Ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s letter ignored by PDP that led to failure in Presidential election : How handy now

An avalanche of criticism has continued to trail the recent drama at the Abeokuta Hill
Top home of President Olusegun Obasanjo (Baba). I am referring to Baba’s instruction to his ward chairman of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to publicly tear his (Baba’s) membership card into pieces before television cameras. Baba may have over dramatized the matter but we must look beyond that drama and see what happened as a wake-up call for an objective appraisal of how the party arrived at such an unenviable situation and what is required to urgently address it. That incident therefore, offers a unique opportunity for sober reflection. Unfortunately what matters to most critics was how to show the public that they could individually or collectively get even with Obasanjo.
Every era has its own metaphors. The Abeokuta saga reminds me of the touchy story of Scipio Africanus which I read in a book I picked from a bookstore at the JF Kennedy International airport during one of my trips recently on account of its rather long title: “Hannibal and me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure” by Andreas Kluth. 
Scipio, a military strategist by his mid-thirties, vanquished the invincible, subdued Rome’s deadliest enemy, conquered Spain and Africa and won Rome’s struggle against Carthage, thus becoming the single greatest Roman who had ever lived.
As usual, his road to success drew a lot of enemies. People were determined to take him down by any means. A very grievous allegation of corruption was leveled against him. As his brother Asiaticus stood before his accusers in the Senate and held up the war campaign account books to defend him, Scipio got up, took the paper out of his brother’s hands, tore them to pieces and threw them on the floor. He wanted to show that this sort of forensic bean-counting in that political context and at his age was beneath him.
Scipio could not in his wildest imagination comprehend the bitterness and pettiness of a few envious senators, their refusal to see the big picture and to sympathize with the large, indeed epic vision for Rome to which he Scipio dedicated his entire life. He became depressed and his cavalier nature notwithstanding, yielded to bitterness.
Whether anybody likes it or not, what happened at the Hill Top country home of the former president of Nigeria is a sad commentary on the party. Worse is that many saw it coming because Baba was unmistaken in demonstrating that he was getting more and more irritated over the affairs of the party by the day. Unfortunately, many of the critics were unable to make a distinction between his criticism of the President Jonathan administration, which is a topic for another day, and the fact that the PDP which he presided over for 8 years is now a shadow of its old self. Like Scipio, Baba may have become depressed and yielded to bitterness. 
For a father to tear the birth certificate of his son out of frustration is not a good omen. It does not happen for nothing. More than fifty percent of the current crop of Nigeria’s political elite, including this writer, is an offspring of the political dispensation shepherded by Baba. We may be justified to feel embarrassed or even get angry but at the end, it is our duty to find out and x-ray why he became so mad that he had to destroy the very evidence of his patriarchal link with us. Rather than vilify him, shouldn’t we reflect deeply and act now that the water is still at the ankle level? Unfortunately, because it has to do with an Olusegun Obasanjo over whom many Nigerians are fixated, it does appear that this wonderful opportunity may be lost. 
The Abeokuta drama is no doubt a culmination of the former president’s aversion to the goings-on in the party. Even the least discerning fellow saw it coming. Anybody familiar with the way things are done of recent in the PDP would know that Baba must have exhausted every avenue to get the party leadership listen to him. He must have been greatly pained seeing the party cascading down, to the extent that some of its officials felt unrestrained in making utterances that do not edify it. For example, a top official of the party recently said on a national television that the PDP hitherto was a party where, to paraphrase him, the monkey works but the baboon chops; but that under the new dispensation, “monkey go work and monkey go chop”. Such a cheap and pedestrian characterization of a party that presides over the affairs of Africa’s greatest nation is nauseating. 
Frankly speaking, it is hard to expect people of the standing of Olusegun Obasanjo to still knowingly remain part of such a mundane conceptualization probably directed at his era. It is doubtful if any leader of Chief Obasanjo’s clout and temperament would not succumb to the temptation of throwing in the towel after witnessing what went on within the party during the last primary elections, for example. Baba may be condemned because he dramatized the tearing of his PDP membership card before television cameras but who is sure of the number of members of the party who have also torn their membership cards in the secrecy of their bed rooms, following monumental leadership flaws in the conduct of the December 2014 primaries which has been adjudged the worst in the history of the party. The story has been the same; from the Wadata Plaza, the national headquarters of the party, to the thirty six state secretariats. 
The first shocker was that in place of a properly constituted electoral panel that should have had on board seasoned party officials, the NWC brought in all sorts of people, including young ladies who had lost their jobs elsewhere but who were patronized by male officials who saw an opportunity to compensate them. For the first time in the history of the party, no appeal panel sat to hear complaints that arose from the conduct and outcome of the governorship primary elections in the whole Southeast. Although the NWC came up with the strange arrangement of constituting itself unto an appeal panel, members were not there. They deserted their offices immediately after the primaries, some to their respective states where they sought to install candidates of their own choices; others jetted abroad.
In spite of the barrage of petitions, not a single one was looked into, leaving aggrieved complainants with no option but to resort to the courts or walk away into the waiting hands of the opposition. The consequences of that are, of course, obvious. For all those states where there are court cases hanging over the authenticity of the outcome of the primary elections and the candidates who purportedly emerged there from, the party has become quite vulnerable. Campaigns are going on quite alright in these states but they are more of road shows covering territories rather than covering voters. In some states, especially in the Southeast, even some party members have decided to pitch camp with rival parties in the wake of the confusion and acrimony that followed the December 8, 2014 governorship primaries. 
