How Jonathan, PDP is Ruling Nigeria with A Three-page “Clueless” Manifesto
On the eve of the elections, he published his review entitled “On Your Marks” in which he announced he would “pless [his] hand on the umblerra” – a comical phrase made popular by Nigeria’s first lady, Patience Jonathan – interpreted to mean that he will vote the Peoples Democratic Party.
Mr. Babalola is one of the 22 million Nigerians who voted for President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 election.
Mr. Babalola’s decision, like millions of other voters, depended solely on an isolated review of the candidates. Millions of voters pressed their inked thumbs on the umbrella logo of the PDP on ballot papers without considering the manifestos of their preferred candidate’s party.
“My voting decision was not based on the party’s manifesto, but individuals,” Mr. Babalola said while admitting he never sighted the party’s manifesto before the election.
PDP, which likes to describe itself as Africa’s largest political party, has ruled Nigeria since 2011 with a scant three-page blueprint that has no mention of job, employment or even corruption (or anti-corruption).
The party’s manifesto, last updated in 2010, ahead of the 2011 general election, is a scant 12-page handbook containing the guidelines the ruling party depends on for internal party governance as well as to draw up policies and programmes to rule Nigeria. The manifesto was conceived the party’s guiding principle.
The PDP adopted the current manifesto after dumping a more detailed version drawn up in 2006 by Nasir Elrufai – now in the opposition – and Osita Chidoka, boss of the federal road safety commission.
The current manifesto was written in support of the 2011 election of President Jonathan, but was not widely circulated to the Nigerian people as the party’s campaign relied largely on a grass-to-grace narrative the President Jonathan promoted during his campaign.
Linus Okafor, a philosopher who also voted PDP in 2011, played down the party’s manifesto in his voting decision-making process because he believed the document was drafted by some consultants and would not have much influence on the candidate.
“Party manifestos are not, at the moment, something that is applied in governance in Nigeria,” he said.
But a well drafted manifesto holds the advantage of spelling out clearly the core values that provide guidance to all governments elected on the party’s platform.
Since returning to democratic rule in 1999, the PDP has held on to power at both the centre and the states. Currently, the party has majority in the National Assembly, and controls 64 per cent of seats in state assemblies.
“I am satisfied that in addition to providing guidance, this manifesto constitutes the threshold menu which we, and future members of our party shall use to develop our policies and programmes,” President Goodluck Jonathan, said in a forward he wrote for the document.
The PDP operates the scantiest manifesto amongst its peers, globally.
The Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto is a 35-page – A4 paper sized – blueprint detailed down to issues like pensions, children support, nuclear energy and health care.
The ANC manifesto has detailed plan on broad issues from job creation to food security.
The Democratic Party of Kenya also has a manifesto detailing plans on all key human development areas, including its plans for families and Kenyans abroad.
The Liberal Democrats in Britain has a 111-page manifesto covering citizens’ values, finances, jobs, life, family and rights.
Inside the manifesto
The PDP manifesto starts with a foreword written by Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, where he declared the party was set up in 1998 “for the sole purpose of contesting and winning democratic elections” in all states and at all levels of government.
He argued that the manifesto would advance democracy and entrench the core values of decency, accountability, transparency, justice, equity and fairness in public life.
The following six pages of the handbook summarises the party’s philosophy of government, mission and vision statements, its covenant statement and political objectives.
The last three pages of the handbook described the party’s manifesto, covering only governance, economy, and judiciary – in one page each.
The party’s economic policy aims to establish Nigeria as Africa’s leading economy with a projection of 10 per cent “sustained growth” per annum.
PDP outlined its economic policy in three paragraphs, without a mention of “job” or “employment” the key economic challenges blamed for the skyrocketing insecurity in Nigeria.
“At the root of Nigeria’s political and social problems is poverty and low access to economic opportunities,” the party admitted in the manifesto, offering to solve it through a “virile diversified economy” that discourages rural urban migration. The prescription lacks specificity.
PDP’s economic policy is built around the realization of the Millenium Development Goals, developing the middle class and infrastructural improvements. All policy areas are mentioned without detailed realization plans.
