If care is not taken, the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP) may be approaching an implosion. But I do not belong to any political party and so why should that border me? For a single political party that is in control of the central government and a majority of the states, why shouldn’t I? Every discerning citizen ought to be, whether you are a player or spectator in the game of politics. The party has been inflicted with multiple crises that some people are now worried whether the so called largest party in Africa may be able to face the next elections as that formidable and indivisible entity that it used to be. Currently many state chapters are in turmoil. From Adamawa to Ogun. From Rivers to Sokoto back to Anambra and from Enugu to Kwara. Some of the members have been suspended while many others feel marginalised, frustrated and even disgruntled. There are potent fears and reported conversations that some of the aggrieved ones may be heading to other parties. In an effort to enforce party discipline, the PDP has wielded her big sticks against some within its fold in a manner that many perceive as potentially injurious to its cohesion. The latest is the suspension of two influential serving Governors and a Minister. It must be stated however that anyone who voluntarily joins any association, be it a social club or a political party is bound to abide by the rules and regulations of such groups. The party ought to be supreme, period. Never mind that political parties in Nigeria have become mere vehicles for the fierce competition for power and consequent distribution of the spoils rather than a policy laboratory. To this extent, the PDP may be right in its effort to enforce disciple and invoke sanctions on any member that it deems fit . For instance if it is true that some members went against the wishes of their party then the party is right to call such persons to order. However, care must be taken not to risk or contaminate the fundamental reason for party formation which is the containment of the personalization of power. It is also important to distinguish between enforcing discipline in any political party from administering arbitrary punitive measures in order to further the desired ambition of any particular person or group of persons.
That said, in any attempt to situate the complexities in the ruling party in Nigeria, one would naturally try to peruse the reasons put forward by the individuals that came together in July 1998 to establish the PDP. Some of the reasons as enshrined in the party constitution include raising the moral and intellectual integrity of the Nigeria people, achieving social construction, spiritual regeneration, national reconciliation, accountability, respect for human rights and the rule of law to build the nation responsive to the aspirations of the people. Part of the aims and objectives of the party include things like promotion of security of lives and property, upholding the constitutional independence of the judiciary, promotion of inter-religious understanding, promotion of the right of the physically challenged and advancement of an egalitarian society founded on freedom, equality and justice. The wish list in the party’s code of conduct include opposition to ethnicity, religious bigotry, political intolerance and discrimination. Now, which PDP are we really talking about? So how did such a beautifully articulated prose in theory turn out so differently in practice? Many analysts believe that under the reign of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Nigeria has witnessed the most shocking developmental statistics since independence. During these fifteen years of PDP rule, unemployment and poverty in Nigeria has been on a continuous increase.
The country has never been this insecure. Ethnic divisiveness and religious violence have worsened, to say the least. Average life expectancy is still between 47- 52 years, being the lowest in West Africa. Maternal mortality of one out of 13 during child birth is the second highest in the world. Our country is said to be the worst place for a child to be borne in 2013. How come? A recapitulation has become necessary if not urgent. Any member of the party who wants to be sincere must be worried and must join in the conversation for a different approach. To dismiss the statistics above as an exaggeration of an alarmist is simply being unpatriotic. To give them undue partisan colouration is mere mischief. Everyone(politicians and no politicians alike) can fail to acknowledge that there is a thick cloud hanging over the Nigerian political clime. It is an emergency!
Surmounting the challenges stated above should be the major preoccupation of a sensitive ruling party at this time. That is why many pundits fault the current bickering and acrimony within the party as a destructive national distraction. And this is why all those who came together to form the PDP should urgently rally round to save the party and the country. The PDP and her membership must not continue to rely on the assumption that a miraculous healing will always come its way and lead somehow to automatic reconciliation. Reliance on the deployment of transactional clientelistic networks and primitive distributional channels for political mobilisation will no longer suffice. The party needs to reform and reconcile itself from within. Overhauling and re-engineering are two words that quickly come to my mind. The suppression of internal democracy is increasingly the Achilles’ heel of PDP. The party continues to favour selection over election leading to coronation without competition. Even amidst the flowery language with which it was written the PDP constitution still contains many preposterous clauses, deliberate ambiguities and contradictions. For instance why on earth will section 32(3)(c) that indicates that a member of the Board of Trustees must be at least fifty years, be allowed at this age and time. Is it not enough that the party allowed a 60 year old grandfather to become a youth leader! Is this democracy or gerontocracy? Relevant sections of the constitution dealing with issues like fund raising, membership subscription and disciple were crafted with visible vagueness and obscurity. For instance, the membership fee is still 600 naira per annum and the party is permitted to accept gifts and grants from individuals as far as such monies are ‘lawfully’ received by the party. Curious? The reasons for intense and often violent competition for positions and even the current ruptures in the party cannot be far away from thesedeliberate opaqueness. Currently, the Constitution gives little room for clarity but rather gives party organs undue leeway to potentially take whimsical actions in the name of enforcing discipline. Some leaders within the party are already taking advantage of these loop holes to conduct themselves as emperors to the detriment of the party. Some prefer to impose their sons on the party even if that will lead to a rift in the fold. Sad. Are these diseases peculiar to PDP? Not at all. It permeates all political parties, even those in opposition. Some of them only exit on paper! They open their shop when it is time to collect money from the electoral commission and shut down till the next electoral cycle. There is something that does not add up about the way parties are formed and operated in Nigeria, PDP inclusive. Citizens must watch this closely if we want to improve our political arena. Now a few last words to the founding fathers of the PDP. Your house is currently on fire. Do not bother looking for watering cans, what you need is a fire brigade!