By Dirisu Yakubu
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently tendered an unreserved apology to the nation and its people, and promised to make up for the missteps of the past. With the general elections less than a year away, ceteris paribus, uncertainty hovers over the fortune of the party in 2019. Will the electorate kick out the ruling party in preference of the once-dominant political platform in the land?
It is not clear if it is the quest to return to power at the centre or a genuine realization of its mistakes that led the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to publicly apologize to Nigerians a fortnight ago. But regardless of the motive for that public show of remorse, the new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party deserves all the commendations that have been coming its way since that show of remorse.
National chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus while addressing a gathering of party faithful and eminent Nigerians at a public lecture in Abuja recently had pleaded with Nigerians to give the party another shot at the Presidency, saying the experience it garnered in the 16 years of its stewardship is an asset Nigerians should not trade for anything else. While insisting that the party would no longer tolerate imposition of candidates and impunity in the running of its affairs, Secondus had also cautioned Nigerians not to entertain the thought of returning the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the next general election given its “lack of preparedness for governance.”
A panelist and self-confessed sympathizer of President Muhammadu Buhari, Hajia Aisha Yola had shortly after Secondus’ apology, tasked the PDP boss to come clean on the reason for craving the nation’s forgiveness, arguing that until that was done, the message would not strike the right cord in the hearts of the people. Secondus did not say much in response to Yola’s request, other than saying in the past, impunity and a lack of internal democracy characterized the conduct of business in the party; vices, he vowed to deal a fatal blow to, in the interest of the party.
As the debate lingers on the necessity or otherwise of the apology, the APC wants its bitter rival to take the next noble step by remitting into government’s coffers, all monies stolen in the period the party was in power; a charge the PDP dismissed with a wave of the hand and vitriolic salvo urging President Muhammadu Buhari not to forget that he was “elected with looted funds.” For Secondus, the stand of his leadership is that never again would lawlessness and imposition colour the affairs of the party, and it was largely this new thinking that informed the apology in the first instance.
Was there a need for an apology in the first instance? Would Nigerians embrace the rebranded PDP, given the pledge by the PDP boss that old things have passed away and all things have become new?
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights activist, Barrister Mike Ozekhome believes there is a mileage to reap from the humility of a party that is responsible enough to admit its errors. In an exclusive chat with Vanguard on Wednesday, Ozekhome tasked Nigerians to juxtapose the achievements of PDP and those of APC in their first three years and make their decision in 2019.
He said: “I think it was the right thing to do (apology to Nigerians). You must first admit guilt before you confess it and then go on to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the result or consequence of admission of guilt. It seems to me more responsible given their apparent achievements which far surpass those of a highly deceitful and propaganda -inclined ruling APC that thrives on lies, make-belief, simulations, mendacious governance. “If the PDP that established visible national institutions and organs such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, ICPC, mobile phones and brought prosperity could still apologize for its admitted lapses, it is a sign of maturity and readiness to start on a clean table rather than engage in grandstanding and unhelpful banality.
“Nigerians today know that their lives were better three years ago that they are today. They enjoyed security, various liberties and inalienable freedom which today have become scarce commodities. Where corruption was pervasive and democratized under the PDP with its effect luxuriating a beleaguered people, corruption today is highly privatized, more monumental, but closely tailored to satiate the warped appetite of a few in government.
“I am not a politician, but it clear that this rudderless, clueless and insensate government has to give way to any pro-people party of whatever genre, PDP or no PDP.”
Although, Ozekhome believes PDP will inspire good leadership if given entrusted with power again, former National Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Isa Tijjani thinks differently. According to him, the once dominant party is yet to demonstrate sufficient capacity to do things anew, three years after losing power at the centre to a hurriedly assembled political party. Tijjani who spoke with our correspondent urged Nigerians to watch it, lest they make another journey to an unknown destination.
“We are dealing with power hungry politicians who lack decorum, moderation and the zeal to fight for the right thing. In their imagination, they think doing that will make them win people so that they can be brought back to power and the looting continues. You will agree with me that they lack focus and ideology and as such don’t have the correct strategy to mobilize people on their side,” he said.
Wondering what the PDP would do differently this time, the renowned unionist questioned the seeming aloofness of the party to what he termed the pains being suffered by some of its members in the hands of the Buhari administration.
“How can you have a political party that cannot fight for the rule of law? They have a member who allegedly shared loot for them but could not fight on his behalf even when a court gave him bail. If a court of law can give bail to someone and the government refuses to release him, what type of government is that? It is like the case of El ZakZaky. You are the leading opposition party with members in both the Senate and the House of Representatives but could not fight for the respect of court orders. That means the only thing you are interested in is a return to power,” he argued, even as he faulted the essence of the public apology.
“What is the apology all about? Is it we are sorry we stole your money or we are sorry we inflicted bad governance on you? The apology is vague and incomplete just like it is meaningless. Politicians must learn and inculcate the virtues of leadership through standing on the side of the people,” he stressed.
The two eminent Nigerians may have spoken the minds of millions of Nigerians, one way or the other but what is paramount today is the imperative of working tirelessly, behind the scene that is, to convince Nigerians that better days lay ahead. Whether it is the APC, PDP or the coalitions threatening to oust the two, Nigerians are in dire need of a country where quality of education, security of lives and property, quality health care delivery, employment opportunities, stable power to mention a few are given utmost priority.