BY: Remi Adebayo
Leading for unbroken sixteen, out of seventeen years of democratic governance since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999, is a feat for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The onetime Africa’s largest political party, beaten by the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, to become the ruling party, the PDP now battles to keep its umbrella from licking and its house from falling apart.
While at the saddle as the ruling party, the PDP held the ace and dictated political happenings. In 2003, it controlled the federal legislature, winning 223 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives, and 76 out of 109 in the upper chamber. Same way, in 2007, amidst widespread allegations of electoral fraud, the party won 260 seats in the House of Representatives and 85 in the Senate.
However, the 2015 election was a sad shift for the party, as it fell from its dominant control of both the executive and legislature, winning 125 seats in the Green chamber and 49 senatorial to become the opposition. The PDP lost more to the APC, winning only 13 out of the 36 States in Nigeria.
Since the fallout with the Nigerian voters, the once dominant party is yet to recover from the shock and is daily enmeshed in bitter internal rivalry and supremacy tussle. That the PDP now plays opposition is no longer news; but how it intends to maneuver itself out of the political cage is the issue.
No sooner had former President Goodluck Jonathan lost at the poll than the cracks within the PDP started to manifest. The Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, accused the former chairman, Adamu Mu’azu of selling out to the APC. Fayose said the ex-chairman’s role was nothing but a sabotage of the party he led, and threatened to give evidence against the erstwhile chairman.
“I am even more particular about the National Chairman because he sold the party to the opposition. I have cogent evidences of his unholy alliances with the opposition before the elections and if they go any further, I will expose all his underhand deals,” Fayose said.
Following the PDPs loss and the accusations hauled at him, Mu’azu resigned his chairmanship of the party. In his resignation letter to then Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, Mu’azu noted, “Due to the abysmal performance of the party during the March 28 Presidential election, it became imperative for him (Mu’azu) to go and for peace to reign in the PDP.”
The party is yet to recover from its loss at the 2015 poll, and has failed to close ranks to as an opposition, offer alternative to the ruling APC. In their bid to resolve this, governors of the party figured that it was best to adhere to the party’s constitution and return the chairmanship vacated by Adamu Mu’azu to the North East where it was previously zoned.
It was on the basis of this that a former governor of Borno State and PDP defector, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was drafted in. Sheriff, a former bigwig within the All Progressive Congress, APC, defected to the PDP at the twilight of the Jonathan’s administration, following rumours of a power tussle with the a national leader of the party, and former Lagos Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Sheriff’s announcement was greeted with condemnation, and one was striking, that of a former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who took to his Twitter account to mock and predict the death of the PDP, a party on whose platform he ruled Nigeria for eight consecutive years of unbroken two terms.
“May the days ahead bring forth a better opposition party for Nigeria; that does not have a Boko Haram sponsor as its National Chairman… Let us have a minute of silence for PDP. I don’t expect anything else than this, not even when Ayo Fayose and Olisa Metuh are the microphone of the party.”
Another criticism came from a former Minister of Aviation and former spokesman of the Jonathan Campaign Committee, Femi Fani-Kayode, who commented thus: “What on earth has happened to us? As the Book of Galatians in the Holy Bible asks, “who has bewitched us”? Over the course of the last 17 years, in terms of the quality of party leadership, the PDP has gradually descended into the unceremonious cesspit of mediocrity”.
Dissents to the Sheriff debacle also came from the Board of Trustees, former ministers under Jonathan. To the Taminu Turaki-led former ministers group, the process leading to emergence of Sheriff was unclean and unacceptable. “In the first instance, the person who presided over the meeting was barred by court injunction and to the best of our knowledge that injunction has not been lifted. We believe that we should not give room for impunity.”
In breaking the truce, deal was struck to allow the ‘new’ party chairman live out the tenure of Mu’azu whose resignation in May 2015 created a vacuum till May when someone else should succeed him. With that in his kitty, Sheriff had the peace of another three months to consolidate his grips on the party. As the three months duration moved close, the party decided to zone its leadership positions but retaining the slot of the chairman in the North East.
What should ordinarily have unified the party, the May 21 convention, rather than uniting the feuding parties, further polarised it. While the Port Harcourt convention held in spite of an injunction of a court stopping it, Sheriff who was absent, claimed a court injunction forbade the party from going ahead with the convention. He distanced himself from the convention.
But a parallel convention was held in Abuja a seven-man caretaker committee was constituted and headed by a former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, to steer the affairs of the party, pending the convening of another national convention within three months.
Since then, the leadership of the onetime ruling party has been riddled with legal tussles, with each camp winning rulings at different times. Both Makarfi and Sheriff have always laid claims to the chairmanship of the party, relying on the injunctions of the courts at different times.
Worried that the court injunctions would not end the feuds within its ranks, party leaders are exploring the political options to end these controversies. In this regard, the Senator Walid Jibrin-led BoT inaugurated an 18-man reconciliation committee to unite party stalwarts, leaders and members ahead of the August 17 national convention that was to be held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but which was prevented from taking place by another court order.
But while the Makarfi-led faction was pushing for the planned Port Harcourt convention, the Sheriff-led faction insisted that Sheriff was the legal chairman of the party and was the one who had the responsibility to organise a national convention to produce new leaders of the party.
Contest for the chairmanship position has now been zoned to the South West, with party members such as Chief Olabode George, the 2015 Lagos governorship candidate of the party, Jimi Agbaje and Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
As politicians brace up ahead of the 2019 general elections, there are suspicions that the PDP will not be able to mend its tattered umbrella and put its house in order to confront the APC whose abysmal performance felt through the untold hardship brought about by its anti-people policies, has sent Nigerians to seek for an alternative to the once-darling APC. MA