Tracing PDP’s journey through legal duplicity, political impunity
Recently, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ward executives at Igyorov ward in Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State suspended the party’s national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, it followed a predictable pattern: impunity has always defined the party’s leadership methodology.
The fall of Ayu came as the culmination of the supremacy battle between two political heavyweights in the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyesom Wike, over the position of the national chairmanship.
Wike and his colleague governors under the aegis of G5, had resolved not to support Atiku in his presidential campaigns, insisting that it was abnormal for the presidential candidate and national chairman to come from one geographical divide of the country.
No sooner had the general elections been won and lost than the two heavyweights renewed their war of words, with Atiku informing Wike that they will meet him after his tenure ends on May 29, 2023.
But, unknown to Atiku and other pro-Ayu stalwarts of the party, the move to harass the national chairman out of office was afoot. Consequently, as soon as the ward executives of Igyorov ward slammed a suspension on Ayu, Wike declared his support.
“All of you who are joining Ayu, be prepared. Now, I have no other job, except to put more heat on them and I will continue to do that,” Wike had stated, stressing that it was repugnant for Ayu to remain as the national chairman after leading PDP to a catastrophic defeat.
Situating Ayu’s suspension as the beginning of the fresh battle for the soul of PDP, the outgoing Rivers State governor declared: “Those of you who are fighting that they have suspended him, you have not seen anything yet. The fight has started. Ayu, the fight has just started. If you know him, those of you who are close to him, tell him, Iyorchia Ayu, the fight has just started.”
Although Ayu was suspended on his personal capacity as a member of the ward, the disciplinary action was programmed to achieve a hefty political purpose, namely displacing the embattled PDP boss to activate his eventual removal.
Other national chairmen of the party, including Dr. Audu Ogbe, Engineer Barnabas Gemade, had suffered similar fate. But none of them went through disciplinary procedure from the low level of authority as the ward executives. The only person that came so close to such lofty embarrassment was Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo.
Nwodo was said to have been removed via a purported interlocutory order restraining him from parading himself as national chairman. Till date, nobody has sighted the court order, which was said to have followed a suit in his home state of Enugu State.
Like Ayu’s case, Nwodo was involved in a domestic power tussle with his home state governor believed to be ignited by supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan and those for Atiku Abubakar over the party’s 2011 presidential ticket.
Similar to Ayu’s case also, Nwodo’s removal was regularized by an order of the state High Court. However, in Nwodo’s instance, a lawsuit was said to had been filed three weeks to the day the interim injunction, was granted by Justice Rose N. Onuorah against Nwodo over the waiver granted him (Nwodo) to be re-absorbed into the party.
And so, Ayu’s decision to step down after the Makurdi High Court granted a restraining order against his continued stay in office as national chairman, replayed to some extent a similar ambush against Bamanga Tukur. However, while Ayu’s troubles boiled over after the general elections, that of Bamanga Tukur, began and ended in the buildup to the 2015 general elections.
But, signs that PDP would end up as a huge disappointment emerged early in the life of the party, when it failed in its initial promise of being democratic. At the onset of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition to civil rule in 1998, PDP emerged from the coalescing of various political groupings around the G34 to become a full-fledged political party.
The G34, which enlarged from the G18, comprised eminent politicians that waged political resistance battle against the transmutation and possible life presidency of General Sani Abacha.
Second republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who led the G34 and the party had to vacate the office when it was resolved that the presidential candidate should come from Southern part of the country. Former Plateau State governor, Solomon Lar, who took over from Ekwueme, led the party to its electoral victory.
But, having empowered an outsider in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military head of state, into the Presidency, it did not take long before the garrison political style supplanted the ideological frame work that incubated the G34.
It was therefore this new political orientation that emphasizes power and control of the party structure that led to a high turnover of occupants of the office of national chairman. At the exit of Lar, Obasanjo stonewalled attempts by the ideologically faithful members of the G34 to elect Sunday Awoniyi as national chairman.
Rather, applying the garrison style of stealth and ambush, Audu Ogbe was supported. But, long after, Obasanjo fell out of favour with Ogbe, who wanted to rein in the President to the founding ideals of the party, particularly in terms of good and responsive governance.
