Next week, Nigeria’s apex court is expected to give judgment on the leadership crisis rocking the ace opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What impact will it have on the party ahead of 2019?
While the polity reels from the dizzying pace of activities, the political landscape of country is set to be redefined if, as is expected, the Supreme Court, gives judgment on the leadership crisis rocking the leading opposition party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Expectedly, there is apprehension within the warring camps. Nothing is certain. The swing of the pendulum of judgment is unpredictable.The former ruling party has been enmeshed in a prolonged leadership crisis which has defiled series of reconciliation efforts and culminated in legal tussles.
The warring factions led by Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi, both former governors of Borno and Kaduna, respectively, have beyond trading blames, refused to back down.
Meanwhile, series of reconciliation attempts, involving prominent leaders in the country were unsuccessful. From the BoT to the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Gen Aliyu Gusau, amongst others. However an attempt by former President Goodluck Jonathan, to intervene has also not yielded much. If any thing the political solution sought by the former president not only fell through, but escalated the crisis.
Ever since, live proverbial bulls in a China shop, the two camps have repeatedly gone at each other at the slightest provocation, a situation which has threatened the continued existence of the party.
Never mind that Sheriff seems to have legal recognition without popularity support of party members, he prides himself as being the solution to impunity in the party.
Whereas, the Makarfi camp, which is where all organs and forums in the party pledge loyalty to, have repeatedly treated Sheriff with leperous regard, accusing him of being an agent of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to destroy the former ruling party ahead of 2019.
The friction resurfaced last week, ahead of the anticipated judgment.
Former minister under the party while disclosing that the Supreme Court will give judgment over the party’s leadership crisis this week, reaffirmed their loyalty to Makarfi.
While they pledged to abide by the outcome of the judgment they boasted that their party will return to power in 2019.
Chairman of the forum, Taminu Turaki, while addressing newsmen after their meeting said “we have said that we are working in tandem with other organs and tiers of party. The party has taken decision that whatever happens we will remain committed to the ideals and vision of PDP. We believe very strongly that the judgement of the supreme court which is comming sometime next week will unite the party more than dividing us.”
However according to their communique, they resolved “That the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi has been playing commendable role in keeping the members of the party together and upholding the tenets and visions of the party. The forum therefore reaffirm the confidence in the NCC. The forum commended the various efforts especially our BOT, Governors Forum, NASS caucus, Jerry Gana led Strategic Review Committee for the repositioning of our great party.
“The resolves to remain committed to the ideals of visions and mission of the PDP and we are determined to join other organs of the party in revitalising the party into a virile and more constructive opposition.
“The forum also calls for the urgent meeting of all organs of the party to harmonise all necessary strategies to consolidate the party and unite all efforts particularly in the buildup to the 2019 general election which we hope we will with a resounding victory by the special grace of God.”
They also felt the defections that have hit the party as a result of the crisis, the latest of which was former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe. They were optimistic that they would return.
While the Makarfi camp lapped up the vote of confidence, Sheriff, expectedly was angry.
He lambasted the former ministers over their position, saying they ran the party and the nation ground when they were offered opportunity to serve.
The PDP chairman who described them as an illegal body in PDP, dared them to declare their sources of money, adding that they ought to hide their faces in shame.
Sheriff, who spoke through his deputy, Cairo Ojougboh said the former minister decided to align with Sen Ahmed Makarfi’s faction because, he would not allow them exploit PDP like in the past.
But while declaring the body as illegal, Sheriff, while was reacting to the comments of former ministers, said “ordinarily, these people will not walk the street, they were given opportunity to run this country, but they ran it aground. They were given the opportunity to implement the manifesto of the PDP, they finished the PDP, they finished the country and here they are regrouping.
“Nigerians are not fools, Nigerians will not listen to them, Nigerians are hoping and waiting for the new PDP that will emerge after the ruling of the Supreme Court, whichever way it goes, the Sheriff and the National Working Committee will obey and abide by orders of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Angered by the vote of confidence on Makarfi-led Committee, Sheriff said, “we want to say first of all that the party Constitution is very clear and the organs of the party are specified, from the ward executive committee down to the National Convention of the party. On this list there is nothing like the forum of former ministers.
“We take exception to the comments of this group of persons who met yesterday and called themselves, forum of former ministers.
“We want to say that under normal circumstances, in some countries, these are people who will not normally show themselves in the public. We want to say also that it is very disheartening that persons of these calibre, some of them lawyers would take impunity to the highest level by declaring that they support Makarfi. Because they are expecting judgment from the Supreme Court, they want to sway the opinion of Supreme Court.
