Is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on a renewal course, thirteen years on? Or is the movement of Africa’s largest party directionless? As the nation celebrates another Democracy Day, STANLEY NKWOCHA takes a look at the party’s trajectory in the past one year.
May 29, has come to be celebrated across the country as Democracy Day. No thanks to the 2003 declaration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his second term swearing-in ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja. Like other public holidays, May 29 has come to be marked as another high point in the nation’s drive to entrench democracy.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there has been no dull moment from May last year to this year. Needless to say, the ruling party has had to grapple with the challenges of governance as well as high-wire internal - political feuds that have perhaps left the party pushing out its fangs.
As at May 29, 2011, current minister of defence, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, held forth as the party’s acting national chairman after the exit of his predecessor, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo. No sooner had President Goodluck Jonathan constituted his cabinet, that Mohammed found his next office at the Ship House, to go become the minister of defence. His exit saw to the elevation of the party’s then national secretary, Alh. Kawu Baraje as the new acting national chairman of the PDP.
As he settled to steer the course of the PDP’s ship, the party’s first test in the period under review was its participation in the gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa, Kogi, Sokoto, Cross River and Adamawa States where the Supreme had thrown in the spanner in the party’s profile, ordering for a reschedule of elections in the State.
Sokoto and Cross River States may have passed as ‘easily won’ states, but for Bayelsa, Kogi and Adamawa States, intra- party squabble drained energy out of the party’s leadership, making it go hard as the party watched as in-house power play nearly cost it the states.
In Kogi, the decision of the party to change its former governorship candidates (from Echocho to Idris Wada) did not go down with a few political gladiators in the state as the party’s umbrella in the State got wrecked from the middle. But for its superior political suavity, the Abubakar Audu-led Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, would have devoured the party having aligned with the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
In Adamawa State, flushed-out Murtala Nyako, had to go back to his erstwhile foe - Speaker of the House of Assembly to beg for forgiveness as it took the Presidency two nights to the election to broker the truce which eventually led to Nyako’s return. The meager margin he used in defeating the ACN’s candidate at the poll clearly underlined the near loss he faced.
The most dramatic of the states was Bayelsa, where what appeared to be the real flex of muscles appeared in the run up to the elections as former Governor Timipre Sylva was shut out of the screening process by the party’s leadership.
Not even the court orders which got flung, to and fro, could sway the decisions of the party. At the end, it was Sylva who lost out as the Presidency’s favored Seriake Dickson, a former House of Reps member beat him to it.
Till date, the ripples from that exercise are still to die down even as Dickson has fully taken charge as governor of Bayelsa State.
No sooner had the governorship elections gone by that the party opened its next chapter – the battle for next NWC. With March 24 as its handing over date, the PDP saw itself in the most complex of intra party power play after the House of Reps revolt last year to elect its leaders.
With most of the then National Working Committee members bent on returning, swapping of offices to positions allotted to their zones became the order of the day – a situation which not only bruised former colleagues in the NWC but also other aspirants bent on taking over from them. For the chairmanship, it was a tale of wild rivalry as over 15 aspirants lined up for the post, engaging in the fiercest of campaigns and rattling the polity like never before.
But just when the braouhaha was highest around Alh. Bamanga Tukur as the much favored candidate, governors of the states that comprise the north-east geopolitical zone dumped the much favoured Tukur for the job of national chairman of the party, just 13 days to the March 24 date for the party’s national convention.
The aspiration of Bamanga Tukur to lead the party ran into troubled waters when Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako stormed the Presidential Villa in Abuja and pointedly told President Goodluck Jonathan that his state was not ready to produce any chairman for now, much more supporting the aspiration of Bamanga Tukur, who until now was said to be the ‘quiet choice’ of the Presidency.
Immediately after leaving the villa, a meeting of top north east PDP chieftains was said to have been convened by Governor Nyako and the decision was reached to support the aspiration of the present acting national secretary of the PDP, Dr. Musa Babayo, an action which came to fruit few days after in Bauchi as the North East ‘elected’ Babayo Musa as its choice at its zonal convention in Bauchi.
It was, however, a wild Goodluck Jonathan who came smoking red hot few days to the convention to emphatically stand on his feet that Bamanga Tukur got elected as the party’s national chairman a day to the convention.
