The PDP’s inability to ensure that the elective principle triumphs over the infamous and characteristic path of impolitic selection is worrisome because much of the bitterness seen in Nigerian politics is a consequence of the absence of internal democracy within the ruling party.
The meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed to produce a new chairman as predicted thanks to intrigues by the party bigwigs. The much awaited meeting which held Tuesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja ended with the party squandering a historical opportunity to deepen and expand the frontiers of democracy in the country. This is disappointing, coming from a party that claims to be the biggest in Africa and like a behemoth has monopolized power at the center of Nigeria’s federation since the inception of the prevailing fourth republic in 1999.
Although no one was in doubt as to the deeply flawed nature of Nigeria’s democracy, many expected that the PDP leadership would use the event to showcase its potential and for that matter, the country’s capacity for democratic deepening particularly at the highest echelons of the party. The reason is simply that a party’s decision-making body tugs at the soul of the party, and democratic equality is required to lubricate it. This historical opportunity, often rare in the annals of man, was wasted by the PDP in ways that left it in huge democratic deficit.
The high-stakes meeting was meant to elect a replacement for former President Olusegun Obasanjo who resigned from the BoT chair last year in anger and frustration, citing personal reasons. Prior to the meeting, BoT members who were desirous of the coveted chairmanship position traversed the length and breadth of the country to lobby for support within the ambit of the party’s constitution, only to run into brick walls of party bigwigs like OBJ and GEJ who are hell-bent on imposition.
Among those jostling for the BoT chair were former Vice-President, Alex Ekwueme; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; two former PDP chairmen; Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and Sen. Ahmadu Ali. Also on the running lists were: Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Anthony Anenih and Chief Don Etiebet amongst others. Media reports said while GEJ is believed to be supporting Anenih, OBJ is backing Ali. The governors are also said to be supporting Nnamani. It emerged that so far, 12 members of the board had shown interest in the chairmanship job. In this manner, the democratic principle of rational choice was all but certain to be subverted by the whims and caprices of the party’s leadership already prospecting for the 2015 coveted prize, even when it has yet to justify the extant mandate it holds, to the satisfaction of Nigerians.
At the end of the meeting, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, announced that a committee has been set up to streamline membership of the board in preparation for the election of a new BoT chairman. The committee has three weeks to conclude its assignment. Huhuonline.com understands that the decision to set up the committee arose because some members challenged the legality of some of the voters; and to reduce likely area of challenge since the simplest of election would stand the risk of being challenged.
Jonathan presided over the meeting which was attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo; President of the Senate, David Mark; and Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwwal. Interestingly, OBJ was conspicuously absent. The roll call was long and impressive, featuring former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; PDP Chairman, Bamanga Tukur; Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Women Leader, Kema Chikwe; former chairmen of the party -Bello Haliru Mohammed; Ahmadu Ali; Barnabas Gemade, and Vincent Ogbulafor.
Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Chief Ojo Maduekwe; his UK counterpart, Senator Dalhatu Tafida; Chief Richard Akinjide, ex-convict Chief Olabode George, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Chief Emmanuel Nwanyanwu, Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Don Etiebet, Senator Bode Olajumoke, David Jemibewon, Victor Attah, Shuaib Oyedokun and Ebenezer Babatope also attended. Others were former Senate Presidents, Adolphus Wabara and Ken Nnamani; former Speakers of the House, Ghali Na’Abba and Patricia Etteh; former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu; Governors Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Mrs. Josephine Anenih, Ambassador Hassan Adamu, Don Etiebet, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Danjuma Goje and Shuaibu Oladokun.
The abnormality played out when OBJ refused to back down to allow GEJ get his way with Anenih as BoT chair by imposition, justified by the authoritarian principle of consensus. Indeed, contrary to the vaunted expectation, the meeting turned out be another incremental and rapacious devaluation of the principle of internal democracy. The sermon of some of the party leaders about the principle of fairness, justice and rule of law is preposterous when indeed the meeting made those principles its principal casualties.
As political thinkers have thought through, the democratic principle of legitimacy is the principle of consent. To subvert it is to consign democracy and its claim to value to the dustbin of history. Similarly, the role of the presidency in the imposition politics is appalling. Irrespective of arguments that may be advanced for the tenability and legitimacy of GEJ as President to nudge his preferences in the choice of BoT chairman, such interest must be made to go through the democratic mill. GEJ’s meddlesomeness simply evinces his authoritarian bent which could disrupt the party and consequently slide the country into chaos. Such interferences in the past only succeeded in heating up the polity. It would seem GEJ has not learnt anything from history.
The opposition parties, unfortunately, have not excelled on the question of internal democracy as they have been largely compromised by their big financiers. But there is a lesson to be learnt. They should improve on their democratic credentials as far as internal democracy goes. They should encourage the spirit of healthy competition and harvest democratic surpluses that could make them beneficiaries of democratic turnovers in our dog-eat-dog democracy.