New Telegraph Thursday back page of July 7, 2022
By Ike Abonyi
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” --Desmond Tutu
If you are not indignant at the injustice against your neighbour you are not a sincere advocate of peace and justice.h6
This perhaps is the crux of the current challenges facing the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is in dire need of peace. Mahatma Gandhi of India once said that for "Unity to be real it must stand the severest strain without breaking." France's noted moralist, Frances de La Rochefpucauld, explaining how to make unity real, said, "If we have not peace within ourselves, it is in vain to seek it from outward sources." Nigeria’s opposition party, the PDP is visibly embattled ahead of the all-important 2023 general elections. How did the party get here?
An in-depth study of PDP and its current travails can easily be traced to one gladiator who has successfully used his resources to bully the party since 2015. This same gladiator in question has had a hand in virtually every controversy of the party since 2015. He masterminded the coming of one Ali Amodu Sheriff who was to be the party’s biggest nemesis until the Supreme Court of Nigeria came to the party’s rescue. Also, the same character that influenced the coming of Prince Uche Secondus but would not allow him to function because of ambition. He was such an overbearing "godfather" who would not allow the godson to cough without his permission. He was consistently abusing his interests even though no one of them could point at his offence.
Secondus's successor had only one agenda which was to help his sponsor realise his ambition. The crisis in PDP now is therefore a consequence of being hired to deliver the goods and you fail even though the buyer disregarded the "buyer beware" caveat.
Therefore, the PDP situation today can be likened to a store owner who has a bull in his shop but is unable to manage it to avoid destruction. The party is paying the price of dining with the devil with a short spoon. PDP enjoys the size of the bull, not its propensity to destroy. It likes the meal but abhors its indigestion.
It is undeniable that the current problem in PDP is deep-rooted and virtually everybody in the party hierarchy is liable. Not even the presidential candidate is guilt-free because the bull entered the shop when he shied away from his natural responsibilities and left a loophole.
Truth is that if an Atiku was up and doing as a leader, there would have been no room for an overbearing Wike to enter and overwhelm as is the case. The genesis of the PDP problem today and ever is in its refusal [is it inability?] to create a political party that is independent and supreme in word and deed.
In 2010, while the party was still in power, then-President Goodluck Jonathan drafted the pioneer National Secretary, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, to the National Chair of PDP to help reset the party. Dr. Nwodo, realising that the crux of the matter was in the party funding, set out to correct it by seeking self-financing through e-membership registration. With this, he targeted ₦10 billion annually, enough to run the party without begging for alms. But this project was scuttled, having been stoutly resisted by the PDP governors led by then-Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who would not want any whittling down of their stick-and-carrot influence over the then-ruling PDP.
President Jonathan who had done a pilot demonstration of the project before the national television cameras could not defend it and it was jettisoned. Dr. Nwodo was even to be thrown out indecorously for being too revolutionary, an action that marked the beginning of the fall of PDP. With this situation, the party's mendiant dependence on governors and donors [even pay staff salaries] continued. It became worse when PDP lost federal power and control of more states in 2015. The source of its funding expectedly shrunk further.
A poor party becomes vulnerable and open to being hijacked by anybody with deep pockets and a large heart to spend. When Ali Amodu Sheriff was brought in, his selling point was that he has five private jets and the party will have no problem with funding under him. It turned out to be a huge 419 as that was the era the party’s funds were most vandalised.
When Sheriff's antics became unbearable and the party leaders came together to retrieve the leadership mantle from him, it was not without a brutal fight that was eventually settled by the Supreme Court.
Expectedly, the man who helped the party come out of those challenging times became the new godfather. Today, if the party is not seeing itself as gone from frying pan to fire, it realized that the kettle and pot are of the same hue.
The first attempt for the current Father Christmas to show his true colour was in 2018 when he wanted his choice to emerge at all costs as the presidential flag bearer for 2019. The scheme failed. When he could not get the party leadership to do his bidding he set out to throw them away and install his choice with his eyes on 2023.
To achieve his ultimate goal, he studied and became aware of the gullibility of members whenever pecuniary incentives are involved and he quickly deployed them. His overwhelming influence was made more manifest as the presumed leader of the party, the 2019 presidential flag bearer abandoned the party and relocated to Dubai after the election, leaving the space to only the ambitious Chief donor. By the time another election approached he surfaced again but had others to contend with.
After the Chief donor and sole sponsor of the party had gone far pushing for the power to come to the South, the candidate appeared and torpedoed everything, jettisoning the zoning arrangement. Eventually, the man who abandoned the party returned to take it but not without a bitter contest.
If the narration above seems unjust to you, what follows will be even more disgusting. After the presidential primaries, the race for a running mate began. In 2019, when the candidate picked Peter Obi as his running mate, some Southeast PDP leaders wanted to bring down the roof in anger. Not wanting to go through the same experience the candidate decided this time to carry out extensive consultations. All critical organs of the party, Governors' Forum, Board of Trustees, and National Working Committee were consulted with each having different views. A needless committee was set up to recommend names but by the time dollars arrived at the homes of some members, the story changed. They wanted to recommend one person but for the intervention of some good heads who probably were not dollarized and who insisted on recommending three names to give the candidate some options. Eventually, the candidate picked number two instead of number one on the recommended list, and hell is let loose as a result. Suddenly, southern candidacy advocates became front runners for the running mate position. How else can one define desperation?
Discerning minds still query why the candidate, after such a fierce contest, had to promise the running mate position to somebody he would not oblige and why set up a committee and why allow them to vote on the matter? Maybe to convince the desperado that the process was on course.
Having taken you on this historical journey of why PDP is consistently in a crisis, this columnist makes bold to say that the real cause of the current problem is a consequence of an unjust dollar harvest. The party is a victim of seeing injustice and pretending it does not exist.
For 23 years, the South-East remained steadfast to the PDP in all presidential elections but when their turn came to be voted for both the victor and the victim in the current situation muscled their way using money and numbers. The South-West produced President from PDP for eight years and is currently Vice for eight years and the North that is finishing eight years of President Buhari and has had three years of the late Yar'Adua, and even the South-South had the last PDP President in Jonathan all worked hard to stop the South-East.
Former Governor of Ekiti State, a Wike loyalist, Ayo Fayose, argued last week that the presidential slot of the party should come to the South and doubts if Gov. Nyesom Wike would support the Atiku candidacy; we wonder what his position would have been if Wike had succeeded in "buying" the running mate slot which he wants as his consolation prize.
The biggest electoral threat to PDP today is Peter Obi and his Labour Party and he was frustrated out of PDP by the man crying for justice today. The man even went to Obi’s home state of Anambra where he was a Governor for eight years to cajole and mock him. Virtually all critical persons like governors who left the party had issues with the overbearing influence of this so-called today’s victim. The scenario in the party now is akin to a story of two cheats claiming to be shortchanged at the loot-sharing stage. What would the robbery victim (South-East) do but laugh at the duplicitous nature of politicians?
If therefore the PDP is thinking of reconciliation which it needs to be able to make an impact in 2023, it should probably not bother the South-East because the region appears to have moved on. It has accepted the fate of being thrown out of marriage after 23 years. But in looking inwards for peace, any workable reuniting should start with Prince Secondus who was shabbily treated and whose matter is still in the Supreme Court. I doubt if there is anybody with a hand in the ouster of Prince Secondus who is not in regret now, including, of course, the chief financier and his beneficiaries. In seeking peace among the aggrieved members ahead of 2023, the PDP must embrace the fact that peace does not mean the absence of war but the presence of justice and fairness.
May God help us.