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NWODO PDP GETS BACK ITS GROOVE

By NBF News

In behavioural studies, the personality of the individual in politics receives ample attention. The argument is that concentrating on institutions as if they have a life of their own different from those who occupy them, is faulty. Of course, this remains one of the key criticisms against descriptive analysis in political studies.

Behavioural experts urge us to look beyond state institutions like the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive and political parties for instance, and take greater interest in the human actors that drive these institutions. Put differently, the actions of institutions are no more than the outcomes of the behaviour of those individuals that run them. This theory perhaps explains why the performance of two different individuals in the same office or position may differ by streets. An erstwhile moribund institution may begin to exude much more exuberance under a new Chief Executive and vice versa.

To illustrate with a well-known example, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as an institution of state has been around in this country for years but it only began to acquire its teeth and character under the leadership of Prof. Dora Akunyili whose strong personality rubbed off on the organisation. Quite simply, behavioural theory agrees with the philosophical axiom that the Hood does not make the Monk rather the Monk makes the Hood.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is one such institution whose performance and activities over time can be better understood in the context of the idiosyncratic behaviours of its various leaders. Ironically, the ruling PDP which was founded on the best of democratic traditions in 1998 is today the butt of so much public and media criticism for being very undemocratic. In fact, many Nigerians will today find it difficult to believe that the PDP actually grew out of the bold attempt of a group of 34 courageous Nigerians to challenge the worst kind of tyranny that this country has ever known.

These Group of 34 Nigerians (popularly known as G34) alongside other democrats who joined them later to become the founding fathers of the PDP envisioned an all inclusive political gathering that will serve the best interest of democracy. A party where justice, equity and fairness reign supreme; a party where all Nigerians irrespective of creed, tongue or tribe will be welcome; a political party that is rule driven; a political party that will see the idea of Nigeria as settled and work to restore Nigeria to its pride of place in the Comity of Nations.

This was the philosophical thinking that informed the choice of the umbrella as the party logo and 'Power to the People', the motto. The party at inception worked assiduously to realise these lofty ideals. Who can forget that magnificent and historic National Convention in Jos in 1999 to elect the PDP presidential candidate? Till date, no other political party (including the PDP itself) has rivalled that event both in terms of its organisation, credibility and transparency! Many would have forgotten that that was the first time in this country that a political party's convention would be relayed live on national television from the beginning to the end. The convention itself was filled with all sorts of intrigues that tasked the will and integrity of its organisers. There was the issue of eligibility which could have been used to disqualify one of the contestants. But the party leaders invoked higher principles of democracy and fairness and that saved the day.

Significantly, because all the contestants in that presidential primary were agreed that the process was transparent, open and fair, they all rallied behind the winner and presented a common front against the opposition. The result was that the PDP went into the presidential election strong and united and President Olusegun Obasanjo won massively in 1999. The lesson from the PDP's early successes, cohesion and strength is that the party requires, at all times, a fair, firm, democratic and committed leadership.

Sadly, in the years following, the PDP failed to internalise this lesson and failed even more to build on its solid democratic foundations. The party grew larger and attracted all kinds of strange bedfellows; the sound democratic ideals of the founding fathers were gradually eroded; factions began to emerge; god-fathers and moneybags took centre stage, Congresses as a means of electing party leaders at state, local and ward levels became a sham where unpopular candidates were foisted on the party by a few powerful individuals; internal party democracy which is the engine that drives a political party was manacled at the altar of arbitrariness, impunity and cronyism; party discipline began to suffer and high handedness began to define the leadership of the party. These self-inflicted injuries soon began to take a toll on the party. Some founding members who could no longer recognise the party they founded left in disappointment; others were pushed out; while some others formed a platform to challenge a leadership that continued to trample on internal party democracy. That was the sad reality before now.

