Last week, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party in Nigeria, held its national convention for the purpose of electing national officers of the party. Before the convention, there were heated campaigns in some zones of the country for the political offices allotted to their zones.
The case of the North West geo-political zone which was to produce the national chairman of the party was particularly spectacular. Before the delegates election last Saturday, North east leaders within the PDP conducted a mock election among the contenders to the office of national chairman. Significantly, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who until then, was believed to be the undisputed choice of the zone, lost to Alhaji Musa Babayo.
Going by the outcome of the mock election, Babayo was supposed to emerge as the national chairman of PDP during last Saturday’s convention of the party. But before the commencement of voting, Babayo and other contenders to the office of national chairman were prevailed upon by the party’s leadership at the centre to withdraw their candidature, thus paving way for Tukur to emerge as consensus candidate and, consequently, the party’s national chairman.
The north east zone was not alone in this. A good number of other offices allotted to other geo-political zones were subjected to the same treatment. Serious contenders were made to withdraw their candidature against their wish. The result was that most of those who emerged as national officers of the party did not enjoy broad-based support. They were the choice of a few powerful members of the party who have a predetermined idea about what they want the party to be. The result was that the internal democracy that was supposed to produce officers that the party members want was subverted. Many of those who meant to contest for offices left the venue of the convention disappointed.
We find the experience of PDP delegates to the convention most regrettable. What was supposed to be a serious and credible exercise turned out to be a circus show. It was mere appearance, not reality.
What is particularly worrisome about this development is that our democracy is being made to look unserious. Rather than have credible elections that will produce those that the people want, our democracy is saddled with impositions and compromises. The unfortunate outcome is that the people are not governed by those they want.
What transpired last week, unfortunately, has become the trade mark of the PDP. What is supposed to be a national affair is, more often than not, reduced to what the party’s leadership calls” family affair.”
By so doing, the party has failed severally to show the light so that other political parties can follow. This state of affairs has always been made to affect the conduct and outcome of our national elections.
As the largest political party in Africa, our expectation is that PDP should show good example. It should be a symbol of democratic norms and ethos. It is by so doing that it can be a reference point and command the respect of other political parties within and outside Nigeria. Regrettably, the party has consistently fallen short of expectations.
We recognize the fact that our democracy is a fledging one. But we cannot nurture it to maturity if we continue to practise it in breach. Our political parties and other democratic institutions must play by the rules so that the learning process will not be an interminable one.
If the PDP does not appreciate the virtues of democracy, we invite it to take a cue from the African National Congress, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, whose quest to introduce democracy in South Africa remains legendary. Today, the party has an organized system which our PDP can emulate.
Since PDP is not the only political party in the country, it is important that other political parties strive to do better than PDP. They should constitute themselves into a viable opposition with the aim of succeeding where PDP is failing. That way, they can keep PDP on its toes. But if every one of them carries on with the culture of impunity, then there is no hope for democracy in Nigeria. Our political associations must save the polity from stagnation and ultimate destruction.