Weathering the Storm: Marching Into A Better Nigeria
- I crave your indulgence on the premise of our relationship, working close together in the interest of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to address you through an open letter. As the National Chairman of our great Party, your stewardship in its affairs has ramifications for its survival as a vibrant representation of Nigerians’ aspirations for a greater country. It will also affect your legacy to restore honour and virtue to the PDP as an ideological force in the social, economic and political development of Nigeria.
- Seeking Closure: To borrow the term used by then President Barrack Obama when his Party lost woefully to the opposition in the 2010 American mid-term elections, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), our bastion of hope and renewal for Nigeria, received a “Shellacking” in the 2015 Nigerian general elections. Our internal efforts to diagnose what happened identified imposition, impunity, arrogance and greed as the biggest factors responsible for the unprecedented defeat in the history of Nigeria.
- As the first political party in our nation’s history to move from governance to opposition, our Party moved into uncharted territory and we struggled to find the right strategy and response to this monumental challenge. The current state of our great Party following last year’s convention leaves troubling thoughts about our readiness and resolve to march forward with vigor, courage and sustainable ideas to lead Nigeria into a future that coming generations will be proud to take ownership.
- To achieve this, we must accept the mistakes of the PDP during the sixteen years we held reign over Nigeria’s social, political and economic affairs. We must acknowledge our missteps and draw lessons from those failures. We must also ensure that we take credit for everything that went right. Under our leadership, Nigeria recorded economic progress and made giant strides as a proud member of the Comity of Nations. We opened new sectors of economic participation and created millions of jobs in areas that were deemed impossible. We were architects of the biggest wealth generation the nation has ever seen. We brought back hope in the Nigeria project and restored pride among Nigerians as citizens of a country ready to pull its weight for its people. We moved women inclusion in leadership positions further than any other party in our nation’s history. It was also the PDP that gave the country the most number of freest and fairest elections in our history.
- Despite our set back in the 2015 polls, we must be proud of what we have achieved and be ready to lead again for a better Nigeria. We must re-tool and re-imagine on a bigger scale, through innovative and creative ways, the best solutions to our nation’s challenges. The PDP must become a warehouse of ingenuity and a default place for ideas to thrive on the future of Nigeria as a successful and undivided entity. At a time of hopelessness, division, hunger, confusion and disillusion, we must be a voice of hope, a guiding light and force of resilience where every Nigerian has an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams.
- A House of Cards: Unfortunately, our Party is still lost in depression and suffering from a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We have gone from a Party of pride to a Party of shame and gradually receding into the abyss of political reality. For the simple reason that the nation is witnessing calls for the rise of a “third force”, we are fast becoming a shadow of ourselves. The PDP’s failure to come out of its shell has left a national opposition vacuum, within which, we have witnessed wanton disregard for the rule of law and the wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians.
- Chairman Sir, we are gradually drifting towards the factors of imposition, impunity, arrogance and greed that brought us to this sorry state. We are not building a culture of democratic representation within the party. We are also not providing concrete answers to the challenges of the country; neither is the PDP consciously working to re-invent itself as a party that is rid of its past mistakes. We have not demonstrated the required seriousness to have a successful outcome in the 2019 general elections. Such success will be predicated on our collective goals as a Party and our strategic aspirations to once again become the ruling party.
- An uncoordinated marshaling of our members and supporters into the 2019 general elections will leave the PDP with a second and deeper bout of depression and PTSD that we may not survive. The Party is gradually coming under the control of certain individuals who are exhibiting dangerous levels of undemocratic behavior, threatening the entire fabric of the Party. We must take a cue from the idea of democracy itself; no single individual, force or group can be greater than the collective interests of a constituted authority. The Party must become a microcosm of the ideals and values that it intends to market to Nigerians as the better option in the stewardship of Nigeria’s affairs. Grandstanding and imposition must give way to a healthy competition within the party.
- Renewal of Hope: My Chairman, permit me to remind you that the PDP has lots of examples to draw from, in our quest to regain stewardship of Nigeria’s affairs. Indeed, after the woeful loss in the 2010 mid-term elections, the Democratic Party in the United States of America came back in just two years to win the 2012 Presidential and Senate races. After the 2016 general elections left them in disarray when they lost the Presidential, Senate and Congress elections, the Party is once again back to winning ways. Is there a magic formula? No. Through these down swings, the Democratic Party has worked hard to learn its lessons and re-position for the next round.
- The culture of impunity and imposition, rampant within the party during its Presidential Primaries resulted in disunity among its members and supporters. Through a thorough reflection and a post-mortem analysis, the Democratic Party embarked on a thorough restructuring reflecting the lessons of the 2016 ballot losses, including its culture. As the reforms of the Democratic Party continue to take shape, it has won at least two national elections – Alabama Senate race and Pennsylvania House race – both of which it was expected to lose. These victories, while providing big moral boosts to the Party, were outcomes of painstaking work to steady the ship, plug leakages, purge excesses and restore hope in its ability to enact policies and legislation that will advance peoples progress.
