Thursday, 7th December 2023

Still on PDP crisis: Home troubled that won’t go away

By Leo Sobechi
26 February 2017   |   2:09 am
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued to hemorrhage over attempts to fuse into one purposeful and major opposition party in the country. Sadly, despite its own challenges, the ruling All Progressives Congress....

Ahmed Makarfi

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued to hemorrhage over attempts to fuse into one purposeful and major opposition party in the country. Sadly, despite its own challenges, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has emerged as a debatable accomplice in the perceived destabilization of the PDP that once stood as the sole custodian of political power in the country.
But, in the many litigations surrounding the counter-claims to the authentic national leadership of the party, the two camps of Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, were not alone in the expectation that the ruling of Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt would put a final seal on the resolution of the squabble.
Although Sheriff declared his intention to cease further legal challenge of the leadership dispute, the Makarfi group demurred from offering any such prejudicial opinion, preferring rather to adopt the stance of wait-and-see. Yet when the judgment came, they were jolted.

One salient question that the recent Appeal Court judgment in Port Harcourt, Rivers State threw up was, did Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, had a prior hint of the court’s decision? Then the recent interference action of the Police against the emergency meeting of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi camp of the party, whether a chance occurrence or proactive precautionary security measure echoed the suspicion of outside interference with the factional politics of supremacy in PDP.
With the scale of judicial inquest tending surprisingly towards the Sheriff’s camp and some state chapters lending their voices in support or opposition, there is little doubt that most PDP faithful are becoming litigation weary. Yet the puzzles remain: How could the party get over the chasm widened by the Court of Appeal ruling? What is/are the possibilities that PDP would regain its stature and strength for electoral viability? Why are the past leaders seemingly powerless to break the tie?
Perhaps, answers to the puzzles lie in the silent factors feeding the flames of discontent and internal disharmony that have defined the rift in the foremost largest political platform in Nigeria’s present dispensation. It does not take rocket science to find that aspiration for the party’s presidential ticket, legal gymnastics, contest between reform apologists and conservative elements, as well as, the fear of open competition, constitute the main noxious compounds fueling the intractable dispute.

Fear Of Open Competition
SENATOR Ali Modu Sheriff, without prejudice to the sneaky way he found himself atop PDP’s leadership hierarchy, had been shouting about his determination to get the party back to the “ordinary people.”
After what took place in Jos during the PDP’s first presidential primary election and subsequent conventions, where the position of national chairman was made subject to the whims and caprices of the powers that be, most party faithful, particularly those aspiring to very visible and responsible positions, developed the phobia for open contests.
It was that tradition of anointing candidates that has come to be styled as impunity, which also became the party’s ultimate undoing. Former Special Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak; had dragged the party to court for failing to abide by its constitutional provision of replacing the former national chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu with a candidate from the same northeast geopolitical zone of the country as Mu’azu.
Roused from its defeat-induced languor, some PDP chieftains surreptitiously procured an outsider in the person of Sheriff, to replace Mu’azu. Perhaps, noticing how the Southwest zone has become the national kingmakers of Nigeria’s presidential politics, Sheriff, who started by playing along with his godfathers, decided to do what the party punished Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo for attempting: Disentangling PDP from the strangle hold of state governors. And the bubble burst!     
At the root of PDP’s never-ending supremacy battles, therefore, could be said to be the phobia for openness and freedom of choice. For, it was at the point of noticing that Sheriff was not amenable to such internal controls as disposes the party to manipulation that the schism started.
With the benefit of hindsight, it was also the failure of the party to recognise majority opinion or subject its decisions to democratic ratification that predisposed PDP to its first shocking defeat. Otherwise, in spite of available indices, former President Jonathan should not have been allowed as the sole candidate after some opposition parties had successfully fused into one mega entity.
Reform Versus Status Quo
IN its 16 years of electoral dominance, PDP got inebriated by presidential power such that its component organizational structure became ineffectual. With all power of policy and administrative decisions revolving around the President and National chairman of the party, other organs and members became recessive.
It is this divide that the Sheriff began to expand in his many intrigues to pull the rug off the feet of those who wanted to diminish his powers as the acting National Chairman, even when his nomination was yet to be ratified by the national convention of the party.
As it turned out, the absence of a central command in the Presidency, which all the while had been the source of policy control and dispensary of favours, Sheriff’s attempt to play the powerful national chairman became the source of animosity from his benefactors.
Again with the politics of favour and influence that defined its philosophy of function, the PDP governors that saw Sheriff’s acclaimed deep pocket as a panacea for the party’s loss of source of soft funding, forgot that such facility offered the man enormous elbow room for arrogance and independent thinking.
In the haste to cut off the affliction the chieftains of the party continued a series of blunders that ended up prolonging PDP’s expected transitioning on the national turf as the main opposition party. It was at that point that accusations against Sheriff began, with former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode leading the way in describing the former Borno governor as a mole positioned by the ruling APC to bury PDP.
So, instead of talks of the much expected and talked about reforms, retrieving the soul of PDP from Sheriff became the new distraction. When President Buhari traveled to London for a five-day rest last year, Sheriff also flew out of the country, thus feeding speculations that he must have met with the President.
But that speculation was dismissed by the outcome of the Edo State governorship primary, in which Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu from the faction loyal to Senator Makarfi was recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the authentic candidate for the election.

