Unto PDP is crowned a sole administrator
By Obo Effanga Jr.
In the build up to the December 16 2006 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), some party stalwarts boasted that the event would be a ‘coronation’! The interpretation by many was that the ‘party leadership’ had already decided who its standard bearer in the 2007 presidential election would be, and so rather than dissipate energy to go through a full-fledged presidential primary, they saw the event as coronation ceremony of the aspirant ‘anointed’ by the ‘party hierarchy’.
Truly, that is what the two-day event turned out to be. Governor Umar Shehu Yar’adua, who until two months before then, was hardly known to be interested in the presidency, was foisted on the PDP as candidate. All other aspirants, especially the governors, who seemed to be the frontrunners, were ‘prevailed upon’ (read forced) to abandon their ambitions, thus providing Yar’adua a one-sided race to the presidential ticket.
But besides the above ‘coronation’, there was a more worrisome ‘coronation’, which though surreptitious in presentation, has far greater implication on Nigeria’s democracy. That coronation was of President Olusegun Obasanjo as the ‘sole administrator’ of PDP, the self-acclaimed biggest party in Africa!
On that occasion, PDP national secretary, Chief Ojo Madueke proposed an amendment to the party’s constitution, which was immediately accepted by voice vote of the more than 5000 delegates. The amendment was to limit the qualification for chairmanship of the party’s Board of Trustees only to a member of the party who has served as president of the country. The implication of that amendment is that by the time Obasanjo leaves office in May 2007, he alone would qualify to chair the party’s board, for at least four years.
Why was it necessary to make that amendment? It is either that the hierarchy of the PDP is bent on lionising Obasanjo (out of true love for the man or due to sycophancy) or that Obasanjo himself wants to cling unto power by all means. It is evident that Obasanjo has a craving for power, and would do everything to get and keep it. We saw it in the attempt to amend the Constitution of Nigeria to enable him continue in office for the so-called ‘third term’. Forget the lie about the man having never told anybody he was interested in the third term thing. I had said in an earlier writing that the argument, after the failure of the bid was the type a young man would make after his attempt to woo a girl fails, by claiming that he never told the girl he wanted to befriend her. We all know there are a hundred and one ways to woo a girl without saying so in words!
Without occupying any known position within his party, Obasanjo had since taken over charge of the party by hijacking its ownership and leadership. He is often referred to loosely as ‘leader of the party’, a designation that is unknown to PDP’s constitution. He takes it upon himself to determine the direction of the party on every issue and at every stage.
About two years ago, Obasanjo sacked the leadership of his party by pressuring the chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh to resign. He then appointed his cronies, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Chief Ojo Madueke chairman and secretary respectively, without an election. It was not until several months afterwards that the party held what it called an ‘affirmative election’ to endorse Obasanjo’s appointees.
Sometime ago, Obasanjo told his party to allow him “as the leader of the party” to determine which zone of the country should produce the presidential candidate. His decision on such zoning is what played out at the recent PDP convention. But before the convention, he had also as President of the Federal Republic usurped the power to determine for the rest of the country who should succeed him in office. And he did it in such a disdainful manner by summoning the PDP governors and asking them to go and select one of their own and present to him for consideration and ‘anointing’ as successor! He had thus decided that his successor must come from the rank of the governors, no matter what Nigerians thought. That explained why every cowboy of a governor imagined that he must aspire to become the next president, even when some of them had questionable track records in good governance. Some of them even looted their state’s treasuries just to satiate their inordinate desires to be president.
What does the crowning of Obasanjo as the chairman-in-waiting of PDP’s board of trustees portend for the party and Nigeria? Remember the president had recently said that the fortunes of Nigeria were tied to those of PDP? If you excise Obasanjo’s haughtiness from that statement, that assertion still seems to capture the reality on the ground as most of the other parties find it difficult to set Nigeria’s political agenda. The best opportunity for the opposition parties to rally support of Nigerians and set the agenda for our politics was when the third term bid failed. Yet, they allowed the defeated (cabal of) PDP to still benefit from its defeat by regrouping to set the agenda. Today, the opposition is struggling to become relevant such that when Yar’adua emerged the party’s presidential candidate, many Nigerians already saw him as president-in-waiting.
But talking about a post-Obasanjo’s presidency in his new status in the PDP, there is no doubt that the man would become the spiritual head of the party from where he plans to be the power behind the throne of the presidency, if the party wins the presidential election. He hopes to be seen as the sole administrator, whose words shall be the command of all. As president, Obasanjo has converted the office of the Vice President to a unit under his direction, to the extent of appointing, sacking, supervising and pruning the personal staff of his deputy or approving when his deputy should enter the official aircraft attached to that office.
Being an obstinate character, Obasanjo, as board chairman of PDP is likely going to insist that things are done his way or no other way, the way he carries on as the Balogun of his Owu village, to the extent of choosing the monarch for the town or the way he has attempted, though laughable, to remove Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
The prospects of an Obasanjo chairmanship of PDP’s board of trustees are grim for the larger society by the fact that the party has ‘grown’ so large in membership, mostly driven by the craving for political lucre, yet undemocratic in its character. What is generally referred to as internal democracy is non-existent in the party. A good pointer to this fact is that, its slogan has since changed from “P-D-P…power to the people” to “P-D-P…power”! Thus PDP is stating it clearly that it does not intend to give power to the people anymore but merely withhold it.
If what Obasanjo plans to have in 2007 and beyond is subtle control of government, he might be disappointed because, like one writer said “when you are out of power, your power turns to powder” Obasanjo should know better, having tasted life out of power from 1979 to 1999. For those years, he was so powerless that he was even hounded into jail. And this is why one thought that he would be more humble with power on his second taste of it from 1999 but that has not been the case. Nigerians should pray that this sole administrator does not have things his way.
• First published in The Nation newspaper January 2007