In PDP, It’s One Committee Too Many

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Chuks Okocha writes that given the Peoples Democratic Party’s poor record at implementing reports of many standing and ad-hoc committees, its new committee to review the 2019 elections may be unnecessary

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from its 88th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on penultimate Thursday and resolved to set up a post-election review panel to look into the party’s performance in the various elections in 2019. This was sequel to a motion by the party’s candidate in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Briefing newsmen at the end of the NEC meeting, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan, said the committee would comprise members nominated by each zone and state chapter to work with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party for guidance.

This may be one committee too many, considering the fact that the PDP has a couple of reports from previous committees awaiting deliberation. There is the committee on the crisis over the emergence of the minority leader in the House of Representatives. The report of the disciplinary committee set up to investigate why Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and others disobeyed PDP is yet to be considered. There is also the Adolphus Wabara committee.

However, Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin was the first to drop a hint about the possibility of a full investigation in the wake of the party’s poor outing in the November 2019 Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. Walid said PDP needed to look into both internal and external factors affecting the party’s electoral fortune.

“We reviewed the accusations and counter-accusations among our members on the behaviour of some of our members both in Kogi and Bayelsa, especially in Bayelsa.

“Therefore we recommended to the National Working Committee (NWC) that a very serious investigation must take place. We recommended that an interim committee be set up similar to the one that was set up after the 2015 election under the chairmanship of former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.”

However, PDP is not new to accusations and counter-accusations or committees and reports over electoral misfortune. Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s loss to the All Progressive Congress’ (APC) candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 elections equally opened a floodgate of recrimination.

While many of the party’s Northern chieftains were alleged to have betrayed PDP over Jonathan’s refusal to keep a reported gentleman agreement on power rotation to the North in 2015, the PDP Governors Forum, through its Chairman, Senator Godswill Akpabio, blamed the Adamu Mu’azu-chaired NWC for the loss and called for his resignation. But the National Publicity Secretary at the time, Chief Olisa Metuh, hit back at those blaming the NWC. He accused the Presidential Campaign Committee of sidelining the NWC and also mismanaging N4billion released to it from the N7billion realised during Jonathan’s campaign fundraiser. Mu’azu, on his part, lampooned PDP Governors for demanding his resignation and warned the party against “the developing culture of using and dumping.”

He eventually resigned on May 20, 2015. Chairman of the BoT, the late Chief Tony Anenih, also followed suit, citing “personal grounds.” Many of the senior party chieftains equally resigned even before the swearing in of President-elect Buhari, with many more actually crossing over to the new ruling party, professing love and support for the incoming President.

There were also wranglings over choice of Zonal Coordinators, poor mobilisation, resource deployment, and coordination in the zones, including Jonathan’s strongholds. In the South-east, coordinated by Mr. Peter Obi, who had just joined the PDP in October 2014 after completing his second term as Governor of Anambra State on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Jonathan’s votes fell from 5,090,108 in 2011 to 2,464,906 in 2015. That was a loss of 2,625,202. Recall that Buhari defeated Jonathan by 2,571,759 votes.

Enter the Ekweremadu Panel

It was in this state of recrimination flying in every direction that the party set up the PDP Post-Election Review Committee popularly known as the Ekweremadu Panel on May 5, 2015 to probe the immediate and remote causes of the party’s dismal performance at the 2015 polls.

Announcing the panel’s terms of reference during its inauguration, then National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, said the committee was mandated to trace the origin and process of the seeming decline of the party in its electoral performance; take a critical look at the preparations and build-up of the PDP to the 2015 general election and determine its adequacies and lapses; review and determine the adequacy of the structures for the 2015 general election and how those structures actually functioned; ascertain the degree of anti-party activities, compromises, and outright sabotage that may have contributed to the misfortunes of the party at the elections.

It was also to look at funding of the elections to determine whether or not the funds meant for the campaigns were adequate and whether disbursements were properly done; identify different groups in the party, which were to play critical roles before and during the elections and determine their effectiveness or otherwise; to examine any other matter that may be considered necessary and in the interest of the party; and propose a roadmap for the party to recover its past glory.

To ensure the participation of members at all levels, the panel constituted three sub-committees, which conducted public hearing in the six geo-political zones with Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun leading each sub-committee. It received a total of 5,007 memoranda from six geopolitical zones, 36 state chapters, 268 party support groups, and 4,696 individual stakeholders.

