There does not seem to be an end to the deeply mortifying practices emanating from the former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). These practices betray their poor understanding of the terrible electoral defeat they suffered in March and April, not to say their equally poor appreciation of the essentials of democracy. During a retreat for PDP members-elect of the National Assembly in Port Harcourt on Monday, leaders of the party showed how very poorly they read national affairs, democracy, and the organisation and operations of their party. Rather than reform and rebuild, as their humiliating and unprecedented losses demand, they have regrettably opted for a defiant form of amoral politics, a course of action equally illustrative of their many years of bungling and dithering in power.
What was clearly evident again in Port Harcourt on Monday is the party’s continuing inability to produce insightful leaders and political and party philosophers. Former president Goodluck Jonathan is widely believed to be a third-rate politician of contradictory secular and non-secular emotions, but when he led the party, notwithstanding the existence of a national chairman, he imposed some semblance of order and focus. With his exit, and the ochlocratic overthrow of the more urbane Adamu Muazu as party chairman, fifth-rate politicians, so fickle as to be devoid of every known political virtue, have taken over the levers of party power. They now run the party and, more egregiously, think for it: they who can hardly think why one plus one should be two now find themselves conceptualising complex scenarios and game theories for the PDP.
While many other topics were examined during their Port Harcourt retreat, one major topic acutely indicative of just how abysmally the party’s leaders have sunk on the ethical scale was their position on Governor Ayo Fayose’s endless buffooneries in Ekiti State. It is hard to think anyone, except of course the stupefied Ekiti governor himself, could offer any coherent explanation to defend the madness in that state, but PDP leaders have managed to exceed even their own appalling standards. Uche Secondus, the party’s acting chairman, and Olisah Metuh, the party’s publicity secretary, have both embraced sensationalism and ochlocracy in defending Mr Fayose and deconstructing democracy — positions they stuck to in Port Harcourt and during a solidarity visit to Mr Fayose in Ekiti early in the week. Sadly, too, they have also adopted the tool of emotional blackmail to restrain President Muahammadu Buhari and to defend the states they won by force and farce in the last polls.
Hear the imperious Mr Secondus: “As you are aware, the leadership of APC and the lawmakers have ganged up to illegally remove the governor. The court order of April 23 given by Justice E. S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja is still effective. As of now, Dr Adewale Omirin is not the authentic Speaker and can’t tell the chief judge to set up a panel to try Fayose. Even as we speak, the governor has not received any letter from the lawmakers. We call on the Federal Government that democracy is in danger in Ekiti. We owe it a duty to protect the rule of law. Should they go ahead to illegally impeach the governor, the consequences will be anarchy, crisis and violence…PDP will not allow anybody to return Nigeria to autocracy. Fayose is a performer and he should be allowed to develop this state.”
Mr Metuh was equally intemperate and scathing: He says: “We wish to state in very clear terms that we would not condone any more move by the rejected APC lawmakers to subvert the will of the people of Ekiti state as expressed in the mandate freely given to Governor Fayose. These outgoing APC lawmakers, whose mandate have already been withdrawn by the people should watch their steps and not in any way take our civility and Governor Fayose’s deportment for peace, unity and harmony for granted. We issue this as a final warning. Our members and supporters in Ekiti State are able, willing and ready to defend our mandate using all available instruments granted by the law. We have the capacity and will have no other option unless the APC lawmakers retrace their steps and embrace peace. Enough is enough.”
It is not clear how jurisprudentially the April 23 order by Justice Chukwu should be interpreted. But by that date, Adewale Omirin was still the Speaker, for he could not have been impeached by seven lawmakers when 19 legislators supported him. But what is even more important are the threats and blackmail by Mr Secondus. On one hand, he wants President Buhari to defend democracy, and on the other hand he threatens brimstone and anarchy should Mr Fayose be impeached. The real threat to democracy is an acting party chairman that holds such violent and rebellious views. If indeed President Buhari had been minded to defend democracy, it is clear how he should have proceeded and in whose favour. For, notwithstanding the shocking description of Dele Olugbemi, leading six other Ekiti lawmakers, as Speaker of the House of Assembly by a section of the media, in the eyes of the law, both Mr Fayose and the obstreperous Mr Olugbemi should be in jail for usurpation of the constitution and promotion of lawlessness and violence.
It is indeed shameful that neither Mr Secondus nor Mr Metuh holds noble views on democracy and the rule of law. Both party officials are a throwback to the 1960s, when the rule of law concept was used interchangeably with the rule of the sword and the gun. The consequence of the Buhari government failing to act decisively and urgently on the Ekiti crisis is that an opportunity to set the right and unmistakable tone for the defence of democracy may have been lost. PDP leaders and Mr Fayose may run away with the impression that no matter how viciously they break the law, all it requires to sustain their lawless acquisitions is to project physical and emotional threats.
No matter who is doing the interpretation of the Ekiti crisis, Mr Fayose actually committed impeachable offences, and he should have been impeached. President Buhari should have ensured maximum security in Ekiti, enable the majority lawmakers and the judiciary to do their work, and if Mr Fayose is impeached, as he most likely would have been, still ensure adequate security for Mr Fayose’s deputy to take over the reins of office. The point was not for the APC to take over power, but to ensure the observance of the rule of law, and to establish once and for all that no one, not even a rabble-rousing governor, is above the law. The opportunity of making that point is now lost with the end of the 7th Assembly.
Importantly, too, as the Rivers State PDP retreat showed, not to talk of the foolish threats by Mr Secondus, Mr Metuh, and other visiting PDP national leaders in Ekiti, the new opposition party still needs to urgently purge its ranks, especially its leadership, of the charlatans that hold sway in the party. The men who run the party now are unfit to run even a local government-based party. Their ideas are archaic, abusive, destructive and counterproductive. They seem to believe that if they keep a few ‘rich’ states, such as Rivers and Akwa Ibom in their kitty they would have the financial muscle to run their party — as if the survival and success of a party depend more on funds than on ideas relevant to the people’s real transformation.
During the same Port Harcourt retreat, Governor Seriake Dickson spoke glowingly of the essentials of democracy and the new role of the PDP, but disapprovingly of the violent and unlawful style of other political parties: “That is not the brand of our politics,” he cooed. “That is not going to be the nature and character of the opposition from PDP. We are going to mount a systematic, well-coordinated, constructive and nationalistic opposition supporting the constitution and the laws of the country.” If the PDP will be capable of assuming the lofty role vouchsafed them by the Bayelsa governor — that systematic, constructive and nationalistic opposition he talked animatedly about — it is impossible that the present PDP leadership, not to talk of their wanton style as personified by Mr Fayose, can drive that change, or in their own futile parlance, produce the needed transformation.