That the political ruckus ripping the opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has reached a crescendo is an understatement. The party has been rendered a prey hunted by two lions of different worlds. This is a party that has been in opposition for less than two years. This is a party whose diehard loyalists still yearn to reclaim powers at the center come 2019. Though these stalwarts have disagreed to agree, one is enthused with a proof that the party displays like a cat with seven lives. Ordinarily, just like other parties frizzled, one thought the PDP would join suit. But the more it is thought to be dead, the more it shakes its tail and head in resistance.
At least some of its stalwarts led by former President Goodluck Jonathan are still optimistic that the crisis would be resolved for the party to come out stronger. This was Jonathan’s hope at his hometown Otuoke, Bayelsa state when he received the report of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led PDP reconciliation committee where he described as abnormal the resorting to courts for political disagreements. Initially, it was as if Jonathan was backing Sherriff, basically because of the Appeal court ruling in Port Harcourt.
What is the problem with the PDP? In the simplest words, the party has no problem of its own. Two senior, highly educated and witty citizens of the nation are at loggerhead over who leads the party to ‘sustain relevance’ in the nation’s politics. These two intelligent, egoistic and passionate former executive governors of two northern states and also former distinguished senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Senator Ali Modu Sherriff of Borno state in the northeast geopolitical zone and Senator Ahmad Makarfi of Kaduna state of the northwest zone are drifted apart by their individualistic concepts against political agrarianism. In attempts to gather sympathy and outsmart the other, both have been running from one pole to the other, meeting people that matter in the party. Many nocturnal meetings are being held by each faction to outwit the other. Each is accusing the other of being an agent of the ruling party. Besides, the hurly-burly and idiosyncratic egocentrism hang the matters beyond any immediate technical approach for resolution.
Sheriff recently in Minna met with a former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who revealed personal belief that PDP, though ailing, was not dead. And when the Strategy and Inter-Party Affairs Committee of the party led by Jerry Gana presented its report on how to move the party forward, IBB opined that PDP will take back power from APC and rule for 60 successive years, if the schisms rocking the party are solved. According to him, PDP’s presence is felt all over Nigeria because at the grassroots, the ordinary man talks about PDP which is an asset that the party should use to spring back. An accepted and known fact, he averred, all that is require is harder work to convince the people back to PDP fold. Gen. Aliyu Muhammad Gusau, also met by the group, advised the two factional chairmen to resign. Sheriff was ready to comply while Makarfi was resistant.
At the time Jonathan was meeting with Sherriff in Maitama District of Abuja with the Deputy National Chairman, Cairo Ojougbo, the National Secretary, Wale Oladipo, the acting National Publicity Secretary, Benard Mikko, the Financial Secretary, Adewole Adeyanju, and the National Youth Leader, Dennis Alonge-Niyi in attendance, the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction met at the Ekiti State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja to resolve to challenge the Appeal court judgment. Jonathan was said to have referred to Sheriff as “my chairman,” and proclaimed that PDP was not factionalized but one. He acknowledged the differences in party politics; such differences as human beings and that which make leaders. “I have met with Sheriff. And I have met with others. I will still meet with others, so that we will be able to do what is expected of us as a political party.”
Sheriff claimed he has not been fighting anybody but rather wanted everybody to come back to the party because the party’s constitution does not recognize caretaker committee. For him, there is only one PDP and there is only one national chairman; thus a group of people can meet and discuss as only a group of people but not as PDP. He had taken the stand not to exchange words with his opposition, noting that “As father of the party, I will make sure everybody is united. I will make sure that everybody gets what they want in PDP. By the time I finish my convention, Nigerians will know that we mean well for the party”, he assured.
The crisis once took a new twist as some top members of the Makarfi faction were said to have applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register an alternative platform as the Advanced Peoples Democratic Party (APDP). The faction discredited the statement of chairman of APC Governor’s Forum, Rochas Okorocha, that PDP should respect the ruling of the Appeal court of February 17, 2017 instead of heating up the polity. It claimed that the APC has the unseen hand stoking the fire of crisis in the PDP and that Sheriff and his cohorts were puppets in the APC’s hands.
However, the number of state chapter chairmen throwing their weight behind Sheriff rose to 23 out of the 36 states. They endorsed recommendations made by Dickson’s peace and reconciliation committee which called for a unity national convention to hold not later than August 2017. The met and issued a communiqué. The Federal Capital Territory PDP chairman, Yunusa Suleiman said he and his colleagues were supporting Sheriff because of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. They applauded the political solution being proffered by Jonathan. They expressed worried over the loss of PDP members to APC across Nigeria since the loss of power.
But Ekiti PDP dismissed the stand. In a statement by the state publicity secretary, Jackson Adebayo, majority of the ‘so-called’ state chairmen were people appointed by Sheriff and not those duly elected at the party congresses prior to May 21, 2016; thereby accused Sheriff of single-handedly constituting his own national working committee by appointing people into positions that can only be filled through the national convention.
Chairman of the reconciliation committee, Henry Seriake Dickson wants all key actors in the party to embrace peace. He foresees dialogue, consultation and meetings as panacea to the lingering crisis. He is saddened by the loss of Edo and Ekiti states to APC. He met with the Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the PDP National Assembly caucus, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to present the committee’s reports him. A member of the committee Muhammad Gana eulogized Jonathan for epitomizing peace by conceding defeat at the last general elections, a development that stabilized the country. He recalled Jonathan’s efforts in rebuilding the party, thereby urged party loyalists to support the recommendations of the reconciliation committee.
On March 22, 2017 the split worsened as both groups held separate meetings in Abuja and passed vote of confidence on their leaders. 26 member state chairmen led by the chairman of Akwa-lbom state, Obong Paul Ekpo, backed Seriake’s committee report but demanded that it must be submitted to all organs of the party. Ekpo accused four of their colleagues for using the names of the forum to convene a meeting of PDP Chairmen on March, 17 without their authority.
Nonetheless, the crisis nearly ended when the two groups were said to have agreed to accept the peace move by reconciliation committee. In a communiqué said to have been signed by the factional PDP acting national publicity secretary for Sheriff’s group, Bernard Mikko and Makarfi faction’s Prince Dayo Adeyeye, all inimical activities that were capable of further weakening the party are to be halted immediately.; all actors of the party should desist from making derogatory, inflammatory and divisive statements against party officials, stakeholders and members; the party should not dissipate her energy amongst itself but to focus on how to unite and be a formidable opposition capable of taking over power from the failed APC led government.
Now that the two contenders are to meet to start the final battle at the Supreme Court from April 4, what will happen if both chicken out or the court rules in favour of one of them or a faction finally breaks out to register a new party? Though it will not be the first time because at the heat of politicking for 2015 general elections, a new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) was born, further splitting of the party will definitely spell doom for it. We need strong opposition in Nigerian politics, so PDP should not kill itself. If there be the need for the Advanced Peoples Democratic Party (aPDP), let it be.