Internal Democracy, Candidacy And Strategy: The Way To PDP’s 2019 Victory

By Umar Ardo, Ph.D

(Paper presented at Peoples’ Democratic Party’s National Retreat, Hilton Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, Wednesday, 20th December, 2017)

1. Preamble The painful defeat of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general elections after 16 years in power is a clear demonstration of the party’s loss of goodwill and support of the people of Nigeria.

Many factors accounted for this, central of which include lack of internal democracy and constitutionalism within the party, non-participation of the people in the party’s institutional processes, inequality of membership within the party fold, hijacking of the party’s apparatuses by few internal power blocs, especially elected public office holders, wrong choices of candidates for elective offices and poor campaign strategies.

These, along with poor governance, had the collective effect of compromising the party’s winning chances, resulting into people’s loss of faith and confidence in the party and its governments.

It is therefore not surprising that under such a situation the PDP, even though durable, failed to engender and retain enough goodwill and support of the people to mobilize and win majority of offices in the 2015 general elections, including the presidential election.

As a defeated governing party, the PDP leadership not only takes the main blame for this failure but also owes its members, and indeed the country, the responsibility of devising alternative strategies of rectifying this anomaly, attaining internal democracy, entrenching participatory primaries and fielding in ‘right candidates’ to regain peoples’ confidence and support, so as to recapture power in 2019.

I believe it is to this end that the current national leadership of the party, along with PDP members and stakeholders of good standing, resolved to initiate this retreat aimed at repositioning the party both for effective opposition and an alternative platform to the APC government.

Attaining this objective within the complexities of the extant national politics requires men of intellect, courage, honesty and patriotism. This paper argues that the entrenchment of internal democracy, adoption of credible primaries in its nomination process and devising of right strategies remain the best approach to PDP’s national recovery and victory in 2019. 2. Key Issues to Resolve In my opinion, there are basically five key issues the party must consider and resolve if it must recover from its defeat and win the 2019 general elections.

These are:- i. Entrenching Internal Democracy;ii. Instituting Participatory Democracy; iii. Embedding Collaboration and Cooperation; iv. Nominating Viable Candidates; andv. Devising the Right Strategies.i. Entrenching Internal DemocracyIt is a well-established fact that the democratic maturity of a political party is measured by the level of its internal democracy, which comprises basically two key elements;- The election of party leaderships by members of the party in a free, fair and transparent manner; andThe nomination of Party Candidates for elective public offices by party members also in a free, fair and transparent manner1.

These two elements constitute internal democracy. Their entrenchment in the electoral process automatically vests all powers in the hands of the people at all levels of the party organs. The central benefit of this is the widening and entrenching of participatory democracy, while also guaranteeing fairness, level-playing field and justice to all its members and aspirants in all manner of elections within the party.

Also, given the fact that the right to vote and be voted for in a political party is an inalienable right of a member, the entrenchment of internal democracy guarantees the exercise of this right to all members. This naturally returns powers of the party into the hands of the people; thus fitting well with our party slogan “Power to the People”.

The obvious positive effect of this will be the reduction of friction and conflict and creation of harmony and amity within the party that will help it capture and retain the support and confidence of the people, and thence give basis for recapturing power by popular votes.

Conversely, where these elements are lacking, there will be no democracy; instead, there will be acrimony and anarchy – the central problems responsible for the party’s defeat.To attain Internal Democracy, certain conditions-precedent must be met – central of which is the establishment and maintenance of a standard Membership Register as stipulated in our party constitution.

This is a key requirement because other than providing membership data, it is the Foundational Electoral College for the operation of Internal Democracy. It is therefore important that our party starts the process of upgrading, harmonizing and standardizing its Membership Registers as the first step to a successful reform programme.

The simple truth is that without a standard and authentic Party Register, there is no political party. To date, INEC is waiting in vain for over six years for the PDP to submit to the Commission its comprehensive Membership Registers across the country.

To all intents and purposes, PDP does not know the strength of its members simply because it has no comprehensive Standard Membership Registers. This is the first failure in entrenching Internal Democracy in our party politics. So to guarantee our recapturing power in the next election, we have to start by entrenching Internal Democracy in our party.ii. Instituting Participatory DemocracyOnce Internal Democracy takes root in the electoral processes of the party, a central element of participatory democracy is achieved

2. What simply remains is the establishment of wide and permanent institutional network and channel of communication for consultations and dialogue among the apparatuses and leaderships of all the party organs, stakeholders and financial supporters in all important matters relating to elections, appointments, policy formulation and implementation.