- Our party must emulate this courage, to rescue itself from its shadows of defeat and stop its leakages. We are a Party that is leaking character, morality, courage, innovation and visionary thought. We must rekindle the light of hope and regain the trust of Nigerians through painstaking work that requires a true democratic movement of critical mass. The light will only shine when we are truly a grassroots Party that creates equal opportunities that will attract the best minds and hands for a collective nation building campaign.
- A Nation of Giant Strides: Our nation building must encompass honest and open discussions on restructuring of Nigeria. Our Party must take leadership in shaping conversation about the social, economic and political progress of the country. We cannot afford to be dismissed as a finished party in our national development goals. We must rise to our responsibility of constructive criticisms as the official opposition party and give voice to the voiceless across the nation. We must become the defender-in-chief against a Commander-in-Chief that has continued to lead with wanton disregard for the concerns of poor citizens.
- Nigerians must be able to see an opposition led by a Party with principles and a clear agenda to lead the country to greater heights. Our national renewal strategy must take lessons from our collective mistakes and combine them with fresh ideas to design a grand strategy for equal gains in our development journey. The failures of leadership that has brought the country to this precipice under a government that has made terrible decisions one after the other cannot go unchecked. My open opposition to the way and manner this government came to power is vindication for the PDP that a Party that went to such lengths to gain power had nothing to offer to Nigerians after all. How do we redeem this situation without a clear, comprehensive and forward-looking re-positioning of the PDP?
- Rise of the Phoenix: From the ashes of defeat and wishful relegation, the Peoples Democratic Party must reclaim its glory and showcase the resilience of mind, perspective and intellect that brought it victories in four out of five elections. That energy has never left us. We must now channel it towards a series of reforms that will re-birth the PDP as a Party that becomes a perpetual part of Nigerians’ political thought. Mr. Chairman, we must reorganize, make our case with the grassroots, empower the voters, leverage technology and become a people funded movement for this to happen.
- Breaking the Silos: The PDP must become a Party of one and a Party for all. We must bring to life, the representation of our logo as a Party that welcomes everyone and every idea under its shade. We must reorganize the Party to break down the silos of loyalty and allegiance within the Party. There are too many blocks of influence that must be merged into a single ideological premise that guides our activities. If we must survive many cycles of electoral victories and defeat, then our resilience to change must be engrained in the very idea of being a member of the PDP. The PDP must become the most important organ, after Nigeria, in political alignments and calculations to our members. We must provide a pathway of equal opportunities to the youth, women and other marginalized groups and lend credence to true definition of democracy. Indeed, the PDP must symbolize a political party by the people, for the people and of the people.
- Grassroots Focus: Our success as a political Party from now on will hinge on how we engage at the grassroots. We must become a listening Party that takes the plight of the common person as serious as we take our quest for leadership. We must build a movement of grassroots membership with equal representation and a common purpose; patriotism. Elections in the 21st Century belong to parties that respond to the needs of the people. They belong to parties that design solutions to problems that affect the many and parties that exemplify the principles of fairness and justice for the common person.
- Technology: We must make technology our primary tool on our journey to a better, more responsive PDP. The PDP must become adept at utilizing technology, not only in canvassing for votes, but in highlighting the challenges of Nigeria and proffering solutions to them. Technology opens an immense array of opportunities for the Party to succeed in opposition and in government. We must actively push for a youthful leadership that possesses the understanding and skills to utilize technology for political gains. Outside of Social Media, the PDP must invest in technology that improves our internal processes and become the pathways for the successful implementation of our strategies.
- Voters Empowerment: We must build serious partnerships with individuals and organizations that work towards voter protection and empowerment. This will be a highly visible contribution to the growth and deepening of democracy in the consciousness of every Nigerian. We must ensure that the PDP fights against voter apathy in the upcoming elections and play active roles in voters’ registration drives. The PDP cannot afford a single potential vote to go uncast at the ballots; after all, every vote counts. Through these partnerships, the Party must ensure that it works to eliminate voter intimidation and make voter discrimination an anomaly, rather than remain a norm.
- Funding Revolution: One of the biggest challenges that the PDP faces is balancing its needs for funding with established egalitarian values and internal systems. If the Party continues to be held hostage by few major donors, it will continue to find it difficult to instill the values that will endear us to Nigerians. We must take our appeal to Nigerians and through our reforms, let the Party truly become a people funded Party. Small donations from millions of Nigerians will go a long way in the Party’s financial requirements and will create the necessary atmosphere for true ownership among members of the Party. This requires a more transparent approach to the systems and organization of our great Party as well as better openness on its finances. We must also begin to lobby for true campaign reform that will ensure that political parties are not beholden to individuals or select groups of people.
- Chairman, it is my belief that these concerns will be received with open arms and an open mind. The restoration of the PDP to its position of power will not happen automatically. It requires our collective efforts to begin that journey with the conviction that the Party must reform, welcome a youthful involvement and utilize innovative approaches that not only will improve its chances in upcoming elections but in the rightful stewardship of the affairs of the country. It is my expectation that the necessary reforms will be put in place before it is too late to salvage what we have left. I wish you a successful tenure and pray for the success of our efforts to rescue Nigeria from its current state of abyss.
God Bless the PDP
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Godsday Peter Orubebe, CON