The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Nigeria’s erstwhile ruling party, founded in 1999 in the wake of the renascent democracy of Nigeria, came to power the same year 1999 and was dislodged from the seat of power following the outcome of the 2015 general election, which produced President Muhamadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress, APC as the president of Nigeria. The PDP thus became the main opposition party with 49 seats of the 109 senate seats and more than a dozen state governors in its kitty. It has been doggedly trying to live up to its new-found position of opposition, albeit, with very serious privations, as its leaders and spokes- persons have all been targeted by Buhari’s much vaunted anti-corruption war which cynics view as effort to muzzle up and silence the voice of the opposition. To this day, anyone who rises to speak on the PDP platform on the government of the day, gets clamped down or swooned on by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC or the DSS. Even some of its members under the hood of executive immunity have not been spared this dastardly treatment; ask Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti or his Rivers state counterpart, Nyesom Wike. Not even its highest officer in the present dispensation, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, have been left unscathed for daring to keep the PDP flag flying.
To make matters worse, there has been deep seated wrangling and rumbling within the party hierarchy. Worried by the performance of an uninspiring and obtuse leadership headed by senator Ali Modu Sheriff, ex-governor of Borno state, the PDP National Working Committee dissolved that leadership and set up a care-taker committee headed by former Kaduna State governor, Makarfi. This factionalized the party and since June2016, the PDP has not known real unity and peace. There had been a pleuthora of court injunctions, orders, rulings and judgments sacking or reinstating either of the factions. The most recent has been the Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt which declared Sheriff as the authentic PDP chairman, on penultimate Friday, Febuary17, 2017.
Expectedly, while the Sheriff loyalists and middle of the road members cheer and welcome the ruling, the Makarfi factional members have sworn not to accept Sheriff as chairman of the PDP. Curiously, the PDP governors, who at one time had been backing Sheriff have joined forces with the Makarfi loyalists in insisting that Sheriff must be dislodged even as the latter has forced himself into the PDP secretariat. Former President Goodluck Jonathan who was earlier reported to have endorsed Sheriff as the authentic chairman has made a volte face and has told Sheriff to team up with the Makarfi as that is ‘where the majority is’ even as Sheriff insists that he would leave the seat only after the party’s convention which he hopes to conduct. Deep sources revealed that the Makarfi group may be putting finishing touches to an appeal against the Appeal Court ruling on the issue. Sheriff has reportedly brandished the olive branch but also allegedly equivocated that he was going to cage the likes of Fayose and Wike. Then one may be tempted to ask, whose interest Sheriff is serving; that of the PDP or that of his father-in-law Buhari? Otherwise, why would the chairman of a party promise to extinguish its own shinning lights? Indeed Sheriff was said to have led a prayer session with his loyalists at the party secretariat in aid of the recovery of the APC leader, President Buhari. What manner of chairman is this?
Reports have it that Modu Sheriff was a PDP renegade and that at the time he was invited and made chairman by the Jonathan administration, he was not a card carrying member or a sympathizer of PDP. Indeed many people opposed his candidature at the time pointing to his well known connection to the Boko Haram terrorists. He is even said to be the founder of the group and his traducers insist that since he has not renounced his own membership and connection or openly condemned their activities that he may still be consorting with that insurgent group., yet he was allowed to become chairman, at least insiders say, for his known nuisance value. That decision has led to great losses in the party’s fortunes including the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections.
Interestingly, short of going to court, the Makarfi loyalists may have to evacuate and dump the PDP en mass and join in the efforts at creating the expected mega party. Ahead of this, some elected members of the PDP at state and Federal legislative houses have been leaving the party since they cannot come terms with the Modu Sherrif onslaught and while others are threading cautiously as they try to decipher the implication and potency of a Sheriff leadership. Most of them reportedly are not comfortable with Sheriff as chairman given his brazen closeness to Buhari and dalliance with the ruling party APC, as some even point to the possible surreptitious hands of the ruling party in the PDP crises and the Sheriff’s serial legal triumphs.
Pundits echo the sentiment of ex- President Olu Obasanjo who insisted that PDP was death-bound and that Sheriff was its undertaker, stressing his dalliance with the ruling party, cooperation with and of the security apparatus, and lack of concern for the common good of this party but rather insistent on parochial consideration. Political observers express fear that if Sheriff succeeds in destroying the PDP, that Nigeria was really headed the way of a one party dictatorship. And this they say will spell real doom for everyone including the boisterous Sheriff who would be caged in by the powers that be which he collaborates with so as to avert his “scatter-scatter” politicking.
However, with the former President Jonathan and other PDP founding fathers wading into the impasse, hopes may still be reborn and the PDP will be saved from extinction. Party discipline should be brought to bear in reining the recalcitrant elements into the fold and under the one umbrella. Elders should exhibit candour and integrity in handling the Modu Sheriff imbroglio, otherwise, the umbrella will be shredded and taken away leaving the occupants to the vagaries of a hostile political environment where they may never find a foothold. PDP! Power to the people!!