Saturday, August 20, 2016

PDP house of commotion and the way out

The crisis rocking the acclaimed biggest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party, is yet to abate. Indeed, it got worse during the week as confusion reigned supreme at the second attempted convention of the party in three months held in Port Harcourt on August 17, 2016. It would be recalled that the party had on May 21 tried to hold a convention but due to the litany of court judgments barring it had decided to set up a caretaker committee under the leadership of former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. Last Wednesday, Police in a proactive manner locked the party members out of the Sharks Stadium venue of the convention and the party had to move the event to its secretariat in the state. Ahead of the convention, an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang had ruled that holding the convention will be in contempt of his court order while another Port Harcourt Federal High court had okayed the holding of the convention. Apparently, the police were enforcing the order of the Abuja court while acting in contempt of the Port Harcourt’s injunction.

At the last count there were alleged to be about 17 different court cases that have been filed by PDP members on the leadership tussle plaguing the party. There have been claims that the incumbent ruling party, the All Progressives Congress and indeed the presidency has a hand in the PDP leadership debacle. Those who hold this view in PDP said that its factional chairman and former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff  is a mole the ruling party is using to destablise the party and pointed to the sealing off of the Port Harcourt Shark’s Stadium by the police as biased action ordered by presidency.  APC and the presidency had stoutly debunked these allegations. It is noteworthy that the Wadata House headquarters of PDP in Abuja has on a number of occasions in recent past been sealed off by the police in order to forestall breakdown of law and order.

I was a guest analyst on “Good Morning Nigeria” a programme on Nigerian Television Authority on Thursday, August 18, 2016 to discuss the PDP crises especially the Port Harcourt convention of August 17. It is important to understand the genesis of the current leadership struggle in the party. One major deficiency PDP has is its apparent lack of democratic ethos. The democratic in the name of the party is a misnomer. PDP relishes and basks in underhand dealings such as imposition of candidates, election rigging, money politics and hold dearly to the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means”. Noble Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka reportedly nicknamed PDP as a nest of killers. The party had been led by about a dozen chairmen in 16 years and many of them were imposed on the party. Little wonder there is a high turnover of leadership. There have been Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh, Ahmadu Ali, Haliru Mohammed, Vincent Ogbulafor, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Bamanga Tukur, Adamu Muazu, Uche Secondus, Kawu Baraje, Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi. It is noteworthy that some of these chairmen were appointed in acting capacity thus their tenures were interim.

While it is true that PDP had won four out of the five general elections held in Nigeria since the return to civil rule in 1999, the party had perpetually been in turmoil all because of the aforementioned trademarks. PDP grew into a behemoth and became so arrogant at a point that it deregistered some of its members in order to scheme them out of its power game. Things however came to a head at a special convention held in Abuja in August 2013 when seven governors of the party and a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar walked out of the venue of the convention and announced the birth of new PDP. Eventually, the VP and five out of the seven governors moved into the newly registered APC to boost its rank and electoral fortune in 2015. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was the PDP chairman at the time and rather than reaching out and reconciling with the aggrieved members who broke away to form the new PDP, Tukur and his co-travellers at the Wadata House called the aggrieved members spent forces and liabilities who will not be missed. The thought of PDP leadership then was that whether people vote for the party or not, they will win elections. Of course, it has been working for the party since 1998 when it was formed but the PDP leaders forgot that the only thing that is permanent in life is change.

PDP governors and other powerful interest group forced Tukur to resign and since the chairmanship slot was zoned to the North East, a replacement was sought from the zone and that was how former Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Adamu Muazu was brought in to complete the tenure of Tukur. Muazu who was nicknamed the ‘Game Changer’ led PDP to its first electoral waterloo in 2015 and was also subsequently pressurized to throw in the towel.   His deputy national chairman from the south, Uche Secondus became acting chairman and Alhaji Ahmed Gulak a former presidential adviser went to court that the National Working Committee of PDP erred by making Secondus to act when the North East should have been asked to replace Muazu. Gulak won at the court and later declared himself as the new chairman of PDP. Apparently, he did not get the support of the Board of Trustee and other powerful interest groups in the party like the governors. That was how Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who joined the party few months to the last general elections, was drafted in by some PDP governors to complete the remainder of Bamangar Tukur’s tenure. He was to hold office for three months within which he was mandated to hold an elective convention.

That was when confusion finally ‘break bone’, a la maverick musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Sheriff schemed to perpetuate himself in power by organising a May 21, 2016 convention in which he would have been the sole chairmanship candidate. Unfortunately for him, some party members went to court and obtained an order that no election must hold into some positions including the chairmanship. Different courts have sacked Modu Sheriff while another court said his tenure will end in 2018. Well, with the plethora of court cases tearing the soul of PDP apart, it was good that the party resolved last Wednesday in Port Harcourt to extend the tenure of Makarfi led caretaker committee for one year while attempt to reconcile different warring factions will be vigorously pursued. That is commendable. It is also laudable that PDP members are not resorting to self-help and have chosen courts to ventilate their grievances. However, I am worried at the way conflicting court orders are issued at the drop of a hat by our Federal High Courts, a court of coordinate jurisdiction. National Judicial Council should look into the rife allegations of procurement of court judgments via financial inducement of some pliable judges.  The earlier PDP resolved its internal wranglings the better for Nigerian democracy as the country is missing vibrant opposition to the APC government.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.