By Willy Eya
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ‘it is one day, one trouble’. Yesterday again, its National Convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, ended with yet question marks on the future of the embattled opposition party. Many would agree that even though the party has continued with efforts to keep afloat, the crisis bedevilling it appears intractable. It has figuratively become a festering sore. The convention turned into a mild drama when the Nigeria Police Force sealed off the Sharks Stadium, venue of the event in obedience to a court order by Justice Okong Abang of the federal High Court, Abuja. But determined to hold the convention, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction relocated to the party secretariat in Aba road, Port Harcourt for the event where they took quick decisions. First, the convention which was presided by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State dissolved the earlier agenda to conduct elections into various offices to fill the vacuum orchestrated by the expiration of the tenure of the former working committee members.
The convention also ratified the constitution of the National Caretaker Committee as constituted by the May 21, 2016 convention in Port Harcourt. It also extended the tenure of the Makarfi-led Caretaker committee by 12 months to enable the party resolve all pending legal issues.
In addition, the convention increased the number of the Caretaker Committee from 7 to 13 in order to cater for all the offices available in the NWC and to include all the zones of the federation.
So, with the contending forces in the party which manifested again after the controversial convention, so many issues agitate the minds of critical observers.
Future of the PDP
For many, the event of yesterday has for the umpteenth time cast a doubt on the future of the party. In the estimation of critical observers, what is happening in the party is a contest for power and influence between and among various stakeholders in the PDP.
The calculation is that the internal crisis rocking the party is not likely to go away because of the interests of those involved in the power game. Those who hold this position argue that even if the PDP attempts to organise another convention, it may fail because of the determination of the gladiators to have their way in the ensuing political battle.
Analysts argue that there is hardly any difference between what happened in the earlier convention on May 21 when the delegates voted for the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee(NWC) and that of yesterday.
The May event which set up the Makarfi Caretaker Committee and Senator Ben Obi as secretary gave 90 days within which to organise a fresh national convention.
But Sheriff dismissed the dissolution of the NWC under him then as a joke, insisting that he remained the leader of the party until 2018.
To make good his position, he later replaced former members of the dissolved NWC and appointed former House of Representatives member, Cairo Ojougboh as deputy national chairman of his faction.
And since last May, there have been conflicting court judgements on who is the rightful chairman of the PDP, with Makarfi and Sheriff laying claims to its leadership.
A great thinker, Ambrose Bierce was not mistaken when he defined politics as “ a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles; the conduct of public affairs for private advantage”.
2019 general elections
Not a few insist that all that is happening to the PDP is not unconnected with the battle for power ahead of 2019 general elections. Even though the date is still far away, many critical observers link the events in the main opposition party to the race for 2019.
In many quarters, there is the argument about the existence of fifth columnists in the PDP who would continue to stoke the embers of crisis in the party to ensure that it does not get its acts together till the next general elections.
But supporters of the former Borno governor disagree that it has anything to do with 2019. Those in this school of thought believe that Sheriff, the leader of a faction of the party is fighting over injustice meted to him by the PDP hierarchy which did not consider his contribution to the party before they dissolved the NWC led by him.
There are also others who insist that the problem the PDP is undergoing was self-inflicted considering that before the emergence of sheriff on the saddle, the party was forewarned of the implication. Those who hold this position believe that the party played into the hands of Sheriff by allowing some governors impose him on the party. Before the former Borno governor assumed the leadership of the PDP, many stakeholders in the party kicked against his candidature but the governors led by those of Rivers and Ekiti states, Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose had their way.
Those conversant with power struggle of the type in the PDP at the moment believe that the party is in for a long journey in litigation. Their calculation is that the legal ding dong over the leadership of the party would be difficult to stop.
Recall that after the May convention,
Senator Sheriff argued that he postponed the exercise in deference to a court judgment of Justice Hussein Buba of the Lagos High Court which had earlier restrained the party from proceeding with it. But earlier before that convention, Justice Ibrahim Watila of the federal High Court, Port
Harcourt had accorded legitimacy to the Ahmed Makarfi committee.
On Monday August 15, the federal High Court in Port Harcourt validated yesterday’s event while the federal High Court in Abuja had made an interim order stopping the convention. It is based on the above scenario that many think, the legal battle would not just go away
Among many observers, it would be easier to solve the puzzle in PDP if the parties in the conflict could agree to a political solution but that again seems not likely.
Ahead of yesterday’s convention, the BoT in one of the several efforts to resolve the crisis, had set up a reconciliation committee headed by Professor Jerry Gana to reach out to party leaders and aggrieved members.
The BoT members visited former president Goodluck Jonathan to solicit his support in the reconciliation drive.
During the visit, the BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin regretted that the party had not less than 15 court cases with verdicts given on some and appeal pending on others.
Former President, Goodluck Jonathan had promised to intervene in the crisis even as he advised that the Makarfi faction should reconcile with Sheriff. According to him: “any sincere PDP member should know that PDP is superior to any individual and that members have sacrificed their interests for the party. Even the nation expects a more vibrant opposition.
“I have been talking to individuals but not in a way that is exposed to media but I believe I should do more.”