Legal Intrigues, Constitutional Dissonance
MANY a PDP faithful had looked up to the party’s post-defeat national convention originally fixed for May 22, 2016 for Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to serve as the final resolution of the leadership crisis.
However, unknown to the gladiators, Port Harcourt was to serve as a metaphor for the bitter-sweet experiences of those engaged in the party’s re-engineering efforts. Not only did the convention suffer two abortions, it threw up a caretaker committee, which has come to look, by virtue of recent Appeal Court judgment, much like unwanted undertakers.
Following the court ruling, the Makarfi camp seems to be clutching the short end of the troubled Umbrella, which prompted the recent resolution by the faction to subject the court decision to further judicial test at the apex court.
But sounding triumphal, the Sheriff Camp, which had earlier committed itself to a cessation from further litigations, said the time has come to explore the political option, stressing that the legal option cannot produce durable reconciliation if the party would ever regain its composure and strength.
Factional National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Hon. Bernard Mikko, speaking on behalf of the Sheriff executive, explained that “what happened at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, was the resolution of the legal option.” He said that that legal aspect, would expectedly not only enhance, but complement the political solution to the PDP leadership crisis.
Sheriff has offered to relinquish the chairmanship for the sake of PDP and the political future of its members.But those who are suspicious of Sheriff, particularly the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, insist that the former Borno Governor would never be chairman. Fayose contends that it makes no sense to consider leaving the party to him when virtually all the various caucuses of the party are with Makarfi.  
Recalling the judicial dingdong that has defined the leadership squabble, Fayose noted that after the Makarfi group obtained favourable judgment at the Federal High Court, Sheriff continued to parade himself as chairman. Consequently, he maintained that Makarfi and the caretaker committee remains in place pending the final decision from the Supreme Court.
With apparent fear that the journey to the apex court may take time and toll on the party, some state chapters and groups have sided with the Sheriff faction, which has suddenly started talking of a national convention. Should the national convention hold as it appears likely, that may likely sound the final death knell on PDP, because it may make the Apex Court sitting an academic venture.
  But an appeal can also nullify any action by the Sheriff faction and insist on status quo. But the intervening period could make PDP governors go ahead with their crossover plans

Politics Of Presidential Ticket
PERHAPS, the most potent source of pressure on the PDP leadership crisis is the scheming by potential presidential aspirants from the north. And within the power play, is the subdued competition by politicians from the Northeast and their brothers from Northwest.
It is not obvious who Sheriff is fronting or rooting for. But it does not appear as if he is inclined towards an Atiku Abubakar. In the Makarfi caretaker committee could be found most players who feel that the former Vice President is the ideal candidate to help PDP back to the Presidency.
When Sheriff visited Obasanjo, the hand gestures and verbal cues gave indications that should Sheriff win the legal challenge then PDP would be out of the reach of Atiku. Some elements in APC may also be inclined towards such a game plan, if nothing else to ensure that APC does not end up with just years in power.
Should Atiku be out of the way, Northeast could only fall back on the Gombe State Governor, Hassan Dankwambo or even Sheriff himself, as likely presidential contenders. The struggle to ensure that the next national chairman from South West would be a candidate that sides with the arrangement has been the underlying cause of the stiff fight for PDP leadership.
The Northwest could boast of such potential presidential materials like Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Shekarau, Attahiru Bafarawa and Ahmed Gusau. But there has been a subtle agitation by political actors from Northeast that Northwest has dominated leadership of the country, contending that time has come to give the Northeast a chance after the brief stints of late Tafawa Balewa.
Watchers of the PDP revival politics believe that the schemes for presidential ticket of the party have been the major bone of contention delaying the resolution of the crisis. Again, the machinations of some stalwarts that led to the fielding of former President Jonathan made it impossible for the former president to play the leadership role expected of him.  
Although the former President at one point asked those opposing Sheriff to meet with the former Borno governor, he was forced to renounce a purported endorsement of Sheriff as the authentic national chairman.
While describing the media claim as false, the Special Assistant to the former President disclosed that “the issue of endorsement never came up in the course of the visit, not at the closed door meeting with Sheriff, or during the former president’s interview with journalists.”
However the PDP crisis would be resolved; it has exposed the political deficiencies of the north. In the first place, by defecting enmasse out of the party, in which they had commanding majority, the PDP stalwarts from the north lost the usual power of the north to be kingmakers out of extreme subservience to and hunger for power.

It is debatable whether if the governors that left PDP had stayed back to commit the party to its internal testaments by insisting on presidential primary the party would have ended up in its current sorry state. Give or take, by the time the Supreme Court hears the appeal by the Makarfi committee; the party may no longer have the political stamina to challenge a ruling party, much less defeating it.
For now PDP is gradually going the way of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which despite its promise of simulating the feat achieved by the Alliance for Democracy (AD), traveled through the courts and after eight years of leadership challenge in unrelenting litigations, could not win a senatorial seat.
There are chances that if Sheriff succeeds in regaining the Wadata Plaza, national headquarters of PDP, his would become the authentic face of the party, but might end up as the carcass of what used to be the greatest political party in black Africa.