Botched convention ‘saves’ PDP from the brink
Most members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have shared the opinion that the decision to postpone the national convention, which was scuttled by courts intervention, was a right step that saved the party from the brink of collapse; after its leaders reached a deal to extend the tenure of the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee by 12 months.
The party, which has been subjected to major political chaos, due to the intransigence of both its former Interim National Chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff and the governors’ inability to resolve the leadership crisis, survived a major catastrophe on Wednesday, as delegates in defiance of the security agencies, held an ‘abridged’ national convention at the Rivers State PDP’s secretariat in Port Harcourt.
The PDP national convention, which was slated for Wednesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was eventually postponed as hundreds of gun-wielding police, DSS and civil defense personnel, invaded the Sharks Stadium, the venue of the convention.
The security officials, who claimed to be acting on an Abuja High Court order that stopped the convention from holding, but feigned ignorance of a Federal High Court judgment, which directed them to provide security for the convention, ensured that delegates did not gain access to the stadium.
The security agencies also barricaded the entrance to the stadium with Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), as they sealed off several major roads like Azikiwe, Moscow, Marine Base, Bernard Carr, Potts Johnson Street, Hospital as well as Ogu Street.
Scores of traders who had prepared foods and drinks in expectation of the convention holding suffered losses as the delegates whom they were prepared to render the services to, were denied access to the venue.
Based on premonition that security agencies might be used to scuttle the convention, the secretary of the convention planning committee, Senator Ben Obi, had filed a suit number FHC/ PH/CS/585/2016, at a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, seeking to effect the judgment of the court delivered on the July 4, 2016 in suit FHC/PHC/CS/524/2016, which affirmed the appointment of Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee by the May 21 convention of the PDP and the sack of the Sherriff’s-led national executive.
Delivering judgment on the suit, Justice Ibrahim Watila, reaffirmed that the decision of the May 21 convention, which appointed the Makarfi-led caretaker committee was legal and the court’s ruling on the issue, was still subsisting.
It was on this premise, that he (Watila) ordered the police, DSS to provide security and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the convention as required by law.
But, irrespective of Justice Watila’s rulings, the security agencies opted to obey the rulings of the Abuja High Court, which stopped the convention.
By Tuesday evening, virtually all the PDP governors, members of the National Executive Council (NEC), Board of Trustees (BoT), the party’s National Assembly Caucus members, its 36 state chairmen and national officers and delegates had converged in Port Harcourt for the exercise; unfortunately most of them were jolted on Wednesday morning by the report that security agencies had invaded Sharks stadium.
However, the governors and some other national leaders of the party were quick to sense the danger ahead of the party, particularly when it dawned on them that the once most powerful political force in the country, was in danger of political oblivion, and to avert a major upheaval within the party, resolved after a closed door meeting, to relocate the convention to the PDP secretariat, along Aba Road.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Dayo Adeyeye, said in the circumstances, the party took some immediate steps in order to avert a lacuna and not to enter into a legal hole that will lead to its extinction.
According to him, “Of course, there were people who made suggestion that we should relocate the exercise to another venue, but the concern was those, who without any provocation decided to seal off that stadium, might come and invade the new place and cause more chaos. And that could have more negative consequences for our party.”
He explained that if the leaders had not taken proactive measure they took to extend the tenure of the caretaker committee, the story would have been different by now “imagine if we had gone to another venue to hold the convention and the security agents decided to come and dislodged us in the middle of the exercise, the whole thing would definitely erupt and we wouldn’t have been able to take the decision we took and that would have been the end of PDP,” he noted.
Apart from the decision that extended the tenure of the caretaker committee until another convention is convened within the next 12 months, other agreement reached was that that the national caretaker committee be expanded from seven members to 13 members.
The members of the national caretaker committee were also barred from contesting or aspiring to any national office in the party in the coming convention. It would be recalled that the initial seven-member national caretaker committee that was constituted at the May 21 convention had an understanding that they would not contest in the Wednesday’s aborted convention.
But contrary to that agreement, two members of the committee resigned to contest for offices in the convention. Therefore to remove that ambiguity, the party officially made a resolution that no member of the national caretaker committee will contest or aspire to any office in the next national convention.
A member of the party said the failure of PDP to elect its national officers at the convention was a clear indication there are more healings to do in the party but said prognosis for unity within the party was positive “as majority of the who-is-who in the party have continued to identify with the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee.”
It is anticipated that the next one-year would be used to ensure that contending forces within PDP were pulled back from their entrenched positions, refrain the party from endless litigations and position it on a genuine dialogue to end its crises.
The chairman of the convention planning committee and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, noted the calibre of members who graced the convention was a testimonial it has moved on after the unnecessary crisis generated by Sen. Sheriff.
Wike lamented that security agencies failed to obey the judgment order of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which directed it to provide security for the convention. He said it was disheartening that security agencies could allow themselves to be used illegally to invade the initial venue of the convention.
“All the vehicles used by the police to invade the Sharks Stadium were bought by my administration. All the APC they used were serviced by my administration. What happened was unfortunate,” he said.
Political analyst however, observed that the successive failure of the PDP to organise a rancour free convention, exposed the subdued political divergence that existed within it and compounded the consequences of its humiliating defeat in the 2015 general elections.
They posited that should the party fail to resolve its crisis, its prospects for a return to power in the near future looked dim.
Meanwhile, Adeyeye said the party’s reconciliation efforts would continue adding: “We have always extended our hands of fellowship to those of our members who are fighting the party. I don’t want to say they are aggrieved because there is nothing to be aggrieved about. They are fighting the party. We have extended our hands of fellowship to them and the olive branch is still extended as we speak. We want them to come and take the olive branch so that we can all come together and have one united party.”
In his observation on the crisis affecting the PDP, the Convener, Doing Democracy Movement Nigeria (DDM), Anyakwee Nsirimovu, said Nigerians deserved a viable, capable opposition party, which the PDP epitomizes
He, however, said that such enduring stability could only come to the PDP “only if it upholds the principle of participatory party organisation that is open, representative and accountable to its members.”
DDM also noted that one of the great challenges to Nigeria today, is the establishment of a loyal opposition, since it was impossible for any single party to represent the many diverse interests of a great, multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria. “The current political leadership of the PDP has a fundamental responsibility to deflate their inordinate power ambition, deter selfish interests and secure their place in the political history of Nigeria by ensuring that a viable, capable and informed loyal opposition emerges in-spite of their own personal greed.”