In one way or the other, a question has resounded in the minds of many young Nigerians, especially in the face of current national issues – “How can we positively influence government to create a better country by all standards?”
In response to this weighty rhetoric, many have mused that getting into government to serve in some form or the other, is an inevitable part of our immediate future. They opine that to foster change and guarantee a desired future, some of us will need to serve, specifically in legislative and executive functions. “We need more young, vibrant, solutions driven, and innovative individuals at the helm of affairs,” they say.
One pathway to attaining such positions is the ballot box. Yet, to qualify as a contestant in a general election, the aspirant must be a registered member of a political party. How many Nigerian youth share this paradigm? How many currently align with or are committed to registered political parties?
In this light, news of a prominent young Nigerian joining a major political party is only bound to make the headlines of social networking platforms. Ohimai Godwin Amaize, erstwhile campaign manager for Chief Dele Momodu in the 2011 general elections, chose to reveal to his Twitter followers, his recent decision to join the largest political party in Nigeria, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Yes, I’m a card carrying member of the PDP”, he tweeted on Saturday, March 24. Corroborating further, he said “Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is declared the National Chairman of our great party – the PDP”.
The response to his tweets was not unexpected – outrage and altercation.
Why? What was the issue? Having laid the foundation that joining a political party is prerequisite to contesting, there certainly is no wrong done in joining a party. The real issue then, is the political party of choice – the PDP… and perhaps, labelling the party ‘great’.
So, why did he join the PDP? According to him, “The party provides the most viable platform for me to drive my change ideologies along with other well meaning Nigerians”; most viable in terms of “structure, finances, internal democracy, party discipline and national spread”.
And really, what’s wrong with joining the PDP? Perhaps it’s not a question of wrong or right but merits and demerits. Some facts cannot be faulted about the ruling party. As the country’s largest political party, it commands some form of structure with the widest national spread and has leveraged this in every general election. Financially, the party boasts several wealthy individuals who form a chest of funds during electoral cycles. This wealth has bankrolled elections over the years and won the party sustained national relevance.
However, the legitimacy of this wealth and party funds certainly leaves cause for concern. Several allegations of financial misconduct, graft and misappropriation have been made against PDP members. In February, 2011, PDP chieftain, Bode George, was released from prison after serving a two year term, having been convicted for corrupt practices during his tenure as chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority.
Yet, PDP stalwarts put together a lavish reception, with much pomp and fanfare, celebrating his return, allegedly labelling him “the Joseph of our time”. There seemed not to be an air of remorse or shame. Right thinking Nigerians saw this as an endorsement of the wrong, a celebration of shame. Now, Bode George was once deputy chairman of PDP.
In terms of party discipline and internal democracy, Oyo State will not be quick to forget the prevalence of thugs at the government house during the 2006 duel between the PDP governor, Rasheed Ladoja, and his estranged godfather, Lamidi Adedibu. Under the PDP umbrella, the state was rendered practically ungovernable, till Ladoja was impeached and forced out of office. In the course of these happenings, the then PDP chairman, Ahmadu Ali, was alleged to have described Adedibu as the “garrison commander” of Oyo State. Thankfully, Ladoja was eventually restored to office, following the Supreme Court’s ruling on his impeachment as null and void, confirming the illegality perpetuated by the ruling party.
Nigerian political history, from 1999 to date, is replete with instances such as these, that do not render a great reputation for the PDP.
Then, on 24 of March, 2012, the national convention of the PDP concluded with a 60 year-old emerging as national youth leader. Too old to lead the young? Or appropriately experienced to guide the youth? Half-empty or half-full?
These, among others, are the challenges intrinsic to the PDP.
Still, though the spotlight is expectedly on the PDP, the opposition is not exonerated from similar issues. While the PDP is regularly seen as practising ‘selection’ as opposed to ‘elections’, the ACN battles its own alleged reputation of having one man whose word is law. CPC on the other hand is challenged with extending its spread and relevance nationwide to the point of winning significant electoral positions.
Which way Nigerian youth? Should you align with the opposition, on what strength of national spread will you run? Can the opposition outspend the ruling party to amass votes?
If the PDP is going to remain in power for years to come, with its national spread and structure, it is an appealing platform indeed. However, with the maze of corruption and graft therein, the godfathers and war chests, the prevalence of aged ideas, one wonders whether it will be a case of good seed sown among thorns, which grow, only to choke the seed in a short while.
To effect change, young people need to approach the political square. To contest for an election and assume office to effect change, young people need to join political parties.
So then, what party should you join? That decision remains each person’s prerogative, based on what drives and fuels your passion for change – Victory at the polls? Integrity, equity and Justice? Or all of the above