The ‘kerfuffle’ in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has thrown up this title which first appeared in ‘Clinging On’ (Aurora 30 March 2016). The ‘modus operandi’ of Modu Sheriff seems to have brought divisions into the PDP. Unlike before, the crisis rocking the ‘once greatest political party in Africa’ isn’t being handled in-house. There doesn’t seem to be a house again. The house is divided and a house divided can never stand. The umbrella can’t cover everybody anymore. So to your house O PDPians!
After the PDP lost power in 2015, Adamu Mu’azu was forced to resign as the chairman. Some members then felt that not only Mu’azu but all NEC members should have been asked to go. Instead Uche Secondus, Mu’azu’s deputy was chosen as an interim Chairman to run the affairs of the party for only 90 days. The Board of Trustees, BoT – the highest organ in the party – didn’t kick against this. Secondus stayed longer than expected. He was only removed by the courts early this year.
Then came the election of Modu Sheriff as Chairman. It was an election both controversial and divisive. Former governors, former ministers fought against his nomination. Paid announcements were put in national newspapers. But ‘tchokotchoko’ Sheriff, backed by some serving governors, emerged the victor. The BoT didn’t bare its’ fangs. Though he triumphed over other candidates, there were members in the wings baying for blood and it was clear that his tenure wouldn’t be easy. When the new Chairman embarked on conciliatory trips to dissatisfied members and those who sat on the fence during his election, it was clear that he was consolidating his territory. Modu Sheriff was supposed to have occupied the seat for three months but if he gave up the seat without any fuss, it would’ve been a first among Nigerian statesmen.
The Sheriff-led group convened a ‘convention’ in Port Harcourt on Saturday, 21 May 2016. Even though three court injunctions (two from Lagos and one from Abuja) were obtained to stop this ‘convention’ and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had stated that it would not monitor the elections, delegates – among whom were past and serving governors, senators and even the BoT Chairman – gathered in Port Harcourt. A splinter group led by Jerry Gana, ex-governors and ex-ministers boycotted the Port Harcourt meeting and held a parallel ‘convention’ on that same Saturday, 21 May in Abuja. When confusion broke out in the rank and file of the Port Harcourt ‘convention’ and Sheriff lost the support of one of his staunch backers and was left with only one serving governor, he then recalled the three court conjunctions he had branded fraudulent. He told the press, ‘We want to be seen as a law-abiding party’ and called off the ‘convention’. If really Sheriff-led PDP was ‘… law abiding with high respect for judiciary and courts …’ as he later stated would he have waited till the tide was turning against him before aborting the meeting? Will this behaviour not lend credence to the belief of Gana-led splinter group that ‘Sheriff cannot reform PDP’? In fact Ibrahim Mantu, former Deputy Senate President and a member of the Gana splinter group, restated the opposition to the choice of Sheriff as Chairman when he said, ‘The action of the National Executive Committee in selecting Ali Modu Sheriff as Chairman was in gross violation of the established procedure for the selection’. Sheriff, it’s claimed, joined the party less than two years ago therefore not eligible for any office. It’s also alleged that he has an EFCC charge dangling over his head. Some quarters equally talk of his closeness to the dreaded Boko Haram group.
But are there only two PDP factions? Or is there still a third group that believes that the youth should take possession of the party? As the present crisis in the PDP is believed to be a power tussle between old and new PDP leaders, can the founding fathers guide the youth in rehabilitating the party? Some of the younger members were said to have once met with the founding fathers to see if the party could be rehabilitated. But the party is an elder-driven party. Since a new party wouldn’t have the impact of resuscitated PDP, elders must now look for qualified and diligent youth to be mentored and in whose hands the affairs of the party will be handed. Money drives people in negative direction so members between 40 and 60 years with observable integrity should be brought on board and guided by older statesmen. On another side are some younger members who believe that recreation of New PDP is futile because a new party will not have the impact of a resuscitated party. They suggest that the party must be regained from the elders who should just be in advisory position.
Why has the Board of Trustees kept silent all this while? After the 24 March, there was a vacuum in the party. And only the BoT can fill the vacuum. Though about 40% of the BoT have abandoned the PDP or been frustrated out of the party (e.g. Adamu Ciroma, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abubakar Atiku, Ibrahim Babangida, Alex Ekwueme, Tony Anenih), it’s expected that those remaining will have the gumption to rein in the ‘wild’ members of the once-upon-a-time greatest party in Africa. The party has often relied on its’ caucus of elders. And it’s within that tradition that the BoT, the highest body in the party, should meet and sort out this impasse.
Between 2012 and 2016 much waters have passed under the bridge. Heavyweights in the PDP have either decamped to the ruling All Progressives Party, APC, or left in annoyance (e.g. Chief Obasanjo, Abubakar Atiku, Bukola Saraki, Rotimi Amaechi). It’s up to the BoT to choose a legitimate Caretaker Committee to send out directives to the party hierarchy to review the voters’ register. When the register is updated, then new delegates will be elected. These will now go forward and convene the Convention at which officers of the party at all national levels will be elected. After the register is reviewed, membership should be checked to see who could attend a convention. This is expected to take at least nine months.
Members also believe that the N3bn left in the party’s kitty after the 2015 general elections must be accounted for. Money owed political aspirants who lost out in the 2015 legislative elections should be refunded e.g. Fijabi Adebo who – like other senatorial aspirants – paid N3m for a form. The governors hiding behind Modu Sheriff to fight their political life must be reined in and cut down to size. Nigeria needs a vibrant opposition party. Inner wrangling and culture of impunity will not endear the PDP to the public. High time the party rose from its’ ashes. We look forward to a ‘born-again’ PDP.