PDP crisis: Will it ever end?
By Ochiaka Ugwu
Last week, the polarized Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its all important special reconciliation meeting in Abuja chaired by a former President, Goodluck Jonathan. The meeting which supposed to strengthen the party and make it a viable opposition capable of wresting power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to have become its greatest albatross. This is due to the fact that the party leadership was embroiled in a political crisis that culminated in the factional Chairman of the party and a former Borno Governor, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff working out on Goodluck Jonathan who was billed to restore sanity and unite the warring parties.
It was gathered that the meeting instead of calming frayed nerves end up in fierce war of words and name calling among prominent leaders of the party divides signifying that the PDP quagmire is far from being over. One party faithful who attended the meeting simply put it more aptly by saying, “Even if the party will surmount the hurdles facing it right now, it will certainly not be now”. The crisis as of today has made it possible for most of PDPs adherents to leave its nest citing division in the party.
However, political party crisis in Nigeria could be traced to 1962, when the leadership of the defunct Action Group (AG) was embroiled in a political crisis that led to the removal of Chief Ladoke Akintola, as the Premier of the Western Region by party faithful loyal to Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was the opposition leader in the federal parliament. This was heightened with Chief Akintola’s refusal to vacate office alluding to the fact that his removal was illegal and unconstitutional. Although, it was said that the problem was as a result of ideological differences but far from it, power tussle and clash of interest were mostly responsible as events were to prove.
This replicated itself in second republic when Malam Aminu Kano’s led Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim’s Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) were involved in one crisis or the order which political historians heaped on crisis of confidence by major players. It is worthy of note that none of those political parties remained the same after those crisis.
Moreover, since the formation of PDP in 1998 after the death of the then maximum ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, the party has been enmeshed in one controversy or the other. From the challenge of internal squabbles among members to lack of internal democracy which is manifested through the culture of imposition of candidates by god fathers, lack of discipline and absence of supremacy of the party among others. Before now, observers of party politics have linked these challenges to its large size. This was reinforced by the believe that most party faithful hold in their swapped memory that it is the biggest party in the black world and capable of ruling Nigeria for the next 60 years failing to recognize the fact that human society is dynamic and power is transient in any human setting.
There is no doubt that some of these reasons adduced above have been the source of anger being expressed by party members. While some members can withstand the challenges and manage to cope with the problems, others left the umbrella angrily to seek solace in other political parties. The PDP lost some of its founding fathers because of the lingering crises which are often fuelled by selfish personal ambition of party hacks who consider themselves as ‘Alpha and Omega’.
Political pundits were quick to point out that the crisis in PDP did not just start with the Port Harcourt convention where it was held in some quarters that Sheriff was unjustly treated having been co-opted by top party brass to save its soul after suffering humiliating defeat in 2015 contest as widely believed by political commentators, but was as a result of accumulated anger which has been building over time and was blamed on the way some party elders handled affairs which led to its dismal outing in 2015 general elections. To this group of party men, PDP should be totally overhauled to bring in people with new ideas on how to run a modern political party and not elderly people who always claim to have experience to regain the lost glory of the party. They went on to postulate that fresh ideas are far better than experience to buttress their argument on the need for paradigm shift within the political spectrum.
It was gathered that the last week meeting which was summoned to calm frayed nerves and reconcile aggrieved party men ended up escalating the already tensed situation in the party due to lack of proper consultation by stakeholders.
Sheriff, who stormed the meeting at about 3:10 pm when Jonathan had just ended his opening remarks, demanded to preside over the meeting as the party’s authentic chairman recognized by the court, but was refused this request by the party establishment. His further demand to be allowed to make an opening remark which was turned down took the scenario to a crescendo which made him (Sheriff) to walk out with some members of his National Working Committee, NWC who considered the acts as a slap on his face.
While speaking to newsmen after the whole episode, the Borno born politician expressed shock for being denied the opportunity to preside over the meeting, contending that the party has one national chairman, in the person of Ali Modu Sheriff. He maintained that no PDP meeting supposed to take place under any circumstance without him in the picture.
He voiced out his commitment to Gov. Seriake Dickson’s committee proposal meant to reconcile angry party members including him, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi and other distressed members.
Owing to this development that played out at the meeting, informed circles have concluded that the PDP crisis is far from being over. They submitted that what transpired in the meeting was pre arranged by some elements who are bent in making sure that PDP members did not congregate under its umbrella till after 2019. Some political analysts have blamed the invisible hands of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) whose fortunes are dwindling by the day. APC fears, according to them may not be unconnected with the fact that PDP may spring a surprise in 2019 polls if allowed to mend the umbrella that binds them together.
Moreover, political savants had argued before now that the only barricade between PDP and Aso Villa in 2019 is its internal crisis which if resolved will see it ousting the ruling APC in the incoming polls. In order to give a APC a good fight in 2019, an informed source told our reporter that PDP had concluded plans to remodel the party for better, pointing out that the birth of the reformed PDP will be a good omen to millions of Nigerians who are yearning for a good tomorrow and not even for a better tomorrow, because today is bad. He said Nigerians will welcome reformed PDP with open hands, particularly, those at the grassroots.
On whether the party will come out of this crisis just like other ones, he said that party crisis is a common feature in every political party which can be solved by genuine reconciliation. He called on PDP elders to as matter of urgency to set up an impartial reconciliation committee to restore peace in the party before it affects its electoral fortune in 2019 as it did 2015 polls.
It could be recalled that many committees have been inaugurated to reconcile aggrieved party men who left the party either because the party did not provide a level playing ground for all aspirants during the primary elections or candidates were imposed by a sitting president, governor or party elder.
With the crisis snowballing to a level whereby a former President was ignored and walked out on by a major player in the conflict shows that the solution to the crisis is yet to be found. For Ahmed Makarfi’s faction, it is no retreat and for Sheriff who was described by a party man as a hard bone to chew and a rough shell to crack, it is no surrender, Peoples Daily gathered.