PDP: Firming up to confront weighty issues

Of recent, the polity started pointing towards some benefits of two strong political parties: healthy competition and inclusion. Following the July 12, favourable Supreme Court ruling that restored leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the majority faction of National Caretaker Committee (NCC), led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the party set machinery in accelerated motion to firm up its structures.

On the flip side, PDP’s main rival and nemesis, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) woke up from its two years slumber to begin serious plans for its delayed midterm convention. APC had been scared of holding its midterm convention, ostensibly to avoid the possibility of an implosion, which had been building up shortly after it mounted the saddle as ruling party.

The apex court judgment, which came as elixir to PDP must have harassed APC leaders, such that they became charged to face its worst fears by holding the convention, even if non-elective, to try to cement noticeable cracks on its structure.

In the days to come what happens within the two major political platforms would help Nigerians to make their conclusions. While APC bulldozed its way to electoral victory due to poor performance and internal misunderstanding within the PDP, the accidental victory did not allow the new amalgam to smoothen its structure as one political unit. The fissures of hurried joinery remained noticeable.

As things stand, and following its vigorous efforts to bounce back as the primary national political movement rooted in free market ideology, PDP seems to be out there in the front dictating the pace of politics as the country heads to another general election year, 2019. Therefore, how far both platforms are able to chart their paths to the future depends on how they confront those obvious challenges that confront their unity and cohesion.

PDP: Clearing Scars Of Internal Wars
Give it to PDP. Its rich political experience and years of waddling through internal strife must have come handy shortly after the favourable Supreme Court judgment. The speed with which the NCC summoned caucus and NEC meetings showed the grains of clever political thinking, hunger for reunion and surefootedness about where it stands and wants to be on national politics.

Without doubt, the trauma of losing a general election despite the enormous clout of incumbency and the harrowing experience of struggling for the soul of the party with an invited functionary, left PDP devastated and frustrated.

Although the coming of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was as sudden as it was shrouded in secrecy, with the benefit of hindsight, foisting the former Borno State governor on PDP as its acting national chairman was strategically intended to botch the ambitions of entrenched interests in the party.

As at the time former President Goodluck Jonathan insisted on seeking a second term mandate, many second term governors in PDP from the north were showing interest to contest the PDP ticket to the exalted seat. Those who were frustrated by Jonathan’s interest, including Governors Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Magatakarda Aliu Wammako and fourth republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, left the party for newly coupled APC.

It should be noted however, that at the onset of the crisis of confidence in PDP, ten members of the national working committee ganged up against the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, a move that eventually led to his forced resignation. Many thought the exit of Tukur would stanch the growing discontent within the party, but it did not.

Dr. Adamu Mu’azu, who came in as Tukur’s replacement, was toasted as the game changer in the party’s march to battle the 2015 election. Somehow, the composition of the party’s Presidential Campaign Organisation threw up new murmurs as members of the NWC, especially those that conspired against Tukur felt they were sidelined. No sooner therefore had the party lost the election than the same forces that precipitated Tukur’s removal singled out Mu’azu as cause of the defeat.

On its wake, Mu’azu’s ouster then opened the door to the tide of leadership squabble that nearly cost PDP its life and future. Deputy National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, who occupied Mu’azu’s office in acting capacity, forgot about the extant provisions of the PDP constitution and regaled in office, exercising illegal authority as the party contested governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.

Irked by that affront on the constitution, former Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, approached the courts and secured positive ruling, which held that PDP constitution has no place for the position of acting national chairman. The court did not however make any consequential or declarative order for the plaintiff, Gulak, to step into the shoes of Mu’azu, despite hailing from the same northeast geopolitical zone as the last occupant.

In the bid to prevent Gulak from appropriating the position of national chairman, a counter force within the party desirous of ensuring that Gulak’s backers who had eyes on the 2019 presidential race did not produce Mu’azu’s replacement, went for Sheriff, who, not being an aboriginal PDP, was expected to do the bidding of those who brought him in.

With the prolonged fight to retrieve the soul of PDP from Sheriff, a new setting for further class wars has presented itself. The question that arises as PDP tries to put its house in order is, have those who trampled the PDP constitution in the attempt to replace Mu’azu purged themselves of political necromancy?

Fight For Presidential Ticket
One crucial challenge PDP will face as it begins to clear the scars and debris of its internal wars, including the loss of 2015 presidential election and long drawn leadership crisis, is the fight for the party’s 2019 presidential ticket.

Basking in the euphoria of its recovered structure, PDP had declared that the 2019 presidential poll was its own to lose. That boast may be without prejudice to whoever flies the party’s flag in the election, but getting a flag bearer in the battled tested party does not seem an easy enterprise.

The party has hinted at reconciliation. Part of that peacemaking and unification effort would involve getting former members that defected in protest to other political parties, particularly the APC, to return. Now, when these caliber of politicians come into PDP, what happens to their presidential ambitions?

If, for instance, in the unlikely event that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar returns to PDP, would other aspirants allow him an automatic ticket? And not just presidential ticket, what happens to state structures of the party, particularly in states like Sokoto and Kano? Will PDP lose sight of the fact that Wammako and Kwankwaso caused former Governors Attahiru Bafarawa and Ibrahim Shekarau to saunter into the party?

In its lofty ambition of rebuilding the party to its former stature, PDP leaders should be wary of causing further political disruptions in the polity so that Nigerians could begin to reap the benefits of two major political parties by noting differences between it and APC.

As defectors hopefully return, perhaps, the greatest test of PDP’s contrition is what it does with the Sheriff Camp that dragged the platform through several litigations. Having confessed his shock at the outcome of the apex court ruling, it would be the height of loyalty and deepest humility for the Sheriff Camp to eat the humble pie and remain in PDP. Ego having been bruised left a scarifying wound such as the perceived offer of amnesty reopened.

However, it is the decision to remain or refrain from further membership of PDP that Sheriff would show whether his fight for reforms in the party was self-serving or genuine commitment to internal democracy and extinction of impunity. If he elects to remain in the party, that decision would earn him plaudits and enable him contribute his quota to the revival efforts. Would such expectation end up as a pipe dream? Only Sheriff could say, after he studies the ruling, as he hinted.

In the light of the foregoing, it could be seen that regularizing the state chapters of the party presents the most urgent challenge to the national caretaker committee, which as things stand, might receive term elongation during the August 12 national convention.

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