Last Sunday, one of the national papers ran a report on the recent adoption of Hon. IfeanyiUgwuanyi by the Enugu Chapter of the ruling PDP as the party’s consensus candidate for next year’s governorship election in the state. Apart from the hear-say reference to ships and all that, the story read quite well, indeed. But, according to a local wisecrack, once there is a BUT in a narrative, it cannot be wholesome again.
For the purpose of this write-up, the BUT in the story is the claim by a group, the League of Enugu Voters for Good Governance(LEVGG) that the September 26 adoption of Hon. Ugwuanyiby the Enugu-North PDP and his subsequent validation by Enugu East and West zonal chapters as the party’s consensus candidate for next year’s governorship election, was undemocratic.
In a statement signed by its chairman, Robinson Chukwuemeka and secretary Manifest Obioma, the group declared that the “so-called consensus option has forced other well- meaning aspirants on the party platform to shut up their mouth and resign to fate, albeit man-made.
The result is that the larger people of Enugu State are forced with a choice made by one of three senatorial zones. While there is no question as to the right of Nsukka Zone to produce the next governor of Enugu State in 2015, that right does not extend to imposing an aspirant on the other two zones. The presentation to Enugu East Zonal Caucus on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 and Enugu West Zonal Caucus for Friday, October 1, do not (sic) and cannot validate the otherwise undemocratic methodology already adopted by the PDP.”
While LEVGG’s argument may be eloquent, it unfortunately proceeds from some false premises. One, the claim that consensus as a ‘methodology’ for selecting a candidate for election by a political party is undemocratic is wrong. By its very definition, consensus is a very valid tool for democratic decision-making. If consensus means an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group, then it stands to reason that that opinion would be shared only after members of the group must have weighed the pros and cons of an issue and come to the conclusion that an agreement on such an issue serves their collective interest better. So, reaching a consensus on who is to bear its flag in an election does not in any way detract from the principles of internal democracy in a political party.
Two, LEVGG argues that to allow Enugu North to produce a consensus candidate is to let the zone impose its candidate on the rest of the state and that it does not even matter that Enugu East and Enugu West have validated that choice.
This is wrong-headed, in my view. Would the cause of democracy be better served in Enugu State, in LEVGG’s estimation, if the state were to organize an inevitably raucous, costly primary, with chaos and mayhem possibly in tow, just for the world to see and say, ‘yes the candidate is the product of a primary election?’
Or would it better served if stakeholders came together and unanimously agreed to present a consensus candidate, to save the state the bitterness and acrimony that that often come with primary elections in these parts?
In any case, going by media reports, what happened in Enugu on September 26 cannot be reasonably equated to an imposition. According to the reports, all 14 governorship aspirants from Enugu North were invited to a meeting at the Governor’s Lodge, Enugu, with Governor Chime and all the party stakeholders from the zone.
At the meeting, the issue of choosing a consensus candidate so as to make the up-coming primaries less rancorous was broached. Some of the aspirants initially objected to the idea and said so. But, after listening to contributions from other stakeholders, they became sold on the idea.
One of the aspirants, Chief Fidel Ayogu, former Nigerian Ambassador to Uganda,reportedly nominated Hon. Ugwuanyi and then moved a motion for his adoption as the consensus candidate of the Enugu North chapter of the party, who would be presented to the state PDP Exco for ratification as the candidate to be supported by delegates to win the party primary slated for November 29 this year. The ayes had it. What could be more democratic than this?
To be sure, the Enugu PDP only took a pre-primary action designed principally to prune down the number of governorship aspirants from Enugu North to which it has zoned the 2015 governorship.
This is with a view to reducing the chances of acrimony and bitterness down the party line that could result from a laissez faire primary election featuring all 14 aspirants and their supporters.
As Governor Chime clarified in an interview published in several newspapers last week, the adoption of Hon. Ugwuanyi has not at all violated the PDP Constitution because it has not come as a substitute for party primary.
When the primary election holds on November 29, Ugwuanyi will still be slugging it out with Senator AyoguEze, Hon. Eugene Odo and ChineduOnuh, the three aspirants who didn’t step or haven’t stepped down for him, for the party’s ticket for the governorship election Enugu State in February next year.
Those who criticize the democratic process in Enugu fail to see the larger picture in what has taken place, namely, that through deft party organisation and management, the PDP leadership in the coal-city state has managed to put in place a sustainable party structure that has made the chapter probably the strongest and most peaceful of all the state chapters.
The party is so well organized in the state—from the ward, local government, zonal to the state level—that Enugu is easily the only state in the country where no opposition party has had any strong footing, especially since 2007.
This is because every decision taken by the party, every favour dispensed by it through the government machinery, every membership obligation discharged by stakeholders, is almost always just, equitable and fair. Isn’t it cause for applause that while the party in other states of the South East and parts of the South South are in crisis, that of Enugu is 99.9 per cent intact and at peace with itself?
What is better in political calculations—in these parts—than a ruling party without an iota of crisis, which inspires a sense of belonging in every segment of the society and which gives practical expression to the vision of its founding fathers through its accent on justice, equity and fair play as the cardinal principles of governance?
The disavowal of consensus candidacy by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP is a mere academic exercise and, indeed, senseless and hypocritical. It is akin to shooting oneself in the foot.
Let’s face it, every candidate selection process that the PDP has undergone since its founding has been defined by consensus arrangement one way or the other.
Right from Obasanjo’s candidacy, through Yar’Adua to Jonathan, party stakeholders had practically settled the matter of who would fly the party flag for the presidential election before television beamed the charade called party primary taking place in Eagle Square live to our homes.
And, pray, what manner of primaries and subsequent elections brought some of the governors to power? Truth is that the only difference between what Enugu has done and what the NWC of the PDP often does is that the former is more sincere and less costly while the latter is largely hypocritical and outlandishly wasteful.
But no matter. Suffice it, however, is to say that National Secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo’s preachment about the sanctity of the party’s nomination process is a mere academic exercise.
He should stop wasting his time because even ifhis NWC manages to force party stakeholders in Enugu to verbally recant their adoption of HonourableUgwuanyi, their hearts sure will not recant it.
From the language of Oladipo’s press release, especially the aspect about not hesitating “to protect any of our members who in anyway stands to be short-changed, cheated or victimized…,”it is obvious where all this is coming from.
But, he should beware of allowing himself to be usedby frustrated pretenders to the throne who can’t live down the fact that they have been beaten by more popular, widely acceptable contestants, to cause crisis in an otherwise peaceful and progressive chapter. After all, consensus, especially the Enugu variant, is not antithetical to democracy!
Ezeaku, a public affairs commentator sent this piece from Enugu-Ezike, Enugu State.