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SUNDAY NARRATIVE: PDP: Still On The Watch List




I did not imagine that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still has enough value to generate the kind of interest we saw last two weeks, and still ongoing. If the party were some commodity on the stock market, its value would have enjoyed astonishing rebound, even momentarily. Such could trigger better days, if owners of the item are smart to reinvest and prop up the value.

Remnants of party members, who had been too shy to pick the pieces of their party after the trouncing at the polls last year, were shell-shocked when the unexpected happened. Governors of the party under leadership of the Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who, apparently, were fed up with the pussyfooting over a recovery plan for their comatose party decided to do the needful. They ignited the action that got everyone reeling in consternation. The governors, in collusion with members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and its leadership caucus in the National Assembly facilitated the crowning of former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, as replacement for former national chairman, Adamu Muazu, also former governor of Bauchi State, who left the party in the lurch shortly before the PDP handed over the reigns of government to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Muazu did a lot of dissembling during the campaigns and in the course of the polls. His body language showed a man whose soul had been rented out, but he needed to just tag along the Goodluck Jonathan campaign train, which had been drained of all links to northern voters. Muazu and other northern leaders who were supposed to market Jonathan did more of subterranean de-marketing of their candidate. After their loss, Muazu had to feign an alibi. He reportedly took ill and was transported to some undisclosed offshore location. He was to later tender his resignation letter, following which Uche Secondus, until then deputy national chairman had to take charge as acting national chairman, pending the election of a substantive chairman. That substantive chairman is Modu Sheriff.

And it took a while for that to happen. The party had zoned the position of national chairman to the Northeast, but the hurried disappearance of Muazu created a gap that needed to be carefully managed, just like the death of Umar Yar’Adua required the ‘doctrine of Necessity’ to resolve. Secondus’ interim chairmanship ought to have terminated earlier were the PDP to have recovered fast from its electoral losses, but was left to drag endlessly. That prompted feelings of deprivation among PDP members in the Northeast, whose zone had the chairmanship. Ahmed Gulak, former political adviser to president Jonathan, was the one who had the gumption to challenge Secondus’ continued stay in that office. He approached the court and obtained favourable judgment as the court ruled that the party should appoint a person from the Northeast as chairman within 14 days. But the party filed an appeal and the matter was becoming a ding-dong. Gulak on January 27 had to storm the party secretariat, where he declared himself as chairman.

The matter with PDP was getting messier and Sherrif was brought in, apparently, to prevent it from worsening. Whether that is the solution the party needed to move forward is a matter that only time can reveal. But the immediate reactions to the emergence of Sherrif were frightening. Former president Obasanjo, who first sounded PDP’s death knell by tearing his membership card in February 2015, was among the first to jab at the party. He reportedly called for a ‘minute silence’ for the party. In order words, the PDP has now been put on death row.

Countdown to 2015 elections, Obasanjo made no pretenses regarding his newfound hatred for the PDP. After his several warning letters to party leaders and the Presidency, that were not heeded, the man decided to stage a rite to mark the impending calamity that was to befall the PDP. He tore his membership card at a most crucial stage in the survival of the party. The import of that ceremony was not lost on the perceptive audience. The prediction was for the PDP to degenerate. The PDP lost the election, but managed not to be obliterated. The import of ‘one minute silence’ is another prediction to ditch the party in the awaiting room for final cremation.

Other well-meaning stakeholders have equally voiced their apprehensions for their party. They think it was an act of self-immolation to surrender the party, no matter how interim, to a Modu Sheriff, who is everything but PDP in character and nature. They say he has never been one of them and cannot understand the physiology of their party to know its ailments and how to cure it. The worst fears they harbour of Modu Sheriff is that which attributes to him consanguineous relationship with felons of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, which has caused daytime nightmare for Nigeria since 2009.

Indeed, Modu Sheriff had been a strong opposition leader between 1999 and 2015, until the coalition of former opposition parties transmuted into the All Progressives Congress (APC), of which he was a founding member and financier, according to reports. All the years the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) was in opposition, Sheriff was one of its strong pillars. When candidate Muhammadu Buhari used the platform of the party to run for president in 2003 and 2007, Sheriff was there as a strong ally and financier. A lot had been said of the ego ‘war’ between Sheriff and former governor of Lagos State, and leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that led to the exit of Sheriff form the APC. Sheriff was present at the convention of the party where national chairman Odigie Oyegun was elected, some still maintain selected.

The point is that Sheriff had spent a lot time in the ANPP and APC not to hurriedly forget the underpinning mindset of his previous parties, as distinct from the PDP orientation. The argument has been that today’s political parties are fluid and ideologically indiscrete, given the reckless manner politicians flee from one party to another at the slightest provocation. But that does not diminish the fact that Sheriff has been largely ANPP/APC from the beginning until recently. If the weather becomes clement for him to return to his former party, the likelihood for him to nurse sentimental attachment for his former party cannot be wished away.

Some even express the extreme nightmare that he might be a mole to spy on the PDP, and later return to cause more damage. That is the anxiety of some who say the man is too new to be handed the critical assignment of healing the PDP and restoring its fading hope for better years.

The other leg of the argument that links Sheriff to Boko Haram is the really disturbing aspect. Indeed, the man was governor of Borno for eight years, during which Boko Haram was said to be in its formative years. Some have tried to link the leadership of the sect to the political leadership of Sheriff. Senior citizens who should know better have endorsed this narrative, but the State security apparatuses have been unable to truly unveil the characters behind Boko Haram. All the time Sheriff was in ANPP/APC, some who now shout to high heavens about their knowledge of his relationship with Boko Haram kept sealed lips. Even those who had been investigated to have links with the insurgents, and those who issued statements in their defence against the State in those trying days, are now big players in government. Until Nigeria is ready to unveil the truth about what went wrong in the Northeast, labeling one man as the cause of the problem whenever it is politically convenient may not solve the problem.

For now, it is the duty of those who brought Sheriff to assuage all fears. They are the ones who should assure their members of the sincerity of their mission, which is to heal and restore the party ahead of 2019. Trust is very important here, for the new PDP chairman and his party members. They need to be in one accord.

I see this development as one critical juncture that requires unconventional approach to deal with. Those in the PDP who had gone underground since the fortune of the party dipped should not cry too loud. If they had been forthcoming, perhaps, there wouldn’t have been any need to import a Sheriff. After all, they did not man their posts in 2015, leading to their party’s dismal outing.

Any further mismanagement of the ailing party could bring to life the prediction of ‘a minute silence’, and all of you will be losers!

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