By Gbenga Daniel
As a loyal party man who desires the best for our great party, the PDP. I have done informed study of the myriad of problems which confronted our political party in the last few years, especially the one which had cost us several electoral victories since 2011 and most especially the Presidency in 2015. I have come to the conclusion that the challenges which face our political party are not permanent. They could be rectified through a careful deployment of resources, the willpower and ability to work through difficult situations, concession and compromises if need be, and ability to move all our people into one disciplined accord on all matters.
I therefore use this medium to declare my aspiration to contest for the office of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party at the National Convention which has been slated to hold on the 9th of December, 2017. I come to this resolve after careful analyses of the challenges confronting the PDP and on the strength of clear understanding of my personal ability to provide the needed leadership in our collective search for solutions.
State of the Nation
Let me state that most Nigerians today have come to recognise that our party, the Peoples Democratic Party midwifed democracy for Nigeria and the country fared better under our political party. Regrettably, the people did not vote out our party for want of performance. We lost out because we miscalculated on certain aspects of our politics; outside the management of the nation’s economic resources. We failed to ask some critical questions needed for planning. For instance, when President Muhammadu Buhari in 2011 as the candidate of the CPC got less than 5,000 votes in Abia State, we did not ask why? When in 2011, the 15 states that Muhammadu Buhari had the least votes came from Southern Nigeria, we did not ask why? When the trend repeated itself in 2015, who asked why?
Again, in 2015 we failed to appreciate that it was not just an election, it was a referendum. A referendum not for secession, but for “effective governance”. I hold firmly that more than planning, leadership needs to ask more questions at all times. Asking the right questions is what the new leadership of the PDP under my watch will focus on.
Our inability to ask the needed questions at the appropriate time no doubt affected the fortunes of the PDP and reflected in the final outcome of the party in the 2015 general elections. For instance, for every four (4) persons that voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in the North, he got only 1 vote in the South. Muhammadu Buhari polled 12,374,890 votes from the North and only 3,050,031 from the South. In 2015, during the presidential election, Candidate Muhammadu Buhari received the least number of votes from the South Eastern region. He got less than 200,000 votes in an election that had a turnout of more than 2.7 Million people. That was a referendum.
The low votes meant that a large number of people did not trust or want Muhammadu Buhari. That was and is still the fact (evidence from IPOB and recent restructuring debates from the South.). The various agitations for restructuring in different parts of the country and in isolated cases, of calls for secession were a referendum not for secession, but a referendum on ‘leadership trust’. That is President’s leadership litmus test.
We do not just have enough evidence as to why so many people did not want Muhammadu Buhari. But the low side of his administration reveals a bit of possible why. The solution to a national problem cannot just be in fighting corruption; the solution is to first fight ‘national disunity’.
Recently, Prof Ricardo Hausman of the Harvard Kennedy School concluded a research where he stated “Fighting Corruption will not end Poverty”. His research showed that improving Government effectiveness played a significant role in fighting poverty, and that fighting corruption had an insignificant role in ending poverty.
Part of the questions we also failed to ask and provide answers to was why many young Nigerians became unhappy with our party. The pattern of the votes reflected not only who people elected as their President, it more importantly showed who people ‘refused‘ to elect as their President. When the results were finally announced, the evidence had shown that the priority and fight of the next Nigerian leader (Muhammadu Buhari) should have been ‘National Acceptance’ before fighting ‘National Corruption’
Let me also say, that today, the difference between the PDP and APC is in two words ‘Vision’ and ‘Mission’. The PDP has a ‘Vision’ for Nigeria, while the APC only has a ‘Mission’
Like I said, especially in the light of current reality in the management of our Commonwealth in the present dispensation, Nigeria’s economy was better managed, under the PDP. For instance, under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s leadership (1999 – 2007), a government ran by the PDP, the Nigerian economy grew by 91% (as measured by GDP), while during the administration of Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua/Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2007/2010 – 2014), the economy grew by 24%. That has been the fastest growth under civilian rule in the history of our great nation, and it happened under the PDP.
Since 2015 however, Nigeria is yet to have an appreciable 12 months of economic growth under the APC. That’s an F9; failure.
It is disquieting that the APC led government claim to focus on fighting corruption, while facts on the ground suggests that Nigeria has become worse off and sinking low even in graft. For instance, latest corruption index in Nigeria (2016) according to Transparency International (the global watchdog for measuring corruption) was 2.8/10. Before 2015, Nigeria had a P8 in corruption but and A3 in economic growth, now we have an F9 in both economic growth and corruption.
About two months ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s number 1 repository of facts and data, revealed that more than N402 Billion was paid as bribes within the last 12 months. What is N402 Billion? – It is more than the Federal Government’s capital budget for Defense, Education and Health combined together.
State of PDP
Our Party, the Peoples Democratic Party was founded in 1998 on the wisdom and vision of some of our founding fathers on certain noble ideals. In 1999, the PDP won 206 out of the 360 seats of the House of Representatives; 59 out of the 109 seats of the Senate; 21 out of the 36 states Governorship seats and the Presidential position with 62.78% of the votes cast. In 2003, the fortune of the party soared higher as we won 223 out of the 360 seats of the House of Representatives; 76 out of the 109 seats of the Senate; 28 out of the 36 states Governorship seats and the Presidential position with 61.94%. Similar feats were recorded in 2007 and 2011 where we won resoundingly across the country. All these we achieved before we moved away from our guiding principles.
One of such guiding principles which defined the essence and character of our great party was transparency. We showed the world, and especially Africa, through internal democracy, the exemplary guidelines on how democracy should be practiced. Our party slogan ‘Power to the People’ was not just another political catchphrase but one that portrays our socio-democratic ideology that, beyond the distractions of public offices and class differences, the ultimate authority of governance does not rest in the hands of the rulers but the ruled; that the welfare and indeed wellbeing of Nigerian citizens, including that of our party members come first before that of any party or political office holders.
