PDP NATIONAL CONVENTION: The litmus test for its survival

By Paul Utho
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After the 2015 general elections where the Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP) had the worst showing in its 16 year history, speculations were rife in various quarters that the outcome of that election marked the beginning of the end for the party.

Their representation in the National Assembly was drastically decimated and their control on states was reduced to just 12 states. With pending cases at the Supreme Court over the elections in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Taraba & Abia States, that number may further reduce. Despite these speculations however, so many of its faithful kept faith with the party and kept working howbeit, underground for the re-wakening and re-invention of the party, insiisting that the founding ideologies of the founding fathers of the PDP must be adhered to for its continual survival.

Three major activities were considered as determinant factors in the survival struggle of the PDP. One was the Kogi gubernatorial election. Second was the Bayelsa gubernatorial election and third is the National Convention of the party.

At the kogi gubernatorial election, the PDP lost woefully (reminiscence of the last general elections) despite the support from the National Headquarters of the party. Among the factors that may have led to that loss was the over reliance on media hype at the expense of grassroot mobilization. The PDP candidate was fleeced by party members (again just like in the general elections) whose greed for money took precedence over mobilization. The candidate was thus misled into satisfying the insatiable desire of certain so called social media influencers who were neither voters nor had any influence on the voters. The people were neglected at the expense of these influencers who made millions off the governor. The result was devastating to say the least and left many wondering if indeed the PDP was nearing extinction

Then came the Bayelsa gubernatorial election on the 5th of December 2015 but this time around, the governor relied more on the people and they delivered for him. Despite the intimidation, harassment, threats, maiming and attacks on innocent voters, the will of the people was not shaken. They were resolute and trooped out in numbers to exercise their rights and vote their choice. It was a sounding victory for the PDP and this has no doubt given hope to its members that the party can still re-invent itself.

With the Bayelsa election behind us, the next big thing for the PDP is its planned National Convention slated for the month of March 2016. Logistics are already in top gear towards the convention which many consider the final litmus test for the survival of the greatest party in Africa, the Peoples’Democratic Party, PDP.

While the current powers that be tinker with the party's constitution in an effort to amend it to suit certain interests, it is instructive to note that a greater percentage of those that voted for the party in the 2015 Presidential election did so not because of the party but the candidate in the person of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Majority of the electorate were already grown weary of the PDP but opted to vote any party but the PDP. This is why this national Convention is very crucial. One wrong move & we’ll see a repeat of 2013 Special Convention where some Governors, NASS members and other big wigs walked out of the Eagle Square venue of the convention, formed the New PDP and eventually joined the ruling APC. Before that Special Convention in 2013, the constitution had been tinkered with just like the powers that be are doing right now. A lot of senior members of the party have already sounded this note of warning which the NWC and BOT members need to seriously take into consideration if they are interested in the survival of the PDP as well as save Nigeria from becoming a one-party-state. It is not by accident that a lot of members, including the former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, have not openly identified with the party and the present NWC after the 2015 general elections

What the PDP should be concerned with at this stage should be calming aggrieved members & righting the wrongs from various party primaries in the buildup to state elections in 2014/15 where some unscrupulous individuals in the party hierarchy merchandized & monetized party tickets and positions for the highest bidder. The PDP must understand that its survival is largely dependent on how it treats its people by providing a level playing field for all, not by elevating selected individuals into a 'demigod' status while making others feel inferior or 2nd class citizens in their party of choice.

The PDP cannot win an election on its own without the support of the people and the various structures at the disposal of the people. Elections are not just won in the media but by real time, on the ground influencers with primary constituencies and large followership. Putting party structures in the hands of individuals with questionable characters and those without offline influence is the simplest way to kill the party. If the constitution must be amended, it should be done with the overriding interest of the people at heart with their input. It shouldn’t be done just to satisfy the wimps and caprices of a selected selfish few who treat others with disdain and where you are viewed as an outsider if do not belong to a certain clique. The PDP will be digging its own grave and nailing its own coffin if the constitution is amended just to please a selected few who want to control and dominate the party. The support the party currently enjoys should not be sacraficed on the altar of selfish interests within the party who want to appoint proxies in their places at the National level.

It may be in the interest of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to discontinue any amendment to its constitution until a new National Working Committee is elected at the convention> The new NWC should then be saddled with the responsibility of sponsoring any amendment to the constitution after they’re sworn in & settled down for business. This way, proper consultation can be carried out on the relevant portions of the constitution that should be amended. This back door approach will not do the party any good

The party needs all hands on deck at this crucial time in our Nation’s history when people are leaving its fold at any slightest opportunity. If feelers are anything to go by, there may be the springing up of a new party before 2019 and the PDP needs to do everything possible to maintain its role as the largest opposition party at the moment and the biggest party in Africa. Those who have labored and remained faithful to the cause of the PDP in the last 10 years and those who have used their hard earned resources to sustain the fortunes of the party shouldn't be sidelined.

If the pdp is going to survive the tsunami planned by the ruling All Progressive Alliance (APC) in the coming days and months, it must rise above mediocrity and do the right thing. Any attempt to do otherwise will spell doom for the party and may lead to its extinction from the political scene in Nigeria

I am @paulutho on twitter