Still on PDP’s rigours of rebirth
How INEC’s Stand Restricted Sheriff’s Craft To Edo
As at last Tuesday, the leadership challenge of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had taken the form of a lucky dip. Deputy National Chairman of the faction led by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh raised the adrenalin of the Ahmed Makarfi caretaker committee, when he told journalists that out of the 12 governors that emerged on the platform of the now fractious party, nine were actually aligned to Sheriff’s leadership.
That same day, the chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, disclosed that PDP was afflicted by a demon, which he had identified as indiscipline. Within the inner caucuses of the state governors, the seeming game of roulette was proving very tricky, particularly knowing that a miscalculation would have a lot of untoward consequences for their continued dominance of their political fiefdom.
Although in the characteristic fashion of Nigerian politicians, it was not impossible that most of them, especially the first term governors were running with the hare and hunting with the hunt. So when Ojougboh disclosed that the Rivers and Ekiti strong men, Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose (the Rock); and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, were the exception he knew what was going on behind the scenes in the game of wits between the two sides.
But even as the former National vice chairman, South/South; made the revelation, most Nigerians that have been watching PDP rebirth pangs, felt that Sheriff was holding the short end of the stick in the fight. At least, for Ojuogboh to also disclose that efforts to resolve the lingering crisis were actively on, meant that his camp may be bargaining from a position of weakness, rather strength.
Perhaps Chief Ojuogboh, the Akinuwa of Agbor, must have come out to wean his principal back into the hearts of PDP faithful by situating the positive side to the perceived Sheriff’s obduracy. “What is happening in PDP,” Ojougboh declared, “would end up saving the party from future crisis because it would have remained ignorant and complacent if the crisis did not break out.”
Ojougboh’s inferences may be contested, but he seemed to hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that virtually all the various caucuses of the party were waiting for Sheriff for jubilation to break out in the party and the polity. Sheriff may have set out to reposition PDP, especially by calling the bluff of state governors, but he forgot to learn from history or apply the military strategy of gaining a foothold before striking.
It was the attempt to tame PDP that another former national chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, was ganged up against. If Sheriff actually wanted to deregulate the party, given the power of his office, he would have deferred the convention until certain things were put right. Even after the state and zonal congresses had held, if the chairman pulled back from convening the national convention, PDP would have been in a deeper mess. That way, it would have been safe to say like Ojougboh did, that Sheriff’s emergence was divine.
Whatever both camps may be aiming to do, if they really are working for the interest of PDP and its revival, Edo and Ondo governorship polls have become their test grounds. That Sheriff returned to Edo to wake up a candidate after the party’s caretaker committee had, through an elaborate process picked Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, did not show any such sensibilities.
But gauging from Ojougboh’s utterances, Sheriff might have used Edo to make his case for mutual respect in the attempt to make PDP one again. The deputy national chairman had said: “We are already negotiating. Negotiations and talks are already in top gear; we have made remarkable progress in the process of resolving the issues. The two parties are talking very seriously in various fronts, and these talks have progressed.”
INEC Shoots Sheriff
While the parties to the crisis continued their schemes and tricks, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), brought its power as the nation’s electoral referee to bear on the emerging confusion over who would fly the PDP’s flag in the September 10 Edo governorship election.
Deputy Director for Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Nick Dazang, disclosed that as at the last day for the submission of candidates, 19 political parties, including Action Aliance (AA), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Advance Congress of Democrats (ACD), Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Citizens Popular Party (CPP), Independent Democrats (ID) and PDP had sent in their nominees.
He said the electoral umpire decided to accept the candidate that emerged from the Ahmed Makarfi’s caretaker committee-organised primaries for two reasons. First, Dazang pointed out that INEC monitored the process, and second, the Port Harcourt Federal High Court ruling recognised Makarfi and his team as the authentic representatives of PDP leadership.
