Towards the success of the next PDP National Convention, By Olumide Johnson

Posted by News Express | 17 September 2016 | 1,853 times

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A lot has been said about the botched National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Port Harcourt, caused by the power tussle 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 obvious that the party cannot really move forward until the crisis is resolved either decisively by law or amicably through a political settlement. However, the judicial option may not offer much hope of quick resolution, if the current experience of seemingly interminable litigations 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 besides 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 Committee should have been aware by now that there were many issues arising from the Port Harcourt convention that needed to be addressed, and the earlier they were 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 not longer news that majority of the contestants for the post of national chairman raised alarm over the alleged manipulation that attended the preparations for the 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 - Chief Olabode George, Dr Raymond Dokpesi and Prof Tunde Adeniran - had resolved to boycott the election in reaction to the imminent imposition , before the election was stepped down. These eminent PDP stalwarts are leaders whose views and feelings could not 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, Wike was the chairman of the Convention Planning Committee. Hon 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 State was the secretary of the subcommittee that 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 could not 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 will truly be reborn if it can 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 a Public Affairs Analyst wrote from Lagos. Photo shows delegates voting at a previous PDP Convention.


Source: News Express

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