Alhaji Umaru Dikko, the Kingpin of the Shagari era politics in Nigeria, has a new name. He is now the Disciplinarian-in-Chief of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). If you are in doubt about his new status, then you have to take recourse to the latest news in town. He has been named the chairman of the Party’s Disciplinary Committee just set up
How did this come to be? The PDP, after pounding itself into smithereens, needs to be remolded for the battle ahead. It needs to look inwards with a view to knowing what went wrong. Having done that, the party must strive to rid itself of bad eggs. It must insist on members doing the right thing and obeying the rules and regulations as provided for in the party’s rule book.
Before now, the party was largely known for impunity. Members do not play by the rules. The leadership itself has been even more reckless. It inflicts indiscipline and brigandage on the party and charges at anybody who contests such impunity to leave it alone to deal with its family affair. Somehow, the party, over the years, has managed to stay afloat in spite of its many drawbacks.
However, with the menacing threat posed by the opposition coalition called the APC (All Progressives Congress) and the gyrations of the many renegades within the PDP fold, the party has begun to reexamine its survival strategies. That is why it set up two adhoc committees to deal with the many unsettled issues confronting it.
The first to come was the Seriake Dickson Reconciliation Committee. The Governor of Bayelsa State, together with members of his Committee, is expected to reconcile aggrieved members and factions of the party. Many have since faulted the choice of Dickson for a number of reasons, particularly for the fact that it would detract from his job of governing his state.
But I feel a different worry about Dickson’s assignment. I had thought that such a sensitive role should be played by someone who is not openly partisan. Dickson, from what we know and can see, is a stooge of President Jonathan. He has, in seeking to protect Jonathan and himself, inflicted a lot of mental injury on some party members. How, for instance, can a Dickson be the one to reconcile Timipreye Sylva, his immediate predecessor, with the PDP? Dickson, in association with Jonathan, got PDP to dump Sylva. Now, how will this reconciliation come about? What will be its content? I suspect that everything about it will be Herculean for Dickson and his committee.
How about the Chibuike Amaechi face-off with PDP? Can a Dickson who has been speaking ill of Amaechi over the disputed oil wells between his state and Amaechi’s be the right candidate to get Amaechi to think positively of PDP? I have my doubts. With these hang-ups and others that look like them, the reconciliation drive which Dickson is piloting is likely to suffer a huge setback.
The many odds afflicting the Dickson committee were yet to be straightened out when the party went ahead to set up another octopus of a committee. This time it is the Umaru Dikko Committee whose job is to ensure discipline within the party. We have already outlined the possible scenarios that gave birth to the committee But we must take a step further by situating the man, Dikko.
Some 30 years ago, Dikko was the most notorious name within the then ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). His notoriety was legendary. He was one of the most uncivil among members of the party. He had an air of haughtiness around him. He became fully notorious when he jibed at those who felt that there was hardship and hunger in the land. Dikko wondered why anybody would say so when Nigerians were not eating from the dustbins. He, indeed, was one of the ugliest stories that wafted out of the covens of Shehu Shagari’s government where he (Dikko) was the Minister of Transport. It was therefore little wonder that when Buhari and Idiagbon struck on December 31, 1983, one of the personalities they wanted to grab was Dikko. Months later, the Buhari government made a failed attempt to forcibly bring him back to the country in a crate.
Since 1983 when Dikko and his cohorts lost power, the man has been in oblivion. Nigerians have forgotten him and whatever he represented. Besides, for a politician who played a very active role in the death of a government that left office some 30 years ago, our expectation is that Dikko will be too old by now to be saddled with a very important assignment such as that of discipline in a political party. I do not know how old this Dikko is, but I want to believe that he is over 70 years of age. So how can a man of such age be active in such a drive?
But the more crucial issue borders on the personality of the man we are talking about. Since Dikko fell into disrepute 30 years ago, I am not aware that he has gone through any form of rebirth. He has not expressed regret over his inglorious actions. There has been no show of remorse on his part. He has, instead, maintained a suspicious silence over his role in the Shagari regime.
It is therefore a surprise to see a man who represented the worst form of indiscipline in our recent history metamorphose into an icon of discipline. It is not possible for Dikko to emerge from nowhere and become a model to be held out for emulation. He must be seen to have gone through some cleansing and this must be recognized and felt in the public sphere. Since Dikko is not known to have done anything of that nature, his new fangled role of a disciplinarian can only rankle. It can only sound laughable. It will even make the party he is representing look unserious whenever matters of discipline are being talked about.
But even when we leave Dikko out of the set-up and consider discipline within PDP for what it should mean or represent, we cannot but raise vital issues. The idea of discipline here presupposes that someone is standing on a very high moral pedestal. It means that somebody somewhere is feeling holier than thou. If these assumptions are correct, and I believe they are, then the PDP must be putting its worst foot forward. An organization that is not firmly rooted in matters of discipline cannot afford to treat some of its own as outcasts or moral perverts. Such a sanctimonious posturing cannot work. It can only bring resentment and even revolt.
If PDP wants to return itself to the path of discipline, then it has to begin anew. It has to begin, henceforth, to enthrone a culture of fairness and justice. When party members are not willfully denied anything that is due to them by a rampaging leadership, they will begin to pay heed to the rules and regulations governing the party. But when equity and fair play become strange bedfellows in the affairs of a party, its members cannot but act in ways and manners that will show that they are faithful disciples of their parent body. Reconciliation committees may be an option at some point. But they can only be efficacious in an atmosphere of discipline and fair play.