For rising to the occasion in such a timeous manner, as opposed to its usual dithering, analysts concluded that INEC saved the nation from a new cycle of political exasperation. Identifying Ize-Iyamu, who emerged on June 20 primary, as the PDP governorship candidate for Edo, Dazang had added: “The commission collected the nomination from the Makarfi-led faction because he has a court judgment that says INEC should accept his candidate. Secondly, you will recall that it is only his faction of PDP primary that the commission monitored.”
With that position, the nominee of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff camp, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekwemwen, was left in the lurch for what it was, a bargaining chip. To a very large extent, the INEC intervention put paid to whatever impetus Sheriff had to advance his dual project to Ondo State, despite the fact that the situation in the state, controlled by the chairman of the party’s governors’ forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, would have been too tricky for SAS.
Although, some ‘original’ PDP members in Ondo still grumble over Mimiko’s control of the party structure in the state, after crossing over from the Labour Party (LP), there was nothing on the ground in Ondo to show that Sheriff would have pulled a similar stunt as in Edo.
The threat of arrest issued by the spokesman of the PDP caretaker committee, Dayo Adeyeye, against Sheriff, for contempt, though dismissed by Ojougboh; helped to put the heat on the faction. As such, if it had such intentions, it would have been sneaking into Akure with the burden of contempt and explanations of how the Port Harcourt ruling did not effectively remove every claim he has to PDP leadership.
The Odds In Ondo
Like Edo State, Ondo has a second term governor on the verge of exit. But unlike Edo, Ondo’s incumbent has no federal might to drop. To some extent therefore, the competition ground in Ondo is level. A very tough battle is therefore fixing to take place there in November. If Mimiko was able to defeat two big elephants in 2007, from his lowly platform of LP, nothing removes the possibility of a similar scenario playing out in the state this governorship election year.
Mimiko’s former rivals, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), has transmuted to APC. And whether the party can still boast of its former vibrancy under the new cloak is open to conjecture. Then, having left his former platform upon which he downed the ‘Goliath’, the governor had also traveled to PDP, a former behemoth that is now embattled; being enmeshed in life-threatening leadership schisms. Then, there is an underdog: the resuscitated Social Democratic Party (SDP), has as its national chairman, Chief Olu Falae. Falae, contested the presidential election on SDP platform in 1991, before he was stopped alongside other political war horses by the military to make way for the ‘Newbreeds”. In 1999 he also made a ‘successful’ attempt for the presidency on Alliance for Democracy and All Peoples Party, joint platform. When AD began its migration and gyration, Falae went home to resurrect SDP.
Virtually all major and sideline participants in the Ondo governorship have moved around. Therefore the forthcoming governorship poll provides a unique opportunity for the juggernauts to prove their true political worth. Being a native of Ondo, Falae and his party, would likely remind the people of how far they have been denied of fruits of victory, first through MKO Abiola and then in 1999, when the military showed interest. So SDP would be going into the November election much the same way that Iroko entered the race in 2007.
With this rich background, depending on who the parties throw up as their arrowheads of attack, the defence teams would have to explain to the voters what they were able to do during their heydays. Would APC point to Lagos or Abuja this time to wage its campaign? How far could it go in the usual attacks on PDP to sell its candidate in Ondo?
For PDP, would it go into battle as a united front or fragmented by internal bickering and complaints of domination? To what extent could it successfully accuse APC of trying to effect political colonization of the Sunshine State? Are the past achievements of past eight years enough to disabuse the hearts of the voters from the feeling of disappointment?
Has SDP lost its appeal, such that the people would disregard its claims, what with its lightweight membership? Can the voters be sagacious enough to adopt SDP as its own platform for political expression of independence? How far could the prodigious political clout of Falae go in rousing the rural people into siding his party?
These are some of the mix of issues waiting to unfold in Ondo. But whichever way the pendulum swings both the gladiators and godfathers must have by now known that the November governorship poll is going to be a tough battle in Ondo.