The good news though is that the largest party on the African continent has resolved to retrace its steps and regain its stride. The emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan perhaps was the tonic the party needed to trace its way back to the good old days. President Jonathan has insisted that he is interested in building a new Nigeria based on integrity, justice, fairness, merit and honest hard-work. The President has gone ahead to identify electoral integrity as the fulcrum for creating this just society. To match words with action, Mr. President moved quickly to replace Professor Maurice Iwu with the highly respected Professor Attahiru Jega, as the new Chairman of Nigeria's electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If anything, this was a clear signal to all that it would no longer be business as usual. That done, Mr. President turned his attention to another critical institution that has significant capacity to impact the success or failure of his desire for free and fair elections - the PDP.

In comes Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo to the rescue. An accomplished medical doctor, former governor par excellence of Enugu State, a celebrated orator, a proven administrator and mobilizer, a God-fearing and fair minded personality, a consummate thinker and visionary, a founding father of the PDP and most importantly, the party's first National Secretary, who built the strong administrative pillars which still supports the PDP till today.

Dr. Nwodo's first response to the myriads of challenges facing the PDP? A return to the party's original philosophy, directive principles, vision and ideals as propounded by its founding fathers:

'Fellow democrats, this is the time and here is the place, with our God- given President leading the way, to begin to restore the people's confidence in our great party. My fellow compatriots, it is the same patriotic spirit that inspired our founding fathers on the 19th day of August 1998 that I invoke in us all today.' That in the irresistible tides of history, there comes a time that individuals must rise and dedicate themselves completely to larger causes, set aside the simplistic notions of selfishness, greed and sectionalism.'

Quite frankly, Dr. Nwodo's emergence as the new PDP National Chairman is a breath of fresh air; a vote for a paradigm shift in the management of the PDP; an acknowledgement of an urgent need to infuse the rigour of intellectualism into the programs and policies of the Party and; a telling demonstration of an unabashed understanding that the problems bedevilling the PDP at this momentous period in our chequered democratic journey requires the experienced, fair, firm and tested touch of a consensus builder and cerebral leader of Dr. Nwodo's stature.

Few will recall that Dr. Nwodo together with a few other men and women of integrity ran the PDP at inception from their personal houses with their own funds. They were not interested in personal gains but in creating a level playing field for all; they were interested in building a political party that will appeal to a broad spectrum of the electorate through superior performance in governance; they were not interested in any god-father or mother or in imposing any candidate on party members, but in ensuring that power emanated directly from the people.

To be sure, PDP since the coming of Dr. Nwodo is already showing vital signs of positive re-engagement. The mood at the party's Wadata Plaza Secretariat is unmistakably upbeat. The mood is clearly that of a party on its path to regaining its soul and rediscovering its rhythm; a party that is, in a sense, getting back its groove. Party members are already looking into the future with confidence and hope that a regime of politics of integrity, principles and issues is coming back even as notable former members and founding fathers of the party who left are beginning to find their way back to the PDP.

The truth is that Dr. Nwodo, the new PDP Chairman is a compelling leader who inspires confidence even beyond his own party. This was remarkably demonstrated at a colourful reception held for him recently in Enugu where two South East Governors from the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) openly declared their support for Dr. Nwodo. Unprecendented and historic? Absolutely yes! But that is the quintessential Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo. A leader who does uncommon and extraordinary things and makes them look common and ordinary.

If we are to sum all of the foregoing and attempt to predict the likely outcomes of Dr. Nwodo's Chairmanship of the PDP against the backdrop of the behavioural theory that we discussed earlier then we can safely infer that he is poised to deliver excellent results for PDP and democracy and reverse the drift to infamy.

Interestingly, Dr. Nwodo has himself variously been a victim of injustice and official high handedness within the PDP that he helped establish. So when he passionately proclaims that he will pull down the walls of godfatherism, and return the party to its founding fathers, he sure knows what he is talking about; when he avers that party congresses and primaries will now be free and transparent and there will be no more impunity and arbitrariness, who can doubt him?; when he declares that he will return power to the people and put an end to the era of imposition of candidates, politicians had better take him seriously and; when he professes that the PDP will once again be the bastion of democracy and freedom, let him be rest assured that party members, all men and women of goodwill in Nigeria are with him every step of the way.

Ubani is Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Peoples Democratic Institute, Abuja.