But perhaps the ugliest consequence of the shoddy handling of the state primaries is on the presidential fortunes of the party. It needs no exaggeration to state that the PDP’s presidential expectations got significantly vitiated following the primaries at the state level. The reason is simple. The acrimony that ensued has polarized party leaders who should have ordinarily been working together to sell the party’s presidential candidate to the electorate. 
Taking the argument further, this type of scenario is as a result of the failure of the leadership of the party to come up with a better post primary election management strategy. The experience of leaders like Obasanjo should have been deployed to handle and resolve the issues. For example, the wonderful reconciliation committee which toured all the zones before the commencement of the primaries should have been immediately redeployed after the primaries to embark on reconciliation. This did not happen especially in the South-east and South-south where President Jonathan dominates. 
The overall result is that we have a situation where states in which President Jonathan had over 90 per cent of the votes in 2011 can hardly boost of 60 per cent of that now. Take a state like Imo. Before the party primaries, it was almost a fore gone conclusion that the PDP will retake the state. But today, even the most optimistic observer would not beat his or her chest on that. For many, however, it was a big illusion, after all. They did not share in such optimism because they saw nothing on ground to show that the party was ready to fix the damage it inflicted on itself in 2011, by sabotaging the re-election of an incumbent governor. Today, it is common knowledge that even though I was the target of that internal sabotage, I am not the only victim at the end of the day. The party is also.
Contrary to popular belief, the opposition got impetus for its virulent attacks on President Jonathan mostly from what analysts refer to as the perfidy of the leadership of the PDP, as epitomized by its National Working Committee. Apart from internal sabotage which some key members of the committee have been suspected complicit in, it manifests a level of ineptitude never known in the history of party administration in the entire country. Up till this moment, some observers still marvel at how a ruling party, in Africa’s most affluent and boisterous country, could afford to lose five of its governors in one single swoop. Events since after the exit of the erstwhile chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, show that the issues that led to the exit of the governors were fundamental and not entirely dependent on Tukur’s leadership style. Agreed, more governors did not leave after Tukur’s exit but the national assembly witnessed the exit of legislators on a scale that dealt a more devastating blow on the party than perhaps that of the governors.
Needless to say, the party’s fortunes have continued to diminish even after the exit of Tukur because what led to the squabbles with the governors was not addressed. Instead, the party leadership allowed the matter to be drowned in the ecstasy of change, erroneously couched in the slogan, “Game Changer”. But if there has been any change since the coming of Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, who bears that sobriquet, it is certainly not a positive one. Instead, we have today a party which has been in power for sixteen years gasping for breath.
Contrary to what is generally believed, the reason is not because of the fabled case of corruption or insecurity or bad economy. These are issues, no doubt, but the opposition found them more handy because the leadership of our party, the PDP, did not know how to get even with the main opposition. The strategy of the main opposition party, the APC, was simple. It showed Nigerians that it was possible to conduct rancor-free primaries. Today, there are little or no litigations in the party over the outcome of its primaries at all levels.
I am aware that I may be criticized for going public with these observations when, in my capacity as a former governor, I have the reach to make them privately. That is the crux of the matter. Do I or several others of my caliber really have the reach? And to whom? As I noted in an earlier outing, I petitioned the party over the conduct of the governorship primaries in my state but up to this moment, nobody has said anything to me. There is every reason to believe that my petition may have been regarded as an inferior item in the menu of the NWC. If I could be so treated with hobbesian indifference, it is only a wonder what could have been the fate of several other people who are not as privileged as I am. 
Honestly, I consider it a duty to use my position to draw attention to the plight of the silent majority who Baba’s drama may embolden and also draw the attention of the party leadership that history beckons. Time is running out. In a head to head competitive political environment, precision and timing is key. More important, I belong to a section of the country, Igbo land, whose people are republican and who prefers that rules, regulations, laws and constitutions are followed and obeyed. It is under such environment that we thrive most.
One of the biggest issues raised against the PDP is that it has proved itself incapable of obeying its own rules, regulations and even constitution. The quagmire it is facing in some states today since after the governorship primaries is precisely as a result of this. It is preposterous that the party leadership has refused to heed the Supreme Court warning in the case of Uzodinma v. Izunaso (No.2) (2011) 17 NWLR (Part 1275) per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC: That “the courts will never allow a political party to act arbitrarily or as it likes. Political parties must obey their own constitution, and once this is done, there would be orderliness, and this would be good for politics and the country”.The Adamu Mu’azu’s NWC must carefully listen to the sound of the pieces of Baba’s membership card as they tumble down on the floor lifeless.
So, is all hope lost? Certainly not. In politics, one day can reverse a fortune. Five weeks before the presidential election is long enough for our great party, the PDP, to reverse its fortune for the better. Baba shredded his membership card quite alright but there are still blank cards to write his name on once the correct things are done and I trust that Baba will accept it with his usual disarming smiles. Ditto for those who might have torn their own membership cards in the privacy of their homes. To get Baba and others to reverse themselves is a critical leadership challenge staring Adamu Mu’azu’s NWC on the face. This is the time for the real game changing.
Ikedi Ohakim, former Governor of Imo state

Ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s letter ignored by PDP that led to failure in Presidential election : How handy now Ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s letter ignored by PDP that led to failure in Presidential election : How handy now Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, April 10, 2015 Rating: 5

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