Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa
Mass defections: can PDP rise to the ball?
So very often, we pray for something. And sometimes when the payer is answered, a new problem emerges, that of managing the outcome. The problem is sometimes exaggerated when God decides to ’embarrass’ you and give you more than you asked for or were expecting. There was this story of an Okada driver who had been praying for a child for seven years and eventually his wife became pregnant. Throughout the pregnancy he was full of joy, but could not afford to pay for a scan for his wife and so had no idea what was on the way. Because the wife’s stomach was very big, he suspected she could be expecting a twin. However on the day his wife was delivered, he was shocked to welcome six tiny children with their tiny fingers in their mouths gaping at him.
He went through contradictory emotional swings. First, he was happy that God had answered his prayers. Then he looked at the tiny girls with their tiny fingers in their mouths and the man burst into tears and before you know it, he was wailing and as the hospital staff were gathering to find out what could make a man who received such bundle of multiple blessings from God to cry, wandering if it was a matter of tears of joy taken too far, the man took to his heels, abandoning his wife and the sextuplets. When eventually his relations caught up with him and queried him on why he should behave in that despicable manner, he retorted that by asking why God should give a man blessings that could turn into sorrows? He said, he was finding it hard to take care of himself and his wife with his meagre earning from his Okada business and then to be confronted with six tiny children who on their first day on earth were sucking their fingers, indicating they were hungry and seemed to have voracious appetite. The only logical response in his circumstances was to run away from the unexpected windfall of six children. Of course his relations berated him and counselled the man to learn to accept every blessing and then learn how to deal with the consequences of every answered prayer. They tutored him to understand that every problem solved, results in a new set of challenges and so while praying or wishing for anything, we must always anticipate the new challenges that would naturally emerge.
This story came back to my mind strongly last week as I pondered on the political events of the last couple of weeks. All of a sudden or so it seemed, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has become a very beautiful bride attracting suitors in droves. At the last count, 15 Senators, 37 members of the House of Representatives, 3 State governors with their commissioners, most members of their state houses of Assembly and their local government chairmen and sundry political office holders have decamped from APC to mostly PDP. Did PDP pray for this turn of events? Yes, I believe they did. But did they imagine it would be a windfall? I do not quite think so. Are they adequately prepared to handle the challenges & consequences of this mass political gain? May be but most probably not.
That then creates a big burden. The magnitude of the burden is amplified by the fact that the PDP itself is a party in transition, from instability to stability; a work-in progress in an effort to reinvent itself. After losing the national elections in 2015, it almost went into a tailspin. Its ‘game changer’ chairman, Muazu, who led the change from a ruling party to an opposition party after woeful defeat in the hands of APC, got himself changed. In a desperate bid to recover from the damage already suffered in the hands of the ‘game changer’ and APC, the party ran into the hands of a ‘one chance’ bus driver called Sheriff from Borno state. This guy did his best to finally liquidate the PDP. Like the case with the monkey, it was easy to give Sheriff the cup of leadership. But like ‘Ikiri’ it was very difficult to get the cup back from him. At this point many Nigerians had begun to sing the ‘Nunc Dimitis’ for PDP.
That PDP came back to life after Sheriff is an indication that there are some people in PDP whose prayers God hears or it could be that God has not finished with PDP in Nigeria. The party must remain grateful for the way Senator Markarfi, former governor of Kaduna state, a man with a calm exterior but an internal steel managed the party through its litany of court cases until the Supreme Court granted final victory to PDP. Of course the solid-rock support of the PDP governors especially Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose; the former governors and the BOT held up Markarfi’s hand till victory was won. The job of reinventing the party finally fell on Uche Secondus. Realizing that this was like placing green snakes in one’s hand, Secondus seems to have approached this assignment with a lot of prayers, tact and steady steps. And now this windfall!
My hope is that he will not do like the Okadaman father of the sextuplets who was overwhelmed by the blessings of God and took the least line of resistance- temporary escape from reality. Is there challenge with this gale of defectors from APC, who in the main should really be called returnees? Plenty! More than any chairman would wish for himself and perhaps more than any previous chairman has handled including the garrison commanders and cattle colonizers who used to eat pounded yam with OBJ. Before the defections, Atiku, Makarfi, Turaki, Ahmed and former Jigawa state governor Lamido were hassling for the PDP presidential ticket. With the defections, Kwakwanso and Tambuwal have joined the list. And I hear that Saraki is on the way! Who takes preference? Those who had remained in the party or the returnees? Headache! What of the defecting legislators at federal and state levels. What happens to the existing PDP aspirants?
If we had any doubts in the past, we have now become all convinced that politics especially in Nigeria is essentially about self interest, not much about ideology since the ideology is same for most shades of politicians in Nigeria-stomach infrastructure. So how does PDP handle all the myriads of conflicting self interests that have come with the defectors? I know that someone will soon tell me that the PDP umbrella is big or large enough to accommodate all. Yes that would be true when the rain is mere drizzle. But with the gale we are seeing, PDP may have to change their logo to a canopy or tarpaulin tent.
My first free advisory is that the PDP CWEC, NEC & BOT must take a retreat in Accra Ghana or elsewhere in Africa for at least one full week and do three things. First, breathe down and pray, second to receive training and counsel on how to manage a windfall and the challenges, conflicts and contradictions that come with sudden good fortune. Third, develop a strategy on how to reintegrate the decampees and returnees while devising how to retain their current customers (members). They must see this as a serious challenge and make the investment and create the time to devise a proper strategy, not to act on impulse or use rule of the thump. They will minimize this challenge at a great risk. I believe this was one of the failures of APC in 2013/2014. They had no strategy to wield the party together. Also it will not be profitable to gain new customers and lose old and reliable ones. Nigeria has brought into the English lexicon a new phenomenon called ‘ des-camping’. It is different from ‘decamping’. Des-camping happens when a man decamps from APC today and decamps back to APC the next day or within a short period. And it is on our record that Senator Lanre Tejuoso from Ogun state is the first to practice the act in Nigeria.
My second advisory is that if Uche Secondus and his NEC members know anything about internal party democracy, this is the time for full practice. If they do not know, they should hire advisors to help them. Related to this is that they must resist any pressure (from within & without) to impose any candidate. The primaries must be transparently transparent (if there is anything like that). Thirdly, in appointments or recommending candidates, the party must focus on candidates with credible and verifiable pedigree. The influence of money or mundane or sentimental issues in the choice of candidates must be minimized or completely demolished if at all possible. Nigerians want a true change from the past in the conduct and actions of political parties and elected officers. Many who hoped for this from APC hence they bought into the ‘change’ mantra seem to have been disappointed. PDP must make the best of this windfall for the good of this country. Nigerians are yearning for those who are ready to do what will bring peace, prosperity, good neighbourliness, friendship, security, equity, fairness and justice to the peoples of Nigeria. Can PDP rise up to this expectation? That is the million dollar question!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR
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