Recommendations

Submitting the report in September 2015, Ekweremadu said the report was sub-headed under party structure and administration, party finance, legal framework, primary elections, party’s candidates, conflict resolution, campaign organisations, campaign finance, Election Day activities, post-election management, third party groups/support groups, etc. and how they impacted the party’s wellbeing.

“We have made extensive recommendations, the core of which is to end impunity, uphold justice, entrench internal democracy, enhance party administration, promote transparency and accountability, and return the party to its true owners- the people- in accordance with our party slogan and founding principles,” he said.

He reeled out the recommendations; “Among many key recommendations, proposed are nationwide biometric membership registration to align our party records with modern technology and further boost the integrity of our membership records as a precursor to other reforms we have recommended.

“The party should henceforth be self-funding, relying on membership registration and enforcement of dues and levies as its primary sources of income at all levels in line with the PDP constitution. This is with a view to ending the prevailing situation where those who pay the piper dictate the tune.

“We have also recommended that the role of Party Leader, which has no basis in the constitution of the PDP, should henceforth be discontinued at all levels. This is to strengthen the structure, offices, and organs of the party at all levels.

“The party should adopt direct primary as the sole means of electing PDP candidates for any election at all levels. The use of delegates has been grossly compromised and abused, and should therefore be discontinued forthwith to return true ownership of the party to the people.”

Ekweremadu explained that there were widespread grievances in the North over the breach of the zoning principle that denied them the 2015 presidential ticket.

“It is, therefore, recommended to the party to strictly apply the zoning principle at all levels. In particular, since the last President of PDP extraction came from the Southern part of Nigeria, it is recommended that PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections should come from the Northern part of the country. This is in accordance with the popular views and will also assuage any ill feelings in the North over any perceived breach of the party’s zoning principle.”

Other vital recommendations include a review of the PDP constitutional provisions for waivers to discourage abuse and build loyalty to the party.

It further recommended harmonised campaigns in which candidate’s campaign platforms and structures at all levels are integrated into the party structure with party leaders taking lead of the electioneering process. It canvassed issues-based campaigns, adhering to the party’s manifesto, shunning hate messages and polemics.

To curb allegations of campaign funds mismanagement, funds from all levels and sources should be channeled through the party structures and not the candidates or individuals, although candidates should be part of the fund management. It advised the party to develop campaign finance regulation to ensure the monitoring of campaign expenses.

On post-election management, it recommended the straightening of PDP legal department, especially in respect of support in post-election litigations to candidates to minimize cost of litigation and error that often rob the party its clear victory.

Motion without Movement

Although the report was enthusiastically received and widely acclaimed, it was swept under the carpet. This dumping of the report has expectedly dampened the enthusiasm that should have greeted the planned committee to review the 2019 elections.

Whereas many party faithful believe the party should, in fact, review its outing after every general election, they wonder the use of new committee when a plethora of previous reports, especially the Ekweremadu Panel report, was left to gather dust at Wadata Plaza.

“Our party is very good at setting up committees, which recommendations they won’t implement. A typical example is the Ekweremadu Panel report. That report is not just about 2015 elections, but a total reform. If you read it thoroughly, you see a document that would have re-launched and rebranded the PDP.

“They only implemented the aspect that zoned the presidential ticket to the North in 2019. That was an intelligent recommendation as it helped to rave up the PDP, bringing back Northern political stalwarts ahead of the 2019.

“But what of the other recommendations? Imagine if we stopped imposition of candidates, entrenched electronic membership register and biometrics, direct primaries, and thereby end this dolling out of party tickets to the highest bidder. Most of the issues we face today wouldn’t have come up in the first place,” said a party chieftain.

QUOTE:

Whereas many party faithful believe the party should, in fact, review its outing after every general election, they wonder the use of new committee when a plethora of previous reports, especially the Ekweremadu Panel report, was left to gather dust at Wadata Plaza….Our party is very good at setting up committees, which recommendations they won’t implement. A typical example is the Ekweremadu Panel report. That report is not just about 2015 elections, but a total reform. If you read it thoroughly, you see a document that would have re-launched and rebranded the PDP