THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently organised a retreat for its incoming leadership to apprise them of the enormity of work to be done if the party must return to power at the centre. LEON USIGBE writes on the issues addressed.
THE newly elected members of the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) went through a crash course in political leadership recently. Led by former Senate president, Professor Iyorchia Ayu, they will be assuming their positions as the new helmsmen of the main opposition party on December 9. Therefore, the party hierarchy reasoned that as green horns in the art of steering the party, it was imperative to take them through the rudiments given the task ahead of them in the run up to the 2023 general elections.
Not a single member of the Prince Uche Secondus-led outgoing NWC is left in the incoming leadership positions, populated by fresh hands, though not necessarily inexperienced administrators.
The PDP is on a mission, as its stakeholders want Nigerians to believe. The task ahead formed the theme of the retreat: “Rescue and Rebuild Nigeria.” It afforded the party an opportunity for “stock-taking, honest self-assessment and bold decision-making.” The party wanted its new leaders and other important stakeholders to analyse the major issues posing challenges to its national unity, peace and progress.
In his opening address, Ayu argued that Nigeria needed to be rescued from the maladministration of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As such, the main opposition party said it must set a clear roadmap on how best to help tackle the problems of the people and country. According to Ayu, “Nigeria has become a country badly brutalized, robbed and traumatized in the past six years plus. Our country is in very deep trouble. So we have a duty, and Nigerians expect us, to rescue and rebuild the country.
Rescuing and rebuilding
The incoming party national chairman said the retreat is to recommit party leaders to the sacrifices they need to make in the mission to rescue and rebuild the country. He pointed out that the party had allowed itself to be defined by the APC massive propaganda, saying that PDP must go beyond just reacting to what the ruling party says about it.
Ayu added: “This retreat is an opportunity for us to take stock of where we are as a party, how we got there, what went well and what went wrong, and then collectively think of how we can do better for our party and, more importantly, for our country. You may agree with me that in the last two election cycles we allowed ourselves to be defined by the APC with its massive propaganda machine. Are we going to allow that to happen again or would this retreat help to give us the tools and ideas to enable us define ourselves before an opponent does?”
“In my view, we can no longer be a party that just reacts to what the APC government does. No, we can’t be that anymore. We must be a party that thoughtfully articulates and designs a clear programme of where we want to take Nigeria as well as how we hold the rudderless APC government to account. We must be more than a party that just issues the occasional press statement condemning the APC government. We must demonstrate to Nigerians that years in opposition have not dented our will and desire to win and to govern for the benefit of our country. Nigerians look up to us to reunite this country which has been badly divided over the past 6 years. Nigerians want to see that we are united and ready to govern.”
Why noting that the theme of the retreat was apt, the former Senate president stated: “Surely Nigeria needs rescuing and rebuilding. The damage done by the APC is pretty obvious – insecurity everywhere, including shared sovereignty with criminal and terrorist gangs, a collapsed economy with a comatose manufacturing sector, soaring prices, naira near worthless, interest rates very high, with the Central Bank of Nigeria picking and choosing winners and losers and virtually running a parallel government, (which even leaves the Vice President Osinbajo confused), collapsed infrastructure, terrorist sympathizers in government, and confusion everywhere, as Fela would say. We must offer a clear, workable alternative to rebuild our country.”
“No other party in this country is better equipped and placed to rescue and rebuild this country than the PDP. We did it before. While memories may be short sometimes, most of us still remember the last years of military rule in Nigeria and the unstable, crisis-ridden and debt-ridden country that PDP inherited; a country shunned by the rest of the civilized world, a pariah state.”
The governors elected under the PDP have no doubt that the party is fully on track with the successful conduct of its last national convention, and is now poised to write a new chapter for Nigeria. Speaking on their behalf, the chairman of PDP Governors Forum (PDP-GF) and governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal, dwelt on this at the retreat. He observed that the exercise will enable the PDP to provide workable solutions and clear policy alternatives to Nigerians as opposed to “the ruling incompetent and rudderless APC administration.” According to the Sokoto governor, “the PDP has shown that it has learnt its lessons and it is ready for power in 2023, to provide hope where ineptitude currently exists.”
He added: “Where APC thrives in excuses, PDP will take responsibility. Where APC thrives in propaganda and deceit, PDP will be transparent with Nigerians. Whereas APC Government thrives in insecurity, PDP will secure Nigeria. Whereas APC presides over Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, PDP will make Nigeria prosperous. APC has wrecked our economy, but PDP will salvage it. Where APC focuses on selective anti-corruption fight, PDP will fight corruption with appropriate institutional reforms.”
Tambuwal noted that Nigeria is in an urgent need for a surgical operation as according to him, the country is in a permanent emergency. He observed: “Our people are in want. The economy is in dire straits with the exchange rate now about N540 to a Dollar from the N150 to a Dollar when PDP left office. Prices of food stuff and essential commodities are unsustainable clearly beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. Between 35 to 40 percent of Nigerians are unemployed and women and youths bear the main brunt. Bandits, kidnappers, terrorists are having a field day almost unchallenged. Our children are not safe even in their schools.
