The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is set for a significant national convention this week Saturday, 12 August, 2017. Why the convention is significant if it is a non-elective or what could be described as a mini convention? For those who can still remember, this will be the first gathering of the whole house in almost two years which will not hold under controversial circumstances. It is significant that the Supreme Court judgment of July 12 has put everyone in his rightful place, no more mischief from anyone, at least for now.
The authentic leadership of the party under Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, must be commended for its patience perseverance and magnanimity. It will be recalled that after the post judgment meetings of the National Caucus, Board of Trustees and National Executive Committee, Makarfi declared forgiveness and amnesty for everyone and anyone considered to have engaged in acts that hurt the party before the judgment. But he also insisted that anyone found engaging in such acts after the judgment must face disciplinary action for the offence, if proven. That was why he set up both the reconciliation committee and the disciplinary committee simultaneously. These are significant bold steps aimed at reestablishing the party on solid ground.
The reconciliation process is reported to have kicked off across the states. Even the chairman himself is reported to have granted audience to some state delegations or groups at the national secretariat for that purpose. This is a good new beginning for the party. However, the reconciliation process must be closely monitored in the states so that it is not marred by personal animosity or power show by any individual or group, no matter how highly placed. Genuine reconciliation without vindictiveness or pretension on all sides should be the watch word.
In the spirit of reconciliation, this convention should be a happy reunion of all stakeholders but more importantly it should be an occasion for all, leaders, members and supporters alike to rededicate themselves to the party as an institution, with serious commitment to upholding its constitution, creed and ethos, promoting its interest above all personal or individual interests and serving it with integrity. I do not know Makarfi’s thoughts on the convention. Neither do I have an insight into the speech he will deliver. But I believe, like any other genuine and well meaning supporter of the party, that it is imperative for Makarfi to drum it to the ears of all that the new PDP emerging from the valley of of the shadow of death must not only do away totally with impunity but also be seen to protect the interest of all stakeholders as laid down by its founding fathers.That is the only way it can regain the confidence of the people.
The party needs a strong leadership that will insist on these conditions in all its activities particularly in the primaries that are expected to bring up credible candidates for the next elections up to the 2019 general elections. I think this convention is the starting point to begin to do things right. As a honourable man, Makarfi has said publicly on national television that he is willing and ready to handover as soon as a new national leadership can be elected. As the process for enthroning the new leadership begins from this convention, it is his duty to ensure that the process will bring up a respectable and strong leadership, one that will eventually emerge from the will of the majority and be committed to the party and not to some individual strongmen or oligarchs who want to use the party machinery to achieve their selfish desires.
In this task, Makarfi should be ready to face challenges from serving and former governors as well as ex-ministers, many of who see themselves as the inheritors of the party and have assumed the self appointed mission of directing and guiding it as if it is their personal or joint stock enterprise. We cannot forget in hurry how the PDP governors plunged the party, willy nilly and against wise counsel from the elders, into the crises from which the Supreme Court finally rescued it.. Rather than learn from that mistake, even when it was yet to be resolved, the governors were also fingered in attempts to scuttle the will of the majority and impose a national chairman of their disposition on the party at Port Harcourt in August last year.
Recent media reports, which no one has denied, are again replete with insinuations that the governors are at it again shopping for a possible pliant tool they can install as national chairman who will do their biding. If Makarfi is not to be seen or suspected to be in league with the governors, he must investigate these reports and take legitimate constitutional steps to safeguard the integrity of the party. If the truth must be told, the PDP governors are beneficiaries and not benefactors of the party. They should be grateful to the party for what they have used the platform of the party to achieve in terms of position, power, influence and social status. They should not use these benefits to block or exclude other potential beneficiaries who are not their friends and cronies. And they should see whatever support they render to the party as a way of giving back to their benefactor without extracting or extorting questionable concessions and favours.
As for the Forum of PDP ex-ministers, which is not recognized by any statute or book of the party, it was laughable to hear them say, in a statement credited to them, that they will produce the party’s 2019 presidential candidate from within their ranks. How many of them performed well in their positions? What was the contributions of some of the most vocal among them to the fortunes of the party in the last presidential election and how many of them can openly stand before the electorate in their states to campaign without heavy police security presence? The group appears to be another power and influence peddling group with ulterior motives, which must be watched with suspicion until it proves otherwise.
However, this is not to say that the various power groups in the party such as the governors forum, ex-ministers forum, national Assembly caucus and the fora of state party chairmen, local government functionaries and other political appointees don’t have a say in party affairs. But they should do so without seeking to impose their will and preferences on members of the party. Otherwise the party will soon begin to experience a new dimension of crises involving power struggles and conspiracies amongst them.
Makarfi has made encouraging strong statements since the Supreme Court verdict but he should not allow his statements fall to the ground like in August last year when he said there will be no anointed candidates for the party leadership election. This time around he needs to be vigilant and action the talk. He must bequeath an acceptable leadership that can move the party forward.
Olumide Johnson writes from Lagos via [email protected]