In a National Platform WhatsApp loop Strategic Engagement Meeting held on Sunday, November 5, 2023, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hosted Dr Alex Adum, a former Attorney General of Benue State, to discuss a range of critical issues. The issues included the Supreme Court judgment, internal discipline within the party, the party’s future, and the state of Nigerian democracy.
This insightful discussion provided a window into the challenges and prospects of one of Nigeria’s major political parties. Dr Adum did not hold back on knocking any side that he deemed the need to.
Supreme Court Judgment and Constitutional Implications
The discussion began with a focus on the Supreme Court judgment, specifically addressing the 25% mandatory requirements in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Dr. Adum emphasised that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Section 134(2) of the Constitution raised important constitutional questions. He averred that the judgment effectively recognised Abuja as a state, increasing the number of states from 36 to 37 without a constitutional amendment.
This decision has significant implications, including an increase in the number of states without amending the constitution; necessitating the establishment of state administrative structures in the FCT; and questioning the appointment of a minister in the FCT, who incidentally is a member of the PDP serving in a federal government led by the All Progressives Congress (APC). Dr Adum also said the judgment raised the issue of indigenous rights in the FCT and established Abuja as the 37th federating unit of Nigeria. For this reason, he added that the judgement necessitates a change of the third tier of government in the FCT from Area Councils to local government councils.
Overall, the former Attorney General described the judgment of the Supreme Court as “only a technical judgement that didn’t do any justice to the facts of the case.” In his words, the court’s decision “placed more emphasis on procedural (adjectival) law rather than substantive law, which is the express provisions of the Constitution that whoever presents a forged certificate to INEC should not be elected into public office, particularly under Section 137(1)(j) CFRN 1999.”
Dr Adum also raised concerns about INEC’s failure to conduct elections in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and urged that INEC be treated as an impartial court witness rather than a respondent in election petitions.
Challenges in Disciplining Erring PDP Members
Dr Adum, who was also CEO of Benue Investment and Property Company, addressed the issue of discipline within the PDP. He pointed out that the PDP’s constitution provides provisions for disciplinary actions against erring members, and there are no legal impediments preventing the party from enforcing discipline. However, the non-activation of disciplinary measures against certain high-profile members is primarily a political decision rather than a legal one.
The reasons he advanced for the National Working Committee’s failure to invoke party discipline were forthright and incisive. He said one such reason relates to the manner in which the current National Working Committee (NWC) members were appointed. It would be recalled that in the heat of the general elections in March 2023, the Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Igyorov Ward of Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State suspended the then National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, for anti-party activities with immediate effect. A Benue State High Court thereafter restrained him from parading as the chairman of the party. Within 3 days, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP appointed its National Vice Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Illiya Damagun as Acting National Chairman. This might be the situation Dr Adum was referring to.
Dr Adum held the view that the NWC lacked experience in party management and exhibited a sense of self-preservation as many of the NWC members viewed their positions as sources of livelihood.
Switching Membership Structure
While responding to the question about indiscipline within the PDP, Dr Adum said the gap lay in the funding structure, which allows powerful stakeholders to influence the party’s decisions. He advised the party to switch to membership funding for a more disciplined party.
“I will recommend we go back to membership funding, which is essentially crowd-funding, to reset the party and return power to the ordinary members,” Dr Adum recommended. “The PDP has over 20 million members across Nigeria and in the diaspora. If everyone contributes N1,000 a month and N12,000 annually to fund the party, then running to governors for money to fund the party would never arise. We also need to revisit the membership registration project, and the time to start working on that is now.”
He added that “an e-membership register can be configured in such a way that payment of membership monthly dues is automated to ensure only members who pay are continually renewed and also entitled to membership privileges.”
Navigating Conflicting Dynamics and PDP’s Future
Regarding the future of the PDP and potential factions, Dr Adum noted that the party must take the necessary steps to discipline its members. If the party does not act, it may provide fertile ground for the emergence of new factions. However, he also expressed hope in the enthusiasm and energy of young PDP members, encouraging them to step up and lead the party’s rebirth.
Finally, the discussion touched upon the paradox of some PDP leaders endorsing Tinubu while seeking to maintain a robust opposition role. Dr Adum argued that the current situation is a necessary phase for the PDP’s rebirth, as old structures decay to make way for new growth. He expressed hope in the energy of young PDP members and their potential to reorganise and reposition the party.
In conclusion, the National Platform WhatsApp loop Strategic Engagement Meeting with Dr. Alex Adum shed light on various challenges and opportunities facing the PDP. It provided a rare insight into the party’s future, its ongoing soul-search, and the complexities of Nigerian democracy in the midst of evolving political dynamics. It was great to see that the deep thrust into the affairs of the party was coming from an appointee of the Ortom administration as Dr Adum was suspended from office over alleged financial impropriety in September 2022 when the G5 group in the PDP, under the leadership of then Governors Nyesom Wike and Samuel Ortom, battled the Atiku group for the presidential flag of the party. An investigative Committee set up by the State Government established no case of financial impropriety or abuse of office and Dr Adum was reinstated by a statement issued by the then Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Anthony Ijohor. Analysts thought the suspension resulted from real and perceived allegiances in the unfolding political tussle and it led to the PDP’s poor showing at the polls.