The drama, suspense and thrill which were brought to play at the Eagle Square venue of the convention is now past as Bamanga Tukur seats at the top echelon of party’s new NWC.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, also stole some part of the show as against wildest expectations, he resigned from his position of the party’s Board of Trustees chairman, saying he needed time to concentrate on other tasks especially aiding in the empowerment of the continent as well as his foundation. The hoopla which trailed the announcement took over a month to die down.
But has the PDP offered much to Nigerians? On assuming office, Bamanga Tukur says he is embarking on ‘3Rs project’ - reformation, reconciliation and rebirth. Shortly after his swearing in, Bamanga engaged in a facility tour of the Legacy House, the campaign office of the party, the national chairman directed that he be availed the complete report of the reconciliation report headed by Ekwueme.
The report of the reconciliation report, otherwise known as the “Ekwueme’s Report” has come to represent the manual for reconciliation within the PDP. The committee was set up by the former national chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor.
Tukur told newsmen that the only way to reconcile dormant founding members and other aggrieved members is to ensure that the committee’s report is implemented in full by ensuring that all aggrieved as well as founding members are reconciled.
He said, “there are many aggrieved and founding members who are now dormant in the affairs of the party and with the implementation of this report, PDP will be working towards a total reconciliation of members.
“The problem with such organisation as big as the PDP is the management of success and it will be in the interest of the party to ensure that all aggrieved members are reconciled and dormant founding members become active in the affairs of the party”, the national chairman had explained.
Speaking when he visited the Peoples Democratic Institute (PDI), Tukur subtly debunked the allegations that he never contributed to the development of the PDP said, “I paid the rents for the first two years of the pioneer office of the party and yet some people accused me of not doing anything for the party”. He was taken round the PDI, by the Director General, Anthony Ubani
He also visited the 10-storey new national secretariat of the party located at the central business area, where the French construction company, Bouygeous, handling the project told the Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) that the building has reached a 45 per cent completion level.
On whether the party has kept faith with Nigerians, the party’s national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said no matter the criticisms on the party, it remains the only true national party upon which the aspirations of Nigerians could be met. Metuh said against criticisms the party has indeed put in place the foundations for a developed nation.
“The greatest achievement of the PDP is the provision of strong national leadership whose centripetal pull has succeeded in relegating the barriers of race, religion and ideological persuasions, issues that have kept Nigeria down for long. It could be argued rightly therefore, that the PDP has been the major catalyst for the unity of the nation.
“One of the visions of the founding fathers of PDP was to form a large, all encompassing democratic party, with shoulders broad and strong enough as bulwark against military adventurism. That vision is largely fulfilled today. For the first time in history, Nigeria has had twelve years of uninterrupted democratic rule.
“The presidential contest was adjudged locally and internationally as free, fair and credible. The number of litigations attendant upon the 2011 general elections was drastically reduced as a consequence of the credibility of that election, Chief Metuh had said in statement title ‘Nigeria is on course’.
According to him, “The strength of the PDP as a big and truly national political party has been such a catalyst on the unity and oneness of Nigeria. It has provided leadership that saw the nation through several challenges in the last twelve years.
Take for example the ill health and subsequent demise of President Yar’ Adua and the ability of the PDP to weather the succession dispute that shook the nation. Remember again, the predictions of some foreign powers that Nigeria would not survive the 2011 general elections.
“Under the PDP leadership, Nigeria has been fast-tracked into the digital world of information technology. The mobile telecoms market in Nigeria which started in 2001 is rated as the fastest growing in the world. The PDP government indeed provided the enabling environment for investments in this sector to thrive.
“In the international circles, Nigeria had moved from being a pariah state to an influential voice since the inception of the PDP Government. Our pride as a regional, continental and global power block has been enhanced since we assumed the saddle of leadership.
Under the PDP Government, the private sector has been on the rise, contributing millions of jobs and the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country which today stands at over $500 Billion from $170 Billion in 2005,” the party’s spokesman stated.
But as Nigerians celebrate and witness another May 29, it remains to be seen how well the party has governed. The party may have stated its position but the citizens have the final say as again, democracy rules.