Friday, October 9, 2015

PDP staff as whistleblower on party finance

One of the key ways of controlling party finance is disclosure. Recently, Nigerian media was replete with reports of allegations of mismanagement of the fund of the Peoples Democratic Party by members of the party’s National Working Committee. The accusations were made at a press conference addressed by staff of the party under the aegis of PDP Workers Welfare Association. What gave birth to the charges was the attempt by the party leadership to reduce the staff strength of the party by 50 per cent as well as reduce the emoluments of those to be retained by half.

The National Secretary of the party in a letter dated July 29, 2015 with reference number PS/DD/AD/HOD/SAs/PAS noted that the decisions were reached at the 406th meeting of the NWC.  Aside the fact that the establishment staff who would remain are required to obtain individual letter of revalidation from their State Party Chapter within one month of the circular, the party’s Research Directorate was also abolished and its functions transferred to the Peoples Democratic Institute.

The party’s attempt at downsizing was met with stiff resistance as the workers took the NWC to the cleaners calling them all sorts of unprintable names.   In a press statement jointly signed by the chairman of the Association, Ngozi Nzeh and Secretary, Dan Ochu-Baiye, the aggrieved workers alleged that the NWC members squandered N12 billion realized from the sales of expression of interest and nomination forms by aspirants in the lead up to the party primaries ahead of the 2015 general elections.

They also said that party delegates were compelled to pay the sum of N10,000  each into a private account of a company called Morufi  Nigeria  Ltd where over N1 billion was realized. They queried why the NWC compelled Party members to pay into a company account rather than the usual party account in the same Zenith Bank.  PDP staff equally revealed that legitimate bills owed to media houses, contractors and even cleaners have not been paid while most Party members who conducted congresses and primaries that generated these huge sums have also not been paid. The workers alleged further that the NWC are still using party finances to fund supposedly frivolous personal expenses such as weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals to the tune of hundreds of millions of naira.

It would be recalled that Peoples Democratic Party was worsted in the last general elections where it lost signally in the executive and legislative polls conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission at both federal and state levels to its main challenger, the All Progressives Congress. The party which had held sway since 1999 met its political Waterloo in the March/April 2015 general elections.

The administrative staff of the party advanced reasons for the party’s electoral misfortune. According to them: “Several factors have been adduced as the reasons why the party performed so poorly in the last general elections. We make bold to say that responsibility for the abysmal outing of the party should be located directly at the doorstep of the NWC members due to the following reasons:- Criminal imposition of unpopular candidates; Mind boggling extortion of aspirants…….Appointment of incompetent cronies who were specifically detailed to return unpopular candidates as officers in congresses and primaries. ……..Non remittance of campaign funds to state chapters; Results submitted by Congress Committees were blatantly changed; and wholesome embezzlement of proceeds of sales of nomination forms.”

The workers boasted that they have in their possession incriminating documents to indict the NWC. They called on the party’s Board of Trustees, the national caucus and other critical stakeholders to invoke the relevant section of the party’s constitution to hold a NEC meeting to sack the NWC. They also summoned anti-graft agencies such as the EFCC, the Police, and ICPC to beam their searchlight on the nefarious activities of the PDP NWC while finally demanding the withdrawal of the controversial circular. 

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa   Metuh while reacting to the workers allegations described them as baseless, falsehood and contrived. He stressed that the workers were only playing out the script they were handed by its arch rival All Progressives Congress.  (See Vanguard newspaper of August 1, 2015 for details)

The faceoff between the former ruling PDP and its workforce brings to fore the need for accountability and transparency within Nigeria’s political parties.  Internal party democracy remains a potent challenge in Nigeria’s political administration. Oftentimes, party members who supposed to be critical stakeholders in the affairs of the party are kept in the dark about the management of their political parties. This is not peculiar to the PDP but cut across most of the Nigerian political parties. The pertinent question to ask in this PDP scandal is, how did the National Working Committee of the PDP managed the party resources given the humongous amount raked in by the party in the lead up to the 2015 general elections?

It would be recalled that the immediate past ruling party mobilized over N21.3 billion at a controversial fundraiser held on December 20, 2014. This huge sum, we are told, are to be expended on the presidential election campaign of former President Goodluck Jonathan as well as party administration. This is aside the supposed N12bn allegedly realized from sales of nomination forms and the N1bn gotten from the party delegates’ N10, 000 per head payment. Could the PDP have become so broke as to want to now embark on staff rationalization? I do hope the incumbent party in power, APC, and other registered political parties in Nigeria will learn from the PDP debacle and run an open party administration.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja.