After 14 years in the saddle, some would contend that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has shown little political will to fulfil the Nigerian dream, writes Vincent Obia
Nigerians have watched the Peoples Democratic Party at the wheel of power since 1999. Across the country, PDP, formed August 31, 1998, has many election victories to show for it. Most of the victories are amazingly grand and sweeping. But that cannot be said about the performance of the party these past 14 years. What seems obvious is an awfully wide gap between PDP’s resounding victories and its performance. To a large extent, it has seemed such victories were handed to notoriously wretched politicians whose membership in the party with the largest assemblage of moneybags was supposed to make up for the lack of vision.
In 1999, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected under the PDP banner, he promised Nigerians much the same things that his successors – the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan – continued to campaign with. Obasanjo had lamented how “the citizens developed distrust in government, and because promises made for the improvement of the conditions of the people were not kept, all statements by government met with cynicism.” To restore public confidence in the government, he promised to tackle corruption with a firm hand, deal with the energy problem, fight crime, and tackle the Niger Delta crisis, among others. In 14 years, the PDP federal government has continued to struggle with these problems and currently, not many Nigerians would score it up to 50 per cent in terms of fulfilment of its various promises.
Obasanjo did set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to fight corruption. But the anti-graft agencies became the president’s tool of vendetta against perceived political enemies. While pro-Obasanjo governors and politicians were seen as clean and incorruptible by the then EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, anti-Obasanjo’s elements were considered as corruptible and hounded. Despite the immunity of the anti-Obasanjo governors, they were harassed and in some cases stampeded out of office, albeit illegally. Former governors Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State and Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo State were among those that had a direct taste of the unpleasant era.
Chief Bode George seemed to personify everything wrong with the Obasanjo era anti-corruption war. George had been investigated and given a clean bill of health by the same EFCC, which was later to prosecute him, eventually securing his conviction, only after relations between him and Obasanjo had become frosty.
Today, the Jonathan government is giving the Nigerian National Merit Award to persons among whom are those allegedly indicted in the recent fuel subsidy scam. And Jonathan continues to campaign with the unfixed critical infrastructure that had formed part of the prime promises of the Obasanjo government and featured prominently in Yar’Adua’s seven-point agenda.
There has been a slight improvement, no doubt, but such remains a far cry from the enormous resources the PDP federal government has had at its disposal over the years. The federal government has earned over US$391.6 billion (being 77.1 per cent of government revenues) between 1970 and 2005. Out of this, US$118.4 billion (30.2 per cent) was earned between 1999 and 2005. The huge earnings from oil have neither been efficiently applied to infrastructural development nor used to diversify the economy. Nigeria continues to receive over 95 per cent of its export income from oil, making it one of the most oil-dependent countries in the world.
Obasanjo had met about 1, 500 megawatts of electricity when he came in 1999, which he upped to about 3, 000 megawatts at the time of his exit in 2007. Yar’Adua promised a target of 6, 000 megawatts by December 2009, which he could not achieve before his death in 2010. And the Jonathan government has managed to improve the about 2, 800 megawatts he had met to the current generation figure of about 4, 300 megawatts. This improvement is commendable, but many believe it is still a far cry from the country’s abundant power generation potentials.
Neither can anyone say anything positive about the development of internal democracy in PDP. The party has hardly created an environment that promotes transparency in the emergence of candidates for elections. PDP’s last national convention, held on March 24, in Abuja turned out to be an absurd celebration of withdrawals by aspirants who had spent resources, energy, and time to campaign for national executive positions and had come to the convention to contest.
The current PDP national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, the president’s preferred candidate, emerged following the withdrawal of 10 other aspirants from the race. Standing unopposed, the party simply gave ballot papers to about 4,500 delegates from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to affirm Tukur in a yes or no vote. Though, adoption is a valid electoral process under Nigerian laws, many expected the ruling party to go beyond the pedestrian and vapid procedure that produced virtually all its present national officers. Obviously deducible from the general condemnation of the convention process is the common feeling that if what happened on March 24 at Eagle Square was the best PDP could offer after 14 years of democratic experience in the 21 century, then Nigeria has bad luck with those on whom the masses ought to look up to for internal party democracy.
Apparently, taking their cue from the ruling party, the opposition parties have perfected even more terrible prevarications of the concept of internal democracy. Besides, at a time the world expected Nigerians to be tearing down the incapacitating traditional stereotypes, like ethnicity and sectionalism, which have held the country down for so long, PDP did its best at the last presidential election to highlight the divisions and open the old wounds.
All these show that PDP has failed to fulfil the promise of democratic development it made to Nigerians 14 years ago.
Going forward, analysts say the ruling PDP must begin to deliver transformational leadership and tone down politics, which has tended to focus on winning power rather than development. Tukur has promised to try.
A founding member of PDP, Tukur says it is the desire to build a party that would create a strong foundation for the fulfilment of the aspirations of the citizens that motivated his interest in the national chairmanship post. He has floated a “Triple R” strategy of reconciliation, reformation, and rebuilding of PDP, “To create a strong platform, not only for Nigeria, not only for West Africa, but for the whole Africa to own what is ours.” Only time can tell how far he would go.