On July 12, Nigeria’s Supreme Court sitting in Abuja sacked controversial Peoples Democratic Party, PDP chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and declared the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee the authentic leadership of the party, after lengthy court battles and media wars by both factions.
A five-man panel led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in its unanimously agreed judgment read by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, ruled that the National Convention of the PDP held on May 21, 2016 which removed Sheriff was constitutionally and rightly done. Other members of the panel were Justices Tanko Muhammad, Kayode Ariwoola and Dattijo Muhammad.
After 16 years of uninterrupted rule, the PDP lost to the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2015 presidential election, and had since been stuck in a leadership crisis, leaving a failing APC with no viable opposition. And so this judgment is seen by many (which interestingly include members of the PDP) as an effort to save Nigeria from sliding into the dangerous slope of a one-party state.
While Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is of the view that “This judgment shows that there will be opposition in Nigeria,” Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who led the fight against Sheriff and remains one of the most vocal critic of the ruling APC, believes that with the judgment, “PDP can now play its role as an opposition party and prepare to take over power in 2019”.
Following the judgment, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye told journalists that “People are happy because there is a ray of hope for them, because APC has been a disaster… We want to send a signal to APC that PDP has come together and they will see a virile opposition.”
If the signal from the PDP was to threaten the APC, the effect appears ineffective. In a statement by APC’s spokesman, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, the party said of the Supreme Court verdict: “We are therefore delighted that the PDP is beginning to talk about holding the APC accountable for the promises in our manifesto.
“We want Nigerians, not just the PDP, to hold us accountable for every promise contained in our manifesto. We only urge them to be fair. A manifesto is not a four-year programme. If PDP had fully implemented its manifesto in the 16 years that it was in power, Nigerians would not have been attracted to the APC promise of change in 2015, because there would have been little left to promise.”
For the greater part of the APC’s two years rule since May 29, 2015 the party has not had a vibrant opposition to its policies sometimes deemed anti-people. There were fears that if the PDP leadership crisis went on unresolved, Nigeria was likely to go into the 2019 election with no opposing party to the APC. Although this judgment now prevents that from happening, the PDP still has work to do if it wants the electorate to consider it an alternative to the APC.
Since Makarfi is only Chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, a temporary position with a 90 days timeline, the PDP must make effort to strengthen the party’s internal democracy, then this must be done with the full participation of all the party’s national delegates. Doing this will go a long way in deepening a sense of belonging among its members.
Now this means that a total reform is more imperative for the PDP than the desire to field a candidate in the coming presidential election in 2019. The first major task of the Makarfi leadership is to unite aggrieved party members and bring them under the PDP’s umbrella. As rightly stated by Makarfi, this reconciliatory process should be based on “equity, equality and value”.
Beyond the ambition to defeat the APC in 2019 and reclaim power, the PDP does not have any articulate strategy to play the opposition politics. This we all can see in the statement credited to the Niger State Chairman of the party, Mr. Tanko Beji, calling for Nigerians to join hands with the party to “Chase out the APC in 2019”. According to him, “Our common enemy is the APC”.
An article published by Ripples Nigeria captures the PDP’s ill-thought-out rush to return to power succinctly: “The PDP’s desperate rush to return to power remains ill-advised. Rather than institutionalize reforms that will help it undergo a rebirth and shed its damaging reputation, positioning it not only for electoral success in the future but for governing success as well, the desperation to return to power will only lead to half-measures and makeshift arrangements.”
It is possible that according to Mr. Adeyeye the 2019 presidential election may be a “walkover for the PDP” but that is not a winning strategy for a party that was kicked out of power because of its boastful arrogance to rule Nigeria for a 100 years and also for its 16-years failure to transform the living conditions of the masses. A strategic and coordinated plan that seeks to return power back to the people, in line with the party’s slogan, would be better. MA