“Corruption still stalk the land. Nepotism, ethnic and religious bigotry reign supreme in today’s APC’s Nigeria. Our infrastructure is still comatose. Trust and hope in Nigeria is at its lowest. Our lamentations can go on, ad infinitum. But the test of leadership is the ability to solve problems. What solutions will PDP offer? What is the way forward?”
He reiterated that Nigeria must embrace restructuring to survive, saying: “It must restructure its polity, economy, security and ways of doing things. It must embrace relative autonomy and decentralization of power. This will unleash the energies of our people, especially, the young. It is time to allow Nigeria blossom. It is doable with all hands-on deck.
“Can Nigeria survive another 4 years of APC? The answer is a resounding No. It is too frightening to contemplate. PDP remains the only credible alternative to APC and we cannot afford to fail Nigerians. We must keep hope alive. We can do it. Yes, we can, as Obama would say.” “The revitalized PDP shall be true to the words of our national anthem, ‘To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.”
Women, youths and voter apathy
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo state, who discussed political and economic issues as they relate to women and youths and the electoral process, was delighted that the PDP has “able representatives of this demography,” which according to him, is about 120 to 140 million of Nigeria’s total population. While noting that the 2019 election witnessed less than 30 million voters, Makinde affirmed: “We can clearly see that we have an election participation problem. First, those eligible to register are not registering to vote. Second, over 60 percent of those who register, shun the elections.”
The Oyo state chief executive’s solution is for the party leaders to gain the trust of the people through delivering on their mandates. His words: “So, looking towards 2023, one of the key issues that we need to address is voter apathy. We cannot effectively address youth participation in Nigerian politics and mobilizing youth and women while ignoring the reason behind this apathy. If we are being honest, we will agree that the failure of the political class to make themselves relevant to the voting population is chiefly responsible for voter apathy. We over-promise and under-deliver and the citizens pay the price. We have a growing population of poor Nigerians and the growing feeling among the youths is that their only hope for economic stability is to leave the country. Why then should they be interested in voting? If politicians at all levels make an impact in people’s lives, then they will be more interested in who occupies these positions and who wins the elections.
“So, the solution really begins with us. Those of us in this room who are occupying elective positions. What are we doing with the trust we have been given? I am hopeful that with this new dispensation, new party leadership, we will begin to take actions that will show Nigerians that the PDP, is different. We need the people to come out and vote, because as has been shown, elections are harder to rig when the people are interested in the process.”
Also, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, called on the PDP to evolve a structural process that will engender greater participation of women and youths in politics and governance, insisting that they must be given the opportunity to explore their full potentials within the party and in government.
He maintained this segment of the population is the powerhouse of electioneering activities as well as economic and social development of any society and as such should be allowed greater participation in policy making and implementation both in the party and in government.
Threat to corporate existence
After two days of brainstorming, the new PDP NWC and other party chieftains alerted the nation that Nigeria’s corporate existence is under threat from the burgeoning insecurity besetting it. In a communique issued at the end of the retreat and read by Professor Ayu, the participants noted that the collapse of national security has made Nigeria to begin sharing sovereignty with terrorist gangs and rogue elements. It blamed the situation on the lack of vision, capacity, ability and competence of the ruling APC, which it added has driven Nigeria towards a failed state,
While pointing out that through incessant borrowings, the President Muhammadu Buhari regime has returned Nigeria to the status of “a beggar and debtor-nation, “the communique further observed: “The collapsed economy, infrastructure and a comatose manufacturing sector under the APC regime have pushed over 30 million people into unemployment and underemployment between June 2015 and now. From the largest economy in Africa as at May 2015, Nigeria, under APC, has suffered two recessions and become the ‘Poverty Capital’ of the world. The unprecedented nepotism and divisiveness of the APC-Federal Government is fueling separatist tendencies in the country. Nigeria cannot survive another four years of APC misrule.
“PDP must put its house in order to enable it win the trust of Nigerians and be seen as a serious alternative to the failed APC.”
The retreat participants also resolved that the incoming Ayu-led NWC should commence sustained dialogue with the Nigerian electorate before the next round of elections, adding: “The PDP should engage different segments of the voting population especially to encourage youths and women demographics in the rescue and rebuilding process. The new leadership of the party should in line with the party’s slogan; return the PDP to the people by entrenching the culture of internal democracy as envisaged by the party’s founding fathers.
“The new party leadership should enthrone the principle of party supremacy in the PDP so as to enhance order, discipline, unity, unanimity of purpose and, ultimately, landslide victories, come 2023 and beyond. Members at all levels should rally round the new leadership so that it effectively reforms, repositions, re-energizes, retools and re-directs the party towards regaining her lost glory and rescuing the country.”
The communique further observed: “The task of rescuing and rebuilding the nation is a national emergency. It requires sacrifice, dedication, laser-focus and the cooperation of all,” as it assured that, with PDP, “Nigeria shall rise again.”
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