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PDP at crossroads over leadership tussle

By Samson Ezea
18 June 2016   |   1:19 am
Even as the ruling party in Nigeria for 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was always encumbered with several intra-party crises, which it has always managed to overcome, latching ...
Sheriff

Sheriff

Even as the ruling party in Nigeria for 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was always encumbered with several intra-party crises, which it has always managed to overcome, latching on the incumbency factor, government’s largesse and others.

Of the crises that have bedeviled the party before now, that of who occupies the national chairmanship seat has become a recurring decimal. Before now, it has pitched the major party stakeholders at all levels against each other. Severally, it was a bone of contention between the Presidency and the governors.

It all started a like child’s play in 2002 when the party conducted its national convention. The then National Chairman of the party and now Senator representing Benue East zone in the National Assembly, Engr. Barnabas Gemade and the National Secretary of the party, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo wanted to contest for a second term in office. Both men in their bid enjoyed the backing of the then vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and majority of the party governors, but were opposed by the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo prevailed on Gemade and Nwodo to shelve their ambition for the duo of Chief Audu Ogbeh for chairmanship position, and Chief Vincent Ogbulafor for secretary position to no avail. Perceiving that if the party delegates are allowed to vote in the convention, Ogbeh and Ogbulafor would lose, Obasanjo allegedly deployed under-arm tactics to coerce the Convention Committee members to change the constitutional rules of voting in the Convention. That was how the undemocratic and strange ideas of consensus and affirmation crept into the party’s way of choosing party leaders at the convention. With this, Ogbeh and Ogbulafor were chosen through consensus, a development that created deep animosity in the party.

Many believed that was the beginning of the undemocratic and crude intra-party politics that has continued to haunt the PDP till date, as subsequent national chairmen of the party have never been elected into office, rather there were all arranged into office through consensus or presidential directive.

It will be recalled that ahead of the 2015 polls, the position of the national chairmanship of the party was zoned to the Northeast. Election was organised by the party stakeholders from the zone and Dr. Musa Babayo, the then National Secretary of the party defeated his main rival, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.

But despite this, the Presidency in collaboration with some cabal in the party, decided otherwise by choosing Tukur as party national chairman, instead of Babayo. Tukur’s stay in office created deep animosity and unprecedented crisis in the party. Some PDP governors were pitched against their colleagues, Presidency and the party leadership as they battled for the soul of the party ahead of 2015 polls.

Neither the Presidency nor Tukur was able to provide solution to the intractable intra-party crisis that eventually led to the defection of the five governors of the party to All Progressives Congress (APC) before the last general elections. Tukur was later pressured to resign his position. He was replaced by the former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Muazu. Muazu led the party to the 2015 polls, which the party lost to the APC, first of its kind since the party was formed.

With PDP loss of the Presidency, the party stakeholders, instead of working towards rebuilding and repositioning the party ahead of the 2019 elections, engaged in blame-game and name-calling. Following the unending blame-game over the outcome of the polls, Muazu, citing personal reasons resigned his chairmanship position of the party in absence. That was how the deputy national chairman of the party South, Prince Uche Secondus became acting chairman of the party.

Subsequently, the disclosure of the alleged financial sleaze that characterised the immediate past administration in which some PDP leaders have been arrested and being tried did not help the party’s internal wranglings and dwindling image.

However, following Secondus’ overstay in office contrary to the party’s constitution, former Political Adviser to the President, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak approached the court and got a judgment that declared Secondus’ stay in office as illegal.

With the judgment, the search for the party’s next national chairman from Northeast zone began. While the search and intrigues that accompanied it lasted, many names were touted, but none was of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. Favoured to occupy the position by the party stakeholders from the Northeast zone which included the governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwabo, and his Taraba counterpart, Dairus Ishaku was former governor of the defunct Gongola State, Wilberforce Juta.

It was alleged that unknown to the Northeast party stakeholders, and without the knowledge of majority of the party’s bigwigs, the likes of Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, his Ekiti counterpart, Ayodele Fayose, Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremmadu and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) have secretly concluded plot to impose Sheriff on the party as acting chairman.

