By Simeon Nwakaudu
If you ask me, the difference between a party that is on ground and the one that exists on the pages of newspapers is the capacity to conduct a successful ward congress. If a party is popular with the people, ward congress comes easy.
I say this because the ward congress takes all politicians to their respective communities to interact with people who know them closely. At this level, you cannot lie, the people know you.
This is the reason some parties in Rivers State have fizzled out. Since 2015, leaders of these parties, especially one of them, have lost touch with residents of the state. They have been having unending crises and bickering.
One of the parties that is only on the pages of newspapers practiced what many called ‘smash and grab’ during its failed congresses. This is because one of the leaders of that party has lost touch with Rivers people and cannot withstand the scrutiny of ward congress.
It is even more horrifying because those who lost touch with their localities had to rely on the services of security agents from the centre to assist them in their smash and grab. These elements and their few followers cannot peacefully stand on queues to contest with different political views within their ailing political parties and structures.
At first, the so-called leaders tried an ugly smash and grab at their party’s secretariat in Port Harcourt. They were resisted and the plot came to nought.
They ran to Novotel Hotel to tinker with the process of their ward congress. Again, they were resisted. The move failed woefully. Their list was rejected.
There was yet another attempt at Intels in Port Harcourt. Like every other attempt, this one also failed.
But it must be stated that these attempts at ward congress were dogged by extreme violence.
On the other hand, the Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ward congress of March 14, 2020, was a loud statement of genuine intra-party democracy.
Different interest groups within the party slugged it out. All the dynamics of political struggle were thrown up. All political views linked up with the people to promote themselves and their candidates.
There was no attempt to use law enforcement agencies to smash and grab. There was no need to invite security agents to cart away electoral materials to a hotel for manipulation.
Right inside my office, I watched the live Facebook video of the distribution of electoral materials at the state’s party secretariat.
I watched as voting took place in different wards across the state. Party members streamed proceedings for the rest of us to watch and assess the conduct of the ward congress.
Across the 23 local government areas and 319 electoral wards, Rivers PDP members displayed their civility and love for voting. They exhibited their preference of one-man, one vote. Without any intimidation or crude flaunting of power the PDP ward congress in Rivers State went on peacefully and without rancour. The true Rivers spirit was on display.
Of course, there were one or two dissenting voices. This is expected wherever people from different backgrounds gather. But such disagreements, I am told, would be peacefully tabled before the Ward Congress Appeals Committee.
Like Governor Nyesom Wike said, PDP is the only political party in Rivers State. This party is now a tradition. It is a way of life. From 1998 to date, no other party has worked for Rivers people like the PDP.
I am happy with the number of youths that made inroads into the party during the ward congress. I congratulate them and wish them a fruitful journey up the political ladder.
With the successful conduct of the Rivers State PDP ward congress, the party can only grow stronger. With the successful conduct of the ward congress, the roots of PDP will grow deeper into Rivers State. It can only get better.
If you think it is easy to conduct a peaceful and successful ward congress, then ask the lion and his people to do same. No be to make mouth.