PDP: Working hard to rediscover self for 2019
When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja recently, it was not to sing its dirge or mourn the loss of certain prominent former members that have crossed over to the ‘winning side’. The meeting held outside the usual den of the lion in the good old days, was at least the first real sign that the party has not melted into the darkness of yesterday.
Meeting at the International Conference Centre, the NEC members wore the looks of an exiled government, rather than a government in exile. PDP is not dead or dying, but it has numerous ailments threatening to snuff life out of its existence. Some of these tedious afflictions include, defections of high net worth chieftains, sleeping cum disloyal patrons, dodgy litigations and political ambitions of promoters.
ONE of the unstated challenges facing PDP rebirth is the ambition of certain individuals within the party. And of all those aspirations, the presidential and position of the next national chairman rank higher than others.
In readiness for the 2019 presidential contest, most of the gladiators have raised their small circle of loyalists, ostensibly to ensure that they are not given the short end of the stick when the coast becomes clear.
Investigation by The Guardian however revealed that some of these concentric circles found within the PDP fold are tailored in such a way to serve dual purposes, including exploring the possibility of joining with like minds to dominate any viable political platform to actualize the presidential ambitions of the promoters.
While most of the focus groups for the presidency exist in the northern part of the country, the friendship clubs in the South-South and Southwest exist to serve the interest of aspirants for the office of national chairman of PDP.
At the build up to the twice-botched national convention of the party, three well-heeled juggernauts, namely Chief Olabode George, Alegho Raymond Dokpesi and Mr. Jimi Agbaje emerged to contest the position of the national chairman.
Although Otunba Gbenga Daniel was associated with the ambition to lead the party, his candidacy fizzled out when the governors showed preference for Agbaje. However, some friends of the former Ogun State governor have of recent began fresh moves to drag OGD into the fray, essentially to give him a strong pedestal to deliver a particular Yewa socialite as governor of Ogun State.
Of the two serving governors in the Southwest geopolitical zone-Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti States- only Mimiko was showing support for Bode George, in his aspiration to lead PDP.
But with the recent ascension of Fayose to the post of chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, the likelihood that the former Deputy National Chairman of the party for Southwest would smell the position of national chairman seems to be shrinking by the day. The belief in some circles is that the new change in the headship of the PDP Governors’ Forum has rekindled OGD’s interest in the position.
It was perhaps out of apprehension and outrage at the unfolding schemes in the party that former minister of transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, threatened to join camp with those who have sworn to bury PDP.
Although Babatope’s threats were directed at unsubstantiated plots to alter the zoning format, which ceded the chairmanship to the Southwest, most stalwarts in the party sensed that he was referring to the subterranean moves by some governors to shunt Olabode George aside from contention for the chairmanship.
Babatope, who spoke on behalf of Southwest PDP elders, described as treacherous the attempt to deny southwest of the chairmanship slot for the first time in the history of the PDP. He stated: “We are ready to fight; we are willing to dig into the trenches to protect and defend what is our right. If they are stubborn and indifferent to our position, we are capable and willing to help them pull down the house.”
But while the issue of national chairmanship is dividing the South, in the north potential presidential aspirants are joining forces in examining trends, tendencies and building scenarios. Apart from former Governor Sule Lamido, who has announced his preparedness to contest the presidency in 2019, other possible aspirants like former Education Minister, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau and former FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed, are quiet about their ambition.
Even at that, a coalition of youth groups working under the auspices of consensus alternative are said to be exploring the possibility of convincing the Gombe State Governor, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, to consider running for the presidential ticket.
MOST of those who attended the expanded NEC and caucus meeting in Abuja did not fail to note the negative toll that litigations were having on the efforts to regain PDP. Spokesman of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi wing of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, regretted that some members have allowed themselves to be used as instruments of destabilization by reactionary forces bent on diminishing the party.
“We will resolve this crisis and move ahead with our vision and mission for Nigeria,” Adeyeye stated, even as he noted the deleterious effect of the court cases on the party’s ability to play the role of opposition effectively.
Also, not long ago the Chairman of the 85-member Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee, Professor Jerry Gana, met with the national leader of Accord Party, Senator Rashidi Ladoja. Gana told journalists that the judgment of the Court of Appeal on the PDP leadership tussle would put to rest all doubts about the authentic leadership of the party.
Dregs of court pronouncements on the leadership tussle, particularly from some states do not leave leads for a possible easy resolution. For instance, a Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, which sacked the State Executive Committed loyal to the Ahmed Makarfi faction, held that at the point of the state congress, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Prof. Wale Oladipo were the recognised National Chairman and Secretary of the party.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who in his ruling declared Williams Ajayi and Ilesanmi Obe, as the authentic state chairman and secretary of PDP in the state, rebuffed the plea of a pending notice of appeal challenging the imposition of a lawyer on the party.
The judge asserted that the motion on notice filed by the defendants to substitute legal representation by bringing in Chief Mike Ozekhome as the lead counsel was not enough to delay the judgment.
The intricacies involved in the legal tactics employed by the two factions in the struggle for leadership, do not leave much room for optimism. But when the Ali Modu Sheriff mooted the idea of an end to litigation, stressing that it would not challenge the outcome of the expected judgment of the Court of Appeal, it gave a glimmer of hope of an early resolution of the impasse.
