Wednesday 26th July, 2017
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The PDP leadership crisis and dearth of opposition politics

The PDP leadership crisis and dearth of opposition politics

For all you may care to know, the protracted crisis of the imme­diate past ruling party, the Peo­ples Democratic Party (PDP), did not just start after the party lost po­litical power to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Its fall in the 2015 presidential election was the aftermath of the prolonged crisis itself. To say that the PDP is currently wallowing in its blood and excesses is to underscore the reality. But the truth is that this democracy is deeply troubled by the lingering torrent of internal squabbles rock­ing the former ruling party which still prides itself as the biggest politi­cal party in Africa. Indeed, the trend that has for long threatened the very fabric of the party has deepened con­siderably and has almost irretriev­ably metamorphosed into a monster. Admittedly, the PDP is a child of events and circumstances.
It is only an irony of circumstance that the 34 patriotic, fearless and sea­soned politicians who challenged the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha’s at­tempt to transform into a life president when they formed the G-34, were side­lined at the maiden convention of the party in Jos in 1998. This was the gen­esis of the party’s leadership crisis as military apologists took over and start­ed overrunning the party’s machinery. The trouble actually started in 1999 when the then president Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo, soon after his inaugu­ration, unilaterally handpicked Chief Evan Enwerem as Senate President much against the dictates of party rules and regulations. After the Jos conven­tion of the party, the founding fathers made up of such notable Nigerians as Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Prof. Jerry Gana, etcetera, became marginalized as Obasanjo virtually hijacked the part as first among equals. He singlehand­edly handpicked the party chairmen and principal national office without due democratic process.
This was to be expected since these people were hardly united by ideo­logical persuasion as by self interest. In democratic societies, parties are sup­posed to be associations of like-minds brought together by beliefs, ideology, worldview and common interests. The objective is traditionally to struggle le­gitimately for political power through the mechanism of the electoral pro­cess. Every political association is therefore expected to rally round a common manifesto upon which an electoral mandate is extended at the polls. In fact, the primary function of a political party is to canalize and crys­tallize opinion- to narrow the policy alternatives before the voters and to synthesize diverse views of individu­als, groups and sections. This is ex­ceedingly important to the democratic process. Parties, all over the world, act as brokers of candidates for office and agencies for the training of future leaders. Elaborate publicity facilities in addition to great party leaders stimu­late enthusiasm and interest in public affairs.
Indeed, another group of services revolves around party responsibility. If a certain party achieves the control of government, the electorate is entitled to hold that party accountable for its stewardship in office. This responsi­bility is only but imperfectly realised in many countries. The minority has the responsibility to expose the weak­nesses of the majority and to furnish criticism of the party in power. Ideally, when governance becomes complicat­ed both by the distribution of powers between the Central and the federat­ing units and by separation of powers into the three arms of government at whatever level, as is the case in Nigeria, parties correct this diffusion of gov­ernmental authority in part by provid­ing reasonably compatible groups of officeholders. Finally, the political par­ty often performs a social and humani­tarian function. Parties and their auxil­iaries hold bazaars, dances, and picnics . These events add up to the enjoyment of the participants and to the political consciousness of a voting community. Where the political party is thoroughly organized, it plays an important role in humanizing a hard government. Also, the party leader in the precinct or ward is an interpreter of individual needs and desires to public officials.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, since the current democratic dispensation be­gan in 1999, all Nigerians have seen from PDP and other parties is the fla­grant manipulation of the democratic process and abuse of power. The par­ties themselves lack internal democ­racy, party discipline and esprit de corp to foster a formidable democratic culture in the country. For want of space, we cannot here enumerate the countless squabbles within the internal organic structure of the PDP: between state and Abuja politicians of the same party; between state governors and the presidency of the same party and be­tween governors and their deputies or president and his Vice President, of the same party. The long and short of it is that ‘militicians’ killed PDP and frus­trated the smooth growth of democ­racy in the country. It is only in Nigeria that a court of competent jurisdiction would block the majority from having their way due to the entrenched parti­san interests of the minority. The PDP leadership crisis is therefore inevitable. But its resolution is long overdue. And this is rubbing off negatively on our democracy. As we write, there is no strong opposition to the party in pow­er that can present alternative choices for the electorate come 2019.
Regrettably, what we have seen in our country since 1999 negates all of the above ideals. It is as though the po­litical parties exist to frustrate genuine democratic practice in the country. If therefore a political party is noted more for infighting amongst its rank and file than for genuine democratic culture, then it must look inwards and examine itself. Rather than make its size an asset to the wider society, the PDP has continually hurled the nation in the direction of perdition. Its pro­tracted crisis which regrettably mir­rors the general crisis of governance in the country must be checked through improved discipline within its ranks to ensure orderly evolution of true democratic culture in the country. The judiciary must be careful with the way it is handling the PDP crisis in order to safeguard this democracy.

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