Impeachment, the Only Option for PDP
Dr. Aliyu Tilde
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is increasingly getting into a fix. Writing about it has become imperative, a priority you may say. This stems from the dominant role the party plays in our democracy today. It is the ruling party in this country, having the President and the majority in both Senate and House of Representatives. It has 22 out of 36 governors plus the Minister of the Federal Capital, who is another PDP man appointed by the President. In addition to this, by tribal allegiance to the President, the five Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors are also members of the PDP. Finally, there are some APP chieftains and governors, few though, who are busy eating the roasted maize (the symbol of APP) under the umbrella (symbol of PDP) held by the President. Some of them are right now in the Southwest campaigning for the superiority of the umbrella over the maize, as they did in 1999. What a conspiracy!
Also, the economy and politics of the country is literally in the hands of PDP. Its members determine who gets what share in the economy through budget formulation and implementation, contracts award and appointments into the most lucrative offices in the country. Politically, as the sole proprietor of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it determines the course of events in the political process. This body, whose overwhelming majority are PDP members, is required to ratify not only the conventions and congresses of the PDP but also of the other parties. As a demonstration of its power, last month it boycotted the national convention of the APP and the gathering of over 10,000 people had to disperse in disappointment because by law no convention is valid without the attendance of INEC.
I will therefore like to submit that when only sheer size and power are considered, PDP is the party to reckon with, so far. We can validly argue, based on that premise, that until it is toppled in the next election, if PDP is in trouble, our democracy is in trouble. However, unlike Fairouz who, out of love for Damascus said, “Syria! Your people, if they are in trouble, my heart is in trouble,” our writing about PDP is not informed by love for the party but by the impact which its troubles will have on our democracy.
The troubles in the PDP are many but two are particularly disturbing. The first problem is Obasanjo. His government is a total failure, a fact that has been chronicled by many writers. All what the government is good at is quoting figures, but the work cannot be substantiated. The reports of gross corruption in the federal government including those given by international organizations have reached alarming levels. The levels of insecurity, ethnic conflicts, poverty, etc. have never been so high. All these are common knowledge among Nigerians today.
The trouble with Obasanjo does not stem from his failure but from his resolve to remain in power as it is the tradition with other African rulers. He is bent on using whatever resources are in his control to win elections next year. He has proved his ability to crudely get his way in previous conventions of his party and in the Senate. He changes the leadership of the Senate and the party at will, three for each in the last three years. His control over INEC and other bodies makes him feel confident that victory must be his companion in 2003.
Knowing the degree of his low esteem on the one hand and his resolve to maintain his seat through whatever means on the other, many members of his party have expressed their fear over the fate of the party and the future of democracy. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the most consistent and eloquent in this. He has threatened to leave the party if Obasanjo comes out of the next convention as its flag bearer. The convention will come and in it, Obasanjo may or may not contest. Everything will depend on what happens to him between now and then. We will come back to this later in the article.
The second problem of PDP is the flood of aspirants seeking its ticket at the local government and state levels. As Obasanjo is sitting tight on the presidency, so also are the governors of the party. There are many aspirants within the party who would wish to replace the present state governors. Seeing how the governors have manipulated the congresses of the state, they are left with no choice but despondency which has led some of them to entertain, in revenge, anti-party activities, others have decamped to other parties as we have seen in Plateau state recently.
At the local government level, in addition to intrigues and decampment, violence has been employed as a means of expressing dissatisfaction with the affairs of the party. Almost all the violence that took place during the local government primaries did so only within the PDP. Some local government primaries could not hold. And they may never hold because attempts to do so have resulted in the loss of lives and property. A clear example is that of Jos North local government where, no thanks to recent ethnic disturbances, the majority has awakened from its slumber to claim its democratic right. The last PDP ward congress there only succeeded in renewing the ethnic animosity and led to an instant loss of hundreds of lives.
Ordinarily, one would rejoice that the dominant party is crumbling; that its absence will guarantee other parties breathing space in the political atmosphere. However, I am of the opinion that the loss of the PDP will hardly change much, as things are today. But this argument can only be substantiated if we probe the source of the party’s problems such that we can say precisely whether or not these problems are peculiar to the PDP or not and whether other parties that will move to occupy the space it will vacate will be more promising.
