A lot has been said about the botched national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which was caused by the power struggle between the sacked National Working Committee headed by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and the National Caretaker Committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi which replaced it.
It is quite obvious that the party cannot really move forward until the crisis is resolved either decisively by law or amicably through apolitical settlement. However, the judicial option may not offer much hope of quick resolution if the current experience of seemingly interminable litigation involving the party is anything to go by.
This means that the National Caretaker Committee must work very hard to unite the party before the 12 months set for the resolution of all issues of discord and the convening of another convention runs out. However, it is important to note that, apart from the issue of reconciliation among leaders and members, there are other issues that must be resolved ahead of the next convention.
Fortunately, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party has started to do something in this regard. Its meeting on August 29 yielded some commendable resolutions. Among others, the board resolved that the next convention be held in Abuja, that a new National Convention Planning Committee be constituted and that the Reconciliation Committee should continue all efforts for reconciliation among members. It is hoped that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party will meet soon to ratify these resolutions.
The BoT and the caretaker ommittee should have been aware by now that there are many issues arising from the Port Harcourt convention to be addressed and the earlier they are addressed, the better for all party stakeholders. First is the allegation that the process of that convention, particularly the preparation for the election of national officers, was not transparent. This observation raised fears that the election would not have been free, fair and credible if it was held.
It is no longer news that majority of the contestants for the post of national chairman raised alarm over the alleged manipulation that attended the preparations for that election in an alleged bid by some people to impose a candidate favoured by them. In fact, three out of the five contenders for the post namely, Chief Olabode George, Dr Raymond Dokpesi and Professor Tunde Adeniran, had resolved to boycott the election in reaction to the imminent imposition, before the election was stepped down. These eminent Nigerians are leaders whose views and feelings cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Therefore, the issue of imposition must be revisited and there must be assurance that internal democracy and rule of law as enshrined in the constitution of the party will henceforth be upheld in all its activities, including the next convention. The party must always guarantee a level-playing field. It must ensure that both players and officials abide by the established rules of the game. It must read the Riot Act to all members, leaders and officials seen to be inclined to disrespecting established order. Let it be known that their undue interventions will no longer be accepted nor tolerated, no matter who they are or the power and influence they wield.
This is the only way to restore sanity and discipline in the party and discourage lawlessness and impunity. The warlord syndrome that characterised the party, particularly during the immediate past administration whereby anybody that could lay hold on power and money wanted to create a fiefdom for himself to control the party structure and dictate to others should be discouraged. They should be reminded that if the leaders before them had behaved in same manner, they would never have had the opportunity of coming near power.
As for the planning of the next convention, the National Caretaker Committee and the BoT as the conscience of the party must look closely this time around. Whether it was by a coincidence or design, the organisation of the botched Port Harcourt convention, particularly the distribution of responsibilities for the election of national officers, was questionable. Everything appeared to be in the hands of Governor Nyesom Wike and his kinsmen from Rivers State.
For instance, apart from Rivers State hosting the convention, Governor Wike was the chairman of the Convention Planning Committee. Austin Opara, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives from Rivers State, was the chairman of the Electoral Subcommittee for the election of national officers. The current Attorney-General of Rivers was the secretary of the subcommittee hat screened the candidates for the election. And Governor Wike’s Chief of Staff was the chairman of the accreditation subcommittee.
While the personal integrity of these men is not in doubt, the party would do well, in its preparations for the next convention, to avoid over-concentration of power in the hands of a particular set of people. This will elicit more confidence in the convention process.
It is also important for the party to conclude all inconclusive congresses in the states and zones before the next convention. This will ensure that the authentic list of the respective categories of delegates are known and cannot be manipulated or discarded during the election.
The next national convention of the PDP can only be deemed successful if the election of national officers billed into it is successful. From experience, such an election is usually a very sensitive issue as things played out in Port Harcourt. The Nigerian factor is that every interest group in the party thinks its interest would only be protected if its own people are at the helm. That is a selfish motive based on a wrong assumption. It was this perception that goaded the people who allegedly attempted to manipulate the convention in Port Harcourt.
The PDP would truly be reborn if it could break this barrier of selfishness and personal aggrandisement by electing its national officers from the very best of the best candidates with the requisite knowledge, understanding, experience and wisdom to uphold, protect, defend, enforce and promote the values of the party. These values are inclusive and have already provided for the interests of all members and the electorate.
- Johnson wrote via [email protected]