PDP leadership caught in web of intrigues
• Courts are interfering with politics, says SAN
• Judicial intervention is key to peace, says former lawmaker
These indeed are not the best of time for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the self-acclaimed largest party in Africa. A national convention that would have been an opportunity for the party to recreate itself and reposition for a credible opposition voice with the potential to bounce back as the ruling party, was frittered away once more, as stakeholders were caught in a cobweb of political summersaults and judicial intrigues.
For instance while the trio of Chief Olabode George, Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Chief Raymond Dokpesi have concluded plans to brief the press jointly on their perceived grievances and grudges against the PDP governors alleged plan to shortchange them in the chairmanship race in favour of the 2015 governorship candidate of the party in Lagos, Jimi Agbaje, none of the actors contemplated the fact that the Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), would carry out Justice Okon Abang order stopping the Convention.
The result is that the party is back to the starting block, that it must have to contend with the Senator Alli Modu Sheriff factor and that until that hurdle is crossed; there can not be a resolution or movement forward.That is the albatross that the courts have foisted on the main opposition party in the country, which some persons now consider as interference in politics in Nigeria.
While Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) contended that the courts were interfering with politics in Nigeria, especially as it affected the internal squabbles in the political parties, Mr. Bernard Mikko, a former member of the House of Representatives, thinks otherwise.
Jegede sees the crisis, which he described as a contention for power and a dispute within the party, as challenges the courts should leave to be resolved through internal mechanism.
“First as a legal practitioner, I can confidently say that this won’t be the first time that there would be disputes or crisis within a political party. It’s not going to be the last but then I also believe that each of the political parties has a means of resolving its disputes and that is the legitimate way to resolve political disputes.
“Speaking as a professional, as a senior lawyer, I hold the view that intra-party disputes are best left for the leadership to resolve. I also hold the view that in intra-party contentions, the courts generally have no jurisdiction. In other words, the court ordinarily should not interfere except of course where you have specific provisions in the law that gives an inroad to courts to resolve the disputes and that is where you have election petition cases; the election matters that are specifically provided for in the Electoral Act.”
But Mikko disagreed arguing that in a democratic setting there was need for such intervention by the courts to maintain peace and restore order to the society.“Democracy is anchored on the principles of rule of law, independent judiciary and free press. Political process is heuristics that must be guided by an objective judiciary. Judicial intervention is key to peaceful dispute resolution,” he stated.
Besides, he noted that even when there are perceived bias and obvious lopsidedness in the administration of justice, the system has a way of cleaning itself, saying: “In any society or organization, there are bad eggs and the judicial process will purify the system over time. Though it may a distraction, the law is settled on the issue of conflicting judicial pronouncements of courts of coordinate jurisdiction.”
However, Jegede who is a governorship aspirant in Ondo state under the platform of PDP claimed that the courts’ intervention could be accommodated when primaries were conducted only to the extent of those who participated in the primaries. “The courts have no business interfering with politics and that is what is happening now. The courts are interfering in politics. So, I believe that the matter will be resolved within. If it cannot be resolved within, it would be resolved somewhere and I concede that because of the timing, there is need to accelerate the resolutions. I am confident that the law is not likely to change now ultimately and I also do not see it as dangerously affecting my chance running on that PDP ticket because it would be resolved at the end of the day,” he insisted.
But a member of the party, who declined to have his name in print said the intervention of the courts and the police was a great face-saving measure for the party “as the convention, if held as scheduled, would have completely destroyed the party and pulled the roof down on everyone.”
In addition, he alleged that the shelved convention was Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose’s showmanship, querying: “How would one have explained a situation where Wike is the chairman of the convention, his Chief of Staff is chairman of accreditation committee while another of his top aid was part of the screening committee? There is no way a free, fair and credible exercise would have been conducted under the watch of Wike.”
Speaking on the botched Port Harcourt convention of the PDP, Mikko asserted that the Caretaker Committee was “completely illegal” in the first instance as it had no place in the party’s constitution.He said the only way forward was reconciliation expressing the hope that if there was proper reconciliation, “The party will rejig itself from impunity and lawlessness to become a vibrant opposition party that will provide alternative opinion of issues of national importance.”
Meanwhile, there have been mixed reactions to the aborted convention from contestants for the PDP chairmanship. Agbaje touted to be the governors’ candidate, described the decision as destabilizing. He blamed the crisis on shenanigans by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), saying: “PDP did everything to nourish democracy. But it is obvious that the ruling party does not want a viable opposition.”
He urged the ruling party to realize the fact that without a thriving opposition, democracy cannot survive.The contestant also admonished the media and civil society to take the ruling party to task on the need to stop meddling in the internal affairs of the opposition.Agbaje said the crisis leading to the postponement of the PDP Convention far outweighed his own personal disappointment.
When contacted for comments, one of the media aides to former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran said his principal had decided to keep mute over the development since the party leadership had decided in their wisdom to shift the exercise.
However, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the decision was arrived at because of the conflicting courts decision over the convention.He said the PDP was known for respecting court rulings and it couldn’t afford to act contrary in this situation.
Babatope, when asked further whether the leadership of the party was forced to reach the decision by aggrieved contestants for the chairmanship because of the alleged support of some governors to a particular aspirant, said: “You are very correct. Some governors have perfected plans to manipulate the exercise in favour of a particular contestant who joined the party not long ago.”
He declared that a new battle has just begun within the party “and we are going to fight it to a logical conclusion. It is not just illogical but also immoral, unacceptable and insulting that some governors, who does not even know how the party was established wanted to tailor the convention to a new entrant.”