“These group of persons have alot of money, money from sources that cannot be explained and their opinion is that they can buy the party, but Sheriff has said no, that the party is not for sale and so, they know who to support and they know the people they can buy, but if it is Sheriff they cannot.
“Our position is very clear, yes! They might not support Sheriff and the reason is simple, yes! They know they cannot buy Sheriff, Sheriff is not for sale, Sheriff and the PDP, the party is for the masses and the governors have said that whatever comes out of the Supreme Court that is how the party would be.
“We want to thank specifically the governors who met and reaffirm that whatever happens at the Supreme Court that they will key into it and the party will be rebuilt from there.”
The Chairman further lambasted the former ministers, pointing out that ordinarily, not only can the ministers win their ward elections, but they help to destroy the country and the party.
“We advise the press not to grant any ordience of such nature because you are given ordience to illegal body. The PDP Constitution is very clear, they are not an organ of the party, they don’t exist in the rules of the party. These are people who cannot win election in their wards. We don’t recognize them as organ of the party. In their own personal individual we recognize them.
Sheriff declared that PDP is a law abiding party, and had respected the outcome, the declaration and the ruling of the High Court in Lagos and Abuja that said that they should not hold convention.
He said that the PDP they are rebuilding is not a party where one man can boast that the party belong to him.
“The PDP that we are rebuilding is not a PDP where one man can say he owns the party. God, who brought Sheriff does not made mistake and Sheriff is the agent of change from anti party democracy in Nigeria. Without the presence of Sheriff, today, I am sure Oyegun would not have been the Chairman of APC, but the APC also has learnt that they have to respect the party, that the party is supreme.
“And those of us in the PDP that are the direct architect of what is happening in the PDP we have refused to obey the court of the land. For the avoidance of doubt, we want to restate that the entire grassroots of PDP in the whole country are solidly behind Sheriff.
“God’s willing, the outcome of the Supreme Court Sheriff will obey it and we do know that we will always obey the rule of law and we urge the Supreme Court not to be swayed by the posture of these persons who ordinarily cannot walk the street,” the Chairman said.
While the ‘David and Goliath battle’ rage, the negative impact on the party continues. It’s goodwill and presence is fast eroding, diminishing measurably its chances of returning to power ahead of 2019. This was quite evident in outing of the party in the last governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states where it’s internal crisis, having permeated its state chapters, saw to the emergence of two candidates which contributed measurably to the party’s loss.
What’s more, conflicting signals had trailed the pronouncements by Makarfi’s leadership as well as some influential party members.
While some party chieftains, including governors of Ekiti and Rivers, Ayo Fayose and Nyesom Wike, respectively, Femi Fani Kayode, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, have hinted that they will not remain in same party with Sheriff, Makarfi had advised state chapters of the party to use whatever platform they want to contest elections pending the outcome of the crisis.
The declaration didn’t go down well with Sheriff’s camp who accused Makarfi of trying to form a new party. Nonetheless, Sheriff’s claim was accentuated by the emergence of new political parties which enjoyed the backing of key PDP members.
The alleged permutation was that in the event Sheriff gets victory at the Supreme Court, a mass defection into the new party would naturally be the option.
Although, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party dispelled claims that there were moves to change the party’s name or form a new party, there have been defections by some key members. The likes of Osita Chidoka moved to United Peoples Party (UPP) ahead of the November governorship election in Anambra State, which he aspires to contest in.
The declaration by the party governor’s after a last meeting in Abuja that they will remain in the party after the court judgment was taken with a pinch of salt, it was learnt.
Apparently, while they have no option than to abide by the decision of the apex court, it unlikely that the party will remain the same, considering the extent of the animosity that resulted from the crisis.
The heavy losses suffered by the party in Edo and Ondo, as well as the loss of political mileage ahead of 2019 suffered by the party would not be easily forgotten, analysts opine.
What’s more, in a seeming resignation to a winner takes all posture in the party, considering that reconciliation moves failed to follow through, it remains unclear whether some form of sharing formulae will be arrived out as a bridge mending strategy.
Also with Anambra, Ekiti, Osun and ultimately the 2019 general elections in sight, the party might not stand a chance if the crisis of confidence persists even after the Supreme Court gives a judgment.
By and large, the goodwill PDP enjoys appears to be waning, what with the perception that its achievements in the past 17 years it held sway does not correspond with the huge resources that accrued to the country.