PDP: Proving hard to mend
• How clash of ambitions thrashed Sheriff’s reign
• Leash on the Makarfi committee
The question is no longer who brought Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. It is not even about how to get the former Borno State governor out of his new fangled claim of tenured office as acting national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). PDP may be in troubled times, but it is not the sort of challenges it cannot surmount. The snag is when and at what cost.
But it appears the embattled former ruling party has been infected with the Anambra political blight of parading two claimants to the topmost office of national chairman. There were high hopes that the party would use its 2016 post-defeat convention to regain its composure and set up foolproof strategies to offer constructive opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Yet, as things stand, the party dashed the hopes of Nigerians to witness the beauty of bi-partisan culture in a true democracy as obtains in the United States of America, from where the country copied the presidential system. PDP may not have reached the point of no return, but it has unraveled further.
Allegations that the ruling APC wants to benefit from the impasse in the former behemoth emerged recently in the form of desperate cry by one of the factions in the contest for the battered soul of PDP. With its bouquet of unsettled troubles, it is doubtful if APC has the stability or focused leadership to escalate the misfortunes of the major oppositione Umbrella.
In its ongoing efforts to reclaim the party structure and enthrone a responsive leadership, PDP should own responsibility for the many failings dogging its attempt to recover and reinvent the platform. Evidences of PDP shaky strategies started manifesting early this year when it began to give serious thoughts to its national convention.
There is no doubt that the former Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, stirred the hornet nest in PDP by interrogating the official status of acting national chairman granted to the party deputy national chairman, Uche Secondus.
Secondus, alongside some of his co-travelers in the National Working Committee (NWC) were so ensconced in the temporary illegitimacy of party leadership, such that they were busy contemplating how to return to the NWC for another term, albeit on different offices. However, Gulak successfully challenged the illegality in court, but fouled that victory in the attempt to crown himself national chairman.
It was therefore the attempt to call Gulak’s bluff that some leaders of the party, notably state governors went and conscripted the former governor of Bornu State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to fill the vacuum and rightly so with a person from the Northeast geopolitical zone from where the erstwhile ‘game changer’, Adamu Muázu hailed from.
The recent scramble between Sheriff and his former sponsors seems to throw up new posers about the forced resignation of the former Bauchi State governor, Mu’azu. Did Secondus and other NWC playmakers move against the ‘game changer’ to escape vicarious responsibility for the party drubbing at the general election or to perpetuate themselves in office? Why has transparent leadership selection process continued to be forbidden in PDP? Are there hidden secrets that some privileged leaders do not want to be exposed about the party or was the party structured to serve as automatic teller machines for party functionaries?
From what unfolded in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on May 22, 2016, particularly the untoward run of events during the ill-fated convention; the clash of ambitions among the major protagonists betrayed their pretended amity. But SAS seemed to have prepared himself for the eventualities that played out.
Before the delegates and various organs of the party converged in Port Harcourt, it was generally believed that Ekiti and Rivers states Governors, Ayodele Fayose and Nyesom Wike, were the reinforced concrete pillars on which the embattled acting national chairman stood.
And so, having succeeded thus far in convincing the forum of governors to line up behind the plan to perpetuate Sheriff in office against the vociferous opposition by former ministers and naysayers in the Board of Trustees, Wike and Fayose, were looked up to as the young Turks that had taken over the management of Octopus PDP.
But Sheriff showed signs of expertise in the game of political trickery. The perception among the new helmsmen in Port Harcourt was that whoever filed the suit in a Lagos High Court challenging the convention must have lost the game since Sheriff, who was listed as plaintiff in the matter was in the Garden City in flesh and blood. Traces of the mutual suspicion among the leaders were said to have emerged shortly after the idea of ditching SAS was broached.
Sources at the River State Government House where a prolonged meeting held to douse the embers of the ferocious divisions threatening the party was held, disclosed that surprised by the insistence of the Prof. Jerry Gana/Senator Ibrahim Mantu group to hold a parallel convention, the governors decided to sacrifice Sheriff to pave way for genuine reconciliation and avert another major division in the party.
