PDP: THE DANGER OF IMPLIED CRITIQUE By Paschal Obinna Duruaku

It was the best of times, but is it presently the worst? Had anyone offered any Nigerian 2 years ago what the PDP led federal governments achieved they would have taken it without a second thought: steady economic growth, the best employment record in 25 years, the delivery of long held Nigeria ambition of war on corruption through the establishment of EFCC and ICPC, respect of rule of law, freedom of speech and association, telecommunication revolution, the proactive and rigorous activities at NAFDAC, the mergers, acquisition and recapitalization in the banking sector, deregulation in the oil and gas sector, liberalization of the power sector, due process in contract acquisition and certification, social charter to support society’s poorest and most vulnerable members, reduction in external debt profile, massive construction and renovation of basic infrastructures, free education from primary to junior secondary under the UBEC programme of the PDP led government, revolution at the railway sector, etc

All of this was made possible by four election victories. And why shouldn’t there be a fifth in 2019? From pension to poverty alleviation to public-service reform, the PDP led governments had the only serious policy agenda on offer and drove it forward on every front. It was all a million miles from the weak policies of past administrations, after the cuts and chaos of the civil war. None of this underestimated the problems or the genuine disappointment and, in cases, disillusion that accompanies any other long-serving government. But there are two key things the PDP has to do at this juncture.

Firstly is to expose the strategy of pessimism with which the APC intends to defeat us, rather than fall in with it. Today under the APC government, Nigeria is a divided state where the crusade against corruption is targeted at the opposition and judges are blackmailed to subvert justice.

The second is to renew the PDP in a way that builds on the big idea behind the PDP policy thrust: that economic efficiency and social justice should be compatible; indeed without expanding opportunity there will be no economic success. That is why education is as much an economic and a moral imperative. If the economy is run badly, the public investment we want will be impossible. Simply putting money into public services isn’t enough- so efficiency is a central component of achieving justice.

The PDP has the best arguments on fairness and on the future, which is why our opponents are pretending to move on to our ground. So when APC of CHANGE they need to be clear. Are they renewing the same direction that PDP led government had taken in government or changing direction? Today in Nigeria, people don’t want less contestability, diversity of provision and consumer choice but more. In my view, CHANGE should mean taking further what the PDP past government did. We want to see the public sector become truly enabling, not controlling, breaking up monopoly provision, extending choice and voice, eliminating old barriers that restrict the creativity of the frontline (military, police etc).

To win in 2019, PDP should be a party of enterprise and business as well as trade unions. I believe these are the correct positions for progressive politics in the modern era. The time for coded references and implied critique is gone. When you read through our national dailies detractors are clearer about what they oppose than what might be a viable programme for the PDP. At the heart of this criticism lies a recognizable narrative – the myth of betrayal.

The PDP now face an APC government that is very determined to hold on to the centre ground. But again Nigerians should pause before succumbing to their pessimism. The APC have got a slick PR strategy. But they have flunked all real-life policy decisions made. They think strategy is all. It isn’t. The best strategy comes from the best ideas. And they don’t have any. I agree that CHANGE is vital and a constant. For me CHANGE starts not with looking back in anger but looking forward in hope and expectation. And hope is founded on a clear conviction. If PDP remain together and strong we will win in 2019.

The PDP led Federal governments had a proud economic record. The APC government has failed woefully to foster public and private investment in education, skill and infrastructure; energy security and sustainable growth; streamlining planning and stimulating private enterprise to give us knowledge based high value-added industrial and service base.

The APC government is not ambitious in addressing the problems of the most socially excluded through public service reforms, greater diversity of provision, payment by result, and individualized budgets. As public service were made a self-improving system under successive PDP governments, the APC government has refused to restructure the federal, state and local governments. The APC government has also failed to commence a radical reform of the criminal-justice system that focuses on the offender, not simply the offence and the rights of the victim.

Under the APC government, our foreign policies are no longer interventionist, internationalist, multilateralist usually driven by our values. The international institutions that embody these values have to be reformed and respond to African’s biggest challenges.

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