31 . 08 . 2016
The PDP after the Non-Convention: Negotiate, Reconcile and Get to Work

Following the postponement of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Convention, Dimeji Bankole calls for the party to stop the in-fighting and prioritise action.

The recent attempts to hold a PDP Convention has been widely regarded in Nigeria as something of a joke.

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Nigerian politics, I’ll recap. The PDP is one of the largest political parties in Nigeria. The Party is currently locked in a judicial battle between two warring factions. There are huge divides over who should be the new National Chairman of the Party. And, recently, the PDP Convention – a critical event where new appointments across the Party are ratified – did not take place.

It pains me to write that. You see, I remember a time, very clearly, when the PDP were a powerful political force in Nigeria. Certainly a force powerful enough to organise, and run, their own political convention.

Yes, there were always differences within the Party – that’s natural.

But the Party also produced Presidents. A significant number of State Governors. And always had a thriving membership base.

In short – the PDP had the strength and power to change things in Nigeria for the better.

I, for one, know that more than most. In 2007 I was elected as the youngest ever Speaker of the Nigeria House of Representatives. The strength of the PDP was an enabler:  it helped me to make history.

During my time as Speaker, I changed the way our House of Representatives operated. The House accepted hundreds of motions, resolutions and bills. These included the Freedom of Information Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act – thus ensuring that all revenue-generating agencies presented their annual budgets for scrutiny.

We returned about 1 trillion Naira to the national coffers as a result, and the plague of institutionalized corruption took a hit in the process.

This is my own record, so I won’t go on too much! But there’s a broader point here, too.

I used my time in office trying to invigorate the political processes of this country by prioritising actions, not words, through the principles of negotiation and therefore reconciliation. Negotiation is seminal to the political process and all the more important with a new political party in power at present. A fragmented PDP will struggle to demonstrate its relevance in a more complex Nigerian political space.

And that’s one of the reasons – one of many – that I find it so frustrating to see the PDP attempt a convention without reconciliation. It’s another year of inaction for the Party. Another year of talk – of rumour, gossip and speculation.

Three things that do nothing for the Nigerian people.

Silhouettes of People Holding Flag of Nigeria

A short while ago, I hosted a group of British Parliamentarians, including Kate Osamor MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, in Abuja. Kate talked at length about the problems within her own Party; the Labour Party in the UK. At the moment, the Labour Party is riddled with factions, legal challenges and in-fighting. It’s holding back their efforts to scrutinise the Conservative Government in the UK, and provide an alternative vision for their millions of supporters across the country.

I can’t help but see the similarities with our very own PDP in Nigeria. It saddens me greatly.

So what can the PDP do? Well, the Party can arrange a new convention, but this time supervised by the Founding Fathers of the party, the likes of Chief Alex Ekwueme, Alhaji Adamu Chiroma and Alhaji Aminu Wali. However, before a successful convention can be held, the right foundation must be put in place.

Simply the factions in contention must work together towards reconciliation, through negotiation. So far going to court has failed to provide a pareto optimal, a solution that does not leave either faction worse off. A protracted court battle is not the way to a tenable solution.

At present both factions within the PDP are anchoring their positions with path-dependent decision-making to the detriment of any hopes of reconciliation. The party would benefit more from a critical analysis of the situation to determine the zone of possible alternatives (ZOPA); identify the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) for both sides, the best solution for each side should the status quo hold and then from that point, proceed to a facilitated negotiation with the guidance of the Founding Fathers. And finally reconciliation.

It is only after reconciliation that the PDP can turn its focus to what really matters.

Preparing for the next election. And demonstrating, to friends, foes and supporters, that the PDP should be trusted once again to try to change our country for the better.

The PDP owes it to itself to make it happen.

And now the Party should get on with it.