A NUMBER of changes have taken place in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, since the election of Bamanga Tukur as National Chairman of the party. The most recent events involved the court-ordered removal of two principal officers of the party.
Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the former National Secretary and Bode Mustapha, former National Auditor, have been replaced following their sack by competent courts of the land. PDP in compliance with the orders of the courts had sworn in the deputies of the aforementioned in their stead in line with the Constitution of the party.
The commendable act of the ruling party to promptly execute without hesitation the separate judgements of the courts has ironically been drawing all kinds of attack on the person of the National Chairman and by extension the leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan.
The opposition,their sympathisers and supporters, together with a section of the media, have been clobbering the leadership of PDP and vilifying them as undemocratic.
A war of vendetta has been declared on the sacked national officers of the party. The party has been accused of being in a hurry to obey court orders. In other words, PDP is being lampooned for not disobeying or cherry-picking which court order to obey. There has also been the talk of a systematic plan to eliminate the South West from the party.
I have also heard, certainly not in a hush-hush tone, a plan afoot to completely side-line the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in making key decisions in the party. All this is ridiculous.
What those attacking the PDP do not understand is that there is a new wave of change going on in the ruling party. In the past, PDP has been accused of so many things one of which was its endorsement of impunity. The party was accused of cultivating a reputation for lawlessness which was exhibited by discarding at will, valid court orders.
At best, PDP was said to have picked and chosen which of the court orders to obey. We are all living witnesses to how the party lost some states in past elections because it decided to obey court orders.
It is neither in the interest of the party nor in the wider interest of the system to develop scant regard for the pronouncements of the courts.
The judiciary is not just the last hope for the common man; it remains for all intents and purposes, an important pedestal on which democracy is footed. The Constitution has given the institution the powers to adjudicate on matters brought before it in the interest of justice and equity. So an important stage in the journey of deepening our democracy must necessarily involve a return to obedience to the courts of the land. This is simply what the PDP is doing.
PDP by the way, in spite of what its opponents say, can be proud of its origin having been founded on sound democratic ideals. The founding fathers did not only envisage a gathering that will successfully bid for power in a popular democratised setting, but also had in mind a party where justice, fairness, peace, liberty, freedom, equality, law and order shall reign.
Those attacking the PDP forget so easily that they are enjoying this democratic era simply because the party provided the atmosphere for it. A retrospective look at pre-1999 Nigeria would remind us that so many terrible things happened in this country .
A Pinochet had come to town following the annulment of a free and fair election. The bespectacled tyrant had driven out most of the pro-democracy activists, formed his own political parties that adopted him as the sole presidential candidate. He even dragged some of the few elders respected in society to Abuja to march in support of his transformation to civilian president and then ordered every one of us to pray for him to succeed.
Yet with all the fear in the land, there were men who were prepared to pay the supreme price for us to be free. That was how Alex Ekwueme, the first Board of Trustees Chairman of PDP led a group of other courageous and patriotic Nigerians like Abubakar Rimi, Solomon Lar and other members of the G-34 members to confront the tyrant.
They actually sent a letter to the late Gen. Sani Abacha detailing the people’s disapproval of his plan to succeed himself. Well, Abacha later died and these patriots came together to form the PDP and the rest is history. It is regrettable that in the course of building the party and contesting for power, some of these ideals have been side-stepped over the years in varying degrees.
There is no doubt that PDP today is a big party and that a few mistakes have been made here and there. The good news though is that the party is once again in search of its ideals. That perhaps explains why a founding father of the party is today its chairman today.
Bamanga Tukur and his team have vowed to reinvent the PDP along the trajectory envisaged by the founding fathers. This rebirth going on at Wadata House is geared towards strengthening the democratic credentials of the party and the fulcrum must be respect for the courts!
It is understandable that some people who are used to the old ways of impunity are insinuating all kinds of motives just because the party now obeys court orders. When Tukur was campaigning for the chairmanship of the party, one of his promises was to improve internal democracy. He has started off well and earned public respect by fighting to dislodge all symbols of tyranny in the party. He has ensured the Nigerian Constitution and that of PDP are respected to the letter.
He is presently extricating the vice-like grip of the governors-who have proven by far to be the greatest obstacle to internal democracy- on the party. He is making the ruling party once again an all-inclusive party where only a popular choice can pick the party’s tickets for elections.