‘Resolution of PDP crisis has implications for Nigeria’s democracy’

Chief Bode George

As members in the two factional divides of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the entire political class in Nigeria await the judgment of the Supreme Court over who between Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi is the authentic chairman of the political platform, Chief Olabode George, a chieftain and former Deputy National Chairman of the former ruling party told Niyi Bello, Head of Politics Desk and Seye Olumide, that the expectations from the apex court are not only about the party but the entire democratic structure in the country.

Is there any way the problems of the PDP can be resolved outside the courts?
The most rational thing to do is to have reconciliation outside the courts but when you see that one side is honest and committed and external forces are controlling the other side, there is problem. The issue at stake is so fundamental because one faction says I am the chairman but to be chairman of a party as stipulated in the constitution, you must go through a national convention for election. The question is, has Ali Modu Sheriff, who is claiming to be the National Chairman of the PDP, been elected at any convention? The answer is no.

Our laws say that when a member of the executive leaves, whether at the national or local level, we must go back to his zone to look for a substitute to complete the term. We were going for a convention where Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was nominated and he chaired the NEC meeting that would give approval. But he got the form, filled and returned it and went for screening. By the time we got to the convention at Port Harcourt, in the wisdom of the organizers, they felt it would not be good for the party. And he walked out. Something must have led him to do that. After obtaining the form in the first place, he has ceased to be acting chairman and become an aspirant. He cannot be a judge and a jury in his own case.

The committee that was to manage the convention had already been put in place and in their wisdom, they said we couldn’t go through this and that a caretaker committee be put in place. That was how Senator Ahmed Makarfi emerged as the head of the committee with the mandate to go and stabilize the party and organise another convention.

After the development, Senator Ike Ekwremadu’s committee was put in place to do the re-zoning and start preparing us for another convention for the 2019 election. All members of the party have agreed that the presidency must shift from the south to the north, which then means that the chairmanship position must come to the south. That was how Makarfi and everybody started the arrangement because the convention gave them a time frame of three months to come back. This led to the second convention. In between this period, a court in Lagos said the convention could not hold while another court of same jurisdiction in Port Harcourt said the convention should hold. The convention now went to Port Harcourt but we couldn’t do it due to some lapses. Thank God that we didn’t hold the convention otherwise the party would have been totally decimated now.

Then we said the Makarfi committee should be expanded to have two representatives from each zone and that they should be given a long time to allow all the crises to be resolved so that we can have a very resounding convention. The truth is that Makarfi-led committee was duly elected at a convention but then the Port Harcourt Appeal Court said it recognized Sheriff. The implication is that all the laws as stipulated in our constitution are no longer valid. That was what led to the appeal against the judgment at the Supreme Court. Coming to your question, my position is that it is better to allow the court decides not because of the PDP, but for other political parties in the country. If we no longer have the rule of law, it would be the rule of the jungle. I insist that the court should be allowed to decide. If we do otherwise, those who agreed today might turn around to say no tomorrow.

How optimistic are you that the Makarfi group will get justice?
We should ask ourselves if the party’s constitution is sacrosanct. It is not about the PDP but the sanctity of the constitution. It is not going to affect the PDP alone but all political parties and the democratic institutions because Supreme Court verdict is a precedent. That is why we are saying that justice should be allowed to flow like a river. They would give us reasons for whatever judgment they deliver. But I know that as long as our constitution doesn’t impinge on the national constitution, anything we decide at our national convention should be the final because that is the highest authority and it would take another convention to reverse it. The rule of law is the major issue that will sustain this country.

But some leaders of the PDP are already looking for the alternative of floating another platform.
There is the need to plan and people are free to plan for alternative. But I have been in this party since it was founded although I was not among the founding fathers. The constitution was fashioned with the fear of the Lord and you don’t start manipulating it to individual selfishness. When some people said that the PDP would rule Nigeria for 60 years, they had their reasons because they believed that the mistakes of the past, which created problems for the country, were taken care of in the PDP constitution. Unfortunately we lost the 2015 election but that wasn’t the end of the party. 2019 is still a bit far and I believe we can correct the mistakes we made. At the same time, the modus operandi of the PDP is to alleviate the sufferings of the people. We have learned our lesson.

How do you cope with negative perception of a party of corrupt people?
Are you saying APC is a party of saints or should we start to look at them? Apart from Buhari, the APC has not been a party of saints but thank God the electorate have seen them now. There were certain mistakes that the PDP made that actually dented our image but we have learnt our lessons. There are things that are coming out now that some of us didn’t even know were happening when the party was in power. The issue is that when you leave the management of a party in the hands of committed and loyal members, there would be no crises. But if you suddenly allow nonchalant people to take over, you would be held accountable. But my position is that Nigeria is just building up democratic etiquette.

PDP members are trooping to the APC
I wish them the best of luck and those that are still on board, I will tell them be careful. What is APC? I can confidently tell you that they are congregations of strange bedfellows. Why has the party not been able to have a concerted policy for almost two years? In the last two years we have all seen how different arms that merged to form the APC, have been moving in different directions. Our party wasn’t like that because we were able to hold the country and manage it’s affairs for good 16 years. But it is good for the PDP to have the other side of the day; I mean to be in the opposition. This would serve us well and it would also enable us to know how to serve the people of this country well if we regain power again. Getting into government does not mean you are the alpha and omega but you are there to serve. The system should begin to ask how public servants make their money. It is unfortunate that those who were nothing before getting into public office suddenly became superfluous rich and the system isn’t probing it. I think we should make the Nigeria system a self-cleansing one. We accepted that we goofed but no human being is perfect. We were lucky that Nigerians have a lot of patience.

What is your view about Buhari’s two-year administration?
Once a government is in place we should allow them to implement their policies. I believe there is still room between now and 2019. Unless we see there is something that is deliberately dangerous for the country, they should be allowed to run. However the simple question one needed to ask is whether life is better now than it was under the past administration. The details of what I have seen would be made next year. There are things that could have been done better than they are being handled now. But my advice to Buhari is that he should learn from the mistakes of those who surrounded erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan because today, the former president is the one bearing the brunt of the mistakes of his lieutenants.

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