The Reconciliation committee also met with the former Borno governor behind closed door in Abuja but did not succeed in convincing him to sheathe his sword.
Many argue that the conditions sheriff gave the PDP for the reconciliation to be possible were not realistic. They include the postponement of the August 17 convention, the change of the venue of the convention from Port Harcourt to Abuja, removal of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike as the chairman of the convention committee and the validation of the ward and local government congresses held by his faction.
There have been at least two different attempts by some PDP governors and leaders to broker peace between the party and Sheriff but none had succeeded.
Who is to blame?
By Chinelo Obogo
Since yesterday, reactions have continued to trail the controversial convention of the PDP with many uncomfortable with the implication of the development on the nation’s democracy.
APC backing Sheriff -Agbaje
One of the aspirants for the national chairmanship, and a former governorship candidate in Lagos, Jimi Agbaje, put the blame on the the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, saying it was also responsible for the lingering crisis in the party.
In a statement issued by his Director of Media and Publicity, Felix Oboagwina, Agbaje said: “PDP did everything to nourish democracy. But it is obvious that the ruling party does not want a viable opposition. APC must realise that without a thriving opposition, democracy cannot survive.”
Agbaje, who said the crisis leading to the postponement of the PDP convention far outweighed his own personal disappointment, urged the media and civil society to take the ruling party to task on the need to stop meddling in the internal affairs of the opposition.
NJC should call erring judges to order –Emeka Ngige (SAN)
The only comment I would make is a call for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to call erring judges to order. The way out is for the NJC to wield the big stick so that others would learn. In fact, I hold the commission responsible for what is going on, because it appears that there are no deterrents for judges who err. It therefore behoves on it to call them to order over these conflicting judgments. This is not how things should be done. It is possible for the parties concerned to go to the Court of Appeal and resolve the issue, but the problem is that it has different divisions.
There is anarchy in Judiciary –Yinka Odumakin
It is an indication of the anarchy in the judiciary where all sorts of people are given conflicting judgments and the police are taking sides. It is also troubling because lawyers would tell you that when a party does not like a judgment, you should appeal. But how can you go on appeal, and at the same time, go around getting all sorts of judgments from the lower courts? It is an absurdity and I advise the judiciary to be careful so that they do not throw the country into anarchy. If there is no political undertone, the NJC should look into the matter and bring appropriate sanctions to those that are involved.
I warned PDP governors that Buhari was backing Sheriff –Fani Kayode
On his twitter handle, @realFFK, he accused President Buhari of sponsoring the Amodu Sheriff faction of the party. He twitted: “When I warned our people about President Muhammadu Buhari and what he would do with power, no one listened. And when I warned our PDP governors about the dangers of making Ali Modu Sheriff the National Chairman, they did not listen. I also told them that the government would not allow the convention to hold because Sheriff was working for them. Now look at what they did in Port Harcourt in collusion with some judges just to destabilize, destroy and silence the opposition.
“Governors were put under house arrest and the convention venue was sealed off. It is shameful and evil. Let me make another prediction; this is just the beginning of their tyranny. It will get far worse. The sooner the leaders of the PDP wake up and smell the coffee, and appreciate the kind of person they are dealing with, and the sooner they elect and select leaders that are prepared to risk their lives and liberty to confront this government, the better. If you want democracy and freedom, you must be prepared to confront the dictator and fight for it. Where there is no justice, there can be no peace.”
PDP to blame for failed convention -Doyin Okupe
On his facebook page, Doyin Okupe, the former aide to ex President Goodluck Jonathan, said the blame for the botched convention should rest squarely on the PDP.
His words: “The failed PDP convention cannot and should not be blamed on our political adversaries. Rather, the blame should rest squarely on the failure of the internal conflict resolution machinery of the PDP. The surprising naivety and desperation of many to seize power and control the party, and the gullibility of majority of the followership who have become entrenched in the cesspool of pervasive impunity of our leaders over the years. However, it is commendable that the NEC threw sentiments aside and extended the tenure of the controversial caretaker committee by one year, and allowed for future expansion of the membership of the committee.
The import of this is that the party has now officially jettisoned the ‘microwave’ strategy, hitherto, employed by the leadership, and allowed for ample time to address all issues. By allowing for new inclusions into the membership of the caretaker committee, the leadership obviously has made room for possible reasonable negotiation with the Amodu Sheriff group, which is inevitable and a political imperative if the party must remain untied.
“Again, this is neither the time for victory songs nor a season for political vendetta. This is time for seeking lasting and honest peace, time to rebuild from current ashes of flames of the inferno, of political opportunism, greed, selfishness and blatant impunity. There may just be another chance to do it again, especially now that our adversaries are burning their political access card.”
PDP in grave danger Maxi Okwu, lawyer
If it’s true then PDP is in grave danger of going into extinction. I repeat my swan song since 2015, PDP may survive but it cannot recover. It’s undertakers are Wike and Fayose who recruited BH father Sheriff to become National Chairman of the party. In the greater interest of our democratic enterprise let me post an excerpt from a post I made on the 29th of July 2916. Plan A has been overtaken by events, but B is still germane.