The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo is one political animal in Nigeria who is as fiercely articulated as he is conscientiously controversial. In Nigeria politicians generally do not have good manners, good morals and good reputation both nationally and internationally. They are held in scorn nationally for looting the nation blind and internationally they are seen more or less as a bunch of glorified thieves milking the nation dry through high-wire corruption that runs very deep in the entire system. Yet the general consensus remains that the average Nigerian politician is one primitively desperate to control power and resources (even with forged credentials) with which he dispenses patronage and siphons funds abroad with impunity.
When Dr Vincent Ogbulafor was unceremoniously shown the way out as a result of a financial impropriety dating back years ago what struck the discerning minds aroung the world was the hastiness associated with his inglorious fall. Weeks before the courts summoned him to appear to answer to charges of graft (perpetrated when he was an official in the Obasanjo era) Ogbulafor was holding sway as the out-spoken vibrant PDP Chairman who favoured the zoning arrangement of the ruling party; he had thundered on few occasions that the political behemoth would be strictly respecting the gentleman’s zoning agreement reached between the north and south in 1999 without giving a serious thought about the rumoured ‘Jonathanic’ presidential ambition.
The unguarded radicalism backfired as the forces beyond his control soon dusted up his dirty past and nailed him with it. Good riddance to bad rubbish, they must have enthusiastically concluded after his forced resignation. In the PDP’s history of political domination in the Nigerian political landscape Ogbulafor cannot be said to be the first party chairman whose tenure ended abruptly in disgrace. His was however one remarkably marked by blind loyalty to godfatherism epitomised by Obasanjo and his henchmen. Before him we have had others too numerous to mention here especially under the imperial presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, the civilian dictator, who presided over our affairs for some giddy eight years with mind-boggling scandals and fiscal heist. Obasanjo still parades himself as the PDP Board of Trustees Chairman after outwitting ‘Mr-fix-it’ Anthony Anenih who is now curiously a Jonathan ally.
Now the fear of President Goodluck Jonathan’s still-undeclared presidential ambition is the beginning of wisdom in the PDP heirarchy. President Jonathan may not have made up his mind but his body language suggests that he may be interested in contesting the 2011 presidential polls if only to prove critics wrong that he can, of course, win an election, free and fair et al, for the first time in his ‘goodlucked’ political career. Again the fact that he hails from Bayelsa State, one of the states that make up the Niger Delta, the criminally neglected region that produces the nation’s oil wealth, is enough to draw sympathy to his cause. Yet there is need for less emotions, even lesser sentiments on this score.
While it is undoubtedly true that the Niger Delta has suffered, over the years, enough despoliation in the hands of military dictators that succeeded themselves in the late 80’s and early 90’s with the Obasanjo era not doing anything tangible to remedy the ugly situation (other than bombing Odi and fighting the armed militants) it is equally true that the June 12 crisis led to the drafting of the Ota monster to the national scene by the ‘godfathers’ in 1999 as a way of compensating the South for the injustice it felt in the Abiola debacle. For the northerners a mutual agreement was reached in the PDP that OBJ would be serving two terms as President and thereafter a northerner would mount the saddle for another eight years before power shifts back to the south again, that is in 2015.
Obasanjo seemed to have respected this principle of zoning when in 2007 (after his third term constitutional bid failed) he decided to pick the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the then frail-looking Katsina state Governor, out of the lot as a presidential candidate of the PDP with Goodluck Jonathan (the then Bayelsa Governor) as his running mate. Obasanjo did everything within his power to ensure that this unusual pair sailed through as he campaigned vigorously for them and muzzled other contestants out of the presidential equation — sometimes using the EFCC as the attack dog. Now we know better why he pushed hard and hard for the duo to succeed him — perhaps for selfish rather than patriotic reasons.
