Lessons from the failed PDP convention

The inability of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to hold the election of new national officers of the party following the takeover of its convention venue in Port Harcourt by security agencies on August 17 was yet another manifestation of the disorientation it suffered since it lost the central gpvernment last year.

The failure of the convention has been attributed to the confusion created by the conflicting court judgements obtained by warring party leaders on who had the right to hold it and where it should be held. The uncertainty generated by this conflict made the action taken by the security agencies inevitable in the interest of law and order.

However, that singular action  did not only ensure public peace; it turned out to be the saving grace which averted the disintegration of the party. Much more than the leadership struggle, the uncanny and blatant moves by some governors elected on the platform of the party to foist their own choice of candidates on the members during the scheduled election of national officers had already set the stage for a great conflagration.

Few days to the convention, the hopes of many members that it would herald a new beginning of internal democracy and unity within the party, with the election being free, fair and credible, began to wane as it became apparent that some governors, led by Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State were preparing to relive the dark days of impunity suffered by the party during the Jonathan presidency.

In particular, the news was all over the media that they had anointed one of the five candidates for the position of national chairman in the person of Jimi Agbaje, a new member of the party who had never served at any level of leadership in the party. No attempt was made by Governor Wike who was chairman of the National Convention Committee and the umpire of the exercise to deny the reports in defence of the role of impartiality conferred on him by that responsibility.

If this was worrisome, the fact that Agbaje was running against far more experienced leaders with track records of service to the party made the governors’ reported preference for him suspect. It seemed to have a sinister undertone and certainly not in the interest of the party. The contest had featured five contenders, including Chief Olabode George who had served in the past ten years as national vice chairman, deputy national chairman and currently a permanent member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) and the National Executive Council (NEC).

The other contestants, namely Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Professors Tunde Adeniran and Taoheed Adedoja were well known leaders of the party having contributed to its development in varying capacities. How on earth did the governors think the imposition Agbaje on the party over and above these experienced leaders would have been accepted by all and sundry without protest?

The Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the party which organised the convention should be grateful to God for the divine intervention which prevented the party from collapsing on its shoulders as a result of the shortcomings of the convention. Fortunately, it has been given one year to put the house in order and organise another convention.  However, it can only successfully do this by learning from the embedded mistakes of the failed convention as well as ensuring a far departure from the lingering past mistakes of the party that seemed to have refused to go away.

The most important lesson to be learned from it all is the sacredness of the party constitution and the indispensability of internal democracy. No individual or group, no matter how powerful, wise or good-intentioned, should ever again be allowed to subvert the rules laid down by the constitution for any reason. Wike and Fayose have no right to dictate the direction of the party aside what the constitution stipulates.

This is the kind of aberration for which the party paid dearly in the 2015 elections. More than half of the current governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were PDP leaders who left the party when they were unjustly denied the ticket to run and unpopular candidates were imposed.

Finally, the Makarfi Caretaker Committee must learn to assert itself in defence of what is right and backed by the party constitution. The point needs to be stressed that the committee derives its existence from the members of the party as represented by their delegates who affirmed its nomination at the previous convention. It should not be at the mercy of any governor. It must therefore strive earnestly to sort out the leadership crisis with Ali Modu Sheriff and move on to move the party forward.

Adetola sent in this piece from Lagos.