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The battle to save PDP’s soul

By Sunny Ogefere
23 September 2016   |   4:42 am
A breather was given to the main opposition party in Nigeria - the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when the key actors of the two divide resolved to work together and forge a common front in the interest of the party and the country.
Ahmed Makarfi

Ahmed Makarfi

• Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s connection
• How NJC’s investigations aided truce

A breather was given to the main opposition party in Nigeria – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when the key actors of the two divide resolved to work together and forge a common front in the interest of the party and the country.

While keen observers wait to see how the agreement plays out, the breakthrough that culminated in the coming together of Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee and the factional Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has been attributed to many factors.

These include the probe of the contradictory judgments by the different divisions of the Federal High Courts and the ‘influence’ of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Both parties have met before now and actually were on the verge of reaching similar agreement at the Taraba Government House lodge but was allegedly truncated when some governors from the southern part of the country, insisted on not having anything to do with Sheriff.

Similarly, the form 48 issued by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja was pending and sources claimed that conviction was pending for Makarfi and co.

Besides the contempt of court hanging on them, there was the investigation initiated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) which outcome the factions felt should be preempted by reaching political solutions fast.

Specifically, the main actors in the Makarfi’s faction might have been influenced by considerations for the overall interest of the party, the legitimacy or otherwise of the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee as well as the genuine opinion of strategic stakeholders.

“On our part, we considered various aspects of the issue chief among them were the interest of the party and the country. We also looked at the implications of all the legal tussles and the fact that we were not making progress,” an official in the Makarfi faction disclosed.

These, it was argued along with the sense of responsibility on the part of stakeholders may have contributed to the process of reconciliation and rejuvenating the PDP by the party faithful.

Obasanjo who ruled the country on the platform of PDP, was said to have been very bitter on the state of affairs of the parties and sources claimed that his suggestions impacted heavily on the decision of Sheriff to reach a consensus with Makarfi.

Obasanjo met with Sheriff on September 3, and after a closed door session advocated a strong opposition party and a strong party in power as a recipe for Nigeria’s democracy to be strong, dynamic and cherished.

Though he disclosed that Sheriff called him to book the meeting, the former President could not hide his feelings on the state of political parties in the country.

He described the PDP as “a party whose soul has been taken away and a party in comatose”.

”The soul of that party has been taken out of it. And those who allowed that to happen, unfortunately either in the country or out of the country, are unperturbed about the fate of that party and indeed the fate of the country.

“Because, for our democracy to thrive, we need a strong political party in government and strong political party in opposition. For democracy to be strong and dynamic, today’s PDP cannot claim to be a strong party in opposition. I don’t know if APC can claim, at the national level, to be a strong party in government either now, that is part of the misfortune of this country today”.

On his part, Sheriff who extolled the leadership of the former President said his visit was part of the ongoing consultation aimed at finding lasting solutions to the leadership crisis in the PDP.

Sheriff said he visited the former President because he was looking for solution to the PDP crisis, stressing jocularly that the missing soul of the party might be retrieved from Obasanjo.

When asked to confirm if the former President had a hand in the truce, the spokesman of Sheriff’s faction of PDP said: “There was wide consultation among PDP stakeholders in Nigeria.”

“Remember that there was a public statement credited to Chief Obasanjo that both the ruling APC and the opposition PDP need to be strong to provide the political leadership that will ensure national development. Although the former President is not officially back in PDP, he could be a strategic stakeholder that could be consulted,” he added.

However, Mikko argued that it was not yet uhuru for PDP and that the process for victory has just begun.

“Some people will think we have been victorious, we have not, we have not won and Makarfi has not lost. We will win when the party bounces back as a strong opposition party, united with the power residing with the people where there is no more impunity.

“You know contradictions strengthens the system … at the end of the day, we will come out stronger. Our objective is to ensure that the party is given back to the people; where the impression is giving that government is all and all. Government do not form party, it is the party that forms the government,” he stated.

Mikko said that Sheriff’s job was not done until the impunity in PDP has been completely eradicated and rule of law enthroned.

His words: “Sheriff wants to build a robust political system where PDP will be guided by the rule of law and provide alternative shades of opinion to the ruling APC. The internal leadership crisis instigated by a few PDP governors can’t be completely resolved by litigation alone and we are glad Sheriff has set the pace for the resolution of political and legal challenges that will engender legitimacy, confidence and trust in our party.”

PDP had had a history of leadership crisis with most of its national chairmen virtually sacked in controversial circumstances.

Former chairman and ex-governor of Bauchi state, Adamu Mu’azu had surrendered to pressure and resigned following PDP’s defeat at the 2015 general elections by the then opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). His deputy, Prince Uche Secondus, had taken charge as the acting national chairman pending the election of a substantive chairman.

Secondus was not exempted from attacks and pressures by those who regarded him as part of the problems that led to the defeat of the party particularly at the presidential election.

Besides, Secondus was accused of usurping the position of the North East contrary to the provisions of the party’s Constitution. Ahmed Gulak former Special Assistant to then President Goodluck Jonathan who championed this course eventually booted Secondus out with a court order he secured to that effect.

The respite that was expected in the party when Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was drafted in by the PDP Governors and other stakeholders turned out to be a stoking of the fire. Sheriff who was empowered to lead the party for a period of three months schemed to perpetuate himself in relevance not just becoming the chairman till 2018 but also possibly emerging the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 general election.

The consequence was the emergence of two main factions that led to the holding of parallel conventions of the party in Port Harcourt and Abuja on May 21 this year. The problem was however compounded when Sheriff was removed and the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Committee was inaugurated, coupled with the confusion created various court orders, rulings and injunctions obtained by the different factions.

The two factions have clashed physically over who occupies the Wadata House national headquarters in Abuja and in a bid to avoid chaos and the attendant loss of lives and property, the police has sealed up the premises for about 53 days now.

Hopes of resolution of the impasse that pitched the ousted national chairman’s group against the National Caretaker Committee were raised recently when it became public knowledge that both factions met to find the way forward