100 DAYS OF NWODO AT WADATA PLAZA: THE LANDMARK, THE LANDMINES
On Thursday June 17, 2010 the leadership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) changed hands. Former Governor of old Enugu State and pioneer National Secretary of the party, Dr. Okweseileze Nwodo, mounted the saddle as the sixth National Chairman.
It could be said literarily without any fear of contradiction and with abundant evidence that Nwodo hit the ground running. He did not hide his thirst for quick change in the party whose image he met almost at the valley in the estimation of the public.
A clear picture of what he desired to do to change the public perception of the party was contained in his acceptance speech to the leadership of the party across the country at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting soon after he was confirmed.
'It is with great humility and praises to the Almighty God that I accept the singular honour and privilege so graciously bestowed on me today to serve as the National Chairman of our great Party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),' he had said.
As one who has seen it all being the pioneer National Secretary, Nwodo took the NEC leaders down memory lane on the journeyof the party, as he recalled 'that it was on Wednesday, the 19th of August, 1998 that the founding fathers of our party gathered in this capital city, Abuja and gave birth to the Peoples Democratic Party. Our aims and objectives were patriotic and our dreams lofty and visionary.'
Dr Nwodo made it clear that his new mandate was nothing extraordinary as the founding fathers already provided 'that the party shall, in the selection of candidates for public office, and in appealing to the public, emphasize ability, commitment to the common man's welfare, and accountability in the conduct of our politics… '
Nwodo made it clear to the party, NEC that he was for paradigm shift, a radical departure from what the party chieftains were used to which had courted disdain for it in the eyes of the public, 'The process of choosing our candidates must once again be subjected to internal democracy, to the dictates of our Party constitution and the extant rules. 'On that faithful August morning we named our organization, the Peoples Democratic Party. We must return the choice of our candidates to the people and not to individual god fathers and godmothers.
It is only by this time-honoured democratic process that we can present to the Nigerian people for elective offices quality candidates that are imbued with the patriotic vision of our party.'
In the last 100 days, Dr Nwodo has been striving to keep faith with all these aspirations. It had been an action-packed 100 days, full of positives and negatives. On the positive side, Nwodo's leadership has successfully changed the public perception of PDP as corruption-ridden political party to one that is capable of taking the country to the next level.
Nwodo's leadership has taken critical look at the party and decided to take the bull by the horn by consistently hitting the party from within. Under Nwodo, it is said that all the things the opposition was warming to criticize PDP of doing has been said to the party from within.
In one of such bashings, he had said: 'I guess that many of our elected officials have never seen or read the manifesto of the PDP. This is sad, to put it mildly'.
When he came on board, Nwodo met a party that was in crisis as virtually all the states were in one problem or the other.
He set up reconciliatory machinery with him as the main driving force—- meeting with all the stakeholders in the troubled states and harmonizing hitherto divided people. From South- West to South- East and South-South to North-West, North East and North-Central, Nwodo's reconciliatory hand could be felt as he tried in all to give teeth to the literarily abandoned General Ike Nwachukwu Peace and Reconciliatory Committee.
Of particular mention, however, is Anambra State where PDP has been in the news for the very wrong reason since 2002. A state that consumed three National Chairmen. Chief Audu Ogbeh's problem with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo started over Anambra PDP when the duo could not agree on how to handle the situation. Part of Dr. Ahmadu Ali's problem in the party was his handling of Anambra State crisis. It is also a known fact that of all the numerous problems that combined to consume the immediate National Chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, Anambra issue topped the list.
But this is a state that Nwodo through honesty and transparency has successfully established an all embracing state Executive and Anambra PDP now talks again as one united political family.
Perhaps, the biggest breakthrough is the uniting of hitherto disunited PDP family in Abia State where Nwodo himself led the search for the now famous 'missing ribs' the incumbent Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji. Mention must, however, be made of troubled states where Nwodo is yet to have breakthrough within 100 years. Such states are Ogun, Imo, Enugu, Kwara, Taraba and Delta, but he has already put his reconciliatory machine on the way towards finding a lasting solution.
Discussion on Nwodo's 100 days cannot be complete if we fail to note the issue of zoning of political offices in the party and the controversy courted. Very few gave the party chance of being able to tackle it but through Nwodo's wizardry and charisma, the 52nd NEC meeting of the party, the longest session in the history of the party and the only NEC where all PDP governors registered their presence, a way was found.
Nwodo's opening speech at this historic meeting as it relates to zoning was adopted as the official position of the party. Two top national newspapers wrote editorial praising the party and its leadership for successfully solving the zoning problem.
In spite of his noble intentions, Nwodo has not had it easy as some beneficiaries of the old order rose in stiff opposition against some of his revolutionary reforms. The forum of PDP governors who have come to be one of the formidable political groupings in the system despite not having any statutory power, stood vehemently against Nwodo's e-registration for members notwithstanding the fact that the number one citizen of the country, President Goodluck Jonathan was already registered.
Governors mobilised against it and got Nwodo to withdraw the memo on it for re-presentation after the general elections. Also on the negative side in the last 100 days of Nwodo at the helm of affairs of the PDP is the August 28, 2010 fire that gutted the party conference room.
The solidarity and love shown by prominent members of the party on the incident goes a long way to demonstrate the love and confidence they have for the Nwodo leadership.
It can be said without fear of contradiction that Nwodo's 100 days had been jampacked with activities making it look like a year; but that must be attributed to the personal drive given the job by the surgeon-turned politician described by many as a workaholic.
Nwodo in the last 100 days has carried on as if his life depended on it, but the truth is that he is just a political student of John Stuart Mill, who said that 'a party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of healthy state of political life.' To God be the glory.
•Abonyi is the Special Adviser, (Media ) to the PDP National Chairman.