RE-ENGINEERING THE PDP: THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
So many reasons and rationalisations have been adduced for the epochal failure of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, to re-enact its winning streak in the nation's presidential and other elections held in the months of March and April 2015. In a monumental and landmark stroke of ill-fortune, the PDP could not put its acts together and lost the eminent position it has held since the inception of civilian dispensation in May 1999.
Some of the factors freely bandied about by the strident opposition and other groups included: a) the supposed “cluelessness” of President about the resolution of the country's nagging issues b) Monumental corruption and corruptive practices in the corridors of power c) A non-performing economy that has worsened the day-to-day living standard of the people d) Insecurity as epitomised by the Boko Haram insurgency and the demystification of the Nigerian Armed Forces etc e) The introduction Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and Card Readers to reduce or eliminate election rigging etc f) The much-hyped cult-hero image of General Buhari in many parts of Nigeria and g) A well-articulated geo-political conspiracy, connivance and gang-up to short-change the South South etc.
None of these gave fillip to the All Progressive Congress's uncommon vigour and resilience to “change” the PDP federal administration than the self-afflicted internal fission and consequent atomization of a hitherto cohesive and monolithic PDP whole.
The death–dealing process did not just unravel overnight. The seeds were sown in 2006, when a well-intentioned re-registration of all PDP members, nationwide, was hijacked by certain cabals and powerful individuals across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory and turned into an instrument of political cleansing. In the process, many redoubtable leaders and groundsmen of different hues were cleverly de-registered and consigned to political wilderness. These people swelled the ranks of the then emergent Action Congress (the precursor of the Action Congress of Nigeria, the ACN and now APC). They took a larger part of the soul of the PDP with them to their new abode, revealing the deep cleavages and the inherent Crab Syndrome that ruled the party's top hierarchy and rent the ranks apart. A party that had a total of 10 National Chairmen within a period of 16 years surely mismanaged the overflowing goodwill, success and acceptance among the Nigerian electorates.
The Relevance and Value of PDP
We will make a temporary detour that will help us to understand the relevance and utility value of the Peoples Democratic Party in the country's power matrix vis-à-vis the planting, blossoming and sustenance of Nigeria's democracy since 1999.
Over the years, after independence, Nigeria experienced the rule by a dysfunctional political class and military cabal that held the jugular of the nation for selfish purposes. The successive invasion of governance by the praetorian class with seemingly redemptive messages and mission and consequent policy somersaults, had blunted the average Nigerian interest in government.
So we can say, without any fear of contradiction, that before the advent of the PDP, Nigeria had no enduring democratic tradition considering the incessant militarisation of the nation's political psyche. For now, the Peoples Democratic Party holds the longetivity record for any elected civilian administration in Nigeria since Lord Lugard welded the Northern and Southern Nigeria Protectorates by executive fiat on January 1, 1914.
The significance of the longetivity record is more profound when considered against the background of the wanton and unbridled mismanagement, misapplication, misappropriation and serial stripping of the nation's resources; the years of decay and atrophy in the nation's democratic practice and tradition, the creation of nouveau riche military class and an accompanying coterie of parasitic civilian apologists fully-ensconced in graft and a thoroughly-emasculated citizenry that occasionally made feeble attempts at protesting its state. In addition a very hostile international community treated Nigeria as a pariah, rogue and leprous nation at all fora on social, economic or political interfacing.
At inception, not many Nigerians gave the PDP administration any outside chance of success in laying a new, solid and enduring sustainable democratic governance culture for a country that has been pillaged and raped for decades, physically,mentally and attitudinally. Especially one that was constantly under the purview and surveillance of a hitherto politicised Nigerian armed forces that was shamefully shunted and hustled out of the nation's power matrix.
Before the above digression, the vital pockets of the PDP's groundsmen who had, hitherto, been the linchpins of the party's organisation and strength at the grassroots, were left to trickle away and swell the opposition's ranks.
These disgruntled and marginalised ex-PDP members provided the strong bulwark upon which the uncanny resilience, sturdy courage and purpose-driven organisation of the opposition is built on. This factor manifested strongly and visibly in the electoral victories of the APC in the elections held on March 28 and April 11, 2015.
The ex-PDP members are schooled and practised in PDP's political organisation, methods, tactics and procedures employed in the acquisition of power. It is pertinent to state here that that rather than appeal to these party men and women to tarry awhile and stay, the party's leadership hierarchy treated them as inconsequential and impotent. The results of that complacent attitude coupled with overweening self-righteousness is what has brought the party to its knees, albeit temporarily. What is glaring is that myths and the presumed unassailable aura of the party has been rubbished and consigned to the waste basket of history after 16 years of political sunshine.
Re-engineering and Re-focusing the PDP
The events of the past few weeks have really brought it home to the rank and file of the party nation-wide, that victory at future elections will only be possible if internal democracy, due process and respect for dissenting views become truly operational and are entrenched within the party at all levels.
The major bane that rocked the PDP to its foundation was the disregard for internal democracy, especially in the choice of the party's candidates from the presidential to the councillorship level.
It is well-known that, in many instances, the basic requirements of merit, pedigree, saleability, responsibility, accountability, good credentials etc were slaughtered at the altar of reasons that are antithetical to the above parameters of good representation and positive performance index in politics and good governance.
A New Crop of Leaders
A new crop of leaders should emerge TODAY from the ashes and shadows of the battle-weary layers of the party's leadership organogram, especially the prime, decision-making bodies that need a positive shot in the arm for optimum performance.
The principal organs of the PDP such as the National Executive Committee (NEC), and the National Working Committee (NWC) should be re-invigorated with the infusion of fresh and committed partymen and women imbued with new ideas to steer the party toward its winning ways and prominence.
The pre-eminence of political dinosaurs in the party who are top-heavy with museum-bound and time-worn strategies and tactics in the NEC and NWC, should be visited with a view to inject new membership profiles that will resuscitate the party and give hope and direction to the millions of party men and women demoralised by the dismal showing of the PDP in the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Remedial Action/Reconciliation Process
The major duty of the new leadership modem in the PDP will be to set in motion the process of interfacing with those aggrieved former members of the party who now form the political bulwark of the APC power centre and the attack phalanx against their former party, the Peoples Democratic Party. A new Rules of Mutual Engagement should be drawn up to woo them back to their natural political home. The rebuilding process should also encompass the massive harmonisation of states' chapters hitherto torn apart by internal dissent and marginalisation. The new generation of leaders will be expected to provide, maintain and sustain a virile, focused and formidable opposition to the APC in the next four years. I dare suggest that an interim NEC headed by one of its G34 founders is put in place to begin the re-engineering process. The G34 founder is suggested as he can revive the spirit of the founding fathers as well as having the ability and capacity to heal old wounds and reach out to others as explained above. President Goodluck Jonathan as leader, and should be the last elected person to be so called, should dissolve the NEC and NWC and appoint a caretaker committee, reconciliation or rebuilding committee or whatever name he deems fit before or on 29th May, 2015!
Rather than start bellyaching and apportioning blames over the series of set-backs, the PDP should rewind and do a critical retrospection of its past actions and inactions and rejig and rework its ways. This will assist it to exorcise the odious wraith of crass insensitivity, internal despotism, hardsell candidates, institutionalised complacency and rise, like the Phoenix, from the ashes of defeat and despondency. Not by unmindful defections and turncoat postures that has truly exposed those who were actually fair weather members of the PDP.
A recourse to the old ways, attitudes and leadership profile, will only engender total extinction of the Peoples Democratic Party in the face of its present travails, which is surmountable, if the needful is done!
Written by Chris Osa Nehikhare..