Newspapers nationwide recently reported that President Goodluck Jonathan had succumbed to pressure from aides to establish a committee that would work to intervene and resolve the crises of confidence rocking the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party. According to these reports, the President’s aides were concerned over the implications of PDP’s internal crises and President Jonathan’s undisclosed future plans. These undisclosed future plans, whatever they may be, need to be separated from the genuine and long overdue reform of the Party to avoid conflict of interest. President Jonathan might harbour personal designs to continue in office beyond 2015 and it is incumbent upon him to permit the establishment of a nonpartisan committee that will have the autonomy and authority to devise the appropriate strategy to resolve the ongoing turmoil within the Party without interference from the Presidency or from anyone.
I am one of the founding fathers of the PDP. I cannot afford to be indifferent to these regretful developments within my party whereby people are treated according to their loyalty to certain interests. The selective suspension and restoration of party membership, the preoccupation with all sorts of designs for 2015 and the escalation of sectarian and tribal threats over the up-coming election is embarrassing for the image of our Party and our country. These can only affect the Party and the nation negatively by distracting the attention of those elected to govern from discharging their primary obligation to us. It is not surprising that both the Party and the nation are in turmoil largely because those at the helm are unable to rise above it all.
At the outset, our idea was to establish a party committed to democratic values that would be greater than the individuals at its helm and accountable to its members and to Nigerians as a whole. The current wholesale deviation of the Party from its founding principles has resulted in its losing domestic and international credibility as the harbinger of democracy in Nigeria. We are losing our pride of place as the Party of choice for Nigerians by the way we conduct our affairs and creating, thereby, a vacuum for others to fill. This is regrettable indeed.
The task of reforming the PDP is urgent. We cannot afford to watch and do nothing while the democratic foundation we worked hard to establish is being eroded by selfish interests.
Most Nigerians perceive the PDP as a party that does not respect the provision of its own constitution. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is currently investigating the PDP leadership for failure to abide by the provisions of the PDP constitution. The INEC claims that the PDP failed to hold free and transparent elections when selecting members of the National Working Committee. Worse still, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party which must, by statute, meet at least once every three months met for the first time last Thursday since the current leadership took charge almost a year ago. Whim and caprice has replaced the Party’s Constitution.
Over the last four years, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, two fine gentlemen, headed separate committees to reform the Party and to restore it to its original glory. Members of these committees sacrificed their time and energy to help the party with constructive and implementable recommendations capable of moving the Party forward. It is curious to many of us why the party leadership lacks the moral courage to implement those recommendations. Can impunity and imposition ultimately replace the will of the people? In the words of George Washington, one of America’s founding fathers, “No man is good enough to govern another without his consent”.
There has to be a better way. As a stakeholder and a founding member of the PDP I call on other PDP elders to join hands in pulling the party out of this needless crisis. It is time we restore the sanctity of the PDP Constitution and remind ourselves and all Nigerians what the PDP stands for – democracy and a better future for them. If we fail in this mission then we would have failed ourselves and Nigerians who trusted us with the mantle of leadership.
I call on the executive arm to leave the Party alone and make a more productive use of its time to govern the country. It will be unhealthy and unhelpful for the government to insist on running the Party and the country at the same time. In mature democracies such as the United States, the President becomes a statesman and the leader of the whole country once his election victory is announced. He leaves party management to party apparatchiks and delve into partisan matters only at policy level. If this model has worked well for the United States, I cannot see why it should not work well for us. The presidential system has its own internal logic and protocol. We need to understand this logic and protocol if our system is to succeed.
The President has no business setting up any committee on party matters when his interests are widely believed to be central to the ongoing acrimony within the party. It is therefore imperative that we establish an independent committee comprised of credible and neutral members to look into the crises of the Party dispassionately and offer a lasting solution because no one can impose their preferred solution on a Party as diverse as our own. All members must be treated fairly whether or not they belong to the President’s camp. Otherwise, we will force people to exercise other options available to them, which the Party may not like.
On its part, the leadership of the Party must realize that its constituency is the entire membership of the Party. It must not allow itself to be seen to be pandering to special interest. Collectively, we have a duty to save the PDP from disintegration while preserving its democratic principles and its vision for a better Nigeria. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The threats the Party face today are real. Anything short of a total reform will not stand. Nigerians are watching us. If we leave them as a Party, they will leave us. And If we do not tell ourselves the truth, the electorate will tell us when their chance to do so comes.