2019: PDP needs strong lead­er­ship

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Olu­mide John­son

The Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) is set for a sig­nif­i­cant na­tional con­ven­tion this week Satur­day, 12 Au­gust, 2017. Why the con­ven­tion is sig­nif­i­cant if it is a non-elec­tive or what could be de­scribed as a mini con­ven­tion? For those who can still re­mem­ber, this will be the first gath­er­ing of the whole house in al­most two years which will not hold un­der con­tro­ver­sial cir­cum­stances. It is sig­nif­i­cant that the Supreme Court judgment of July 12 has put every­one in his right­ful place, no more mis­chief from any­one, at least for now.

The au­then­tic lead­er­ship of the party un­der Se­na­tor Ahmed Makarfi, Chair­man of the Na­tional Care­taker Com­mit­tee, must be com­mended for its pa­tience per­se­ver­ance and mag­na­nim­ity. It will be re­called that af­ter the post judgment meet­ings of the Na­tional Cau­cus, Board of Trus­tees and Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, Makarfi de­clared for­give­ness and amnesty for every­one and any­one con­sid­ered to have en­gaged in acts that hurt the party be­fore the judgment. But he also in­sisted that any­one found en­gag­ing in such acts af­ter the judgment must face dis­ci­plinary ac­tion for the of­fence, if proven. That was why he set up both the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion com­mit­tee and the dis­ci­plinary com­mit­tee si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Th­ese are sig­nif­i­cant bold steps aimed at reestab­lish­ing the party on solid ground.

The rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process is re­ported to have kicked off across the states. Even the chair­man him­self is re­ported to have granted au­di­ence to some state del­e­ga­tions or groups at the na­tional sec­re­tariat for that pur­pose. This is a good new be­gin­ning for the party. How­ever, the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process must be closely mon­i­tored in the states so that it is not marred by per­sonal an­i­mos­ity or power show by any in­di­vid­ual or group, no mat­ter how highly placed. Gen­uine rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with­out vin­dic­tive­ness or pre­ten­sion on all sides should be the watch word.

In the spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, this con­ven­tion should be a happy re­union of all stake­hold­ers but more im­por­tantly it should be an oc­ca­sion for all, lead­ers, mem­bers and sup­port­ers alike to reded­i­cate them­selves to the party as an in­sti­tu­tion, with se­ri­ous com­mit­ment to up­hold­ing its con­sti­tu­tion, creed and ethos, pro­mot­ing its in­ter­est above all per­sonal or in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ests and serv­ing it with in­tegrity. I do not know Makarfi’s thoughts on the con­ven­tion. Nei­ther do I have an in­sight into the speech he will de­liver. But I be­lieve, like any other gen­uine and well mean­ing sup­porter of the party, that it is im­per­a­tive for Makarfi to drum it to the ears of all that the new PDP emerg­ing from the val­ley of of the shadow of death must not only do away to­tally with im­punity but also be seen to pro­tect the in­ter­est of all stake­hold­ers as laid down by its found­ing fathers.That is the only way it can re­gain the con­fi­dence of the peo­ple.

The party needs a strong lead­er­ship that will in­sist on th­ese con­di­tions in all its ac­tiv­i­ties par­tic­u­larly in the pri­maries that are ex­pected to bring up cred­i­ble can­di­dates for the next elec­tions up to the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions. I think this con­ven­tion is the start­ing point to be­gin to do things right. As a hon­ourable man, Makarfi has said pub­licly on na­tional tele­vi­sion that he is will­ing and ready to han­dover as soon as a new na­tional lead­er­ship can be elected. As the process for en­thron­ing the new lead­er­ship be­gins from this con­ven­tion, it is his duty to en­sure that the process will bring up a re­spectable and strong lead­er­ship, one that will even­tu­ally emerge from the will of the ma­jor­ity and be com­mit­ted to the party and not to some in­di­vid­ual strong­men or oli­garchs who want to use the party ma­chin­ery to achieve their self­ish de­sires.

In this task, Makarfi should be ready to face chal­lenges from serv­ing and for­mer gov­er­nors as well as ex-min­is­ters, many of who see them­selves as the in­her­i­tors of the party and have as­sumed the self ap­pointed mis­sion of di­rect­ing and guid­ing it as if it is their per­sonal or joint stock enterprise. We can­not for­get in hurry how the PDP gov­er­nors plunged the party, willy nilly and against wise coun­sel from the el­ders, into the crises from which the Supreme Court fi­nally res­cued it.. Rather than learn from that mis­take, even when it was yet to be re­solved, the gov­er­nors were also fin­gered in at­tempts to scut­tle the will of the ma­jor­ity and im­pose a na­tional chair­man of their dis­po­si­tion on the party at Port Harcourt in Au­gust last year.

Re­cent me­dia re­ports, which no one has de­nied, are again re­plete with in­sin­u­a­tions that the gov­er­nors are at it again shop­ping for a pos­si­ble pli­ant tool they can in­stall as na­tional chair­man who will do their bid­ing. If Makarfi is not to be seen or sus­pected to be in league with the gov­er­nors, he must in­ves­ti­gate th­ese re­ports and take le­git­i­mate con­sti­tu­tional steps to safe­guard the in­tegrity of the party. If the truth must be told, the PDP gov­er­nors are ben­e­fi­cia­ries and not bene­fac­tors of the party. They should be grate­ful to the party for what they have used the plat­form of the party to achieve in terms of po­si­tion, power, in­flu­ence and so­cial sta­tus. They should not use th­ese ben­e­fits to block or ex­clude other po­ten­tial ben­e­fi­cia­ries who are not their friends and cronies. And they should see what­ever sup­port they ren­der to the party as a way of giv­ing back to their bene­fac­tor with­out ex­tract­ing or ex­tort­ing ques­tion­able con­ces­sions and favours.

As for the Fo­rum of PDP ex-min­is­ters, which is not rec­og­nized by any statute or book of the party, it was laugh­able to hear them say, in a state­ment cred­ited to them, that they will pro­duce the party’s 2019 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date from within their ranks. How many of them per­formed well in their po­si­tions? What was the con­tri­bu­tions of some of the most vo­cal among them to the for­tunes of the party in the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and how many of them can openly stand be­fore the elec­torate in their states to cam­paign with­out heavy po­lice se­cu­rity pres­ence? The group ap­pears to be an­other power and in­flu­ence ped­dling group with ul­te­rior mo­tives, which must be watched with sus­pi­cion un­til it proves oth­er­wise.

How­ever, this is not to say that the var­i­ous power groups in the party such as the gov­er­nors fo­rum, ex-min­is­ters fo­rum, na­tional Assem­bly cau­cus and the fora of state party chair­men, lo­cal govern­ment func­tionar­ies and other po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees don’t have a say in party af­fairs. But they should do so with­out seek­ing to im­pose their will and pref­er­ences on mem­bers of the party. Oth­er­wise the party will soon be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence a new di­men­sion of crises in­volv­ing power strug­gles and con­spir­a­cies amongst them.

Makarfi has made en­cour­ag­ing strong state­ments since the Supreme Court ver­dict but he should not al­low his state­ments fall to the ground like in Au­gust last year when he said there will be no anointed can­di­dates for the party lead­er­ship elec­tion. This time around he needs to be vig­i­lant and ac­tion the talk. He must be­queath an ac­cept­able lead­er­ship that can move the party for­ward. Olu­mide John­son writes from La­gos via mide­john­son990@gmail.com

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