The crises plaguing the Peoples Democratic Party portend danger for the polity, Chuks Okocha writes
Spare a thought and ponder this assertion: That seven out of every ten Nigerians are members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)? Though, it has not been statistically proven, the truth is that to a great extent, affairs of the PDP as a ruling party has significant impact on the generality of Nigerians.
The PDP as a political party has remained in power since May 29, 1999 when it won the presidential election that ushered in democracy after several years of military interregnum. In addition, it has continued to control majority of the states where it successfully produced governors across board.
By implication, as a political party in control of affairs of government and governance at the centre, activities of PDP have been impacting, either negatively or positively on the people. As the party in control of the National Assembly, both in the Senate and House of Representatives, the PDP commands even greater control on the political direction of the country.
Its members account for more than two-third of the membership of the National Assembly. The party could afford to pass any bill at the National Assembly without the contributions of opposition political parties.
The PDP has more governors than any other party in the country. Rising from the initial 19 governors elected at inception in 1999, the party presently controls 23 elected governors out of the 36 states. Similar control is applicable in the State Houses of Assembly where the party is in control of 24 state assemblies.
Against this backdrop, it may not be out of place for anyone to say without fear of contradiction that the activities of the party would have significant impact on the Nigerian people. It is another debate altogether if such impact is positive or negative. This, therefore, explains why Nigerians are worried over the seemingly inflexible crisis in the party.
PDP as Opposition to Itself
At the National Assembly where the party has dominant membership, the lawmakers are constantly at war with the President elected also on the same party platform. The expected convivial relationship between the presidency and the legislators is practically nonexistent.
As expected, the PDP produced the leadership of the National Assembly, yet, there is nothing to show for that as the Senate and the House of Representatives are never on the same page with their president, Goodluck Jonathan, even if they must observe the principle of separation of power.
For instance, the crises that often herald the passage of budgets in the country are worrisome. It has almost become an annual ritual. It is either that the PDP-controlled Federal Government has refused to implement a duly passed budget and eventually subject the implementation to selective implementation to the anger of the lawmakers or that the lawmakers, in their typical ego contest, decided to create attention for popularity purposes.
In 2012, the implementation of the 2012 budget did not start till late April, at the end of which the budget did not achieve up to 70 per cent implementation. This, automatically set the tone for the 2013 budget presentation as the hostile disposition between the National Assembly and the presidency manifested significantly over alleged poor implementation of the last exercise.
Jonathan, while presenting the 2013 budget had put the oil benchmark at $75 per barrel. But this degenerated into serious controversy as the Senate benchmarked it at $78 while the House out it at $80. Observers, therefore, queried the influence of the PDP as the party that produced both the President and the National Assembly members, noting that such unnecessary bickering was unhealthy for the economy and the politics of the nation.
Yet, the relationship of this nature became more pronounced during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was permanently kept in check by the House of Representatives led by Speaker Umar Ghali. The House at the time, threatened to impeach Obasanjo for sundry offences at different times.
Interestingly, the present House of Representatives appears to be toeing the same path as it recently threatened to impeach President Jonathan. General observation, again, questioned why the PDP with more than two third membership could not use its influence to ensure cordial relationship between the President and the lawmakers.
It is no wonder, therefore, that members of the House of Representatives flagrantly disobey the party whenever the issue involved does not suit them. Today, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal is not a product of the party’s zoning understanding but a child of revolution allegedly at the instance of the opposition. This, perhaps, explains why it is difficult for the PDP to call members of the House to order whenever they stray from party’s directives.
NWC Crisis and PDP Governors
As a ruling party, the PDP is expected to exemplify the culture of party discipline for other political parties to follow. But what is evident in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party is nothing to write home about. From one problem to another, the leadership has not had time for effective party administration that would move the country forward. In civilized climes, the ruling party serves as the engine room that churns out policies for government for consideration and implementation. But this is not the case with the PDP.
At any time the PDP holds its national conventions to elect new NWC members; it is usually one crisis or the other. Apart from Senator Barnabas Gemade, none of the other PDP national chairmen has been able to complete his tenure of office.
Chief Audu Ogbeh who succeeded Gemade was forced out midway for Ahmadu Ali to take over. In 2008, Vincent Ogbulafor, was elected national chairman but was not also allowed to complete his tenure of office. He was removed and replaced with Okwesilieze Nwodo and Nwodo lasted for barely seven months, before he was also kicked out of office.
The PDP, by character, has no respect for internal democracy or discipline even though it is better than many of the other opposition parties. In PDP’s NWC, crisis of leadership is a permanent feature. The present NWC came to office in March 24 2012, without any election. It was about sponsorship and godfatherism.
The President was said to have sponsored the election of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as national chairman, despite earlier decision of the northeast zone that the former acting national secretary of the party, Dr. Musa Babayo was the preferred candidate.
In the same move, Obasanjo and the governors elected on the platform of the party sponsored the sacked National Secretary of the party, Olagunsoye Oyinlola. The National Organizing Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha and the National Treasurer, Bala Kaoje were allegedly sponsored by Vice-President Namadi Sambo. The Deputy National Chairman, Sam Sam Jaja was said to have been sponsored by the Rivers State governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.
The National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon, was according to reports, sponsored by the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, while the national auditor, Bode Mustapha was considered a direct nominee of Obasanjo. The deputy national secretary, Onwe Solomon Onwe, now acting National Secretary was allegedly sponsored by the Ebonyi State governor, Martin Elechi, while Kema Chikwe, the National Woman Leader and the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh emerged because their states, Imo and Anambra are being ruled by opposition partes.
They were collectively sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and other PDP Lawmakers in conjunction with the governors of Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi States.
In the present NWC, crisis started rearing its head when some members supported Oyinlola in the battle that led to the sack of Habu Fari, the former Chief of Staff to the PDP National Chairman. Oyinlola had insisted that the PDP establishment manual has no provision for the office of the Chief of Staff and insisted that Bamanga Tukur’s decision to appoint Habu Fari as Chief of Staff was a slight encroachment on his office as the National Secretary.
At the end of the day, there were hot exchange of correspondence between Fari and Oyinlola. Tukur intervened and eventually sacked Fari and appointed Senator Ibrahim Ida as his Principal Secretary. The office of the Chief of Staff was abolished. This was victory number one for Oyinlola. Then, came a letter by Oyinlola to all states chapters of the party that on no account should they write official letters directly to the national chairman without his consent. This was the second victory for the sacked national secretary.
At the moment, there is a raging crisis within the NWC over the conduct of Adamawa State congresses of the party. For some inexplicable reasons, the party is divided over the holding of congresses in the state, even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had written to say that there were no democratically elected congresses in the state and nine others.
What is even surprising is the division within the NWC as members, after supporting and working for the congresses to hold in the state, turned round to disassociate themselves from the decisions they took as a group.
This was soon followed by actions of the governors. What seems to be driving the PDP governors, may say, is interest as any policy of the party that negates their interest- whether democratic or not, is often shutdown. The PDP governors, invariably have influence over their colleagues in the opposition parties. There are, however, fears that their actions if not checked, could negatively affect the party.
From all indications, PDP as a political party and indeed, the biggest in the sub-Saharan Africa cannot afford to fail for obvious factors. Thus, its continued crisis has negative implications, more so, that the opposition in the country is not better. This, as a result, justifies why the PDP must retrace its step and show good leadership that can tackle the challenge of 21st century governance and jettison petty party politics.