PDP Post Mortem: Contrition, Corruption And South East Politics
THE combined effects of confused leadership, impunity and corruption have been identified as the cause of the monumental loss in the 2015 general election by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In no other geopolitical zone is the trauma of the loss of its preeminent position more defined than in the South East. Those facts came re-echoed during the recent meeting of leadership of the South East caucus of the party with the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led sub-committee of the party’s Election Review Committee in Enugu. By recognising the fact that lack of internal democracy and brazen contempt for the relevant provision of PDP constitution contributed to the party’s downfall, PDP seems to be coming to terms with its defeat. Though the alleged failure of card-readers in some states, were also fingered in the electoral failure of the party, the issue of corruption, both systemic and political; happen to be PDP’s undoing.
Those who attended the meeting, including the national Vice Chairman for the zone, retired Col. Austin Akobundu, state governors, members of the National and State Assemblies and State chairmen; could be rightly regarded as controllers of the levers of PDP in South East. As such, they knew where the ‘dead man’s bones’ lay.
But while other speakers at the event appeared shy to name the malaise of corruption and leadership atrophy directly, the 2007 governorship candidate of the party in Abia State, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, hit the nail on the head! Ugochukwu, who is also a former chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), bemoaned the lofty height to which corruption and indiscipline attained in the party, saying that it was instructive that the party lost in the election.
On the aspect of political corruption, Chief Ugochukwu disclosed that the idea of national leader, which gave rise to state governors as leaders of the party in the various states became a source of unbridled impunity in the party. He said: “national leader is alien to our constitution; it most times contributed in the high level of impunity. We had to deal with impunity. Party is supposed to be run on democratic basis. We should eliminate the notion of national and state leader.” The former NDDC chairman suggested that PDP should find ingenuous ways of raising money to run the party, saying that that is the only way to curb the excesses of state governors who he alleged, in most cases hold the party to ransom, in the name of being financiers.
Though the South East national Vice chairman of the party, Col. Akobundu, (retd) did not want to agree with the notion that PDP performed poorly in the zone, he noted that there was real need for “a new thinking and direction” in the party. Akobundu welcomed the review process, stressing that such cases as, “imposition of candidates and lack of internal party democracy must be critically looked into with a view to addressing them.” “Never in the history of our party has our electoral fortune gone this down; we must come together and work as a great party of men who have firm belief in the party.” The three PDP governors in the zone, including Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, (Enugu); Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, (Abia) and Dr. Kelechi Igwe, who represented Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State; noted that discipline and synergy were necessary ingredients to return PDP to its winning ways. Former Kaduna Governor and leader of the Review Sub-Committee, Senator Makarfi, explained that rebuilding of PDP or initiating reforms could not be feasible and fruitful unless the process involves the people, effectively stressing that the defeat of the part should spur every member to greater contribution for the eventual victory in 2019.
But at the end of the day it appeared obvious that either those who turned up for the meeting were not in a hurry to show real contrition or the courageous party faithful that would have “said it as it was” were not allowed access. Party chieftains from mainly Anambra and Imo States lamented that a few individuals hijacked former President Goodluck Jonathan and prevented the former president and national leadership from getting input from the states in the zone. The party men blamed the former Governor of Anambra State and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Peter Obi and Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, respectively for ensuring that the presidential campaign committee was peopled by only money bags that do not command respect from the people. As they grumbled around the venue of the meeting the distraught party members recalled that even though people like the national Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh and Akobundu or state chairmen, were not in the campaign committee, “they helped to sustain the imposition of candidates”.
“We know those who convinced (former President) Jonathan that millionaires who they called financiers of the party would make the difference. We also heard how they said that giving money at the last minute would win the election. On election day the money bags could not be seen anywhere and those who got the millions to distribute were busy buying landed property in Awka, Enugu and Abuja,” they agonized. The disgruntled PDP members said the best way to rebuild PDP was to remove all the present crop of leaders in the party and ensure that election of new officers would be free contest and voting.
From the side talks of those distraught PDP faithful, it is possible that the search for memoranda would definitely not produce the contrition and workable strategies for PDP to regain its strength, at least in the South East. But if the leaders of the South East caucus were still bogged by their tongue-in-cheek style of politics, the national Vice Chairman of the party for South/South zone, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, decided to call a spade by its name and not as a garden instrument. Addressing journalists in Abuja, Ojougboh, the Akinuwa Anioma; said former President Jonathan lacked the courage to resist the control of powerful forces that compelled him to run for a second term despite his earlier undertaking to do just one term in office and restore the fidelity of zoning in the party. He explained that PDP’s loss to the All Progressives Congress (APC), is more of the rejection of former President Jonathan than acceptance of General Muhammadu Buhari and the APC by the geopolitical “north and other justice-minded Nigerians.”
Dr. Ojougboh reiterated former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliu’s revelation that in fact there was a gentleman’s agreement by Jonathan to do just one term, pointing out that by going contrary to that agreement he entered into before the 2011 presidential poll, the former President opened PDP for its first defeat in sixteen years. His words: “Jonathan himself said he will do only four years. Emirs, leaders and stakeholders in the country accepted that Jonathan will do only four years so that power can shift to the North. When the time came, a lot of macabre dance started; people started putting pressure here and there, and people started encouraging Jonathan to contest. Unfortunately, Jonathan didn’t have the nerve to say, no, I will keep my agreement.” The South/South Zonal Deputy National Chairman maintained that breach of the zoning arrangement denied PDP its popular acceptability such that according to him, “even the Christian North that used to be very friendly, especially the North-central, said, we had an agreement” and voted for one of their own.
