On May 21, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its National Convention in Port Harcourt. It was a convention which many believed will build a new PDP, capable of challenging the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). But contrary to all expectations, the convention further polarized the party and created more problems than solutions.
At the convention, the incumbent chairman, Ali Modo Sheriff was sacked on the grounds that his tenure had expired. Consequently, the former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi was installed as the National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party to be at the helm of affairs for a period of three months.
The sacking of the else while chairman had become a large bone difficult for the party to swallow as Sheriff has engaged the party in one form of crisis after another, leading to his storming the PDP national secretariat in Abuja to declare that he remained the authentic national chairman of the party till 2018.
In a bid to resolve the crisis that emanated, the leaders of the party have met variously with concerned and aggrieved members, yet nothing seems to come forth as the gladiators remain adamant, claiming legitimacy as well as casting aspersions against each other. This has not done little havoc to the already caving in or rather battered image of the party.
Sheriff’s challenge of the action of the party led to the party national secretariat to be sealed off by armed police men for about nine days before it was reopened.
It will be recalled that most of the party’s stalwarts are languishing in one Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s cell or another with heavy fraud cases hanging on their necks, the biggest being the Sambo Dansuki’s $2.1 billion arms scandals, which like a leprous arm, has infected every finger of the party. This is not to mention the Alison Madueke’s mega million dollars deal with the Fidelity Bank among many others.
A political analyst, Ndubuisi Dena, told the Boss that if not that all politicians are just thinking of what to feed themselves with or just selfish, the PDP hierarchy would have understood that this is the best of times to be embroiled in leadership crisis, adding that with the way the APC government is going, the country needs veritable opposition, and the PDP seems to have failed with its plethora of leadership crises.
“If these PDP people are reasonable enough, they would have understood that this is not the best of times for leadership tussle. This has come to prove that no one has the collective interest at heart other than their private interest, otherwise they would have known that the country needs creditable opposition at this time going by the way the APC government is turning things upside down. Unfortunately, they have used their problems to scuttle everything,” he said.
But while concerned parties are making efforts to bring about peace, the camps of the two gladiators, who had formed different caretaker committees, which they chair, are singing discordant tunes, which highlight the fact that all is not well, and may not be well for some time.
The Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Care Taker Committee has accused Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff of working for the APC.
Spokesperson Caretaker Committee, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, told journalists during a press conference in Abuja that the party intelligence reports confirm that the embattled chairman of the party is working for the ruling APC to disorganize it ahead of the Edo State elections, which primaries is still causing a riffle.
“What we are however very certain about is that Sheriff and his fellow renegades are being used by the enemies of the PDP to destroy the party, and to prevent it from reorganising itself so as to provide a credible opposition and alternative platform for the forthcoming Edo State Gubernatorial election and 2019 elections.
“The All progressives Congress (APC) has contracted Sheriff and his cohorts to scuttle the chances of the PDP in the Edo governorship elections.
“We have credible intelligence that Sheriff had a meeting on Sunday night with an APC governor from North-west, where it was agreed that he would be given full security and financial support to exacerbate the crisis in the PDP with the objective of preventing the PDP from presenting a candidate for the Edo governorship elections, or in the very least to prevent the PDP from offering a serious challenge to the APC whose electoral fortunes has continued to nose- dive,” he said.
In response, the Ali Modu camp through the Chief Press Secretary to Ali-Modu Sheriff, Mr. Inuwa Bwala, described the accusations as baseless, saying that time will tell who is being sponsored by forces outside the PDP with the sole objective of destroying the party.
Reacting, another follower of politics, and a lawyer by profession, Barr. Adeleke Adejumo, said that the party was bent at destroying itself, adding that whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad.
“The PDP are bent at destroying themselves, and they are sure to suffer an implosion. It is who the gods want to destroy that they make mad. The party is just reveling in madness, and the players are careless of the outcome,” he said.
The crisis has continued even as a faction of the party, led by Senator Makarfi, successfully held its primaries for the September 10 Edo State Governorship Election. The said election, was declared illegal by Ali Modu Sheriff, who went ahead to form another election committee under the leadership of Senator Hope Uzodinma and Ahmed Gulak as chairman and secretary respectively. The election schedule for June 28 did not however, hold because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not throw its weight behind it, saying that parties holding primaries are statutorily required to service a 21 days’ notice to the commission.
In a recalcitrant move, Modu Sheriff went ahead to announce the sack and replacement of Dan Orbih, the leader of Edo State chapter of the PDP, and went ahead to hold the primaries with 700 accredited delegates at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City the following day, June 29. The parallel election succeeded in producing Mr. Matthew Idouriyekemwen as its flag bearer.
Though the parties are still at war for supremacy, the Makarfi faction has advised Ali Modu Sheriff, to tow the path of dialogue over Edo governorship election.
Ahmed Makarfi, gave the advice on in Abuja when he received the report of the PDP Edo governorship primaries.
“Once again, I call upon the former chairman of PDP, my colleague and friend Sheriff and those associating with him to follow the path of dialogue. They should not to do anything further that will cause PDP harm in Edo state,’’ Mr. Makarfi said.
He said it was important for the party to work together as INEC had stated that it required 21 days notice to monitor any primary:
“This means validly and legally, no primary can be conducted apart from the one which we conducted and monitored by INEC. If the intention is not to cause the PDP to fail the election, any talk towards conducting other primaries in Edo by anybody either within or outside the state is supposed to have ceased by this time.”
The chairman of the primaries committee, Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, while submitting the report, said the primary, which produced Pastor Ize Iyamu as the party’s flag bearer, was peaceful and successful.
“Let me also appeal to Sheriff that no one can be greater than the party. He may have been wronged on moral ground, but by the reason of our party’s constitution, let him have a rethink,’’ he said.
While it seems that PDP members are on the side of the Port Harcourt convention, recent aggrieved members are beginning to cross carpet to the Ali Modu faction, the most recent being the defeated Edo governorship candidate in the primaries, Mr. Matthew Idouriyekemwen, who rejected the outcome of the primaries.
Analysts have argued that if things remain the way they are, the possibility of the party winning the Edo State election or even retaining Ondo State is very remote.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand, and that is the story of the PDP at the moment. The way things are going, winning in Edo or even retaining Ondo, has become a tall dream and unachievable. The party must do everything within its power to put its house in order if they wish to make an impact in these elections,” a political analyst said.
He added that it does not matter who holds the reigns of the party administration, but one person must give way to the other.
But the former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, a chieftain of the party, has said that the current crisis is an indication that the party is strong.
He told newsmen in Bamaina village in Birninkudu Local Government Area of the state that the party would emerge stronger and bigger, saying that it is normal for people to fight for what is existent, valuable, worthy and important.
“PDP is a big party that has history and it is a party of conglomeration of all Nigerians across the divide. This is not our first crisis, if you go down our history from the formation of the party you will notice that this is not the first time we are having crisis. “You can remember that the late Sunday Awoniyi had battle of leadership with former Chairman Banabas Gemade. We also had crisis during Audu Ogbeh’s reign. “You don’t fight for what is not in existence. PDP was in power for 16 years and the crisis and fight had always been with us,’’ he said.
He said that both Ahmed Makarfi and Modu Sherrif are members of PDP and would remain members no matter what happened. Lamido said further that the party had the capacity to resolve its differences, giving the assurance that the discord within the party would soon be over.
At the moment, only time will tell the trend the PDP crisis will assume as neither Makarfi nor Sheriff is willing to bulge.