A former National Chairman of the party from the Southeast zone who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that the choice of Sheriff by a cabal in the party was typical of the party’s politics that has bogged it down for years now.

“They told us that Sheriff has the financial muscle to run the party, forgetting that money is not everything. They did it out of selfish reason, hoping that they will hijack the party structure for 2019. We heard that Sheriff has before now promised Wike and Fayose vice-president ticket in 2019.

“But before the Port Harcourt botched Convention, Wike and Fayose discovered Sheriff’s game plan. It was also discovered that he was allegedly behind the court order that halted the Convention to prolong his stay in office beyond 2018 as agreed by the party stakeholders,” the ex-national chairman said.

There is no doubt that since Sheriff emerged the acting chairman of the party, the party has not known peace. His emergence which was initially and vehemently resisted by the party’s former ministers, ex-governors and Board of Trustees (BoT) members, was later resolved temporary with a caveat that he would not stay in office beyond 2018. This consensus was reached ahead of the botched Port Harcourt Convention of the party, where Sheriff was unceremoniously removed and replaced with Caretaker Committee headed by former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.

But thereafter, Makarfi and Sheriff factions went ahead to procure court orders stopping each other from functioning as the party leadership until the cases are dispensed. In Sheriff’s absence, the BoT members who had earlier taken over the party’s national secretariat in Abuja recently handed over the running of the party affairs to Makarfi-led Committee. But Sheriff’s recent takeover of the secretariat has added another dimension to the leadership crisis.

The Makarfi-led Committee has accused Sheriff of acting the ruling party, APC’s written script, but Sheriff said he was too big to be a stooge and APC said that PDP is paying for past sins.

The Guardian investigation reveals that despite pretence by some major party stakeholders, Sheriff enjoys the support of two senators from Southeast and Southwest, some PDP governors who are not happy with Wike and Fayose, and also likely to leave the party by 2018 to the APC. It was revealed that was the reason some of the party’s governors are not funding the party, which was the practice when the party was in government at the centre.

The party’s biggest challenge as the crisis persists is how to peacefully execute the forthcoming Edo and Ondo States governorship elections.But former Minister of Transport and Southwest PDP leader, Chief Ebenezer Babatope told The Guardian that Sheriff and his supporters would meet their waterloo.

Sheriff’s Sojourn In PDP
Since 1999, Sheriff has remained a member of All Peoples Party (APP) that later changed to the All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) and recently fused with other parties to become All Progressives Congress (APC). While in the party, he served as Senator, governor and Chairman Board of Trustees (BoT).

His emergence and alleged unceremonious removal as the acting chairman of the PDP is becoming controversial and dramatic as his defection to the party before the 2015 polls.

After playing major role in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sheriff left the party after the emergence of Chief John Oyegun as the party’s national chairman against his preferred candidate, Chief Tom Ikimi.

Sheriff alongside the likes of former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Sokoto State of Attahiru Bafarawa and others defected to the PDP. They were all received into the party amid fanfare, even though the Borno State PDP members kicked against Sheriff’s defection to the party.

In order to give Sheriff a grand reception in the State, the Maiduguri Airport that was shut for long for security reason was specifically re-opened by the Federal Government for Sheriff’s use. That was how Sheriff suddenly became the PDP’s arrowhead in the Northeast zone after his promise to deliver the zone to the party in the 2015 polls.

He was alleged to be on President Goodluck Jonathan’s entourage to Chad Republic to meet the country’s President, Idris Deby over Boko Haram insurgence. After the polls, Sheriff did not only lose woefully in his State, PDP won only two governorship seats namely Taraba and Gombe States in the zone.

As it is today, it seems that Sheriff is the greatest albatross of the PDP, as the party struggles to play the opposition role that it is not familiar with. It is quite obvious that the speedy resolution of the current leadership crisis rocking the PDP or otherwise will go a long way in determining the survival or extinction of the party ahead of 2019 polls.