I had a very interesting banter with a senior relation two hours before I sat down to do this discourse. The interaction was deep and very instructive and it was about events in our nation. In fact given what he said, I had wanted to do a work I would have titled “Our system defies logic” which would have been woven around what I got from him. This gentleman who read Political Science in the United States had told me two things that I consider eye openers. One, he said that it is only in Nigeria that a court of law would empower an individual over the majority on a sensitive matter such as choice of party leadership.
He did not go further but I could understand he was talking about Senator Modu Sheriff and the confusion in PDP and of course the verdict by the Appeal Court in Port-Harcourt, which affirmed Sheriff as National Chairman even when it was clear overwhelming majority of members of the party did not want it.
I had hardly digested the above when he launched into the second; he said we like to create puzzles, that with our President staying in London, that we have succeeded in establishing a sovereignty within sovereignty. I thought I understood, so I told him it was nothing new, that states in Nigeria under a federal system are sovereign, he said he knew but that was not what he was talking about in this instant. He said he meant the President of a sovereign nation relocating to the capital of another for what in law could be seen as near permanent residency. He said in political theory a president can rule his nation from anywhere outside his nation but such should not exceed 21 days. I had no opinion on this but I left with a feeling that such issues need proper interrogation.
In line with the last statement I decided to take a deeper interest in the PDP matter. Let me explain that the vision of this column is to see a nation that would rank among the best if not the best in the world and the mission is to keep examining issues of development that could enable us achieve the vision. The development in the PDP should worry anybody that is disturbed about the low of development in the nation; it should trouble those of us who want to see the society progress at a geometric rate. Democracy wouldn’t be what it is without a strong opposition. For very long, poor leadership has been the issue and in recent times we seem to agree that it is a serious issue. It is time we begin to do something about it. If we go by current setup, the political parties remain the biggest instrument or institution that can be used to effect a positive change in quality leadership recruitment. As it is now, the PDP is one of the two parties with largest followership. This means a lot in terms of democratic growth, institutionalization of political culture and, more importantly, leadership selection. If allow PDP to die, we set back the hand of the clock.
I am not saying that if PDP dies that democracy in the nation would cease, no, it won’t, other parties will definitely take their place. Even the rich conservatives who make it up would quickly create another platform, but the truth is the new platform will take time to mature, and the danger would be that a lacuna would be created, and this could be exploited by desperate politicians who will know are many on the political stage are waiting for the slightest opportunity to do the nation in for their selfish interest. No nation that cherishes her citizens and wishes them well would want to play the game of going forward and backward all the time.
Our nation, with our level of education, ought to be more than that and our best ambition should be to show an example for Africa and the Black race. Earlier in this discourse, I referred to what is happening to PDP as confusion and not crisis. For any good political analyst the fate of PDP today was clearly predictable since its creation in 1998; it is a party founded on a fraudulent foundation. PDP was the outcome of the cunning maneuver of the retreating military establishment who had been disgraced out of political leadership and the desperate political class who wanted power irrespective of what the structures were. For the civilian political class, it was just a case of “give us power and later we could amend whatever is wrong.” The military cleverly subverted democratic processes and got one of their own, General Obasanjo out from prison and made him presidential candidate. Of course Obasanjo had to defeat Dr. Alex Ekwueme, a thorough bred democrat, who before this outing had served as vice-president to the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. The defeat of Ekwueme meant the relegation of the civilianization of the democratic process and elevation of the command ethics.
Military takeover of the PDP was not without costly consequences. Subversion of due process, bastardization of electoral process, corruption and general impunity took root from this era. PDP was not driven by ideals; so it was bound to disintegrate anytime they were thrown out of power. We have seen this with the rash of defections that has hit the party since it lost the election in 2015. If PDP loses at the Supreme Court more than two-thirds of its members will decamp and that is where the discussion I had with my senior relation comes in. If history is a good lesson then in other nations the judiciary had served as a great wall between politicians’ recklessness and its consequences. In those places, in deciding democratic conflicts and disagreements, judicial pronouncements did two things: they either gave more powers to the people or smoothened the rough edges; only in rare cases did they enhance the position of individuals.
In America, for instance, at a time the existing laws supported discrimination, Blacks were legally prevented from voting or to attend the same school with Whites but it took the judiciary and not the legislature to substantially overturn such obnoxious laws. That is what we expect the judiciary in Nigeria to do more often and that should have applied to the PDP confusion: the members are punch-drunk and staggering.
We have a responsibility in the interest of democracy to steady them. I don’t see how empowering Sheriff against the majority can bring that about. I hope that from henceforth our judiciary would develop a strategy that would enable it dispense with political cases very quickly.