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PDP'S UNSTABLE LEADERSHIP

By NBF News
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Africa's self-proclaimed largest political party ran into another leadership storm last week, when Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo was forced to resign, ostensibly for flouting an Enugu High Court order which had restrained him from parading himself as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Coming only five days after electing its candidate for the presidential polls, and less than three months to the general elections, it was one change too many, symptomizing the insidious internal hemorrhage in the party.

In 12 years of our democracy, the PDP has had six national chairmen, and five of them have left office involuntarily, and with much rancour. The only one who served out his term, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, did so rather tempestuously, and by the time he vacated office, he was at cross purposes with various forces in the party, and even his private home in Abuja was demolished, as part of the vendetta from high quarters. Five others were not so lucky, as their tenures were truncated - Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Barnabas Gemade, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, and Dr. Nwodo - all left in a whiff of controversy.

For a party that has vowed to be in power for a minimum of 60 years, PDP is surely a house of commotion that bodes no good for the country and her young democracy. The latest national chairman to be forced out of office, Dr Nwodo, occupied the position for just seven months, and what a turbulent period it was.

He came vowing to restore internal democracy and re-awaken the vision of the founding fathers of the party, but he ended up being at loggerheads with key elements and characters, including the governor of his home state, Enugu. Many chapters of the party in various states were in uproar, primaries conducted across wards, local councils and states had been largely manipulated, and also under his watch, the presidential primary was plagued with many controversies. It was, therefore, no surprise when Nwodo was forced to throw in the towel by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party last Tuesday.

Beyond Nwodo as a person, however, the PDP itself is one fractious, unruly organisation. In fact, so querulous is the party that at a time in the history of our nascent democracy, it became the opposition to itself, particularly at the national level. The Legislature was always at loggerheads with the Executive, despite being of the same party. The latter destabilized the former, leading to frequent changes in leadership, particularly at the Senate. Indeed, the PDP became a perfect example of a house divided against itself.

Rather notoriously, the party describes the combustions as 'family affair.' But matters that hold grave implications for our country and her democracy can hardly be so dismissed with levity. Because of the large nature of the party (it has been at leadership at the centre since 1999, and currently has 26 governors), what happens to the PDP would naturally have ripple effects on the polity. That is why we are worried that the motley crowd in the organisation has not been able to attain cohesion, and forge a common front. Describing the PDP as a political party today, is somewhat a travesty, a parody, as it is simply a conglomeration of people interested in power for its own sake. This is sad for a behemoth that arrogates to itself the status of the largest political party in Africa.

When there's frequent leadership change as we've seen in PDP, there can only be instability, dangerous for both the polity and the party itself. Six national chairmen in 12 years shows gross internal disharmony, which should not be evident in a party that leads black Africa's most populous country. What the PDP does not realise is that claiming to be the continent's largest party also imposes on it the duty of setting a perfect example. Sadly, this is lacking, and does not appear to be in sight in the immediate future.

A major part of the problem in the PDP is lack of internal democracy. Most of the ousted chairmen were not elected, as demanded in a party laying claims to democratic credentials, and when it comes to picking candidates to stand for offices in general elections, they are handpicked rather than elected. The party cruelly subverts its own constitution, and makes mockery of its very name. Lip service is merely paid to democracy and its ideals.

The PDP must re-invent and rediscover itself. It came into being as a resistance to the burgeoning self-succession plot of the then military ruler, Gen Sani Abacha, but sadly, it has perpetuated the very vices it was initially set up to confront. For the sake of our country and our democracy, the PDP must purge itself of all anti-democratic propensities, and transform into a party worthy of its name. It is certainly not of good report that the country's ruling party does not have a steady internal governance structure.

Perennial instability is a direct consequence of the types of personalities that make up the PDP. We pray the party will purge itself, attract people of character, decency and acceptability, and transform from just an election-winning machine into a political party in the true sense of the word.