Suspense, as PDP goes to Port again
Many people cite the dramatic exit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and recall the exchanges between Chief Chekwas Okorie and Sir Victor Umeh, during their leadership quarrels over the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). While they conclude that APGA never recovered from the curse placed on it by Okorie, those who fear that similar fate may befall PDP maintain that the ritual between Obasanjo and the party’s local government chairman during which the party’s symbol and representation was destroyed, was having a malefic effect on the party.
Others within the fractious party said it was in a bid to deliver the Umbrella from the evil spell placed on it by those who did not wish it well that the members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) decided to meet with the immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
It is not only in Africa that politics and mysticism mix. In the United States of America (US), former president Ronald Reagan’s wife, Nancy, was said to always consult astrologers when her husband wants to take important state decisions.
In PDP’s present structural circumstance, it may not be out of place for the party to seek deliverance from whatever has constituted an incubus against its progress, particularly after failing a major election. As the party plans its return journey to Port Harcourt, Nigerians would be watching to see how far the healing words from the Jonathan has gone to counteract the hateful utterances from the other former president.
Former President Jonathan had taken a philosophical perspective to the crisis bedeviling the party, which produced two presidents, many governors and countless legislators. He noted that what the party was going through were the challenges that befall assemblage of human being and organization, even as he encouraged the faithful to unite and resolve their differences.
Before Jonathan pacifying pleas, chairmen of the party from 29 state chapters had pledged their loyalty to the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee. In what appeared as obvious reaction to the declaration of support by the Borno State chapter of the party for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction, the state chairmen declared: “Our loyalty if first and foremost to the party and to the national caretaker committee, which is the product of the party’s highest decision making organ, the national convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State; and also affirmed by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on July 4, 2016.”
The 29 states PDP chairmen added that the subsisting court judgments of June 29, 2016 by Justice Valentine Ashi of the FCT High Court nullifying the amendments to the party’s constitution of 2014, nullifies Sheriff’s claims on it as the basis of the election of Adamu Mu’azu.
Further, the chairmen held that “the judgment of July 4, 2016, which ruled in favour of the caretaker national committee, also nullified Senator Sheriff as chairman of PDP”, adding that Justice Okon Abang cannot sit on appeal to hear the case when it is pending on appeal at a higher court.
Despite the general optimism that the return convention in Port Harcourt would give PDP its groove back, the fact that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff continues to make demands on the party paints a contrary picture. The unrelenting quest by the former Borno governor to retain the appellation of factional national chairman does not augur well for the party.
Being a man of means, SAS has so far shown his ability to use the courts to douse PDP’s rebuilding process. The frantic efforts by leading PDP stakeholders to pursue further reconciliation with the estranged national chairman gives him the impetus to set preconditions before he could let go. It does not seem to matter to Sheriff that his continuing struggles give him off as a desperate spoiler, rather he seems to enjoy the enormous distraction and unease his petulant quest leave on the PDP and those eager to have it back in one piece.
Some observers have noted how after Sheriff’s short visit to the United Kingdom he came back to begin anew his claim as the national chairman of PDP. Although Sheriff’s London visit coincided with President Muhammadu Buhari’s brief stay in UK for medical holiday over his ear infection, nobody has come out to suggest that SAS had any meeting with PMB.
It was also noted that the former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu, was also in London at about that time. But knowing the political differences between the two former governors, could the new development have provided a common ground for them to pursue common interests?
But references continue to be made concerning the marital relationship between the Buhari and Sheriff’s families. This inference further strengthens the narrative that Sheriff is working in cahoots with some stalwarts of All Progressives Congress (APC), to weaken PDP structure such that it becomes impotent to rise up as a powerful rallying point for opposition.
However, given APC’s internal contradictions, it is doubtful that the party has developed such foresight to articulate political mischief making against the former ruling party. Rather, what seems to be at play is the desire by different power foci in the north to position their men for the 2019 presidential election.
