PDP: in the throes of Personalized Presidency

Jan. 16, 2013

By Adebanji Olusegun

Nigeria’s majority political party:The People’s Democratic Party (PDP)has rightly or wrongly become a barometer for measuring our democratic experience,it’s growth or lack of it. This party ,touted as the largest party in Africa ,has the national spread and a hold on governance in the country.That is why whatever happens in the party is and should be of concern to Nigerians who are genuinely interested in deepening of our democracy.

While the enhancement of opposition parties in the scheme of things must also be encouraged,their present lack of internal democracy and burgeoning image as a fiefdom of “one man”business empire has made  them a less attractive option in the goal of enthroning good governance.
It is to the PDP  that we must turn to for  redemption  of our politics,if only for its capacity to incubate  a viable opposition within its fold , which has continually led to  unintended consequence of continuous reformation of the party.You may disagree,but the fact is that the PDP harbours the biggest opposition within it, based on its foundational contradiction of membership composition.It has in its fold, a mixed grill of conservatives,welfarists  and progressives.This is  a party that capitalists and socialists of different grades cohabit,in a formless union!
Back to the role of political parties in a democracy.They provide the platform on which political governance stands. This is why in most advanced and growing democracies ascendancy to political office has been through political parties.Not in many countries has independent candidacy become such a potent platform for political governance.

Related: Nigerian youth organize a revolution by the ballot: SovereignNationalParty political movement

Specifically the Nigerian Constitution has given only political parties the mandate to present candidates for election at every level of governance from Local government to the Presidency. So political parties present candidates,canvass for votes from Nigerians ,sell their programmes  and get the votes which their candidates now utilize to mount the saddle to exercise the powers of the office. The shame in the Nigerian democracy is that the individuals who have emerged from these parties have gone ahead to implement their personal agenda largely neglecting the party promises and structure that brought them into power.

That is the dilemma that faces the PDP today such that it’s structures had become weakened by its members who had taken its platform to get to power.

Apart from President Olusegun Obasanjo who patronized his party in his first term by appointing most of his cabinet members from among the political gladiators from his party and some members of the opposition ,his second term witnessed  a progressive reduction in the influence of his party operatives in governance as he brought in personalities that are now popularly identified as “technocrats” who had more leverage in governance .What Obasanjo did was to eventually immerse the technocrats into politics as a way to bridge the political gap between the technocrats and the political class.Graduates of this Obasanjo school of technocrats- turned politicians -include El Rufai, former Minister of FCT,Charles Soludo former Governor of CBN and Ribadu  former EFCC  Chairman who was  the Presidential candidate of the ACN in the last election,Prof Dora Akunyili etc.Even though  most of these “graduates” are no longer in the PDP, they have no doubt enriched the political system.
Having also a military background,Obasanjo took control of the party machinery and utilized it for political management of the nation.By and large he sought to control the party more for its use to manage governance.It was based on his insistence that the party got more candidates with cleaner records of integrity to use the platform of the party in 2007 than what we had in 1999 and 2003 when known fraudsters and 419 were Governors or assembly members.

His successors in the office Yar Adua  and Jonathan pursued a different strategy which was principally to use the party and dumb it in furtherance of their personal agenda.Yar adua  promoted a personal cabal of his Katsina homestead and Ibori above the party and undermined the party.He  promoted a weak party by choosing an Ogbulafor, who was a decampee of the ANPP as Chairman.Vincent Ogbulafor who preferred to be a member of the cabal than entrench party supremacy,brought the party under the armpit of the Presidency which was run by Proxy.That was a period non party members  including the First Lady were running the government.At the height of it,even  the opposition party headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had a foothold in what goes on in the PDP and the Presidency and decides what happens in governance.

Now under Jonathan Presidency, the situation has become more complicated with the PDP reduced to an outsider in its own government.The same Jonathan who deceptively played the underdog and was assisted by all to become the Acting President and eventually President, have blossomed to pursue an agenda of Personalized Presidency.Right from the time he was elected in 2011,Jonathan had relegated the party and promoted  his personal and narrow interests of his small ethnic enclave as a National agenda. Take for instance his appointees. A rudimentary count indicates that over 70 % of Ministers and advisers are non party members.Many of them who bear the nebulous title of “technocrats” are less qualified than several of his party members,their only blemish being that they had joined the party.

This is the reason that the party has become wrecked to its bone marrows.The people whose faces, activities  and financial structure attracted the wide support for the party are not in governance to deliver on  the agenda sold to the people. Much more they have been reduced to by standers.This is the dilemma of the Party as there is a disconnect between the party and the masses which voted for it.Unfortunately the party takes the flak of non performance from the populace,yet it is alienated from the government that came from its groin based on the scourge of personalized Presidency pursued by Jonathan.

Perhaps this was why Obasanjo, the man everyone now accuses of foisting on the nation,Yar adua and Jonathan, has suddenly raised his voice to distance himself from the lack of performance of the Jonathan Presidency.Ever perceptive,Obasanjo moved by  first shedding the last vestige of the party which is the Chairmanship of the Board of Trustee(BOT)

The party is in the throes of pain and anguish that it cannot enforce performance of the government it brought into power.
The reason for this personalized governance is the Presidential system  which has given the President and Governors  near absolute powers in distribution of largesse of governance.Appointments and award of juicy contracts are at the pleasure of the elected public officer and this has been used to control the levers of governance.All the instruments of enforcement,coercion,,security and goodwill are at the beck and call of Jonathan and this has been used to advantage.

It is the lack of control by the party that has also emboldened the legislature to stand in the gap to enforce some performance in governance .But this is also problematic because it also makes the party unable to control it’s members in the National Assembly to enforce issues that the party would need to take a position in its interest or that of its governance.
Now the dilemma is:the same Party has to go back to the people  in 2015  to seek another mandate of the people. It remains to be seen what it would  tell the electorate!.

What is happening with Jonathan and his party is replicated in all the states where the political  parties, whether PDP,ACN,or CPC has lost the grip on governance.

The solution is a return to the parliamentary system  which is less costly and ensures that the party that Nigerians voted for is accountable to the people.It prevents persons elected from appropriating the fruits of  the election to the detriment of the party and the people.Just like Jonathan has done. The current process of amendment of the Constitution offers us another opportunity to redress our political mistake.

*Adebanji, a political analyst writes from Lagos