Nigeria has a GDP of about $235 billion, the second-highest in Africa, according to World Bank data. But the country’s wealth does not trickle down to the masses. More than half of the population live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate is over 20 percent. Infrastructure, especially in the country’s rural areas, is underdeveloped in most areas and deteriorating in others.
The PDP has continually made rhetorics of its willingness to solve Nigeria’s poverty, unemployment and infrastructure challenges.
But the ruling manifesto clearly misses to say so and how. Rather the party’s fiscal mismanagement is overshadowed by corruption, inconsistency and ineptitude since 1999.
Ezenwa Nwagu, vice-president at Transparency in Nigeria, a non-profit that aims to promote transparency in government businesses, is not surprised by PDP manifesto’s lack of depth.
“The level of impunity right now does not suggest there is any political value guiding the decisions of party,” he said.
Mr. Nwagu read the founding manifesto of the party and said it was comprehensive, like the one that guided the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s regime.
PDP’s governance plan is simple, stated in six paragraphs and on one page.
The party’s policy direction on governance does not state plans, rather, it states how the party “shall be committed” to a selection of principles including ‘participatory democracy’, equal opportunities, federal system of government, accountability and transparency, and preservation of Nigeria’s secular status. Again, no specificity.
Judiciary and Justice
The party’s policy direction on justice and judiciary takes up less than half a page. The section was stated in four short sentences, describing general intentions but not detailed plans.
It is centred around upholding Nigeria’s constitution, the independence of the judiciary and “security of lives and property.”
The party’s manifesto clearly misses an opportunity to state the PDP plans to rid Nigeria of its chronic corruption. Not a mention of “corruption” was made in the entire document.
The PDP’s ruling manifesto, unlike its peers, has no policy framework or blueprint on key issues like education, health, taxes, transportation, energy, internal security, foreign relations and food security.
Although the PDP’s manifesto has been around since 2010, and was recently uploaded to the party’s new website, not so many people have seen it.
Guiding principle or manifesto
At the PDP’s national secretariat in Abuja, only few staffs admitted having knowledge of the manifesto.
When handed a copy, the party’s national publicity secretary, Olisah Metuh, flipped the pages and dismissed it as a guiding principle.
“This is not our manifesto,” he said. “This is an abridged version for the public, for the election. It is a guiding principle.”
Mr. Metuh argued that the party’s ‘manifesto’ is the founding manifesto, published in 1998 and the very detailed 2006 edition, used by the party between 2007 and 2011.
“We expect all our candidates to apply this,” he said, pointing to a 1998 founding manifesto. “This (2011 manifesto) is a guiding principle.”
A former official of the party (who sought anonymity) said a manifesto was never in the party’s plan in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
“This (2011 manifesto) was printed to make money off the party,” she said. “Nobody really sat down to draw a manifesto for this regime.”
Who needs a manifesto?
Many political analysts, including the party’s sympathisers and opposition, admitted they have never seen the PDP’s 2011 manifesto but expressed no shock about its lack of depth when given a copy.
“Has the PDP a manifesto?” Rotimi Fashakin, spokesman for the opposition Congress for Progressive Change asked.
Mr. Babalola does not however consider his last voting decision a mistake. In fact, he loathes the PDP, but insists he trusted the president’s personality. President Jonathan promoted his personality, during the campaigns, through an I-had-no-shoe campaign storyline.
“In deciding who to vote, more information is better than less, but the manifesto document is not key,” he says. “I don’t think we are at that age where manifesto counts. When I am voting, I look at the individual, not the party.”
Mr. Okafor, like Mr. Babalola, did not sight the party’s manifesto before taking his voting decision. He argued that comprehensive manifestoes are insignificant documents in Nigerian politics.
“Even if it is one page, its implementation depends on the individual who is the president,” Mr. Okafor said. “The reality is that in Nigeria the flag-bearer is more powerful than the party (PDP) instead of the other way round.”
The opposition disagrees. They argue that a detailed manifesto describes and guides the use of political power. And that it is impossible to plan for a country in a three-page handbook that has no specificity on programme implementation.
“You can’t plan for a country in three pages,” Nasir El-Rufai, a former member of the party said.
Isaac Ikotun, a sympathiser of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, argued that the PDP’s lack of a comprehensive manifesto “explains why the current government appears clueless.”
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