Even if Sheriff may have lost the gravitas to contest the presidency, there is the possibility that he may be fending for his own prospective aspirants for the number one political office in the land. Or alternatively Sheriff must have seen that the possession of the party structure enhances the ability to place governors, legislators and dispense other political favours.
All that, in addition to the possibility that some of those with eyes on different elective offices in 2019 could be urging him on to remain recalcitrant; make Sheriff obdurate to say good bye to PDP chairmanship.
Angle Of The Courts
The ignoble situation, which PDP has found itself, could be better understood against the background of the saying that the wheel of justice grinds slowly, but surely. And so with the number of cases lined up in the courts over the chairmanship tussle, PDP could be said to be standing between the devil and the deep blue sea.
With the nature of conflicting and mindboggling pronouncements oozing out of the courts, the possibility that the leadership of the party would ever reside in one entity dissolves into zero. This may be reason why the senator representing Ogun East senatorial district, Buruji Kashamu, expressed pessimism over the Port Harcourt return convention. While urging the party to reschedule the return convention, Senator Kashamu said holding the planned convention in Port Harcourt on August 17, 2016 could end up doing more harm than good to PDP.
Specifically, in his letter to both factions, the senator noted that the several court orders and judgments that were yet to be vacated could end up being the peg on which to nullify the convention if it holds. Kashamu had declared: “Going to Port Harcourt for another national convention on August 17, 2016; without addressing the issues might turn out to be an exercise in futility.
If PDP leaders listen to Kashamu and aborts the convention, the puzzle for the party would be, what happens to governorship candidates of the party in Edo and Ondo? Which camp, between Sheriff and Makarfi, would be the ultimate signature on the forms of the governorship candidates?
There is the thinking in some quarters that if PDP does not participate in the two governorship elections, the party may have begun its painful journey to oblivion. However, the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) quickly endorsed the Senator Makarfi caretaker committee of the party, gave early indication that the electoral body may have studied the party’s prognosis. That recognition also suggested that the action of the convention sacking Sheriff was in order, particularly going by the Port Harcourt Federal High Court ruling.
Waiting for the courts to deliver final ruling on the PDP crisis may amount to waiting for Godot, because it appears only the apex court could deliver such final pronouncement. At what point does the court lack the power to pry into the internal business of a political party? How far did PDP obey its constitution in its continuing efforts to rediscover itself? These are some of the arguments that still remain and only the courts can untie that Gordian knot.
Rehash Of Zoning Palaver:
There are indications that PDP’s journey to defeat started with interpretations given to its zoning format. After the 1999 presidential election, which the military skewed in favour of the Southwest, the first beneficiary, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo sought a second term in office against the general expectation that the erstwhile leader of G34 that transformed to PDP, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, should be allowed to run for the 2013 election in the spirit of power rotation among the six geopolitical zones.
Having breached the gentleman understanding, Obasanjo set the stage for the agitation by the North to contest the presidency in 2007. But perhaps out of anger and frustration from being prevented from continuing in office for a third term, the former president selected an outgoing governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and imposed him on the party.
As at the time of the PDP presidential primary election in 2006 many people expressed reservations about the physical health of Obasanjo’s preferred candidate. Discountenancing all those indicators, Yar’Adua was returned as winner of a fantastically rigged election. The new president was to die in office nearly three years after.
It was the death of the president in office that threw up new recriminations about the fidelity of the PDP zoning arrangement. The question that startled the country was whether by virtue of the zoning format a candidate should be selected from the north to complete Yar’Adua terms in office or the then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, should step in according to the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution.
After Jonathan completed the mandate years of Yar’Adua, he contested and won the presidency for a full four year term. But the attempt by the president to contest for a second term in office against the nagging agitation from the north led to the crushing defeat of the party in the 2015 election.
It was against that painful background that the PDP zoning committee under Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as acting national chairman ceded both the presidential and chairmanship positions to the north, ostensibly to indemnify the zone for the missed opportunities in 2010 and 2011. Again, the Southwest zone, which has never held the position of national chairman of PDP since the party was formed, kicked. It was the contention of some eminent stalwarts of the party from Southwest that it does not make good political sense to push both the chairmanship of the party and presidential ticket to the same north.
