PDP: Challenged by curious judgments, dubious members
The unexpected ending to the recent repeat convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), once again raises questions about the party’s trajectory.
While the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) succeeded in demonizing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a Peoples Domination Party, the loyal members of PDP have since after the 2015 general election continued efforts to reposition the party as a People-Dependent Platform. By virtue of the caliber and vision of those who founded it, PDP was embraced as the platform for national mobilization, cohesion and democratic empowerment.
But towards the buildup to the 1999 election, the military infested the party with a virus, which began the transmutation within the body fabric of the party. It was clear that after May 29, 1999 PDP gradually took the shape of Peoples Domination Party (PDP2).Fourteen years later, at a remedial convention, a part of the PDP moved out to join the APC and they styled themselves as nPDP. Watchers of national politics say that the exit of that fraction from the membership of PDP provided the real impetus for the dethroning of the former ruling party in the 2015 general election,
And with the defeat of PDP came about a rash of defections and retirement from partisan politics by others. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo showed the way out of the former citadel of political power in the country. Although he was the greatest beneficiary of the party led previously by second republic vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and second republic governor of Plateau State, Chief Solomon Dautshep Lar; Obasanjo left in frustration when it became obvious that he could no longer control the levers of the party structure.
It would be recalled that while he held sway from 1999 through 2007, Obasanjo altered the psyche and structure of the party, such that the party leadership at state and federal levels were under the control of state governors and the then president. Applying the three draconian methods of coercion, intimidation and inducement, the president was able to raise pliant leaders for the party, thereby careering it away from democratic norms and ideals.
While the then president developed the culture in the running of the party, desperate politicians who believe that the end justifies the means moved into the party, as they noticed how elections were made to produce results that met the designs of the ‘national leader’. The party’s national chairmanship was configured to simulate a musical chair.
Even elections into the party’s offices were dictated to by the preferences of the former president and his foot soldiers. With such pliable party leadership, it did not take long before the PDP constitution was also edited out of the original content. At a point the constitution changed, stipulating that only past presidents could chair the board of trustees just as a membership revalidation exercise was carried out to exclude unwanted elements.Gradually, PDP lost its original colour and flavour as decent politicians in the fold took the backseat. That cycle turned full circle in 2014 at the exit of five governors and a former vice president.
IT is against the background of changing styles of the party that the present upheavals within PDP could be understood. At the core of the structural problems challenging the party’s growth and development is the issue of process. The constitution of a political party ought to be the directing principle upon which its processes stand.
In 1998, perhaps in a bid to shoo the military back to the barracks without giving them undue opportunity to continue trampling on the governance of the country, the founders of PDP failed to challenge the unjust imposition, inducement and interference that described the party’s first primary election in Jos. It was out of that collective indifference that the seeds of impunity, electoral brigandage and lack of due process were nurtured into a giant tree.
If PDP lost colour and stature through the defeat of ideals, it went on to lose character, through the nature of electoral system it brought about. Chairmen were removed at whim and their replacement procured by stealth, without the concurrence of the membership. That was how Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was brought in to fill the void left open by the induced resignation of Dr. Adamu Mu’azu.
That the ongoing efforts to put the party in one whole after its disastrous outing at the 2015 election is proving very daunting could therefore be blamed on the pervading influence of the garrison tactics imported into the management and leadership selection process. After the recent Port Harcourt repeat convention near miss, most PDP faithful are now wondering how Sheriff was brought about to encumber the party. The lack of consensus building through debate and discussion must have opened the eyes of party leaders on the need to leave the door to party offices open for competition. That way due diligence and collective evaluation would enthrone responsible and accountable leadership.
Perhaps, the legal wrestling between Sheriff and the PDP would in the end either ensure that the party turns out as People-Dependent Party or retains the structure of People Domination Platform.
ON the very day PDP through its caretaker committee held the repeat non-elective convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital; a Federal High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), ruled that Sheriff should stop laying claims to the office of national chairman of the party or even carrying out any business on its behalf.
Justice Nwamaka Ogbonna was ruling on a suit filed by a contestant to the office of national youth leader of the party, Danladi Ayuba. The Judge held that going by the judgment of Justice Valentine Ashi of the same court, the sack of Sheriff on June 26, 2016 stands, having not been appealed or set aside by the Court of Appeal.
The court held as follows: “There is no evidence that the judgment of Ashi J has been appealed against, therefore, the judgment, which is a declarative one must be obeyed. Anything done contrary to the judgment of Ashi J is null and void and of no effect.” However, in keeping with the tug of war between him and the caretaker committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Sheriff dismissed the ruling as having no effect on his claim to the chairmanship post.
As he rushes back to the court to put legal repudiation to the FCT High Court ruling, Sheriff says he would confront the court with a superior document that validates his position as acting national chairman of the party.Speaking through the deputy national chairman of his faction, Dr. Cairo Ojuogbo, the embattled national chairman disclosed that he is covered by the provisions of the 2012 PDP constitution, which stipulated that a member of the party from a particular zone can substitute any member of the NWC (National Working Committee) that resigns his/her position. With that argument, Sheriff hopes to deflect the damaging impact of the FCT High Court in Kubwa.
When Sheriff appeals the judgment in a bid “to restore his legitimacy”, the litigation would no doubt swell the number of such judicial calisthenics over the national leadership of PDP. So far, the cases snaking their way through Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja divisions of the Federal High Court, have had deleterious effect on the attempt to refurbish PDP and cleanse it of every traces of garrison intimidation, manipulation and breach of due process.
Although many PDP stalwarts, particularly a former minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, have described the last round of skirmishes with Sheriff as self imposed by the overbearing carriage and comportment of some state governors, it appears obvious that there are still within the party those who are bent in ensuring that the party goes under.
It is inscrutable why PDP finds it hard to revisit its zoning albatross, based on its immediate past experience or to ensure a merit-based selection process, where the best and brightest emerges. As long as the tangle with Sheriff lasts, it has become evident that there are powerful caucuses that insist on hijacking the party structure for shallow interests.
The idea of owners and joiners, which dispenses with the extant provisions contained in the party’s constitution, has continued to hold PDP down. In the two dramatic Port Harcourt conventions, the silent wish of some stalwarts, especially some first term governors who fear that their second term mandate may not be feasible unless they do a deal with the ruling party, seem to have been subdued.
Yet the extension of the lifetime of the caretaker committee appeared to push forward the moment of truth for the beleaguered party. Within the Southeast and South-south geopolitical zones, there are state governors and senators that are known to have gone into deals with the ruling party, believing that unless protected by the federal might, their future political life may be cut short.
Sheriff has been accused severally as playing such underhand politics in the past. As such, while some PDP faithful fear that he may continue in the act and therefore want to stop him at all costs, the moles within the party, notably senators and governors; want the trouble to linger till close to 2018, when the sounds of 2019 electioneering would be within earshot.
While the tug of war lasts, PDP’s cohesive strength continue to be in abeyance. The attempt by some stalwarts to lay the blame for the botched convention that would have produced new leaders; at the door step of APC failed to look closely within, particularly at the podium. Closet consultations remain a big stumbling block for PDP. Therefore, it is surprising that party leaders have not explored the beauty of throwing up policies or strategies for the critical perspectives of the members. Until the room for dialogue, debate and discussion is expanded, PDP would retain its dual nature. But PDP must either blend the two PDPs or kill PDP2 so that the remnant would be a Peoples Dependent Platform that Nigerians could connect with.