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Kayode Ojo: Consensus must be the way for PDP, not election

Aso Rock

Kayode Ojo: Consensus must be the way for PDP, not election

by Kayode Ojo

Since after the November 30, 2012, meeting of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was adjourned to January 8, 2013, for the purpose of picking a new chairman of the Board, I have read a series of syndicated analyses in the newspapers in which the writers, all of who are curiously Igbo journalists, had attempted to drag the reputations of all those who have been mentioned as candidates for the position in the mud.

The only exception is former Senate President in the fifth Senate, Kenechukwu Nnamani, who is their kinsman and hero. Three of such jaundiced analyses have so far been published and more will still adorn the pages of our newspapers in the days ahead. Two of them appeared on the same day in Leadership Sunday and Thisday Sunday of December 9, 2012, on pages 21-22 (particularly at 22) and pages 100 and 102 respectively.

But this is an attempt to raise a voice of reason that bears pieces of advice to the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Presidency under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in the hope that they will hearken to them and act in accordance. I quite understand that whatever is done in the PDP now is construed within the context of the forthcoming 2015 presidential elections. This is why the PDP leadership and Jonathan must be careful not to pander to the frenzy for democracy by imprudently exposing an organ of the party as important as the BoT, which is regarded by the founding fathers as the conscience of the party, to the tension of election in choosing its chairman.

Since the Board only plays advisory role, why does the PDP leadership want to subject it to the rigours of election, knowing full well that the outcome of any election always produces a fractious entity or body. The winner would go home with a feeling of victory while the loser or losers would go with a feeling of defeat. This will not augur well for the BoT of the PDP. Besides, election of BoT chair, which is being planned by the party leadership, is novel and this novelty has the potential of damaging the conscience of the party if allowed to hold.  I am very conversant with the history of the PDP BoT since the inception of the party in 1998. I stand to be corrected: the choice of successive chairmen and secretaries had never been subjected to elections.  It had always been through consensus of members, acting in concert with the President.

This is the most enduringly noble path that the PDP must thread and President Jonathan must apply the weight of his office to ensure that the convention is not tampered with. If the BoT is understandably an assemblage of the founding fathers and those who had contributed to the party by virtue of holding a public office, whether in the past or currently, and who are not remunerated for the role they play, why subject the emergence of a chairman or even secretary to election?  Members should relate with the positions as offering selfless service and, in that wise, be begged to serve. They should not desperately scramble to occupy the position.

Take it or leave it, election will destroy the fabrics of the Board. I was wont to believe that members of the Board are elders and statesmen who are wise in their own right. I hope they will bring that wisdom to bear in the matter of choosing a chairman for the Board.  It is not too late for the Board and the leadership of the party to review their decision on choice of a chairman through election. It is not that I am averse to election; in fact, that is the bulwark of democracy.

But I do not think the PDP needs the election of a BoT chair to prove that it is democratic. It will be sardonic if the party allows election to factionalise and traumatise the conscience of the party.  Will it be able to moderate the disparate tendencies that rear their heads in the party? Will it have the sanity of mind and the selflessness to intervene in moments of tension in the party and in government? This is why Jonathan has a historic role to play in ensuring that the chairman of the BoT emerges through consensus. Regardless of the letters of intention that have been written to the party by members, he can initiate a process of engaging members of the Board so that they can agree on someone who has the qualities they expect in a chairman.

Although I do not know if a template of prescribed qualities or criteria has been drawn up, I am sure that the first thing that should count is whether the person that would chair the Board is a founding father or member of the PDP.      It makes it easy for him or her to always return to the beginning to remind members of the philosophy behind the formation of the party and the Board. The person’s contributions to the party and government should count. His or her loyalty should not be discounted; it must have been demonstrated 100 per cent at all material times since the inception of the party. He or she should be a man or woman of integrity, who says what he or she means and means what he or she says; a man or woman whose positions on issues are known and who would not waver in the face of filthy lucre. And if he or she compromises, it would be in the interest of the party and the nation.

His or her personality must be amiable to a vast majority of party leaders and members such that he or she would earn respect of members, as well as political and public office holders. He or she must have played politics of accommodation and inclusiveness such that members of the Board would be at rest that he or she is not in the saddle to feather his or her own nest; that he or she is not in the saddle to be relevant in the scheme of things. Selflessness of the would-be chairman would rub off positively on the Board and to that extent, the man or woman who drives the Board must be selfless; in fact, have a track record of being selfless. This may not be a part of the template, if I were the President whose heavyweight can settle this process in favour of any candidate, I would ensure that I galvanise consensus in the direction of the person whose loyalty I enjoy 100 per cent and in whom I can trust to support my political agenda within the ambit of constitutionality.

This should be the attitude of Jonathan in the build-up to the emergence of a BoT Chairman on January 8, 2013.  Consensus is better at this level than election. All those who have expressed interest can be persuaded to withdraw from the process for the consensus candidate in the interest of greater harmony in the Board.  Indeed, the President has the capacity to moderate the process so that some persons who seek the office for political relevance do not unnecessarily inflame passion by the unwarranted show of desperation and deployment of subterfuge in the media. The choice of PDP BoT chairman does not need such potentially acrimonious scramble. I pray that President Jonathan will rise to the occasion.

– This Best Outside Opinion was first published in The Guardian

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