• We’re working to reposition party, says Wike
By Ismail Omipidan
Former military president and one of the foundation members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), General Ibrahim Babangida (retd) has cautioned the party leadership and critical stakeholders to avoid the pitfall already placed on its path, by ensuring that the chairmanship position of the party did not go to the highest bidder.
Babangida made this known, yesterday, in a press statement, signed on his behalf by his media aide, Kassim Afegbua.
Barely six days to the party’s national convention, where a new chairman is expected to emerge, he said he was getting frightened by the fact that monetary considerations appeared key to determining who emerges the chairman.
He argued that to allow that happen would mean that the party has not learnt any “bitter lesson,” arising from its defeat at the poll in 2015, adding that at this critical stage in the party’s history, “what the party needs is a chairman that is driven by uncommon initiatives, creativity in ideas and a rich content of character to lead and stabilise the party in line with the laudable ideals of the founding fathers of the party. Such an individual must possess national recognition to be able to galvanise political opportunities and transform them into tangible outcomes in our democratic engagements.”
While urging the party to avoid the impending crisis that may follow should a chairman emerge through heavily induced monitised process, the one-time presidential aspirant said: “When we were conceptualising the idea of the PDP at formation, we had in mind a party that offers platform for all Nigerians in their pursuit of legitimate political aspirations. The choice of her motto: ‘Power to the people,’ was in sync with our clear objective of recognising the people as the repository of power. In any democratic engagement, the people decide the outcome of elections through popular and inclusive participation. The monetisation of our electoral process is disturbingly eroding that power which should ordinarily reside in the people.
“In the last few days, I get frightened by the monetary consideration that is likely to dictate who emerges as the national chairman of our great party rather than what the people truly want. The discussion is more on the side of heavy monetisation of the process and ultimate ‘procurement’ of the position of the chairman by the highest bidder. This approach, in my humble view, defeats the whole essence of participation, free choice and voting which are the essential attributes of any democracy without inducement and outright manipulation. I wish to plead that we tread on the path of caution and common sense, conscious of our recent history of avoidable political crisis.”
He added: “At 76, and given the benefit of hindsight, my role both in context and content is now more of advisory one to enhance any altruistic democratic process to elect credible leadership at various levels of representation. Rather than de-monetise the electoral process to provide ample room for more citizens’ participation, the idea of monetising the process and trying to ‘procure’ party positions defeats merit, offends good conscience and blurs fair play.
“At this critical stage of our political secretions, we need men of stature, discipline, character and commendable conduct to breathe fresh air into our party and not persons whose political relevance is the product of naira and kobo bargain across the counter. We need a national chairman that would not bend to the vagaries of individual selfish interest but one who is strong enough to apply the rule of law without fear or favour. We must begin the process of interrogating processes that lead to outcomes and not just the outcomes. We must interrogate our leadership recruitment process and encourage our delegates to exercise the power of their thumbs in making their preferred choice among the candidates.”
He also urged party leaders to always ensure at all time that their personal interests are subsumed under the larger interest of the party, adding that “good name cannot be bought with gold or silver. Good name is the sum total of the individual’s conduct in his trajectory and his overall assessment through life’s enduring journey. On the strength of this, I wish to make a passionate appeal to our members, party leaders and the members of the Convention Committee to be fair and just to all, and allow the process to produce a national chairman that would truly represent the conscience of the party. I do subscribe to the idea that consensus building, collective bargaining and constructive engagement are some of the ingredients that nurture any democratic process; such ingredients should be given enough room to flourish in order to birth credible and truly representative leadership.
“Our party, the PDP, must re-invent and re-enact itself on account of her recent history of factions and fractures. The new leadership must, therefore, be one that enjoys the confidence of the majority stakeholders and members in order to have a seamless transition.
“To achieve this template, such a chairman must be the outcome of delegates’ election without manipulation and inducement. One would have thought that after the 2015 dismal outing, followed by months of leadership tussles, individuals would have put to rest their selfish and egocentric interest and pursue goals and objectives that bear true testimony to the ideals of the founding fathers; but the sound bites of monetisation of the process are utterly demoralising and benumbing.
“It is my strong belief, therefore, that leaders of the party irrespective of their political interest would allow reason and level playing field to prevail in the overall interest of the party… In the countdown to the convention, as founding fathers and stakeholders, we need to collectively assure Nigerians and our teeming members that we have indeed learnt our bitter lessons.”
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has declared that the leaders and members of the party were working for the emergence of a national chairman who would drive the party to electoral victory in 2019.
He said all stakeholders were working to re-position the PDP, noting that no zone has been left out in the political equation.
Wike, who spoke when he granted audience to one of the aspirants, Chief Raymond Dokpesi at the Government House Port Harcourt also berated those calling for the micro-zoning of the national chairmanship position. He said the position was zoned to the entire South.
“No region has been left out. PDP is not in power. PDP is an opposition party. We are working for a chairman that will drive PDP and make PDP to win elections. The chairman is not going to share contracts to any zone for you to say a particular zone is left out. It is only when a government is formed that you talk about a zone being left out,” he stated. He reiterated that he has no intention to vie for the position of vice president, saying he is focused on the delivery of good governance to Rivers people.
“I am a first term governor. How can I leave my state to go and vie for the post of vice President?” he queried.