PDP is Terminally Ill, We Need a New Party
Looking at the trend of political developments in the country since the death of General Sani Abacha, an objective mind will not help but reach the conclusion that the country is in earnest need of new political parties. It is clear that the high hope that Nigerians entrusted in the hands of Obasanjo and his party has been dashed away. The trend is clear. Politically, Nigerians are not getting closer to one another from where they were two and a half years ago. In fact they are more apart. The animosity between our peoples has reached the intolerable threshold of barbarism where lives are lost at a rate never witnessed since the civil war. Every sector of the economy is only not stagnant but also increasingly sinking down into the deep hole.
The sad thing is that there does not seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. And as human beings we can wait no longer, particularly when promises are given in the morning and broken by the afternoon, just as the late Mamman Shata once put it: Kui magana da safe ku kulla, su rantse su ce ta zanna, yamma nai su ce sun fasa, su mai da mutum kamar yammata. We cannot wait any longer to witness the age long trust, brotherhood and friendship among our peoples torn apart by deliberate inaction of a government or by its calculated partiality. We need to act quickly – a damage control measure if you like – and save the situation by restoring confidence in one another. Neither could we risk the continuous deterioration of the economy through policies that fall short of the minimum efficiency a dynamic society of the competitive world of today can tolerate.
Provisions have been made in the doctrine of democracy for checks and balances; checks that will ensure that the inherent tendency of dictatorship is averted at its slightest manifestation, and balances that will guarantee that equal opportunities are given to individuals and groups to express their ideas and interest on partisan and national matters. Nigerians would have easily counted on such democratic stipulations to circumvent the crisis. But the level at which the provisions apply presently have fallen short of the efficacy requisite of a solution.
One of those provisions is the existence and tolerance of opposition, not necessarily in the conventional sense of inter-party politics, but also, and more importantly, within the PDP itself. We have helplessly witnessed the executive arm of government, in one form, buying over the opposition as in the case of APP or, in another, anaesthetizing it through perpetration of intra-party crisis, as in the case of AD. Who heard about Dr. Mahmud Waziri, the former leader of the APP, ever since he was appointed an adviser to the President on something most of us cannot even recall? It has also strangulated the PDP into inaction. Worse still, it has dipped its long nails into the throat of the party, suffocating it to death… With both might and money in its hand, the political cartel in power has all the resources it takes to perpetrate its dominance of our political landscape.
The second provision is election. Ordinarily, Nigerians would have sat back and waited for 2003, as I have always advised. But in the archives of my deep thought, I stumbled on two evidences that necessitated a shift in both mind and strategy. Both evidences are historical events but their strong chances of recurrence would compel any impassionate mind to qualify them as enduring. One of them was the contribution of rigging to the process that brought this government to power. We should not forget that the closest friend of the Obasanjo among the overseas team that came to monitor the election, former US President Jimmy Carter, left without congratulating him. He was disappointed at the lack of complete transparency in the conduct of the election. On this count, the PDP, as a party, has proved itself lacking in the capacity to carry out trust. Nigerians are fully aware of what happened. We decided to overlook it simply because we were eager to see the return of democracy. We also thought that it would not be repeated with a person of Obasanjo’s caliber at the helm of our affairs.
We were mistaken. The down turn in our expectation came when the PDP held its last convention. What happened there was a total disappointment and a reckless abandon of the principles of democracy and decency. The Awoniyi group is a better authority on this. Here was a father blatantly favoring some of his children over others. With such a record, how do we expect that he will treat the children of other people equally? In other words, I am saying that we run the highest risk of having the next national election rigged by the PDP, going by its records.
The argument we are trying to build so far in our discourse is that with the barrel of opposition silenced through a delicate blend of persuasion and emasculation both within the PDP and outside it; with the hope deposited in the party to solve the myriad of tribulations that have hamstrung our progress as a nation; with the risk contained in hoping and wishing that the party will become ‘born-again’ and baptized of electoral misappropriation, an original sin in the ‘religion’ of democracy; it has become indispensable for Nigerians to start thinking of a national party or parties that will at least take them a step closer to the promised land that we have dreamt of since the demise of the Second Republic.
We are able, so far, to establish that the leadership niche that exists in our political space is occupied by dysfunctional elements. There is therefore the need to make sure that at the next given opportunity – 2003 – its space is occupied by people that are willing and capable to meet the functional demand of that position.
