Given the near total collapse of party supremacy in our current democratic dispensation, and the consequent erosion of internal democracy within our political party structures, it is no wonder that our democracy, though still durable, is however failing in engendering good governance, peaceful co-existence, national unity, stability, growth and development in a united, indivisible and indissoluble Federal Republic of Nigeria. As the dominant governing party in the country, our party, the PDP, not only takes the main blame for these failures but also indeed owes the country the main responsibility to device alternative perspectives to the failed policies of the past with the objective of breaking the circle of failures endemic in our efforts to achieve real participatory democracy in Nigeria since independence. To this end, it is a matter of urgency that PDP members of good standing come together and arrest the drift for the attainment of rapid material development for the country within the matrix of the current Global Democratic Order. Attaining this within the complexity of the extant national politics requires men of courage, honesty and patriotism.
2. Key Issues
In my opinion, there are basically three key issues for consideration and resolution in the much touted, but ill-defined and therefore un-understood current PDP Reform Agenda as enunciated by the National Chairman of the party, Alh. Bamanga Tukur. These are:-
- Entrenchment of Internal Democracy;
- Entrenchment of Participatory Democracy; and
- Institutional Collaboration and Cooperation.
i. Entrenchment of Internal Democracy
It is said that the democratic maturity of a political party is measured by the level of its internal democracy, which comprises basically two key elements;-
- The election of party leaderships (EXCO) by members of the party in a free, fair and transparent manner; and
- The nomination of Party Candidates (Primaries) for elective public offices by party members also in a free, fair and transparent manner.
These two elements constitute internal democracy. Their entrenchment in the electoral process automatically vests all powers in the hands of the people at all levels of the party organs. The central benefit of this is the widening and entrenching of participatory democracy, while also guaranteeing fairness, level-playing field and justice to all its members and aspirants in all manner of elections within the party. Also, given the fact that the right to vote and be voted for in a political party is an inalienable right of a member, the entrenchment of internal democracy guarantees the exercise of this right to all members. This naturally reduces friction and conflict and creates harmony and amity within the party that will help it capture and retain the support and confidence of the people, and thence give rise to good governance at the higher level in the polity. Conversely, where these elements are lacking, there will be no democracy; instead, there will be anarchy – the central problem facing the country today.
To attain Internal Democracy, certain conditions-precedent must be met. Central of which is the establishment and maintenance of a standard Membership Register as stipulated in our party constitution. This is a key requirement because other than providing membership data, it is the Foundational Electoral College for the operation of Internal Democracy – i.e. party democracy. It is therefore important that our party starts the process of upgrading, harmonizing and standardizing its Membership Registers as the first step to a successful reform programme. The simple truth is that without a standard and authentic Party Register, there is no political party. To date, INEC is waiting in vain for over three years for the PDP to submit to the Commission its comprehensive Membership Registers across the country. To all intents and purposes, PDP does not know the strength of its members simply because it has no comprehensive Standard Membership Registers. This is the first failure in entrenching Internal Democracy in party politics.
It is recommended that the party takes the 9 states listed by INEC for the rescheduling and re-conducting of congresses as Pilot Schemes for the test operation of this process. Its successful implementation in these states would then lay the basis for a nation-wide application of the reform programme.
ii. Entrenchment of Participatory Democracy
Once Internal Democracy takes root in the electoral processes of the party, a central element of participatory democracy is achieved. What simply remains is the establishment of wide and permanent institutional network and channel of communication for consultations and dialogue among the apparatuses and leaderships of all the party organs, stakeholders and financial supporters in all important matters relating to elections, appointments, policy formulation and implementation. This will reduce acrimony and conflict, and conversely create trust for the party leadership and cohesion for the party itself.
To resolve all outstanding issues, conflicts and fractions within the party, all decisions of party affairs must be taken on the bases of law and regulations and not on the bases of vested interests as is currently the vogue. This is the core cause of most conflicts and grievances of members in the party. To this end, I suggest that all aggrieved members are invited by the party leadership, listened to on their grievances and take just and fair decisions on ways and manner of addressing them and resolving the problems at hand. Also, the party leadership should invite all members of the party that are currently in court against the party with a view to addressing their complaints and resolving such issues out of court. To this end, the spirit of give and take in a convivial brotherly manner is to be adopted by the party. Finally, a soft landing ground is devised by the party leadership for all aggrieved members who left the party to return. Such measures should include weaver on the two-year eligibility to contest elections within and under the party platform, lost of seniority, etc. on deserving cases. It is recommended that very responsible and credible party elders and members, based on their collective stature, the information and knowledge they possess in the course of their participations in partisan politics over the years, are centrally involved in the full formulation and implementation of the reform processes.
iii. Institutional Collaboration and Cooperation
This denotes the party leadership works in close collaboration with appropriate institutions and organs of government, democratic institutions and civil society organizations nationally and internationally. Such bodies include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Federal, States and Local Govt. Councils, the Legislature, the Judiciary, National and International Elections Monitoring Groups, the Media, etc. The significance of this collaboration and cooperation is to create synergy and harmonious relationships with these bodies as they are inextricably connected in several ways to the due discharge of the functions and functioning of the political party. Any serious and constant conflict and crisis with such groups will hamper the operations and fortunes of the party in any mature democratic setting. The fundamental essence, and outcome, of such cooperation, however, is the instilment of due process and rule of law in political and party affairs in the country. This will greatly help in not only securing and installing the right person – a wise and a trustworthy leader who is well versed on the essence of leadership – but also producing good leadership that is sincere, accountable, transparent and responsible. This is the central concentrate of elections in party politics.
As an immediate measure, the party should without any further delay comply with the latest report and advice of INEC on the rescheduling of fresh congresses in the 9 states listed in its 4th April, 2012 letter to the National Chairman of the party. This is critically important to restore both INEC’s, members’ and Nigerians’ confidence in the party and in the country’s democracy. This is a sacred duty that the PDP NWC owes Nigeria.
It is expected that once such a reform agenda is implemented to the letter, it will be a major departure from the impunity and lawlessness of the past and help bring about not only a positive public perception of the party but also a foremost impact on the electoral fortunes of the party. This approach will help create for the PDP in particular and Nigeria’s democracy in general a high level of organization, a sincere and purposeful leadership, an enlightened and politically conscious citizenry, and an honest and responsive political class working purely for the sole benefit of the people within popular-based democratic cultures relevant to our environment, compatible with our mores and benefiting from diligent application and absorption of the traditional knowledge and practices of our people. Accomplishing this will no doubt help break our failure syndrome and bring about the much desired but seemingly elusive dream of moving our country to an advantageous position within the new global order capable of restoring the pride and dignity of Africa and Africans.
DR. UMAR ARDO (PDP Stakeholder, Adamawa State)