However, apart from the issue of breach of gentleman’s agreement by the former President, Dr. Ojougboh also revealed how the other sore point in PDP’s rejection, corruption, came about. He noted that former President Jonathan’s indifference or sluggish response to allegations of corruption against some of his appointees gave rise to the general perception that PDP was corrupt. For instance, the Akinuwa Asaba disclosed that the Abuja Centenary City initiated by the immediate past administration “was a blueprint for corruption.” He disclosed that worried by the level of fraud shrouded in the project, he decided to personally write to the then President on more than one occasion, asking him to look into the investment hoax. Stressing his belief that the idea of making the expansive area as a free trade zone was inconsistent with laid down procedures, Dr. Ojougboh said the whole “expanse of land was given to one man who went to incorporate the Centenary City as a free trade zone.” He stated that there was no way to create a free trade zone in the city centre remarking that it was partly the creation of the centenary city project that made most Nigerians to believe that the PDP encourages corruption.
“Find out; the centenary city is owned by one man and when he comes he will start calling names. If you go to the Corporate Affairs Commission, you will see the owner of the centenary city. There are two companies owned by one man. Somebody told Nigerians lies with impunity that the centenary city is a public private partnership arrangement; I mean it is a lie. In fact, huge chunk of land was given to only one man and it didn’t stop there. He now went to incorporate the entity as a free zone. Where have you ever seen it in this world? It is crime personified.”
In a telephone chat with The Guardian, Dr. Ojougboh refused to name those who held former President Jonathan hostage and corralled him to renege on his promise to quit after one term in office. He insisted that it was necessary for the whole truth to be laid bare for Nigerians to appreciate PDP better and thus be able to compare whether APC was indeed a credible alternative.
It is pertinent to accept the challenges being faced by PDP in the onerous task of reinventing itself. The dangers of sweeping facts under the carpet could compound the challenges of rebuilding the party as such the diplomacy of South East to decorate the truth may not be helpful. Now that President Jonathan is out of the exalted office, he should be made to accept responsibility and where necessary offer explanations for some his inscrutable actions while on the hot seat. For instance, at one point when some Ijaw leaders of thought approached him to dispense with some of his close aides, including a highly placed official in the Presidency from the South East, the presidency responded by supporting the ouster of Dr. Bamanga Tukur and spared his appointee.
Again, the former President was alleged to have moved surreptitiously against the three-second term governors in the South East, while courting new friends. In Enugu State, the former President was said to have favoured a return of Senator Ekweremadu to the Senate to former Governor Sullivan Chime’s ambition to run for the same ticket. In Ebonyi, Governor Martin Elechi was said to have been offered to choose between running for the Senate and allow his deputy to succeed even after he had pleaded the then President to excuse his Minister of Health from the federal cabinet to contest the governorship of Ebonyi State. Then in Abia, despite the widely acclaimed rosy relationship between the former chairman of South East Governors’ Forum and the presidency, it was also alleged that the former President was secretly supporting Dr. Alex Otti instead of Governor T. A. Orji’s candidate, Dr. Ikpeazu, said to be favoured by his wife, Dame Patience. With the revelations so far on the PDP post mortem, it is obvious that the task of rebuilding the party revolves around contrition and sincerity. It is left to conjecture whether President Jonathan was influencing South East politics or South East politicians helped to derail the former President; what with the alleged registration of Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) by two ‘strange signatories.’ There are a lot of deal makers rather statesmen politicians in South East PDP.
In Anambra State, the party has refused to shed its image as a Gestapo outfit. That may be why despite the recent attempt by its 2013 governorship candidate, Dr. Tony Nwoye, to unite party. Some PDP stakeholders teamed up with other defectors from the All Progressives Congress (APC) Labour Party (LP) and Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in the state to cast anchor in Hope Democratic Party (HDP). During their steering committee meeting at Hotel De GeoGold, Awka; the stakeholders regretted that leadership squabbles in political parties in the past sixteen years have tended to create the false impression that people of Anambra State could not organise themselves politically.
The protem state chairman, Engineer Sam Osita Oraegbunam, who was mandated to organise the party in such a way that Hope Democratic Party, will give hope in democratic processes by Anambra State people, said he was happy for the ideals driving the new initiative. Addressing journalists at the end of the meeting, Oraegbunam said he has accepted the responsibility placed on his shoulders with humility, adding that he has always believed in the idea of grassroots and masses-oriented political parties. He said he would learn from the mistakes of their former parties, adding that he would faithfully implement the directives of the stakeholders, especially by ensuring that all those to emerge as members of the executive committees from wards to the State level should not aspire for any elective or accept appointive positions before the expiration of their tenure. Harping on the undoing of political parties in the state, the chairman noted that attempts by few individuals or moneybags to hijack leadership of political structures have always been the cause of strife. “Only by upholding the virtues of transparency and inclusiveness could political disharmony be avoided,” he stated.
Peace is crucial for progress. And if PDP must make peace, it must not only come clean and pursue true love and patriotism, but be prepared to submit to due process. A lot depends on what role is reserved for the former President in the journey to the future. And going by Dr. Ojougboh’s outburst, there may be need for a mea culpa by President Jonathan or he excuses the party in the march to its old glory/ future.
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