The Peoples Democratic Party national convention has come and gone without holding, as planned. A lot of the credit for that must go to the All Progressives Congress government and its agents, inside and outside the PDP. The abuse of office by Nigerian governments (executive, legislative and judicial) has long been a feature of our politics despite the Change mantra.
Ali Modu Sheriff willingly presented his credentials for the position of interim chairman of the PDP and unfortunately was passed fit. He promised to vacate the seat but instead abused his office and trust. He has now become a thorn in the flesh of the PDP, distracting and delaying it in its role as an active opposition.
Despite his wealth, no one should be deceived into believing that Sheriff has the political clout to move the Nigeria Police to shut down the location where the PDP convention was scheduled to hold. With the aid of the APC, he was able to shut down the convention in the early hours of the morning of its scheduled date, and attempted to delay the renewal of the PDP. Sheriff is no more than a Trojan horse who, like others before him, will be discarded with 12 pieces of silver.
The inability of the Chief Security Officer of Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike, to host the convention successfully and assure it is further evidence of the APC’s lack of sincerity in its proclamation of Change. For many years, many of its members spoke up against making toothless bulldogs of governors in their role as chief security officers of their states. They clearly meant they should only be empowered as the CSOs when they are in the same party as the President.
And then there is Olusegun Obasanjo; for eight years, he enjoyed national and international acclaim as President of Nigeria on the platform of the PDP, and despite his denials, he actively tested the waters in the hope of a third term. Please, explain how people who for 15 of the PDP’s 16 years in office were card-carrying beneficiaries of the party can so easily abandon the ship they captained and then actively seek to sink it?
Obasanjo’s story in 1998 was one of a stone that had been cast aside. He should not be allowed to rewrite history to suit himself. It was the PDP that resurrected him, giving him the pedestal that has become his life story. The opportunity to have led a democratic Nigeria is Obasanjo’s passport to the international high tables he so craves. His theatrical tearing up of his PDP membership card was totally unpresidential.
In the PDP convention saga, the judiciary has shown itself as flawed as our other arms of government. As a lawyer, albeit non-practising, it is ingrained that learned colleagues, at the bar and bench, should not be publicly criticised. I believe that where the guardians of the law stray from the judicial to the political, they can no longer claim cover. The truth is that the judiciary plays a pivotal role in our nation’s political system and its decisions shape political fortunes.
The contradictory judgment and orders emanating from differing divisions of the Federal High Court in Abuja and Port Harcourt were a nightmarish scenario and a great disservice to the judiciary. The direct language with which one judge addressed a fellow judge from the bench was a show of shame. Where judges allow themselves to be subject to political direction, they give up what best distinguishes the judiciary from the other arms of government: its ability to speak without fear or favour.
Where judges, in hope of advancement, allow themselves to become hatchet men who dance to the tune of political masters, they discard their oaths of office and become pawns whose consciences are silenced. More concerned to show their political masters how well they can do what they are asked, they no longer realise how far they have strayed from their sacred duty. How can Nigerians be expected to respect their judiciary when they see them as their political master’s voice?
In political circles, it is generally accepted that the party with the deepest pockets always wins; in other words, our courts are less of places where justice is dispensed, and more of arenas where the highest bidder takes all. When the President speaks about weeding out the bad eggs in the judiciary, does that include those that do the APC’s bidding or are they exempted? All judges that have tarnished the judiciary must be disciplined and excised, so that they do not continue to infect the judiciary.
The actions of the judiciary in the Federal High Court are directly responsible for ensuring that the PDP leadership elections planned for Port Harcourt did not hold. The late hour was calculated to cause maximum damage and disruption, and it did.
The APC government is using Sheriff to divide and debilitate the PDP so as to have as weak and divided a house as possible confronting it in 2019. The PDP governors that endorsed the choice of Sheriff acted in haste and error and are similarly culpable. Even though they have acknowledged their error and apologised, it shows they did not do their homework as thoroughly as they ought to have done. It appears the fact that he was a fellow governor swayed them.
The PDP as a party has to be rebranded. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result. The party has never won power in Lagos State because those that have been in charge of the party’s affairs in Lagos have lacked the passion and political will necessary to win an election.
If the election scheduled for Port Harcourt had been allowed to hold, it could have been the beginning of a new and reinvigorated PDP, one able to do things differently in pursuit of different results. The two principal candidates, Jimi Agbaje and Chief Bode George, are in many ways polar opposites; one referencing where the party can progress to, the other only able to do things as they have always been done.
Rebranding the PDP is essential to moving the party forward, and it needs at its helm a person of unimpeachable integrity. The job profile has to be for a person known to contest hard as well as one able to inspire others to join in a renewed party because of his antecedents; rather than a person who has been tried, tested and uniformly failed to show he truly cares for the party and is able to inspire the party faithful.
The PDP needs a generational shift, it needs a person able to travel the length and breadth of the country not just at election time but as part of the process of reconnecting with the constituency in the years leading up to the next general election. The party needs a passionate person that believes in it and is willing to work for its success, rather than personal advancement and aggrandisement. There are too many persons in its ranks whose intention is to destabilise the party and cause havoc on behalf of the other political parties; they must no longer have a haven in the PDP.
During the convention, there were many whisperings about certain persons seeking the party chairmanship being backed by the APC. If this turns out to be true, such people have neither integrity nor decency and should have no place in the new and improved PDP that must come into being if the party is to play a pivotal role in Nigeria’s future.
Why is it that Nigerian leaders find it difficult to vacate office when they have obviously failed to achieve the goals they set themselves, or that the office demands of them? Why when they are so clearly bereft of ideas and tired in their persons do they insist on staying, refusing to step down? Why do they not take a leaf from the likes of a former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, who, after calling a referendum and losing it, immediately stepped down? Why do African leaders imagine and insist that only they can shepherd the affairs of their countries?
- Folake Phillips