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PDP’s baptism of fire


Alabi Williams

Were the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a smallholder entity or family business that is not well entrenched and has capacity to defend itself, it would have ended in a receivership, where new owners who were not part of the initial investment take brutal possession and put it to reckless use.

But the PDP is not just some business concern. It is a political party, one of the first three to commence this democratic journey in 1998/99. Apart from those who run the party, who use it as vehicle to run for elective offices, and others who used it to gain appointments into plum jobs and made huge profits for themselves, there are millions of Nigerians who are affected by whatever happens to the party. These Nigerians waited every year for the party to articulate their needs in the budgets. For sixteen years they waited. Not much was achieved because of profligate governance system.

And then the party lost the 2015 elections and was sent out of Aso Rock, Abuja. Which was good news. It was good news because the PDP created a privileged class for politically exposed persons, who were given access to state resources, while other Nigerians were not attended to. There was a yearning on the part of the people for an alternative, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) filled that gap. But those who came thereafter also didn’t get it right. The APC has been learning on the job and doing pitiable job of the mandate it sought so desperately. All the way from the inauguration speech of president Buhari, to appointment of his immediate staff and advisers, to budget preparation and execution, down to fiscal and economic policies, it has been one blunder after the other.

That was when many remembered that there was still a PDP, and began to pay some attention to it and the antics of those who were brought to rescue the party. After it lost the election, the party was thrown into disarray. The chairman who led it to the election, former Bauchi governor, Adamu Muazu absconded before a new government was put in place, feigning some ailment. Nobody heard again about him, until some monies were recovered at the Ikoyi towers in April. The facility was traced to him, but he claimed he had sold out before the EFCC exposed that scam. But that is not the point here. Muazu abandoned the party and his absence created a leadership tussle.

Governors of the party, led by Ayo Fayose of Ekiti and Nyesome Wike of Rivers, thought it was a nice strategy to hand over the party to former Borno governor, Ali Modu Sheriff in the interim. At that time, Sheriff had been without a party since his last gamble to head the APC failed. Strategists in the APC, apparently, saw through his wiles and conspired to work against his interest, despite his huge resources. He dumped the APC in anger and pretended to have joined the PDP. That was before the elections, when the PDP was desperate to hang on to anything, just to stay afloat.

Against wise counsel, the PDP governors fetched Sheriff and made him interim party chairman, to last for just three months, during which a national convention will hold to elect a new leadership. Sheriff agreed to comply with the brief the governors handed him, but deep in his heart, he had devious plans to outstay his welcome and plant himself as the substantive chairman. He summoned a convention by himself, and as well agreed not to contest for any position. But a few days to the convention billed for Port Harcourt, on August 17, 2016, Sheriff had planted surrogates to procure injunction in a Lagos high Court to truncate a convention he had already approved, as interim chairman, knowing that there was a strong resolve to debar him from presenting himself from election. That was the genesis of the crisis. He went from court to court, marshalling arguments why the caretaker committee headed by former Kaduna governor, Ahmed Makarfi, cannot substitute his leadership. That caretaker committee was put in place in Port Harcourt, as fallback after Sheriff successfully foiled the convention of the party. On the day of the convention, he was able to mobilse the police to cordon the convention ground. The Markarfi group had to go elsewhere to activate their plan B.

The matter went to the Appeal Court and Sheriff was victorious. He worked very hard to frustrate the other party from ventilating the subject at the Apex Court, where justice is still served with strict observance of the rule of law, the constitution and conscience. Sheriff lost last week and has been licking his wounds. He said he was shocked by the judgment. So, what was he promised? Why would a defendant in a case such as this not approach judgment with an open mind, knowing that anything could happen? The justices have been with all of us since the beginning of the cases. They know what the PDP has always been, and also knew when it went into receivership.

If there are those who are not familiar with the politics of Modu Sheriff, let them trace his journey so far. He has been with the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) from day one. If the APC did not eject him at their last convention in June 2014, when chief John Oyegun was elected chairman, he very likely wouldn’t go anywhere. He has nothing to do in the PDP, but he found it a very soft and vulnerable target at the time he was approached to lead from the front. Even after he had been offered amnesty by the Makarfi group, he is still sulking, simply because he has no passion for the PDP. If he had succeeded, he would have used the party to trade with those who frustrated him out of APC. That was his game plan.

Going forward, the PDP must learn hard lessons from the treachery of those who have no mercy for the organisation. They are everywhere, characters who sought to profiteer from the Sheriff onslaught. They are in the states and federal. The party does not need to chase them out. From these bitter lessons, let the constitution of the party be strengthened, to make it difficult for anybody or group to hold it to ransom. Those who left in a hurry because they wanted to get food on their table from the APC government should all be ashamed of themselves. APC itself is a product of hard work and discipline. Members of the APC were out there in the cold for many years. They stayed put and worked tirelessly to dethrone the ruling party.

Those in the PDP, who sat on the fence, hoping to benefit from whichever side attains victory, are not worth being representatives of the people. They are parasites, looking for free food. Those who tore their membership cards and pronounced PDP dead several times, but have been the most beneficiaries of this democratic dispensation, should eat their words. They cannot be God.

Kudos to Fayose and Wike, they fought the good fight. They put everything into it; to make sure Sheriff was brought down constitutionally. It was a peaceful exercise that will enrich this democracy. Makarfi was calm all the way. Kudos. Jerry Gana, tireless democrat and members of the BoT were exceptional, well behaved elders.

If we do not want the military to come back, if we do not want this democracy to collapse, then we have to grow the party system and allow it to mature. Owners of APC should learn from the PDP’s baptism of fire. If they are not going to plunge their party into endless crisis, this is the time to address all threats. They are visible, even to blind men.

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