However, by the time Sheriff stormed out of the meeting to address a press conference announcing the postponement of the convention, he had disagreed with the position of Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, on the status of the Southwest zonal congress. While Fayose held that the congress was successful and did not offend any law, Sheriff was said to have declared the process illegal, citing an interlocutory injunction against the congress.
Sources within the meeting disclosed that it was based on the misunderstanding over the status of Southwest zonal executive that Fayose withdrew support for Sheriff, stressing that Sheriff had ulterior motives for the PDP structure. As the governors weighed the possibility of drafting new candidates for the post of national chairman, allegations of Sheriff’s presidential aspiration cropped up.
It was gathered that already, two state governors, from the Southwest and Southeast, had been humoured with a possible vice presidential ticket. Like wild fire, the disclosure circulated among party chieftains and the decision to stop Sheriff was sealed.
But no sooner had the party concluded arrangements to set up a caretaker committee, than Sheriff announced to journalists that the convention had been put off to respect the ruling of various courts, especially the Federal High Court, Lagos. And the battle of wits and verbal darts began.
Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, accused Sheriff of harbouring a hidden agenda before coming to the National Convention, pointing out that the former Borno governor made an about face when he got hints that he was disqualified from contesting the election, having not been two years in the party or granted a waiver.
Picking holes on Sheriff’s unilateral attempt to postpone the convention, Wike disclosed that having subjected himself to screening by the National Convention Screening Committee and raised the transparent nature of the process, his alibi that the court stopped the convention does not hold water.
However, speaking through his special assistant on media, Inuwa Bwala, Sheriff said he was in his home when he was invited to come and help rebuild PDP. He stated that it was only when Governors Fayose and Wike discovered that Sheriff was too big for them to manipulate that they started alleging hidden motive to destroy the party.
Sheriff pointed out that faced with many court rulings, he chose to obey lawful court rulings by calling off the convention, adding that the Appeal Court refused to vacate the order, hence he had to call off the convention.
However, against the background of claims that the PDP constitution has no place for caretaker committee, some chieftain of the party contend that the convention was properly convened, stressing that the decisions taken by the convention were binding and supersede the position of any other organ of the party, the National Working Committee (NWC), inclusive. Some senators who spoke to The Guardian on the matter said the fact that the appointment was not ratified by the convention vitiates his claim to tenured occupation of the office of national chairman.
They claimed that like the acting position held by Secondus before the court ruling against it, Sheriff was occupying a temporary office that would have been ratified or repudiated at the convention. But it was intriguing that none of the politicians from Northeast tagged to take Sheriff’s place at Port Harcourt convention acquiesced.
There are suggestions that for peace to return to PDP in the shortest time possible, Sheriff should withdraw the case he filed challenging his removal. Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, had disclosed that alongside his Gombe counterpart, Ibrahim Dankwambo, they endorsed Sheriff as the only candidate from the zone for the post of national chairman.
Ishaku pointed out that out of 12 PDP governor, they had to cave in when 10 governors opposed Sheriff’s continuation in office, stressing that they wanted to allow the majority carry the day. And taking about majority, how does Sheriff think he could sustain his fight in the face of the opposition of various caucuses of the party?
Sources within Sheriff’s camp disclosed that most of the PDP members in the National Assembly and some first term governors have been coming clandestinely to pledge allegiance to the embattled acting national chairman.
Meanwhile, the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, has fixed July 4, 2016 to rule on whether Sheriff was validly removed by the May 21, 2016, National Convention of the party.
PDP had at the sitting on June 16 declared that the caretaker committee of the party headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi was duly appointed in line with the constitution of the party, stressing that the national convention was convened by the National Executive Committee (NEC) headed by the former National Acting Chairman, Sheriff, who himself participated in pre-convention events, including the screening exercise.