The next thing is to explore the time dimension of the issue and find out the degree of urgency it foreshadows. I sincerely feel that it is really urgent. All moves to form new parties must start NOW given the intensive contacts required for the conference of thoughts and their centrifuging. Rushing political formations would naturally result in the conglomeration of strange bedfellows, the like of our present PDP and APP. There will also be problems with registration and campaigning that I do not believe should be left until the last six months to election. It is important that the direction which the party would take be well thought of, concretely framed and convincingly presented to the electorate of every kind in every nook and cranny of the country. Enough time should be allowed even for the natural flood of willing politicians from their present position on the hilltop of unfulfilled promises down to the plain progress, transparency, and collectivity. For the rest of us that are not politicians, we are already standing on the plain waiting for the arrival of the party itself.
These early moves will definitely serve another important purpose: it will put the present government on its toes. A new party of our dream will become a pebble in its shoe. The ruling party will be saddled with decampings, one after another, that will drain out its blood and aggravate its anemia. It was born a sickler. We have seen this scenario happen before. The UNCP for example was thought to be formidable. Even when they attempted to form the APP after failing to justify their existence, they failed to gain the confidence of the population. People preferred to opt for the PDP not because they were perceived as more pious, but simply to quench the thirst for a ‘plot’ upon which a new edifice of hope could be built. That is how G34 and all those with substantial grudge against the Abacha regime ganged up, hoodwinked us and got into power.
Now, the same card could be played against them successfully. And you know, the human mind is less bitter when its hope is kept low than when brought down after it was raised high. At the emergence of the PDP and this administration in particular, our hopes could nearly touch the roof of the sky. But as soon as it came in, it did not take long to dwarf it to ant level.
Given this background, and coming in good time to jump over the hurdles and smash away the barricades that will certainly be placed on its path, it is my sincere belief that a new party that would meet the conditions mentioned below would be received with an unprecedented joy. The first to join it, I gladly foresee, would be over half of the membership of the present PDP, people who were wrapped into its fold of promises and sweet talks. It will be received in all regions except one, the very one that has refused to step outside the tight confines that tribalism – now barbarism – could afford them. Let the party come up and prove that it is capable of holding our trust and we will be ready to hug it and accommodate it in both our hearts and homes.
It is not our intention, neither are we in a position, to give a manifesto of our dream party. Rather, we would prefer to describe the requisite features that would characterize its political waveband. First, it has to be national in both outlook and composition. By outlook I mean focus, the body of ideas and programs that will differentiate it from the parochial inscriptions of class interests that typify the present parties. I wish the outlook would be sharp; it has to be clear enough to be understood and appreciated by majority of Nigerians. It does not have to be founded on a particular ideology other than the universal and all-embracing concept of social justice.
This implies that it will allow little or no room for corrupting practices. To do so it has to define the minimum of conduct for its leadership below which nothing else would be tolerated. Achieving this requires three things. One is the people chosen to lead the party before the election. When the election comes, there will definitely be a demand for nominees with transparent records. This is a decisive step in winning our confidence. I doubt if Nigerians will ever listen to the corrupt leaders whose reckless conduct in office precipitated our present predicament.
The second is the structure the party intends to put in place to check corruption and the willingness on the part of its leaders to see it work. Without this, the leadership, no matter how transparent, would be rendered helpless. It will simply be holding the horns at the top for others to milk the cow at the bottom.
The third has to do with the capacity of the party to address issues of direct relevance to the common man, issues like unemployment, declining standard of education, insecurity, poor health delivery, deteriorating infrastructure, and above all is what in the parlance of federalism is called “the national question.” I think it is time for leadership to be based on competence, not on luck or machinations. We are tired of people dragged into it. Anybody requesting to lead us has to prove his ability to diagnose our problems and the willingness to solve them.
On the lane of composition, the party should be truly national. Its leaders should have the large heart that can accommodate everybody. The party should be ready to deal with as many people as the ethnic spectrum of this country demands. It is natural for it to start at a spot on the ethnic map of the country, but it must have the ability to spread out to other regions within the shortest period possible, giving everybody a sense of belonging, young and old. It does not need to hide behind the evil masquerades of newbreed politics, zoning or power shift. Under no circumstances shall we be cajoled or intimidated into accepting such rubbish again.
It is only such a party that will be able to restore confidence in our people, not the present PDP that will make the inevitable blunder of nominating Obasanjo or Atiku for a second term. We are waiting for the politicians to take up the challenge. Our votes are waiting for them. They only need to prove their worth.