The many sides of PDP crisisHeadlines, Party Politics, Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is desperately in need of peace. But the more the party searched for peace, the more it seems elusive. Hopes for an early resolution of the crisis dimmed a fortnight ago, as the protagonists in the leadership crisis that had torn the party apart in the past five months failed to show up at a meeting to inaugurate a 28 man peace committee to resolve the differences in the party. It was an indication that the peace moves may have hit the rocks.
The failure of the peace deal is attributable to the raging controversy over who is the authentic candidate of the party in the Ondo State governorship election.
Since May 21 this year when the party’s convention in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital sacked its National Working Committee (NWC) headed by former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, the centre can no longer hold for the opposition party, which once prided itself as the largest party in Africa.
In fact, PDP troubles started in the aftermath of its loss of the last general election. It was indeed out of the search for a new beginning that governors elected on the platform of the party brought Sheriff on board as the national chairman.
Former National Secretary of the party, Professor Wale Oladipo captures the situation in the opposition party thus: “There is no hiding the fact that the PDP has been passing through troubled times. Since the last election that our candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan conceded, our party has had to chart a path that is not familiar with us.”
After the sack of Sheriff as the National Chairman of the PDP, the party’s National Convention had set up a National Caretaker Committee headed by former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. The caretaker was given three months to hold a fresh convention that would produce the substantive party executives.
However, Sheriff would have none of that, as he described his sack as a huge joke. He asked members of the dissolved NWC to return to office, failure of which he would replace them. When they failed to heed his call, the former Borno governor replaced the affected former party executive, appointing former member of the House of Representatives, Dr Cairo Ojougboh as national deputy chairman.
Since then, the party had been polarised. While the caretaker committee enjoys the support of the PDP Board of Trustees(BoT), the governors elected on the platform of the party and other big wigs, the former Borno governor is backed by a handful of party chieftains.
The tussle for the leadership of the party led to the sealing up of the party’s National secretariat by the police in May. The secretariat is still under lock and key, five months after.
Both groups, which operate from different secretariats in Abuja, has since taken legal measures, with several conflicting judgments coming from courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
Botched peace moves
Prior to the rescheduled National Convention of the party in August, the BoT set up a Reconciliation Committee headed by former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana to broker peace between the Sheriff faction and the party, before the convention.
The Sheriff camp gave three conditions for peace- the sack of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike as chairman of the Convention Planning Committee, the postponement of the rescheduled national convention and the shift of the convention venue from Port Harcourt to Abuja.
But the BOT would not grant any of those conditions made by the former national chairman before the Port Harcourt convention. Consequently, the reconciliation moves broke down.
Apart from the Gana Reconcilation Committee, there were other attempts to by PDP governors and concerned stakeholders to broker peace in the party. One of the moves were undertaken by the governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson and former deputy Senate president, Ibrahim Mantu. But unfortunately for the opposition party, all the peace moves fell like a pack of cards.
Attempts to elect a new party executive at the rescheduled convention was scuttled by an order of a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang. However, the convention extended the life of the caretaker committee by one year.
Apparently in a bid to pacify the Sheriff faction, the BoT after its meeting in Abuja on August 29, conceded to two of the requests made by the Sheriff group, as it directed the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee to hold the party’s next national convention in Abuja. The BoT, in a communique read by its Chairman, Senator Walid Jubrin, also directed the caretaker committee to set up a new convention planning committe. The new Committee, according to the BoT would be approved by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
But in a swift reaction, the Sheriff faction rejected the BoT resolution, noting that it fell short of the agreement it reached with the Dickson/ Mantu peace committee. The group insisted that the caretaker committee must be dissolved for peace to return to the party. However, in a twist of events, Sheriff and Makarfi met in Abuja on September 20 and agreed to bury the hatchet. In a joint statement issued by the duo and read at a press conference which was attended by Ojougboh and secretary of the caretaker committee, Senator Ben Obi, the two PDP factions said the peace move is without prejudice to the outcome of pending court cases on the matter.
After several meetings, both men agreed to set up a joint 28 man Reconciliation Committee 28 to resolve the leadership crisis in the PDP. It was the committee that was to have been inaugurated last Tuesday.
Although the caretaker committee in a statement issued by Head, Publicity Unit, Chinwe Nnorom on behalf of the National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye said the inauguration of the reconciliation committee was put off at the last minute to enable both groups sort out some issues, the Sheriff camp had kept sealed lips over the turn of events.
Daily Sun reliably gathered that the peace deal was truncated because of the governorship tussle in Ondo State.
The price of conflict
Analysts believe that the crisis in the PDP is taking a great toll on the party. For instance, not a few believe that the crisis which led to the polarisation of the Edo State chapter of the party is one of the factors that led to its loss in the recent governorship election in that state.
Presently, the members of the opposition party in Ondo State are working at cross purposes in Ondo ahead of the November 26 election in the south west state. While a former commissioner in the state, Jegede is the candidate of the caretaker committee, business mogul, Ibrahim Jimoh is the candidate of the Sheriff faction.
Besides, the crisis is making it impossible for the party to effectively play its role as opposition in the country, especially at a time when the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is also in crisis.
Analysts believe that the PDP may yet pay more price for the leadership crisis in its fold as the country approaches the 2019 general election except it urgently puts its house in order. Presently, just like what is happening in the PDP, there is no peace also in APC. Its National Chairman, John Odigie Oyegun and a national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu have been at loggerheads in a recent time over the outcome of the party’s primaries in Ondo State. Many believe that a united PDP ought to capitalise on the APC crisis and strengthen its quest to return power to the centre in 2019, using the Ondo election, one of the two states it controls in the South West, as a launch pad.
Road blocks to peace
Informed sources say at the moment, there are at least four factors militating against genuine reconciliation in the PDP. These include the ego war between Sheriff and the PDP governors, the BoT and APC. But the most potent of these factors is Sheriff and PDP governors. Since the party convention in Port Harcourt sacked Sheriff as the national chairman, the former Borno governor has been on a warpath with the PDP governors.
Incidentally, it was the governors that foisted Sheriff on the party against protestation from other party leaders and edged him on in his bid to elongate his tenure.
It is the practice in the PDP for the governors to foist the national chairman on the party irrespective of what other leaders think and when they are tired of the individual, they boot him out. But in Sheriff, they met a hard nut.
A party chief from the North central who preferred anonymity told Daily Sun that the main obstacle to peace in the opposition party is the former Borno governor. He described the PDP dalliance with Sheriff as stalking a lion, noting that when one stalks a lion, either the person or the lion must have to die.
But the Sheriff camp lays the blame for the lingering crisis at the door steps of the BoT. The APC has also been fingered in the crisis rocking the main opposition party. Wike believes firmly that there is a plot by the ruling party to destabilise the PDP.
If eventually the party is unable to resolve the leadership crisis through dialogue, then the gladiators will have to rely on the decision of the appellate court, especially the Supreme Court for resolution of the party’s crisis. But even that will not guarantee lasting solution. Not a few believe that the survival of the party depends on a genuine reconciliation achieved through dialogue, especially in the march to the 2019 general election as any other might be counterproductive.
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