This will reduce acrimony and conflict, and conversely create trust for the party leadership and cohesion for the party itself.

iii. Embedding Collaboration and CooperationThis denotes the party leadership works in close collaboration with appropriate institutions and organs of government, democratic institutions and civil society organizations nationally and internationally.

Such bodies include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Federal, States and Local Govt. Councils, the Legislature, the Judiciary, National and International Elections Monitoring Groups, the Media, etc.

The significance of this collaboration and cooperation is to create synergy and harmonious relationships with these bodies as they are inextricably connected in several ways to the due discharge of the functions and functioning of political parties.

Any serious and constant conflict and crisis with such groups will hamper the operations and fortunes of the party in direct and substantial ways. The fundamental essence, and outcome, of such cooperation, however, is the instilment of due process and rule of law in political and party affairs in the country.

This will greatly help in not only securing and installing the right person – a wise and a trustworthy leader who is well versed on the essence of leadership – but also producing good leadership that is sincere, accountable, transparent and responsible. This is the essential focus of elections in party politics.

iv. Nominating Viable Candidates

Most people think that the surest way for PDP to win the 2019 presidential election and regain national leadership is simply to bring up ‘the right presidential candidate’. While bringing the ‘right candidate’ is certainly important, what we must bear in mind in this regard is that there is always one issue or the other in any candidate chosen.

Although in any election the candidate is the lynchpin, there is however no perfect candidate that is without blemish

3. Even so, there are always better candidates than others in selling the party to the electorates. In choosing these candidates, we must bear in mind that ‘the right candidate’ is not necessarily the most popular or the most well-known or even the richest in society.

It is therefore important to take into account that people can be popular, or well-known for wrong reasons; while others’ wealth can also be a source of unpopularity – they may be popular, wealthy but politically disliked! So in choosing ‘the right candidate’ the guiding principle must be character and competence

4. All through history, the two most essential ingredients for leadership has always been character and comoetence. Although other ingredients such as empathy, toughness, knowledge and intelligence are frequently mentioned, these traits are all too often really subordinate aspects of character.

Because leaders hold not just the lives of people but even determine the destiny of society, it is supremely important that people trust those who lead them. And trust is earned through character.

We must therefore choose the candidate who the electorates trust most – that is the RIGHT CANDIDATE! Since leaders are products of history, culture, values and circumstances of their societies, it is always easy to know who the people trust most.

Such a candidate can be sourced through conscious and concerted efforts of vigilant populace and committed search within the political class.

v. Devising the Right StrategyThe most important element in electoral contest is devising the right strategy

5. The winning or losing of any election is mainly dependent on the strategy adopted to prosecute the electoral campaign.

Adopting the right strategy is more important than getting the right candidate. Even with ‘the right candidate’ a wrong campaign strategy would undoubtedly spell electoral doom; while with the right strategy even a ‘bad candidate’ can scale through to victory.

The 2015 presidential election was a typical case in point. It is my view that PDP lost that election not necessarily because of its candidate but mainly because of the strategy adopted. In fact, the choice of the candidate should simply be a tactical move in the general strategic campaign outlay.

In other words, candidate’s choice is not an end in itself but merely a means to an end. In this regard, it is imperative to remember that good salesmen can sale ice to an Eskimo.Right strategy is thus central in prosecuting the 2019 presidential election campaign.

For the purpose of winning that election the following must be done:-TRUTH should be used as the strategic weapon for the campaign. Since no one can defeat truth, the right strategy for the PDP is therefore to bring out the truths of the opposition candidate, the party and the regime as the weapon for the campaign, which would give PDP one hundred per cent guarantee of victory;

The party must attain functional inter-party alliances with a view to discouraging the fielding of presidential candidates in other strategic zones of the federation; and Establish for the party a Political Intelligence and Strategic Unit to serve as the intelligence and strategic think-tank developing and proffering viable plans, perspectives, options and choices for the party, while at the same time creating a framework to understudy opponents’ political weaknesses that require deeper understanding, analysis, interpretation, exploitation and attack

6.3. Conclusion

It is expected that once such strategic agenda is implemented to the letter, it will be a major departure from the impunity and lawlessness of the past and help bring about not only a positive public perception of the party but also make a foremost impact on its electoral fortunes.

This approach will help redeem PDP’s image, regain its support base and win the 2019 presidential election decidedly. And once back to power, give Nigeria a sincere and purposeful leadership, create a high level of organization, an enlightened and politically conscious citizenry, and an honest and responsive political class working purely for the sole benefit of the people within popular-based democratic cultures relevant to our environment, compatible with our mores and benefiting from diligent application and absorption of the traditional knowledge and practices of our people.

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