and;
“Enhance the financial position of the party by graduating to e-membership system”.
The issue of financing political parties must come only from party membership and not governors or moneybags.It has ruined the future of not only the PDP but virtually all other parties in Nigeria and the number of parties in Nigeria now is about 68 political parties in the country at the moment and still counting.
As a way of concluding his address to the party leadership, The Tafida of Adamawa concluded his vitally important paper by adding that “the PDP platform has supported many of us to the limelight of recognition, class value and distinctions, economic strength, political relevance, influence, power, prestige, fame and glory. We should resolve not to allow our actions to wreck this platform of golden opportunities for all Nigerians.
Then prophetically, he added that “there are two faces of democracy; one is success, the other is failure. Today we are successful but should be wary of the signals of resistance and aggression that are gradually dominating the Nigerian political landscape. We should avoid pushing ourselves into a corner and become targets of humiliation.