Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan’s adoption as the sole candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which hitherto had been in the realm of conjectures, became a reality.
Although the party caucus in the House of Representatives was the first to fly the kite in recent times when sometimes ago the members visited the President at the Villa and urged him to run for the second term in 2015, the final seal was placed by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), the highest decision making organ of the party, last Thursday.
Prior to this, Chief Tony Anenih had, sometimes ago at a meeting of the party chieftains in the Presidential Villa, urged the leadership of the party not to dissipate energy in searching for Jonathan’s successor as he declared that there would be no vacancy in Aso Rock in 2015.
Before the NEC concurrence, governors on the platform of the party under the aegis of the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDPGF) chaired by the effervescent Akwa-Ibom state governor, Godswill Akpabio, had earlier endorsed Jonathan as the sole candidate of the party.
The endorsement by the governors was immediately followed by that of the party’s advisory body, Board of Trustees (BoT) consisting of the bigwigs and veterans in the party chaired by Anenih.
Proponents of Jonathan’s adoption and sole ticket-ship theory in the ruling party had hinged their arguments on the need for continuity in government programmes. This argument, like the Senate President David Mark indicated at the PDP NEC, abound in the National Assembly.
According to them, four-year tenure is too short for there to be any meaningful developmental program to be executed. This is coupled with the high cost of prosecuting elections as pointed out in the past by the President himself.
The unanimous adoption of the President, according to the proponents, would help sanitize the political space and reduce the acrimonies usually associated with the fallouts of keenly contested primaries in the party.
They also argue that since the nation’s democracy is modeled after American Presidential system, the incumbent should enjoy the right of first refusal.
But several questions have been raised concerning the propriety of the PDP’s decision to jettison its avouched internal democracy mechanisms even though its leadership would argue that consensus remains an integral part of the system.
A discerning observer would be quick to point it out that adopting Jonathan as the sole candidate of the party may have put paid to the fundamental rights of some other members who may be nursing the ambition to contest the party’s Presidential ticket.
Indications that the ticket may have been reserved only for the incumbent was at the heart of the disagreements the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the belligerent five governors of Rivers, Sokoto, Kano, Kwara and the recently impeached Adamawa state governor had with the former National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
The obvious fixation of the Tukur’s leadership on returning Jonathan at all cost led to Atiku and the five governors’ exodus from the party to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). It also was responsible for the removal of the former chairman of the party.
With the appointment of the incumbent National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu, the mantra changed from imposition to emergence of party’s candidates through competitive primary. Mua’zu has never failed to tell whoever is interested in contesting for any elective position in the party to work at the grass root in order to get their consent thereby discouraging the concepts of ‘Abuja Politician’ and political godfatherism.
Mu’azu’s insistence on internal democracy was put to test in Anambra, Ekiti, Osun and Ondo elections where candidates emerged from participatory primaries even when some of the contestants were clamouring for consensus candidates.
For instance, Ayo Fayose, Ekiti governor elect, emerged as the PDP candidate from among 18 aspirants on the platform of the party despite the clamour for consensus by 17 others.
Although the same scenario may not have played out at the level of Presidency considering the concept of the power of incumbency, but there would have been manifest transparency had the primary for the Presidential ticket been thrown open.
To pundits, Jonathan’s unanimous adoption as the sole candidate for the 2015 Presidential election on the platform of the PDP only goes to confirm the fears of interested candidates who earlier alleged plots of imposition in the party.
Until when he was prevailed upon to step down for Jonathan in the interest of peace and party, Jigawa state governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, has never hidden his intention to slug it out with Jonathan for the PDP presidential ticket. The President’s adoption had put paid to such ambition and this has done some incalculable damages to the party’s democratic credentials whether its leadership likes to admit it or not.
Following Jonathan’s adoption with the argument that the cost of prosecuting election be reduced and the clamour for continuity, chances are that those incumbent governors on the platform of the party wishing to return in 2015 and beyond may also influence the leadership of the PDP, both at state and national levels, to get automatic tickets.
There are insinuations that some members of the National Assembly had already extracted commitments from the party’s leadership for their automatic ticket ahead of the general election in 2015 before supporting Jonathan’s adoption. Chances are that the leadership of the National Assembly may also want the continuation of the status quo beyond 2015 in the spirit of continuity.
This probable scenario may not be in the interest of the nation considering the fact that most of the incumbent lawmakers lacked legislative initiatives and strengths of character to move the country forward.
It is pertinent that the PDP, because of political exigencies, had infracted on the principle of transparency, open but healthy competition, which are the main ingredients of democracy with the concept of adoption of the incumbent.
It would therefore be morally wrong for the party’s leadership to enforce the purported agreement signed by the Adamawa Acting Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, that he would not contest in 2015 should he win the October 11th governorship bye election in the state.
This is because the argument of continuation of ‘good programmes’ and ‘not changing the winning team’ would also come handy for Fintiri to legitimately seek for a second term, regardless of the ‘agreement’.