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Goldsmith speaks to PDP

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Musings By Garba Shehu

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A fool may have his gown embroidered with gold. But it is a fool’s coat, still.

British statesman and literary guru Oliver Goldsmith provides a good peg for today’s column. The decision a week ago by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to reinstate its policy on zoning and rotation of key offices after it was set aside to allow the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to run in 2011 is welcome. We hope it means that the rotation of the office of the President between the North and South of the country is definitely reinstated.
Apart from it being a sound winning trick for the party, zoning and power rotation policy has given this country its first ever 13 years of unbroken stretch of democratic governance. It may have been a turbulent flight, but this is just what a fragmented polity, in which sectional and sectarian appeals easily work, needs to have so as to achieve relative stability.
The reinstatement of the policy comes against the backdrop of a relentless controversy that flared up lately following the plans for a national convention to choose new leaders for the party. As it approached this important convention,  it became clear that the party appeared short on confidence and conviction and stood in clear danger of failing to retain the good starts it made in many parts of the country over the years.
For some years running, precisely  from the later years of President Obasanjo, a period in which he exercised a totalitarian control over party and government, the party has lived in constant fear due to its unwillingness to work in an environment of transparency. The logical outcome of the failure of transparency is the failure of accountability and this has been PDP’s albatross.
So while it is not by accident that PDP is once again playing the zoning card, considering that this is what has given it a winning streak, the party must find a way to manage both the short term and the long term gains it estimates it would be making from return to principle. The party must find a way to curtail the greed for power, more and more power by the occupants of the presidential villa. Failing to do this, the long term effect might turn this policy into a millstone around the party’s neck, much like its decision to support President Obasanjo’s third term bid.
Abandoning the principle of unity, balance, equity and fairness in power sharing among the contending political interests in Nigeria was the PDP’s biggest moral blunder. The consequences of hypocrisy are always embarrassing. Hypocrisy has short legs; it has ephemeral lifespan and ultimately exposes the moral Achilles heels of those who pursue it as a policy. General Obasanjo was a major beneficiary of zoning but gave it a kiss of death for purely opportunistic reasons. And those who argued against the repudiation of zoning were dismissed as unpatriotic and greedy for power. The skeletons of hypocrisy  of those PDP leaders who sabotaged this policy came crashing with the election of Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker of the House of Representatives. When it came to the choice of the leaders of the National Assembly, the party desperately attempted to force what were the remnants of the PDP zoning formula. But the leadership suffered a humiliating rebuff. The South-west sub-region that has been crying of marginalization is today a victim of zoning fallout.You cannot eat your cake and have it. Against this background, the situation in Senegal must be truly desperate; no, maybe the true reason is that the AU-ECOWAS have a diabolical sense of humour to have sent Obasanjo, the former Nigerian ruler following his role in this totally contrived problem,  to mediate in that country's third term crisis.
The PDP should not only pride itself as the largest party in Africa but should also aspire to be the most credible and most respectable. It must be faithful to principles and agreements. For 13 years zoning had served the purpose of unity and significantly reduced the fear of domination by one section of the country over the other. The PDP must get its act together to be seen as a credible organization of gentlemen and women.
The ruling party has too little time and too many things to do to fix Nigeria. It has wasted too many opportunities to provide for the welfare and wellbeing of the Nigerian people. Its reckless and repeated misuse of opportunity has given reason to fellow countrymen and foreigners alike to ask the question whether Nigerians deserve to rule themselves. Some politicians, for example the late Second Republic Governor of Imo state, Chief Sam Mbakwe have said openly that we need a colonial ruler. Yet others say only the military can manage the nation.
PDP must bring down the iron curtain that separates party and the people. The party membership should own and control this party. This won't come easy. They have to fight hard to retrieve it from the present crop of tasteless, so-called guru politicians carrying on as leaders but behaving like an aristocracy. The transformation bogey should not be limited to the executive branch of government. It must be used to move the PDP from a successful electoral machine to a strong pillar of democracy. As it is, this party is sullied to such an extent that its new leaders, whoever they are, when they emerge, must shed the fool's garment, then walk the extra mile to retrieve the lost credibility.

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