Two parties, same problem: Issues as PDP, APC labour under burden of internal democracy

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Following the non-elective convention organised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Saturday and the plan by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to organise same, though without a fixed date yet, we took a look at issues and developments in the two parties, which dominated and would dominate the conventions.

ON Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its non-elective convention, taking far-reaching decisions that will affect the fortune of the party in the coming months such as the issue of its national leadership and its constitution.

Some of the decisions reached at the convention, if allowed to take effect, have been said to be capable of addressing the perennial problem affecting party politics in the country—internal democracy.

With the All Progressives Congress (APC) planning a similar convention, having for several months toyed with the idea before shelving it again, informed political watchers have maintained that the process of deepening the country’s democracy and ensuring its full democratisation might be underway if the political parties can successfully address some of the internal issues regarding party administration.

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar had, recently, in Abuja, lamented the absolute lack of internal democracy in the political parties in the country, linking them to some of the challenges the nation’s democracy has faced in the last 17 years. While Atiku was not the first to point out the malaise in the political parties, with several political and academic juggernauts having, in the last few years, decried the untoward developments in party politics, the seemingly intractable crisis that nearly destroyed the PDP and the silent battles in the ruling APC have, again, brought to the fore the need to address the issue of internal democracy.

In the following treatises, Sunday Tribune takes a look at the developments in the two major parties in the country, concluding that the organisation of convention by the two parties might be a step in the right direction and the beginning of a journey to more cohesion and unity within the parties as well as electoral fortunes.

Saturday’s non-elective national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could be regarded as the foundation for the future fortunes of the former ruling party after its survival of an internal protracted war of attrition. The Supreme Court judgment that reinstated the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the party has enabled it to pick up the pieces, which it sought to build upon with the Saturday’s event.

The convention was organised because of the impending expiration of the original tenure of the NCC on August 16, 2017. The NCC was set up by the May 2106 National Convention in Port Harcourt with a tenure of 90 days, but the tenure was extended by one year in the August National Convention that also took place in the Rivers State capital and this was followed by a leadership tussle between the NCC and the defunct National Working Committee (NWC) of the party led by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, which only ended with the apex court’s pronouncement last month.

This convention had to be called because of the fact that its August 16 deadline would have left the NCC with inadequate time to organise a national convention to elect a new national leadership since it would not have been able to satisfy the constitutional requirements and provide the mandatory notice of convention to the relevant agencies including the Independent National Electoral Commitment (INEC).

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, explained: “The prolonged litigation of the leadership tussle ended only on the 10th of July 2017 when the Supreme Court finally gave judgment in favour of the National Caretaker Committee.” He affirmed that with the short time left before the expiration of the tenure of the NCC, it would be practically impossible to hold an elective national convention before August 17, 2017 because of the statutory notice to INEC and also meeting the provisions of the PDP constitution.

Adeyeye revealed that in consideration of this, NEC invoked the powers conferred on it to convoke a non-elective special convention on August 12.

The special non-elective convention in Abuja was therefore expected to extend the tenure of the NCC to afford it enough time to conduct a proper national convention. Therefore, all national organs of the party including the Expanded National Caucus, the National Executive Committee (NEC) and its Board of Trustees (BoT) resolved that the convention had to hold to chart the way forward for the PDP.

The special non-elective convention, it was learnt, was expected to re-legitimise the NCC despite the court judgment and strengthen its hands to take appropriate decisions on behalf of the party including the way forward for the PDP to be approved by the convention and as well, midwife its substantive national leadership.

The most critical decisions the convention was to take were to extend the tenure of the NCC and approve amendments proposed for the PDP’s constitution. The amendments were proposed with the aim of strengthening internal democracy in the PDP and making it more attractive to members, former members who exited because of the protracted leadership crisis, and as well, prospective members and Nigerians in general, Sunday Tribune gathered.

The amendments would make it less cumbersome for former members to return to its fold. They should also encourage prospective new entrants to join, assured of a level-playing field in terms of opportunities to run for elective offices and political appointments. The amendments are a derivation of the report of the Professor Jerry Gana-led PDP Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee, which had been adopted by the party.

Conscious of the fact that the preamble of the current PDP Constitution is predicated on seizing power from the military, the amendments were intended to reflect the contemporary realities where Nigeria has witnessed unbroken democracy for nearly 20 years. One of the amendments wanted to avoid a reoccurrence of the recent leadership crisis of the party, which arose because the powers exercised by the National Chairman to summon or call off the national convention conflicted with that of NEC to convene the convention. That was why it was possible for Sheriff to announce the postponement of the Port Harcourt convention duly convened by NEC by claiming that he derived his powers from the constitution. To deal with a reoccurrence of this kind of situation, the party proposed to modify Section 35(1)(a) of the Constitution and insert a new section 35(1)(b) to take away the power of the National Chairman to summon the National Convention.

