opinionBy Emmanuel Aziken
Leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had in recent months spoken much of enthroning internal democracy in the affairs of the party. Ahead of its national convention in Abuja next weekend, the indications are that old habits die hard.
EVEN among its most prominent members including some elected public officials, the concept of election in choosing offices and candidates for public office in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP remains an anomaly.
It is as such not strange that ahead of next weekend's national convention of the party that the restoration of internal democracy has remained a major campaign issue among the about one dozen candidates for the office of national chairman.
The party's leading candidate for the position of national chairman in the forthcoming election, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur said as much earlier this week during a campaign visit to Katsina State.
"One of my principles is that there has to be internal democracy. PDP was founded on the basis of inclusiveness; it was founded on the basis of mass movement. PDP must maintain internal democracy; not imposition, the will of the people that will prevail," Tukur was quoted as saying during his visit to Katsina.
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The outgoing national secretary of the party, Dr. Musa Babayo in his position as the chief custodian of the party's documents is also well versed in the apparent shortage of democratic practises in the affairs of the party.
Musa who is contesting for the position of national chairman has also put increasing internal democracy in the party at the top of his agenda.
Given the history of imposition and the strangeness of choice it was not surprising that some of the contestants would imagine the importation of the consensus option in the enthronement of the next national chairman.
Consensus from Borno aspirants
"I think that something should be done to arrive at a consensus among those of us from Borno state. It is my opinion that we in the state should reduce the number of the national chairmanship candidates through a consensus," erstwhile minister of the Federal Capital Territory Arc. Bunu Sherif who is one of the contestants was quoted as saying in a national newspaper yesterday.
The party's history is indeed replete with coercion and consensus as an approach in the enthronement of its leaders. The last elective convention of the party where two candidates were allowed to stand for the office of national chairman was the 1999 convention which produced Senator Barnabas Gemade as national chairman.
Since then the party has produced six national chairmen in substantive and acting positions with none of them ever being subjected to an election.
Remarkably, it is not as if the party has ever had a shortage of candidates interested in occupying its national offices. Indeed, many who show genuine interest in occupying party positions are often coerced out of the contest.
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The late Chief Sunday Awoniyi is considered as the last member to be allowed to carry his desire to the convention floor. He was well on his way towards achieving the goal until elements in the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency intervened to scuttle the move during the 1999 national convention of the party in favour of Gemade.
Since then the consensus option has been used to enthrone all subsequent national chairmen of the party. Those who defied the consensus option, like Gemade even as the incumbent national chairman in 2002, were more or less shut out of the office.
Despite recent proclamations of internal democracy the party is now in full throttle towards the proclamation of another consensus national chairman with the presidency on the driving seat.
The 2012 convention has thrown up the highest number of aspirants at any time for the national chairmanship and by that fueling insinuations that the consensus option may for once be thrown away. However, conservatives in the party are now using that plank as the reason to adopt a consensus.
The argument is that the large number of candidates could cause a division of the party if they are all allowed to go to the convention ground.
Among the contestants are Tukur; outgoing national publicity secretary, Prof. Rufai Alkali; former Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Idris Waziri; former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Shettima Mustapha; outgoing national secretary Dr. Musa Babayo, , Barrister Ibrahim Birma, and former Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Mu'azu; a former presidential adviser, Senator Abba Aji, and former Minister of Agriculture, Adamu Bello.
The presidency, Vanguard learnt has delegated the erstwhile chairman of the board of trustees, Chief Tony Anenih and Senator Bukola Saraki to help sell Tukur to major stakeholders.
Both men it was learnt were approached based on their influence upon the Governors who themselves have control over the majority of the delegates.
Success of the enterprise
The success of the enterprise was as at the weekend still murky given the inclination of many of the Governors to stay off a decision on the issue of the national chairman until after the state congresses coming up this weekend.
The presidency has, however, denied the insinuations claiming that the insinuations of its involvement as the handiwork of some contestants desperate to get the advantage over others.
Presidential spokesman, Dr. Rueben Abati in an interview said: "I don't know about that, it must be some people spreading their own kind of information to serve their own purpose. The President to the best of my knowledge has not come out publicly to say that he is backing anybody. So I think people should desist from speculations and trying to imagine situations to suit their own purpose."
"We must all know that the choice of party chairman and other officers is a democratic process and so people will tend to hustle and fly all sorts of kites to adopt all sorts of strategies to suit their own purposes, but nobody should drag the President into anything for their own advantage."