To begin with, I believe that none of the parties would have done better if it were in the position of the PDP, if we discount the extremely bad case of Obasanjo. This is because, both AD and APP have shown similar degrees of opportunism and weaknesses in the domains they control. Their governors are no better than those of the PDP. They have emasculated the opposition in their states and they are playing the incumbency factor as good, or say as bad if you like, as the PDP is playing its at the state and federal levels. In the appointment commissioners to State Independent Electoral Commisions for example, the APP governors did not show a better degree of restraint. They appointed their own men. Therefore, Obasanjo, Makarfi and others in the PDP are not alone.
The leadership of the other two parties have also shown weaknesses similar to that of the PDP. The AD has shown strong inclination towards ethnic chauvinism to the extent that it is willing to vacate the presidency for Obasanjo. The APP on its part has been controlled not by the whims of its followers but by manipulations of the rich and the powerful both inside and outside its membership. Its leadership sold the presidential ticket of the party to an AD candidate even after it has a candidate nominated by the convention. Recently, four times, its leadership has failed to hold a convention and it has tried, without success, to sell out the entire party to the Babangida group when the latter was not sure of getting INEC’s registration. By the time it was sure of it, it abandoned the merger project and pursued the registration. That matter is now revisited, seeing that Nigerians are not enthusiastic about joining the new parties, for whatever reasons. Finally, in the last convention of the APP, the candidate who poised to unseat the incumbent chairman was strongly alleged to have been sponsored by the PDP presidency. A nan, biri yayi kama da mutum.
Since we have established that other functioning parties, as of now, do not stand on a higher moral ground than the PDP, then abandoning it will not help the democratic process; it can only help individuals in the pursuit of their selfish goals. If they see PDP as losing, or if they cannot find enough space for the expression of their desire to oust current incumbents, they will jump the fence over to these other parties, as some of them are doing now. Money and expedience, therefore, are the strongest stimuli to which our politicians respond, not to pride, esteem and principle.
Secondly, the parties themselves are not based on any ideology, but on pure opportunism. The PDP and APP are conglomerates of different interests, groups and individuals. They are together when there is something common to share, usually selfish, and part ways when there is nothing to scramble over. What is common, for example, to the PDP is that its founding members – the G38 – had nothing in common other than their interest to oust Abacha. Today, they are in the position of Abacha, doing worse than he did. This has compelled some of them, like Sunday Awoniyi, who are more inclined to principle than to greed, to leave the party; others have remained in it, disgruntled over the denial to partake in the spoil of governance and therefore waiting in revenge to give Obasanjo a fight he deserves in the next primaries of the party.
The final migration will be after May 2003. If the PDP will lose the next presidential elections, it may never win it back because most of its members will decamp to the victorious party as a response to their survival instinct. They are only being clever; because it is difficult to have best side of the two worlds. That is what happened to other parties. They have lost many of their influential members to the PDP because they cannot withstand the ‘Agadez weather’ of opposition – dry, hot and windy.
Thirdly, the high degrees of poverty and illiteracy have made both the masses and the elite subjects of manipulation by whoever is in power. Almost all businesses are dependent on government. This has turned most elite into willing sycophants, ready to bury the truth alive and flying, instead, the flag of falsehood, corruption, incompetence and failure. Whenever they are on power or close to it, they would hold on to their positions by all means. They will never accede to any democratic principle that might result in losing an acre out of their vast political estate.
Finally, there is the difficulty in managing victory. Victory does not always bring ease. In many instances, it engenders a burden of responsibilities. The PDP had a responsibility to manage well its decisive victory in 1999 by exemplifying prudence, fairness and self-restraint. Instead, it preferred to be wild, partial and dissolute. Thus, failure, acrimony and resent logically became its fortune.
These are some of the characteristics of our politics, past and present. It is the mindset of majority of our politicians today. What we need is to move forward. So let us focus on the solutions.
