Concern over viability of PDP

By Toye Faleye


The leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have been finally settled by the verdict of the Supreme Court which favoured Senator Ahmed Makarfi and his group. Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, who read the judgement on behalf of five-man panel of judges, set aside the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt that affirmed Senator Ali-modu Sheriff as the Chairman of the party.

 According to the verdict, Makarfi remains the chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, while Ali-modu Sheriff, the embattled factional chairman of the party before he was sacked by the Supreme Court’s verdict, was deflated.

However the party does not want the feud to still rage, so it has offered to bring Sheriff back into its fold because PDP must be strong again to fight and oust APC from the seat of power in Aso Rock. Governor Nyesom Wike of River State, immediately after the verdict, said Sheriff would obey the court order and still be part of the party. 

Sheriff too has congratulated Makarfi, saying: “We must all put our hands together to channel a new course for the PDP. This is the time to build the PDP and focus on the future…” 

With the victory of Makarfi at the Supreme Court, the Nigerian political landscape has been reshaped and ignited again. The polity will witness brickbat and firework from the two leading political parties in times to come.

To play down the impact of the verdict, the APC had said that it was not moved by the decision of the apex court because it never benefited from the face-off between the two factional groups. Nevertheless it will have to tighten its belt to hold on to power because a coordinated and formidable opposition will now emerge from the PDP that is set to replenish its armoury.

Analysts had said variously that the PDP was weak and that it was unable to give potent opposition to the ruling APC. This, according to analysts, portends danger for the nation’s civil rule, meaning that Nigeria may find itself in the grip of just one party which could turn itself to a dictator.

Now that the PDP appears gathering its act together, how it is able to perform opposition role remains to be seeing as it still battles defection here and there, indicating that fire still blazes on the mountain. However, the verdict, as analysts observe, will still make the party gear up and put APC on its toes.

It must be said that the rift weakened the party to the extent that it was seriously abdicating in its role as a check against the excesses of the ruling APC, as a result of which analysts were lamenting lack of formidable opposition to criticise some of the faulty policies of the ruling party.

The incapability of the party, under Sheriff, to provide a formidable opposition against the ruling APC, was one of the reasons a lot of PDP stalwarts saw him (Sheriff) as lacking the political wherewithal to steer the affairs of the party.

According to them, they were pained that there were no major criticisms against APC policies from the Sheriff-led executive members. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State even raised an alarm over this, pointing fingers at Sheriff, alleging that he might be a mole in the PDP after all. Wike said this could be read in Sheriff’s body language, pronouncements and actions.

The PDP chieftains, who pitch their tent with Markarfi, believed strongly that Sheriff was working in the interest of the ruling government of which Sheriff denied severally; but still they wanted him out.

In its bid to clinch power in 2019, the PDP currently shops for a credible and marketable presidential candidate that will give APC a run for its money during the presidential election. It is, at present, beckoning on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to come back to the fold he used to belong.

 Atiku himself is weighing the option that if his ambition is not realised in the APC where he is at present one of the party’s national leaders, he may try his fortune elsewhere, which clearly appears to be PDP.

As part of its effort to put its house in order, immediately the verdict was given, the party on July 15 swung into action, announcing series of meetings for some of its members and executives. It announced that its expanded national caucus, Board of Trustees and its national executive committee meet. The meeting of the national caucus, when it was invariably held, was a beehive of activity at Wadata Plaza, the national headquarter of the party, signifying its unalloyed resolve to snatch power from the ruling APC.

Meanwhile, when the in-fighting in the PDP was brewing and its centre could not hold, the Sheriff’s faction had attempted to dismiss former President Goodluck Jonathan before he (Sheriff) cleared the air that there was no such intention. 

Sometimes ago, the two belligerent groups appeared reaching for a consensus, but the truce fell apart like a park of cards as they remained adamant to surrender to each other.

The relationship between the two groups had been hot, with them being so agitated, flexing muscles and threatening fire and brimstone in a manner suggesting that the crisis would never subside.

It will be recalled that on Wednesday, April 6, Goodluck Jonathan called a peace meeting, but the warring parties refused to yield ground as no deal could be brokered.

Sheriff stormed out of the meeting, claiming that as the chairman he was the one charged with the sole responsibility to call for that meeting, and that he should be accorded the dignity to address the members who were present, rather than neglecting him and allowing Jonathan to preside.

Sheriff added that, based on the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, he was still the most senior citizen of the party, and that he would hold on to the agreement reached with Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.

When the matter got to the heat, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State declared that the PDP governors “… will not work with Ali-Modu Sheriff. We will rather wait for the Supreme Court to decide the future of PDP. I will never work and sit down with Sheriff over any matter. The best way to resolve this crisis is to wait for the Supreme Court.” While Fayose was blowing hot, Sheriff too maintained that he would never hold any meeting with Jonathan.

At a time also, some of the stakeholders of the party, including Makarfi, were contemplating forming a new party, which Ahmed Markarfi indicated in an exclusive chat with Nigerian Newslive. Makarfi said: “At the end of the day a strong opposition party in one form or the other will emerge.”

The PDP held the mantle of leadership at the federal level, from 1999 to 2015, after which it suffered a defeat from APC in the presidential election. In its hey day, the party, which prided itself as “the largest party in Africa,” controlled the presidency, the two chambers of the National Assembly and majority of the 36 states across the country for 16 years.

Since its defeat in the 2015 presidential election, it has been plagued by various internal crises, the most notorious of which was the leadership tussle between Sheriff and Makarfi, attracting plethora of litigations in various court over who the authentic chairman of the party should be.

These altercations impacted negatively on the party. Its political fortune dwindled. Apart from its loss in the Ondo governorship election, it also suffered a defeat in the governorship election in Edo State, even as party chieftains across the country were defecting in droves to the APC.

Apparently troubled by the state of affair, party leaders at various levels made effort for rebuilding to make it more appealing to voters. Political analysts even suggested an outright re-branding of the party, which would include name change.

In an attempt to resuscitate PDP, Makarfi inaugurated a 115-man committee to review the party’s manifesto, its constitution and explore ways of possible collaboration with other political parties before 2019 general elections. The committee which was tagged ‘Strategy Review and Inter Party Affairs Committee’ was chaired by former the Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana.

Now that it has been given another opportunity to revitalize itself, will PDP learn from its past mistakes? Will it be a credible opposition? Will it be able to plot a great fall of APC in 2019? Only time will tell.

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