The PDP’s new Sheriff

Alli-Modu Sheriff and Uche Secondus

Alli-Modu Sheriff and Uche Secondus

SINCE it lost the last presidential election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been struggling to pick the pieces of its shattered life. It is behaving as if that defeat is the equivalent of a death penalty. Almost one year after that defeat it is still engaging in a needless blame game, nit picking power tussle and a life-threatening squabbling.

When its Chairman, Ahmadu Adamu Muazu, resigned after the elections, there was a power tussle. Uche Secondus, the deputy chairman, thought he should take over the chairmanship in an acting capacity and complete the tenure of that executive. The North East wing of the party insisted that Muazu’s term must be completed by someone from the North East. So, Ahmed Gulak decided to throw his hat into the ring and to put the crown on his head. But Secondus was the official acting boss. That did not bring the matter to an end because the North East wanted its due given to it.

The Governors’ Forum of the party did a head hunt and picked five men who were subjected to some kind of election process. A man called Ali Modu Sheriff won. There were some shrill noises here and there about the choice of Sheriff but he has been crowned by the National Working Committee, National Caucus, Board of Trustees in addition to the Governors’ Forum that midwife the process. However, a group of former ministers of the party is still making some little noises.

This party was badly run from the get-go because there were too many big, strange bed fellows jostling for juice. It grew exponentially in size and with its first victory in 1999, the party won some new converts and came to the belief that it was too big to fail.

Then its President, Olusegun Obasanjo, a man of considerable management experience but who was blind to the lessons of history wanted a third term, sorry he didn’t want it, I dey laugh-o, but the party failed to issue a restraining order. Instead, one of the top party men who believed he could fix anything under the sun said in justification for a tenure elongation “if the dress is not dirty why should you change it.” If the party was not ready to yellow-card the President, the Senate under the admirable leadership of Ken Nnamani decided that what was needed was, in fact, a red card on the issue. It brought the matter to an auspicious closure.

Another road block to the party’s progress was its cabalization, a symptom of its intra-party feud. When President Umaru Yar’Adua was going abroad for medical attention, the cabalists refused to do the needful. Jonathan could not act as President until the Senate came up with the so-called Doctrine of Necessity. This dented the party’s image immeasurably.

Even the nomination process of Goodluck Jonathan as the party’s candidate was flawed. Two party people, a man and a woman, had paid for the nomination forms for the presidential election, but what did the party say? “O sorry we only printed one form.” It showed the party as disorganised, lacking in internal democracy and one that was unwilling to drink its own medicine. A more thoughtful party would have allowed the two people to contest knowing that they had no chance whatsoever of winning. Rather it subverted its own guidelines.

Perhaps the most vivid example of the subversion of their own party was the feud that involved Muazu (chairman), Yuguda (governor) and Mohammed (FCT minister). All of them were PDP big wigs. All of them are from Bauchi State. All of them were planning for the campaign in their state to fail. I would like to characterise this episode as three bald men fighting for a comb.

During the last campaign, the party behaved initially as if victory was in the bag already. May be that is what the marabouts told them. Later, it panicked and behaved as if it was afraid to succeed. I think if it had behaved as if it was afraid to fail it would, all things being equal, have succeeded. It woke up late to the unwelcome prospect of failure staring it in the face and therefore pushed for a postponement of the election. However, whatever it did thereafter was too little too late.

Now that its defeat is a historical fact, the PDP needs to put its house in order so that it can do its job well as an opposition party. Femi Fani-Kayode rabble rousing ought to be condemned by his party men. He must accept a good chunk of the blame for the defeat of the party. I was shocked when the party stupidly chose him as its Director of Media and Publicity for the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization. I was even more shocked when he unthinkingly accepted the appointment. Any self-respecting communicator would have rejected it without thinking twice.

Before Fani-Kayode joined the PDP, he had splashed coal-tar on Jonathan. Here is a bit of the savage tirade. “The problem that we have is the President himself. A President who prides himself on his weakness and incompetence and whose love of false prophets and strange women knows no bounds and has no end….A President who has abdicated his responsibility, destroyed his own political party, divided his own country……abandoned his own people, brought ridicule to his own faith, cowers before his own officials, scorns the international community and breaks his solemn oath to protect and defend the Nigerian people.”

This sings like a typical funeral oration for your enemy. Then the party turns around and gives him the microphone to talk about the president. He takes it, wipes his handsome face with a white handkerchief and begins to speak Queen’s English bla bla bla about Jonathan’s strengths, excellent leadership qualities, his love of club and country, his accommodating mien, his dedication to his duties, his love for his faith, his scorn for false prophets and strange women, his love affair with the international community, his religious adherence to his oath of office, his ability to kill a hundred lions in one day, his ability to build the second Niger Bridge in one week, his ability to give each Nigerian a house with a swimming pool and a private jet.

In communication, the credibility of the messenger affects the credibility of the message. If a man is ready to make such a flip flop and keep a straight face then his credibility is next to zero. So how did the party think the man was going to deliver a credible message in Jonathan’s favour after rubbishing him. Of course, the APC utilising the services of a master propagandist, Lai Mohammed, put a sharp knife on the throat of the PDP and Jonathan and sliced it. The bleeding continues till this day. Now while there is some attempt to do some blood transfusion so that the party does not die of hemorrhage people like Fani-Kayode who were ministers of the party are throwing some spanners in the works. It is their right, of course, to query what is wrong with their party but they don’t need to destroy the party with extremism.

A man called Ali Modu Sheriff is selected as a caretaker chairman of the party for a few months. After the few months, a national convention is to be organised to elect officers according to the party’s constitution. However, some former ministers of the party say they do not want Sheriff, because he was not a founding member of the party, and has not stayed long enough in the party to deserve such elevation. These are very insignificant issues and do not constitute a constraint for a man of Sheriff’s experience. He was the governor of Borno State 2003-2011, a three-time senator, a founding member of the APC. Politics, we must admit, is a vocation of conflict. Various people want the same thing but only one person can get it. Conflict is brewed by the contest and this is no less true in this case.

Sheriff is a soft spoken man but he is a gutsy guy, tough as a nail. He is probably what the PDP needs at this time. But some of his opponents are throwing allegations of sponsoring Boko Haram at him without providing a scintilla of evidence. He has responded by saying that Boko Haram wanted to kill him because they think he is the one who reported them to President Yar’Adua who leveled their various places of worship and along the line, their leader was killed. Sheriff speaks further on Boko Haram: “They killed my brother, same mother, same father and no court of competent jurisdiction has ever indicted me on Boko Haram.” Those who are opposed to him and who think he sponsored Boko Haram should come forward with the evidence or leave the man to do the job.

It is good that the former ministers, especially those who served in the last administration, have now found their voices. In the weeks preceding the elections, Jonathan had complained that they were not speaking up for their ministries or for his government. He wondered whether they were truly loyal to him or they were APC’s wolves in PDP’s sheep’s clothing.

The ex-ministers deserve commendation for staying by their party when some of their colleagues have gone in search of stomach infrastructure.

The core strength of the party is the PDP Governors’ Forum not the club of ex-ministers particularly since the members contribute next to nothing financially. The governors have to build the party in their states, fund it and provide it with the administrative wherewithal to run the show. Besides, the EFCC cannot touch them now. But the ex-ministers cannot fund the parties and are not yet free from a knock on the door by the EFCC. Nevertheless, the two groups can cooperate rather than compete with each other to build a strong opposition party.

If we do not have a strong opposition party, the APC, hungry for maximum power, will put our democracy in chains. That will be dangerous.



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