Now Obasanjo is campaigning against zoning drumming it loud and clear that the arrangement was inconclusive and indefinite. He has publicly declared for Jonathan succeeding himself next year much to the anger of proponents of zoning like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Atiku Abubakar, Iyorchia Ayu and Adamu Ciroma. The forces in support of zoning are formidable and the no-to-zoning group equally vociferously powerful. In the end Goodluck Jonathan, with the incumbency factor at his disposal, will certainly go for the electoral kill next year after placating the pro-zoning elements in and out of the PDP machinery.
But that is not much the issue here, the digression should be pardoned though it is intertwined with what I am trying to comment on today. While zoning or no zoning of central power is dominating the political discourse today, overheating the polity in the process, what is more interesting, to me, is how Nwodo has been behaving ever since he was chosen as a consensus candidate to succeed Ogbulafor in line with the PDP zoning arrangement. The critical question here then is: if Nwodo is a product of zoning why is he seeking to ‘kill’ and ‘bury’ the issue as if it has never existed before or that he ‘won’ a landslide election into the PDP chairmanship position he is now occupying?
To be sure I see some reason with the position of northerners kicking against the attempt to drop zoning out of the power calculations of next year. If Umaru Yar’Adua had not died in power (no thanks to his failed kidney and other compounded infirmity) would Jonathan or the south have been this bold to want to supplant the zoning arrangement? Does it not amount to political opportunism of the highest order for people to indecently seek to put down a system that would guarantee a safe rotation of the presidency to different geo-political zones in the country? Though the issue is wholly unconstitutional but it is still a PDP internal matter that has a lot to do with its power conquest since 1999.
Okwesilieze Nwodo knows much about the internal wranglings in the PDP for which zoning is the most intractable. He had unsuccesfully sought to shoot down the zoning kite only to recant hours later. He had marshalled out a sound argument that obviously put the zoning party into disarray. But by far his most daunting mission happens to be the cleaning up of the PDP dirty tricks, tactics and methods of undermining democracy. Doing the job poses a whole lot of challenges for the Enugu-born former Governor. While majority of the PDP members are politically profligate and promiscuous the average Nigerian politician is an irredeemable animal hell-bent on winning election by hook or by crook. And many of this kind of breed are found mostly in the PDP.
Nwodo says he is ready to die if only to see that the PDP is reformed! According to him: “The culture of indignity must go. I took an oath in my church in Enugu before the blessed sacrament that a mustard seed must die for a new tree to grow. I offer my life, so that we can have great men to lead this country.” Very sound indeed Mr Chairman. And continuing he had said: “We won elections, but not the hearts of the people. We now want to win their hearts – no more a winning machine and civilian dictatorship.” Another bombshell Mr Chairman. “We are working with experts to reform and update our manifesto, to make it workable. We have to make a change. The
re’s nothing absolutely impossible to do in this country. PDP has resolved to call upon courageous men and women, who can do it …. No one can run this party anymore as a personal property, choosing, who to belong to the party and who will not.” Quite revolutionary Mr Chairman!
It seems Nwodo is not only serious but determined to be an agent of change in the PDP. The corruption of values in the PDP has become a national malaise threatening the very survival of the nation. So he had cause to warn: “In spite of my directives on my inaugural day that people should not bring ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags (money) to our office, they are still doing that. If anyone tries it again, I’ll disgrace him publicly”. Mr Chairman that is what majority of our people are praying for and hoping that you will do not merely empty rhetorics synonymous with politicians of your generation. ‘Ghana-must-go’ politics is at the root of our problems as a nation-state. So your ability to discourage it or strike a blow at its illicit content will go a long way in sanitising the organized commotion in our national political life.
As Nwodo has publicly declared his intention to lay down his precious life so that Nigerians can enjoy the dividends of democracy that has eluded us ever since the PDP came into our lives he will definitely be a hero in the event that we see changes in an unchangeable circumstances of politicking in Nigeria. Only then can we, the ordinary folks, judge him and his suicide mission statement(s). Before he commits suicide therefore (given the daunting and near-impossible task he has undertaken to oversee) one can only advice him to beware of his shadows.
His everyday mantra in this noble crusade should be: for my God and my country! Good luck to him and to Nigeria!