If we truly want democracy to have a footing in this country, then we must work hard to refine the way we conceptualise and practice politics. But as a matter of urgency, generally speaking, no party will succeed in giving this country a better leadership than the first outing of the PDP without committing itself to the principles on which leadership and democracy are based. Leadership is based on competence, steadfastness, self-sacrifice, rectitude and service to the people. Government belongs to them, and it must be put to their service. Our parties and officials are deficient in these. In the choice of candidates, therefore, only the popular, selfless and competent must be chosen. In governance, the weaknesses of the soul – greed, ignorance and envy – must be tamed. Responsibility must be given to the honest and competent. This was the advice we gave to Obasanjo on the pages of this column three years ago. Unfortunately, we did know that we were speaking to the dead, as an ancient Arab poet would put it.
The choice of presidential candidates deserves particular caution and attention, given the dominant role of the office in our society. Our parties will do this country a great favour if they will, at least for a day, suppress other desires and choose the suitable even if it means dragging them from their homes to stand. It is in accordance with this goal - enriching our list of presidential aspirants - that this column called on Buhari to join politics and possibly contest the presidency. Other good candidates should be encouraged to overcome shyness and fear and come forward so that whichever party wins we are assured that the country will have a better leader than Obasanjo come 2003. Giving the ticket to the highest bidder this time, as it has been the tradition, would be like passing a death sentence on democracy.
The PDP in particular carries a greater responsibility in ensuring that it conducts the coming transition with all sense of responsibility. Right now, Obasanjo has earned it a bad repute, that he cannot even allow INEC to compile voters’ register, something that all past military dictatorships did promptly without any hitch or complaint. Obasanjo is unable to do it because, in his attempt to rig elections through the compilation, he starved the INEC of funds and burdened it with tasks that it cannot accomplish. The party must call him to order.
I will implore Ghali Na-Abba and his like to remain in the party. They should stay there and fight, just as Rimi has resolved to do. I appreciate that Obasanjo is a big liability to the party. If they are really serious about solving the problem of maladministration, they must do away with Obasanjo and replace him with a better candidate. Anything short of this will mean failure for the party and likely for democracy in Nigeria.
Right now they have two gates opened before them. They can either impeach Obasanjo now or wait until the national convention when they intend to defeat him in the primaries. I will not advise them to take the latter. Allowing Obasanjo to reach the convention will mean catastrophe for the party, whether he wins it or not. If he wins the primaries, the party has to contend with his unpopularity and with his bad record of recklessness, incompetence, inefficiency, inattentiveness and corruption. This surely means that they must be prepared to be strangers at Aso Rock after May 2003. Agadez!
On the other hand, if they defeat Obasanjo at the primaries, it means they must be ready to forego the largest concentration of physical votes that they expect from losing Southwest – because AD will as a result nominate a candidate in protest – as well as the largest concentration of invisible votes that they hope to get from the incumbency factor.
So the safest thing for the PDP is to encourage the National Assembly to impeach Obasanjo before the next PDP convention. I hope this is the truth behind the impeachment move by the House. At least, this will gurantee them the ability to rig elections.
I do not believe that impeaching Obasanjo is a threat to our democracy as his sympathizers are claiming. Nothing will happen. Impeachment is a constitutional matter. If the President has committed the fifteen impeachable offences the House is charging him with, the system must be bold enough to punish him. Those trying to persuade the members of the house to drop the idea of impeachment are not being fair. Where were they when Obasanjo was committing all these offences? If he is impeached, the right signal will be sent that no one is above the law. No one should take the government and people of Nigeria for granted simply because he is under the wrong impression that he is doing the country a favour or because he has the backing of imperialist forces outside. It will be a lesson which coming presidents will learn from.
A big question though remains regarding the impeachment. Has the House mustered enough courage to challenge the President, knowing very well that hardly would any ‘Ghana must go’ pass over the roof of the National Assembly without being gunned down by the vigilant rocket launchers of its members? If their past record is anything to go by, this affair may come to pass as others did before. And that will surely put the PDP in a bigger problem come 2003. Then it will look back and wished it had supported Na-Abba. It is not too late. The chance is there. PDP, impeaching Obasanjo is your best bet. Please take it.
Interested readers can read last week’s article, Obasanjo: the Sinking Titan from my page at gamji.com