Those who opposed zoning the two positions to the north contended that if Southwest got the chairmanship, it would provide a level playing field for presidential aspirants from the north to contest for the party’ ticket in 2016. The cataclysmic ending of the first Port Harcourt national convention of the party paved the way for the emergence of the Makarfi caretaker committee.
But the new zoning committee headed by Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, introduced its own political mischief by carrying out a broad north-south zoning of political positions for the repeat national convention, thereby repeating the Obasanjo mistake.
Nonetheless those sub zoning provided disparate geopolitical zones in the two broad zones to meet and carry out further zoning. In the end, the Southwest got its deserved allotment of the post of national chairman to contest.
But the half-hearted zoning arrangement provided a fresh the ground for one of the aspirants for the post of national chairman from the South, Alegho Raymond Dokpesi, to begin his own recriminations on the grounds that the post had already been pronounced for the South as a political bloc. Dokpesi may have swelled the number of aggrieved party stalwarts in need of reconciliation and re-absorption.
At this point observers note that some of those grandstanding for one position or another may after all be setting the grounds for eventual defection to the ruling party. Would the Port Harcourt repeat convention provide another round of disaffection and disagreements? Who is for and against the rebuilding of the broken walls of PDP? If Makarfi’s caretaker committee is disbanded as Sheriff demanded as part of his conditions for peace, who presides over the affairs of PDP?
Disquiet In Southwest
At a time most people believe that the Southwest should be rejoicing over its triumph in the zoning war in PDP, the leaders appear to be divided by conflicting political interests. At a stakeholders’ conference organized by Governors Olusegun Mimiko and Ayodele Fayose of Ondo and Ekiti States, the attempt to select a consensus candidate for the post of national chairman ran into a hitch.
Although political heavyweights in the party from Southwest attended, it was obvious before the meeting that no concrete resolution would ensue from it. Professors Tunde Adeniran and Taoheed Adedoja, did not see the need for the meeting. Professor Adeniran not only shunned the meeting, but also described it as a jamboree.
Senator Kashamu who many believed had regained membership of the Southwest leadership caucus, stormed out of the meeting venue when members of his entourage were barred from entering the venue. The botched Akure meeting signaled the impending squabble in the Southwest PDP.
While the former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, indicated serious interest to contest for the position of national chairman, the general impression in the party was that all those who held sway during the immediate past era, leading to the 2015 poor electoral showing, should not find space in the new leadership.
Like George, his political godson and 2015 governorship candidate of the party in Lagos State, Jimi Agbaje, is also in the race to win. Sources indicated that following the chase of godfather and godson for the top party position, some leaders in the zone who did not know how to convince Chief George against the contest, are privy to plans to make the big man lose the election at Port Harcourt.
When that happens, it is left to be seen how the old man would comport himself and influence the progress of PDP in the zone. Yet there are those who argue that Southwest presupposes the mainland Yoruba States of Ogun and Oyo, stressing that Lagos has limitations in mobilizing the rest states in Southwest.
But those who are inclined towards Agbaje said he is more urbane and fits to the reputational management and marketing of PDP. Before he picked his nomination forms, there were speculations that the former governorship candidate, who gave a good account of his candidacy in the 2015 poll was reluctant to join the race.
While picking his forms in Abuja, however, Agbaje disclosed his intention to lead PDP “back to its winning ways.” He said: “As a candidate who does not belong to any of the factions in the party, I stand a better chance to unite all the contending forces. We accept that mistakes were made in the past in the PDP, especially with our internal democracy. So we have to go back to the position of the founding fathers of our party on internal democracy “And that means that we have to go back to our constitution.”
Given the pacifist disposition displayed by the Makarfi caretaker committee, it is expected that if the August 17 national convention succeeds in throwing up another dovish leader to anchor PDP’s rebirth, the march to renewal may have begun. But a lot depends on some masked men pulling the strings from the north.