In the last few weeks I have gone round visiting many of our leaders and stakeholders. I believe that I have sufficiently interacted with many of our party leaders, elders and members to have identified various fault lines which needed closing up so that we can return to the ideals and vision of our founding fathers. One of my focus as the National Chairman is to bring back many of our party men who have left. My ultimate goal is to work towards the victory of our party in the 2019 general elections and in all other elections in between. To achieve this, I am prepared to work with all leaders of our party, various interest groups and individuals.
What went wrong?
Various reasons have been given about how we got to where we are. Chief of these are indiscipline and impunity, lack of internal democracy, imposition of candidates as well as dangerous introduction of ticket racketeering to unpopular candidates. The alteration of the time-tested zoning formula and convention also contributed in no small measure to the undoing of the PDP. A party which was hitherto governed by ethos and administered by internal conflict management mechanism based on equity, fairness, transparency and democracy became hostage to judicial controls only. Today we still carry the scar, and in some cases, wounds from the misunderstanding and a breakdown in party discipline and order.
But this is not the time to start passing the buck; enough of the blame games. It is time to move on, up and forward. It is time to start afresh…I believe, together we can take us there.
The Eagle is a very powerful bird. That is why it is the symbol of our collective national strength. As a political party we also have a lot to learn from; and take strength from the regenerative energy of this all-time powerful bird.
In my own part of the world in the South West, there is a believe that the Eagle spends an average of 1000 years, the mythical immortality of the Eagle is supported by the science which confirms that at every turn and cycles in years the Eagle finds space in the deep forests to pluck off its time-worn feathers in the heat, and regenerate. The truth still is, the same Eagle remains in body and spirit which represents the legendary never dying and ubiquitous spirits and wisdom of our elders and founding fathers, which needs from time to time to regenerate, refresh so that it can live into the next generation. In other words, we can retain the old and still live in the present and into the future.
Fellow compatriots, the need for a more focused, disciplined and reinvigorated PDP transcends the desire to merely hold office, rather it is a clarion call to provide an alternative political platform to offer distinctive leadership our nation so much desire today. A platform whose ideology is based on collective governance, all round inclusive leadership, national unity and economic development. Doing otherwise will be sending our fatherland to eternal political condemnation, neo-dictatorship and totalitarianism. This will not only make mockery of the sacrifices of men and women who paid the ultimate price so our nation can enjoy the freedom and unity we so much deserve but equally erode the collective vision of a more prosperous Nigeria.
The fate of Nigeria seems intertwined with that of PDP, Nigeria needs us, the citizens are looking up to us, and we cannot afford to fail them. I am also proud to say that our Peoples Democratic Party was and still remains the greatest political party, not only in Nigeria, but in the entire continent of Africa. We were one big happy family, representing the greatest hopes and aspirations of most Nigerians.
How do I feel I can do it?
I think I am most eminently qualified to correct some of our mistakes of the near and remote past having served as a Chief Executive officer of one of the most complex States in Nigeria, Ogun. Having supervised and won elections twice under the platform of the PDP. I have conducted and managed not only national elections, but also local government elections with all their attendant complexities. I have built a network of personal relationships across the length and breadth of Nigeria, both in my private capacity as a businessman and public life as a governor and politician; these networks are expected to come handy in the process of healing wounds and building bonds and synergies necessary in rebuilding and refloating the political party. I stand as a bridge in between conservatively hostile and restlessly progressive different and diverse generations. We must harness the abundant energies of our youth and gain from the timeless wisdom of our elders. The PDP needs a Chairman that can lead the party to meet the needs, aspirations and yearnings of young Nigerians.
As a professional engineer, I have learnt over the years, both in the course of training and years of practice that whenever there is a near system collapse, sometimes we need to reinvent the wheels; sometimes, we need to pause and go back to default settings, we need to refresh, recreate and regenerate. And I believe, as a member of the most prestigious Academy of Engineering in Nigeria, I am equally qualified in the engineering of default setting and the strength of character to do what has to be done.
A New PDP is Possible
The new PDP leadership is going to fight Poverty like never before. The judiciary, legislative or several unhappy people are not our enemies. We have a common enemy in ‘failed promises’. A common enemy in ‘poverty’. A common enemy in ‘high interest and inflation rates; which by the way is not interesting.
Restructuring means different things to different people in Nigeria. To make it simple, I say we need to “Rethink Nigeria”. Rethinking Nigeria means our new PDP will focus on what works and less on what is failing. Added to that is what ought to work that is failing. In practical terms, we are already in a ‘State of emergency’ in Poverty. The APC blames the PDP without cross checking the facts; stopping the policeman from collecting bribe is a good achievement, but does that improve his policing skills?
As at today, the APC has 44 senators from the North, but more than half have been PDP members. What do all these mean? The APC is picketing the PDP. It clearly shows that APC is not building leaders. The PDP built leaders and will continue to do that.
Finally, I share in Robin Sharma’s belief that: “Leadership is no longer about your position. It is now more about a ‘passion for excellence’ and ‘making a difference’.
You can lead without a title. The new PDP leadership under my watch will keep working towards reducing corruption, but using a different strategy. Rather than fight other arms of Government, we will promote national integration. I want to be a leader not just the National Chairman of the PDP. My role is more important than my title.
We can, we must, and we will definitely start afresh … Together!
Otunba (Engr.) Justus Gbenga Daniel, FNSE, FAEng was the Governor of Ogun State (2003-2011) and aspirant for the National Chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party.