Which political party that is determined to survive and remain relevant would fast-track its own ruin by creating needless acrimony and division? Isn’t the PDP pushing its own luck too far by its arbitrary use of power against members that express legitimate dissent against injustice or the abuse of democratic values? In the words of the former South African President and nationalist, Mr. Nelson Mandela, “power may belong to the strong, but this is only for a while.”
The suspension of Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State and his Rivers State counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has opened the floodgate to public debate about the sincerity of the PDP national leadership to enforce or preach about discipline among members. Both Wamakko and Amaechi were suspended for alleged anti-party activities. Wamakko, who was the latest victim of this hasty and ill-motivated suspension, was accused of not recognizing the Godswill Akpabio-led PDP Governors’ Forum. Nobody is in doubt about the power of the PDP juggernaut, but we should also be concerned about how that power is used against dissenting members who have chosen to follow their convictions about certain democratic issues. Governors who are elected in their own right just as the President should be treated with respect. Despite officially denying the allegation earlier that he never once told anybody that he didn’t recognize Akpabio as the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, the PDP still went ahead to suspend Wamakko.
While it is not our business to meddle into PDP internal politics and intrigues, we should not, however, support moral hypocrisy, which seems to become the party’s middle name. George Washington, one of America’s founding fathers, said that “no man is good enough to govern another without his consent.” Freedom of choice is, therefore, the soul of democracy and once you tear it apart, democracy dies.
How can a party that produces leaders by imposition expect to exercise moral authority? Which of the current members of the National Working Committee of the party was properly elected, including its chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur? At the northeast zonal congress to elect leaders of the party, Bamanga Tukur was resoundingly defeated by Babayo from Gombe State. Being President Jonathan’s candidate for PDP national chairmanship, Bamanga’s defeat threw the party into discomfiture. His defeat was seen as a humiliation of the President and to save their faces, Babayo was pressured to give up his victory so that Tukur could become chairman through the so-called “consensus arrangement” of the PDP.
Chief Tony Anenih, the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees, also emerged in similar arrangement. His emergence as BOT Chairman was a carefully choreographed political charade. Party leaders were cocooned in the presidential villa and, since Anenih was the President’s candidate, they found themselves confronted with a fait accompli. Everybody must bow to the wishes of the President, whether they are just or not. One must admit, however, that President Jonathan thoroughly learnt the art of these political intrigues from his estranged mentor, former President Obasnajo.
In this regard, how can leaders that emerged through unfair means command the moral authority to discipline anybody? How can you be a beneficiary of injustice and then expect to be taken seriously? As Sheikh Usmanu Danfodio, the Islamic reformist famously said, “a society can endure unbelief but it cannot endure injustice.” How can a political party that is allergic to free and fair election to produce its leaders take the moral high ground to preach about discipline?
Once you are imposed on others, you may automatically live with a moral and psychological burden of unease. The feeling of being tolerated rather than loved is not worth the unfair “victory” you gained over others. For a political party enmeshed by the cobweb of moral double standard, how can the PDP leaders justify suspending its members for the so-called anti-party activities? How can you continue to produce leaders by unfair means and expect the party not to run into troubled waters of acrimony and division? The outcome of the election of the Nigerian Governors Forum was a big shame. How can you deny your members the right to vote according to their conscience and then punish them for doing so? Democracy is central to the PDP identity and slogan. Ironically, however, the PDP leaders hate freedom of choice with passion.
Achieving power by unfair means is a moral pyrrhic victory. And therefore, a party ruled by such order cannot effectively control dissent. If the so-called PDP National Working Committee suspends more and more Governors for alleged “indiscipline,” it may only make the party more fissiparous and vulnerable; especially with the 2015 elections are two years away from now. Humiliating Governors that worked strenuously for the party victory like Wamakko is politically tactless and unwise. How can you be a master that destroys his slaves without ultimately provoking revolt and fissures?
Most of the influence peddlers around the President cannot deliver even their wards in their immediate neighbourhoods. The PDP elements in Sokoto who are fighting Wamakko were the same fellows that couldn’t deliver the state to the party in 2007. Impressed by Wamakko’s enormous popular appeal, former President Obasanjo wooed him away from the ANPP into the PDP. And that political masterstroke by Obasanjo had done the trick. Without Wamakko, the Sokoto State chapter of the PDP had no candidate with enough formidable popularity to unseat former Governor Bafarawa’s party (DPP) from power in 2007.
A defeated former Senator from Sokoto, who scored seven votes at the primaries during his ill-fated second term bid, is one of those PDP members from Sokoto state hanging around the presidency to realize their ambitions. Can the President help politicians that are socially isolated opportunists that detached themselves from the ordinary voters, thanks to their selfishness?
In the words of the distinguished Kenyan historian and author, Professor Ali Mazrui, “The beginning of self-reform is self-criticism.” I cannot agree more. Therefore, the biggest challenge before the PDP is self-examination and honest admission that things are moving in the wrong direction. With the Northwest chapter of the PDP officially rejecting the purported suspension of Governor Wamakko by the handpicked National Working Committee of the party, how far can the Bamanga leadership ride over the storm without enormous political cost to the party? Is this the right time to drag the PDP into needless crises that can be wisely avoided? With the emergence of APC posing a mortal threat to PDP’s political dominance, can the party afford to be suspending recalcitrant members who disagree with the party based on principle?
Can the PDP afford to be causing needless ill will among its members and supporters by treating its own political family unfairly? Can it afford to destroy basic democratic tenets and hope to remain relevant and viable beyond 2015? Former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State was even denied the right to participate in the primaries and be defeated because he was in the black book of the President. The PDP should boast of not only being the largest party in Africa, but also of being the most credible and democratic. Size without credibility is like a body without a soul.
Impunity has become a culture in the PDP and anybody that dares to express dissent is subjected to humiliation. The party only obeys court orders if it is expedient or when it falls in line with its hidden agenda. The party had no hesitation obeying a court order in respect of Oyinlola because it coincided with its agenda to get rid of Obasanjo’s loyalists in the party. President Jonathan should not allow himself to be manipulated by opportunists who don’t care about the future of the party. These self appointed soldiers of the President may ultimately harm the PDP by their excesses. Our President should reject the idea of fighting too many perceived enemies at different fronts or else, he may find himself leading exhausted troops! What is the need for all these suspensions and threats of expulsions when the PDP faces the bigger and daunting challenge of neutralizing the APC and preventing it from defeating and demystifying the ruling party?