Besides, in an apparent move geared towards wooing back former members, who defected to other political parties, the amendments fashioned out a way to make it easier for such people to rejoin the party. One of the amendments deleted Section 8(8)(b), Section 8(9) and modified Section 8(8) dealing with procedure for rejoining in order to make rejoining/readmission into the party automatic for a member who had left. But such an individual will still have to write an application to his Ward Secretary before being readmitted. Despite the automatic readmission, waiver requirements for contesting elections and enjoying political appointments remain “and, if thought necessary, would be strengthened.”

Towards this, the amendment revised Section 8(11) to reduce the minimum period of seeking party’s ticket and political appointment from two years to a uniform period of six months. This is with the belief that the measure will open up political space for its members. The amendments also sought to revise the provisions on Waiver Section 50(4)(7) to reduce the minimum period of membership for seeking the party’s ticket and political appointment from two years and one year, respectively, to a uniform period of six months unless the appropriate Executive Committee at its discretion gives a waiver to the contrary.

The amendments had reasoned that: “This will open up the political space in the party to receive persons who can unquestionably add value to the electoral fortune of the party while at the same time not failing to reward the loyalty and steadfastness of members who never moved. It is also proposed that decisions on waiver applications be taken by the appropriate Executive Committee at a meeting acting on the recommendation in that behalf from the immediate lower organ of the party at its meeting such that applications commence from the Ward Executive at its meeting. This will strengthen the decision on waiver applications and unilateral decisions by individuals or a few people.”

It further proposed that the appropriate Executive Committee should consider waiver applications for political appointment be as (a) In the case of Federal political appointment, the National Executive Committee (b) In the case of State political appointment, the State Executive Committee. It was also proposed that “the persons aggrieved from the grant or refusal or waiver by the Ward, LGA, State or zonal Working Committee shall have the recourse to appeal to the immediate higher party organ up to the NEC through the NWC.”

The amendments also recommended the incorporation of National Vice Chairmen of the party into NWC. In which case, the amendment asked for the deletion of section 29(5) and introduction of the National Vice Chairmen as paragraph (m) of Section 29(1) to make the six National Vice Chairmen part of the NWC in order to enable them to attend all meetings in that context. The is against the previous position where they attended NWC meetings at least once in two months to brief NWC on operations of the zones. This is also consistent with the August 2016 Port Harcourt National Convention proposed amendment.

The amendments also now provide for two Deputy National Chairmen from North and South by modifying Section 29(1)(b), Section30(1)(g), 31(1)(h), 35(2)(3) and Section 45(2). One of the Deputy National Chairman from the National Chairman’s own region will take over as Acting National Chairman in the event that the National Chairman ceases to hold office or when absent for any reason, pending the appointment to be made by NEC pursuant to Section 47(6). This is consistent with the August 2016 Port Harcourt proposed amendment.

Another key amendment was the expansion of Caucuses and Executive Committees by modifying Section 14(1), Section 16(1), Section 17(1), Section 19(1), Section 20(1), Section 22(1), Section 27(1), Section 30(1) and Section 31(1) to accommodate more party leaders in the consultative and decision making processes of the party at all levels.

Since the PDP did not envisage that it would lose power, it had limited membership of the Caucuses and Executive Committees basically to incumbent holders of Executive/Legislative offices apart from party offices. Consequently, it had a curious situation where former Presidents and Vice-Presidents, former Governors and Deputy Governors, former Principal Officers of the National Assembly were not members of any of the caucuses of the party at any level, and were only members of the Executive Committees at a few levels. The party had therefore proposed the following as members of the Caucuses and Executive Committees of the party: NEC: National Chairman, serving and former Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who are members of the party, Chairman and Secretary of the Board of Trustees, all other members of the BoT who shall have no voting rights, among others.

Many more alterations have been approved in the Constitution to reposition the PDP to effectively play its opposition role before returning to power at the centre.

With the non-elective convention in the pocket, the party will now be firmly focused on the race for the national chairmanship. It has already zoned the post to the south. It is now left for southern PDP stakeholders to determine what area of the south he/she will emerge from. Even though it was not on the agenda, it was one issue that loomed large over the non-elective convention where aspirants sought to give themselves a head start in the race by currying the favour of party faithful. The South-West is making a strong case for the post with the argument that since the inception of the PDP in 1998, the party boss has never been chosen from there. There is thus the likelihood that the next substantive chairman may indeed emerge from there. The question though is, from which of the several power blocks will he/she be chosen.