It is perhaps on account of the dodgy nature of the litigations that the Makarfi camp thinks of a plan B, including name change and fusion with other political parties. As it were, the name change was part of the demands being pushed forward by the Ladoja group in Accord Party.
Yet the Sheriff camp, which offered to cease further challenge of legal outcomes says it does not have any plans to adopt a name change, pointing out that instead of changing name, members should change their attitude and orientation away from imposition, impunity and adopt full internal democracy.
Spokesperson of the Sheriff camp, Hon Bernard Mikko told The Guardian that his faction is not doing anything about the awaited appeal. But could it be that the Sheriff faction has an inkling of the outcome of the appeal or made the offer to cease further challenge to extract similar promise from the Makarfi faction?
In reaction, Mikko said: “The Judiciary, particularly the Court of Appeal, is ideally an independent arm of government known to be the hope of the common man, out of our reach, influence and control. We cannot therefore make any suggestions after closing arguments have been made. However, under the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the judgment cannot be delayed more than 90 days.”
Additionally, the Sheriff group seems to have another joker: the Lagos High Court ruling, which outlawed the Port Harcourt convention that removed Sheriff remains unchallenged or vacated. It remains a puzzle why the battle weary combatants have not put all outstanding judicial huddles in one basket.
That may be why Mikko stressed that, “the pronouncement made by our Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Cairo Ojougbo, that we may not seek further Judgment was made in good faith.” However, Mikko was quick to point out that “this is a matter that concerns two parties and as such, not binding (on the other party), since no agreement than mere wish was made.” “It is an intention of goodwill and we expect the other side to be so committed. The ball is in the court of the Makarfi people,” he maintained.
The Sheriff faction believes that it is more than willing to settle the rift, pointing out that it has made many concessions, including calling for the dissolution of the two factional leaders to pave way for a compromise committee made up of thirty drawn from each camp to organise a national convention to give life back to PDP.
“What is before the Court of Appeal is a legal option,” Mikko explained. “The other is a political option. Both options are viable complementary alternatives that hold great future for our party. In any case, we are committed to working with all stakeholders, reconcile aggrieved members and minimize the level of impunity that has contributed to our electoral woes in the last general election. Nigerians are tired of failed promises and policy paralysis of the party.”
Sleepy Stalwarts With Dubious Loyalty
PERHAPS, the greatest danger militating against the reinvigoration of PDP is the activities of some stalwarts, especially some first term governors that have eyes set on defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
At the recent NEC, only two governors were present while the rest sent their deputies who attended more like observers than critical stakeholders. The position of these sleepy governors does not help the PDP to know who to actually count on for the realistic evaluation of issues. The Sheriff faction had on several occasions disclosed that most of the governors pledge their support and loyalty to it.
On their part the governors perceive the vocal and seeming hardline postures by the Governors of Rivers and Ekiti States, Nyesom Wike and Fayose as being unmindful of their political future. Thus the state governors prefer to wave their PDP flags in the daytime and retreat to APC leaders’ residences to discuss strategy and tactics for harmless defection.
This has made the avowed determination of some powerful elements in the APC to diminish PDP very feasible. For instance in Southeast, PDP cannot boast of the loyalty of more than one state governor. In South-South, only two governors could look their leaders in the eyes and pledge unalloyed loyalty.
High Prized Defections
THE leadership crisis in PDP has not allowed it to go-afishing for new high networth members. Except the boast by Senate Minority leader, Godswill Akpabio that 20 APC Senators were on the flank waiting to cross over to PDP, not much has been heard about the defection of big guns to the party.
Conversely, the party has been going through psychological trauma of losing its former allies in droves. Just in one week, PDP lost a former President of Senate, a former cabinet minister, a seating Senator, and countless other plans of defections to the APC.
Although former President of Senate, Ken Nnamani paved the way for his eventual defection by announcing his intention to withdraw from active partisan politics, it is doubtful whether the party has made genuine efforts to address the issues he raised in his letter of withdrawal of membership.
PDP has threatened to challenge the defection of Senator Effiong Bob, but it is left to be seen how far it could go in retrieving the mandates and to take advantage of a rerun in the light of what happened in Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
Senator Joel Ikenya, said his defection was in recognition of “the numerous achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari.” The former minister did not tell us when defection have become a source of reward for the achievements of another political party, but it is clear that the cloudy state of things in PDP creates enabling culture for defections.
In the Southeast, it is only a matter of weeks before all the Senators, but one from the states moves over to APC. Serious pressures are being brought to bear on Senator Andy Uba and others to join their allies in the ruling party.
As things stand in PDP, the removal of judicial road blocks, particularly the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, would pave the way for the party to show whether it is indeed a sleeping Lion as the new chairman of its Governors’ Forum claimed. Other cobwebs like institutional reforms and entrenching internal democracy and observance of the rule of law, could be cleared when the party ascertains who is within or should be weeded out.
Also, whether PDP remains in its original form and shape depends on the outcome of the Gana committee and its fence mending efforts. Whatever happens, the intrigues defining PDP’s tortuous journey to its rebirth are monumental.