Obasanjo fetched Ogbe’s kinsman, Engineer Gemade as replacement. At the end of Gemade’s term, PDP under Obasanjo looked forward to the 2003 election and the President, desirous of upholding the command and control structure of the military, insisted on Dr. Ahmadu Ali, a former military officer that served as Education Minister when he (Obasanjo) was head of state.
In 2007, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor was preferred over former Governor Sam Egwu and Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to become national chairman. However, given the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, mid way into his first term and Ogbulafor’s impolitic statement that power must remain in the North, his removal was orchaestrated by forces loyal to acting President Jonathan.
Ogbulafor was replaced with Nwodo, who had sojourned to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) alongside Atiku Abubakar for the 2007 general elections. In the build up to the 2011 general election, and alarmed by speculations that Nwodo was surreptitiously working for the eventual emergence of Atiku as PDP presidential candidate at the expense of Jonathan, Nwodo was axed in the middle of the special convention, where he was presiding. His deputy, Haliru Mohammed, took over proceedings as acting national chairman.
Haliru Mohammed gave way to Bamaga Tukur. And in the build up to the 2015 general elections, a gang up by some members of PDP National Working Committee (NWC) who accused Tukur of running the party as a personal estate, occasioned his forced resignation.
In Tukur’s place, former Bauchi State governor, Adamu Mu’azu, who was hailed as a game changer, took over. Mu’azu was however, forced to leave after leading the party to its first ever historic defeat. Like happened between Nwodo and Mohammed, Mu’azu’s deputy, Prince Uche Secondus, took over in acting capacity.
But, piqued by the attempt to usurp the slot of Northeast, a former Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Political Affairs, Ahmed Gulak, dragged the party to court. Gulak prayed the court for a declaration that the position of acting national chairman was not known to the PDP constitution as well as an order that the position remained zoned to the Northeast.
Stung by the favourable court pronouncement granted Gulak, Governors Nyesom Wike and Peter Ayodele Fayose head-hunted Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, instead of Bala Mohammed, to become national chairman of the party.
Nonetheless, as preparations for the 2019 general elections gathered steamed, amid speculations that Sheriff was a mole and nursing presidential ambition, Wike and co decided to retrieve the “glass cup from the Chimpanzee.”
In the melee that ensued, PDP was factionalised with Sheriff leading one camp and the other under the guidance of the pacifist former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. The battle for the soul of PDP moved to the courts.
Upon the resolution of the issues in favour of the Makarfi camp, Wike and Fayose supported the emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as chairman at the December 2017 national convention of the party.
Yet, having steered the party to safety, all promises made to Makarfi and Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo as possible options for the 2019 presidential ticket were jettisoned immediate Atiku Abubakar crossed over from All Progressives Congress (APC). Atiku was promoted as a feasible candidate with financial war chest and political heft to confront incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
The wrong headed political calculation left PDP with another crushing defeat, even as some party faithful grumbled at the rationale for throwing away the party’s constitutional stipulations that new members must endure two years’ membership before aspiring for elective offices.
It was therefore against those unsettled issues that at the build up the 2023 general elections, the ancient demons tormenting PDP returned t hound Secondus out of office and Ayu ushered in like a game changer, even if in the mould of Mu’azu.
Return To Litigious Trenches
Consequently, by last Tuesday when Ayu yielded his position as national chairman to the Deputy National Chairman (North), Ambassador Illya Damagum, in acting capacity, PDP has run full circle in its circus of legal violations and political gangsterism.
Justice W.I. Kpochi, who granted the restraining order against Ayu in the suit No. MHC/85/2023, gave the parties two weeks to retur for hearing. The plaintiff/applicant, Terhide Utaan, named Ayu and PDP as Defendants/Respondents.
As was seen during the Sheriff versus Makarfi showdown, the political mix would be introduced to ensure long adjournments and frivolous motions for constitutional interpretation and interlocutory appeals.
There are fears that by the time PDP goes through the latest judicial dance, it would be barely recognised as a political party. That is, if it survives.