The state governors are arguably the most powerful and would more often have their way on whoever they decide to throw their considerable weight behind. Former ministers in the party are also flexing their muscles and appear to be insisting that one of their own should become the party chairman. The National Assembly Caucus of the party is not sitting idly by. Ditto former members of the National Assembly who are still members of the party. They too are pushing for one of their own. All these are with the 2019 presidential race in mind.

As far as the PDP is concerned, the convention was about the 2019 race and how it would recapture power in the election. Therefore, all secret and non-secret presidential aspirants had their eyes and ears on ground on the direction of the convention. The PDP needed to get everything right in terms of forging a path forward to the elective national convention that would provide the former ruling party its substantive national officers.

As former President Goodluck Jonathan said, the PDP feels that Nigerians are nostalgic about the party following the perceived inability of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to deliver on its promises. “The first thing we need to do is to rebuild the party because when the party is strong, everything will be added to that,” he said. The party faithful would be hopeful that the non-elective convention has set the tone for a positive future for the party.

APC: A party at war with itself?

AS the nation moves towards the forthcoming general election, recent developments in the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), have shown that it has learnt nothing from the predicament of the erstwhile ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The power tussle between the governors of the PDP and its national working committee under the leadership of Bamanga Tukur over the control of the party structures at state levels and the national secretariat, which degenerated into internal dissension and implosion, was the nemesis of the party. It further led to a war of attrition between the Tukur leadership and certain governors on the party’s platform known as the G-7, comprising former Governors Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State, Babangida Aliyu Niger State, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Sule Lamido of Jigawa State and his Kebbi State counterpart, Usman Saidu Dakingari. Before the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, could convince Tukur to resign from his position as chairman, five sitting governors had taken flight from the PDP and defected to the then main opposition party, the APC.

Following the state congresses organised by the APC few weeks ago, there has been disquiet at the party’s national secretariat as a result of the controversies trailing the congresses ahead of its non-elective convention, a development that provides insight into the insinuation in some quarters that the Chief Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC is trapped and walking on a blind alley while the party faces consequences similar to what befell the former ruling party. Chieftains of the party who felt shortchanged during the conduct of the non-elective congress have since been protesting its shoddy conduct.

Kwankwaso boycotts congress

In Kano State, its former governor and serving senator representing Kano central senatorial district, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and his supporters stayed away from the congress conducted at the Sani Abacha Indoor Stadium. Sunday Tribune learnt that Alhaji Abdullahi Abbas, who was proclaimed as acting chairman by Governor Abdullahi Umar Danguje, following the removal of Senator Kwankwaso’s loyalist, Umar Haruna Doguwa, emerged as substantive chairman. But Doguwa had since rejected the exercise, which he derided as a “kangaroo exercise.”

But Senator Kwankwaso and his Man Friday, Doguwa, have since been left in the lurch, as the APC’s NWC has not renounced the Kano State congress.

Senator Abe in duel Amaechi

In Rivers State, the Senator representing Rivers South-East, Magnus Abe accused his estranged benefactor, Rotimi Amaechi, of manipulating the exercise to favour his anointed nominees as delegates. Senator Abe accused the committee sent by the national secretariat of the party to supervise the congress of collaborating with the Minister of Transportation to write report sheets outside designated venue for the congress without conducting election. He further described the outcome of the congress as an embarrassment to the country.

He was, however, countered by former governorship candidate of the party in the last governorship election, Dakuku Peterside, who described the process as transparent. The Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) lauded the state chapter of the APC for conducting a non-elective congress and election of delegates for the party’s forthcoming national convention. He declared that Amaechi and the state party executives exhibited sound leadership in achieving transparent coordination of the congress.

Kaduna: El-Rufai, Sani fight to the finish?

While Senator Kwankwaso boycotted the congress in his home state of Kano and Senator Abe sought the intervention of security agents and the party leadership, the case was different in Kaduna, as the controversial congress left in its wake, tears and blood. Aggrieved chieftains of the party led by Senator Shehu Sani, who believed that the congress was a mere charade manipulated by Governor Nasir El-Rufai have since petitioned the national working committee of the party. But his initial move to ventilate his disaffection through a press conference was aborted by alleged party thugs, who invaded the NUJ Press Centre in the state.

Penultimate week, Senators Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi led other aggrieved chieftains who felt that the congress conducted in the state fell short of the standard and guidelines laid down by the party national working committee to the APC national secretariat in Abuja. They presented a petition and called for its cancellation.

