The new leadership should work hard to change the course of democracy – for the better

With the successful conduct of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national convention last week, there are expectations that the nation will have a credible opposition platform that can effectively proffer alternative views on the policies and programmes of the current All Progressives Congress (APC) administration at the centre. This is important because the ability of the opposition to challenge and check the ruling regime is integral to representative democracy.

We are, however, not unmindful of the reservations by some of the PDP aspirants about the misconduct and flawed processes, especially before and during the national convention where Chief Uche Secondus was elected the national chairman. Our charge is that these disaffected politicians should submit their grievances to the conflict resolution machinery of the party. On this, we also urge Secondus and the entire PDP leadership to listen to the aggrieved and take concrete steps to assuage their feelings. This is certainly no time for combative exchanges that are capable of bringing the party into another round of crisis.

Meanwhile, it is also important for the PDP to learn lessons from its own experience. Just a few years ago, the party controlled more than 60 per cent of the National Assembly membership as well as no fewer than 23 of the 36 states of the federation. Unfortunately, the PDP got enmeshed in a self-inflicted crisis arising from the virtual overthrow of its constitution by a cult of former and serving governors. That habitual impunity was also in full display at its national convention last weekend. But it is in the interest of our democracy that critical stakeholders who still command respect within the party move in and resolve whatever the differences are so that the PDP can move ahead as a strong opposition platform.

In the present circumstance, the PDP has a responsibility to ensure that the Buhari administration is answerable to the public at all times by putting the spotlight on serious issues and making public officials more accountable to the people. But to do that effectively, the party has to reinvent itself by learning from the mistakes of the past. That entails answering questions about how and why it lost power at the 2015 general election.

We note particularly that the alleged heavy monetisation of the last convention, to a large extent, defeated the whole essence of free choice and voting. But the responses from the defeated candidates in the last few days strongly suggest they may have put the outcome behind them and willing to support the party. This is reassuring. With many loyalists willing to subsume their personal interests for the greater good of the party, there are grounds for optimism that the PDP may be able to put its act together.

What the party leaders need at this demanding moment of our democracy is unity of purpose. For us and many Nigerians, there is no better time than now for a resilient opposition that can help to galvanise and mobilise the people around alternative views. But the PDP leaders need deliberate and sustained efforts in image and perception management, in order to regain the confidence of the people, following their not-so-edifying record of 16 years in power.

Meanwhile, aside from the sound bites and empty slogans, there is nothing to differentiate between the two political parties and that explains why members criss-cross from one to the other. But if the PDP is to regain power at the centre, it must begin to play the politics of ideas, platforms and programmes. It has to redefine itself as a counterpoise to all that the APC promised before the 2015 general election that brought it to power but cannot deliver.