In the petition addressed to the national chairman of the party, signed by Senators Shehu Sani, Suleiman Hunkuyi and Alhaji Tijjani Ramallah and copied to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abuja; the Resident Electoral Commission in Kaduna State and all members of the NWC, they alleged, among other infractions, that “the list of local government delegates purported to be the list to be submitted to the state congress committee sent to Kaduna” were compiled at the Government House, Kaduna.

The petitioners demanded for the cancellation of the congress, which they dismissed as kangaroo and called for the “reappointment of a very credible team of state congress committee for Kaduna State.”

Speaking with newsmen shortly after a closed door meeting with the national chairman of the party, Senator Sani expressed concern over the development in the Kaduna State chapter of the party. He further noted that reports from other states in the federation showed that the APC was about to repeat the same mistakes that led to the collapse of the PDP.

The raging battle in Ogun

Like Rivers and Kano states, where some party leaders and members have come to the open to denounce the conduct of congresses in the states, the same scenario played out in Ogun State, where some party members kicked against the conduct of the congress in the state, saying it did not follow the party’s constitution and guidelines. The dissenting voices, in a newspaper publication following the conduct of the state congress in Ogun, maintained that the conduct of the congress followed an alleged pattern of impunity within the party, calling on the APC leadership to cancel the outcome of the congress in the state.

Oyegun: The crisis of confidence

Sunday Tribune checks revealed that the crises thrown up by the conduct of state congresses were reflections of the struggle for the control of the party at all levels, a struggle said to be more fierce at the national level, with the embattled national chairman of the party, Odigie-Oyegun, said to have lost the moral compass to embark on trouble shooting initiatives. According to sources within the party, the power struggle and subsequent protests from some of those who appeared to have been schemed out by the state governors might lead to more dire consequences, as the national chairman, who is expected to drive the process that will ensure justice and cohesion “seems to have lost the confidence of strategic stakeholders in the party.”

Former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar and Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, have all been reported to have lost confidence in the former Edo State governor leadership of the party. Last November, Odigie-Oyegun and Tinubu engaged each other in open verbal war, as the latter accused the former of shoddy handling of the petition arising from the controversial APC primary won by the alleged anointed candidate of the Presidency and Governor-elect in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu.

On October 8, 2016, few days after his meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Oyegun had responded to Tinubu, describing his statement as “reckless and baseless.”

But as the curtained appeared to have fallen over the bickering between Tinubu and Odigie-Oyegun, former Vice-President Abubakar penultimate week, released his own bombshell penultimate week, when he accused the APC and other political parties of lacking in democratic credentials.

Speaking as chairman at an interactive session organised by the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria, at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, the former vice-president submitted that lack of internal democracy has been the major challenge of political parties in Nigeria since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999.

Apparently reacting to the failure of the APC NWC to call meetings of statutory organs of the party, the former vice-president expressed concern that stakeholders in the ruling party were in the dark about development in their party.

“Democracy is not just an idea; it is a cultural practice. For a number of years now we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their constitution. In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the Executive at the state or federal level, fill the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratise parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations,” Atiku had said.

Sunday Tribune checks revealed that the APC has no Board of Trustees in place in contravention of its constitution, while the provision of same constitution, which stipulates that a convention must be held once in two years has also been breached, as no convention of the party has been convened since Chief Oyegun’s emergence as chairman in 2014.

In the same vein, the Senate President, equally expressed his resentment for the party’s national chairman when he said recently that APC might be losing focus. Dismissing media report that he has dumped the ruling party at a recent forum of the News Agency of Nigeria, Senator Saraki declared that the failure of the Odigie-Oyegun leadership to call meetings of statutory organs of the party has strengthened speculation of secret defection.

“I think there is no APC member that will tell you he is happy with the state of affairs in the party; there is a lot of work that we need to do. The party that hasn’t met for a long time, it’s beyond comprehension and I think that we should all quickly put that in order and start to get the NEC and others going. We need to start early to get the drive in the party back. Luckily, in spite of the lack of meetings here and there, if you go round the 36 states, it is in just few states that you may see internal crisis,” Saraki said.

But how long will the Senate President’s view that the not many state chapters of the party experience internal crisis, especially with the bad blood already being generated by the recent conduct of state congresses? Will the APC national leadership’s hubris not bring about the party’s undoing? Will the planned convention make or mar Nigeria’s first truly mega party? These are the questions that political analysts have begun to ask, hoping that events in the not-too-distant time will proffer answers that will either favour the continued existence of the APC or the opposition waiting in the wings to take over power in 2019.

Tribune

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