• Party crawls on tardy road to 2019
By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
THE rejection of the peace deal of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, the embattled former Acting National Chairman, has created a new vista of conflicts in the party. The cyclical conflicts deepen the gulf of internal rancour and disharmony of interests in the mission to rebuild the party, thus, retarding the build-up to 2019.
It is apposite that the PDP has ample of time, which it cannot afford to waste, to rebuild and reposition the party structures for the 2019 General Elections, particularly, at this period the All Progressives Congress (APC) Government is contending with the crisis of recession of the economy. APC had similar opportunity during the era of its opposition role and maximised it in 2015.
Apparently, the political machine of the has become complicated at every stage of conflict resolution since the 2015 General Elections the then hegemonic political party lost power to the opposition APC. Accordingly, every effort to resolve the prevalent conflicts plunges the party into deeper conflicts and seeming circuitous irreconcilable disharmony of interests among party stakeholders.
Inquiry shows that certain political miscalculations by party leaders on the path to self-rediscovery and reinvention plunged the PDP into the seeming orbital conflicts being recycled at every phase of resolution.
The coming on board of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff (SAS) into prominence in the PDP has become a seeming Titanic voyage the party currently navigates.
At a time PDP leaders thought the party has come to a point of relief, Sheriff rekindled the conflicts on the premise of him being in control of the process of reconciliation and restoration of peace.
Sheriff, through his deputy national chairman, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, and his Special Adviser on Media, Inuwa Bwala, last week, denounced the vote of confidence passed on the Caretaker Committee led by Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, and subsequently rejected the terms of reconciliation pronounced by the Board of Trustees. Sheriff further demanded the resignation of both Makarfi and Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin.
The recycling conflicts tend to reflect the failure of PDP leaders to set up appropriate framework of bargaining, tradeoff and consensus building in reinventing the party after the 2015 General Elections. The vacuum precipitated the lingering power competition between stakeholders beyond the party structures, the basis on which Sheriff is tormenting the PDP.
It is widely considered an irony that the PDP governors, in their erroneous political calculations, imposed Sheriff as acting national chairman of the party after Dr. Gulak had fought assiduously to dethrone Uche Secondus as acting national chairman, in his struggle to ensure the position is retained in the North East after the exit of Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, former National Chairman. Mu’azu was forced to resign after the abysmal performance of the party in the 2015 elections. The first conflict shock was the registration of the Young Democratic Party (YDP) by Gulak.
The persistent opposition to the emergence of Sheriff as acting national chairman compelled the PDP Board of Trustees led by Senator Walid Jibrin, to re-engineer the party’s political machine to save the party from implosion. The intervention of the Board led to the current peace deal which Sheriff is still resisting.
To the consternation of many stakeholders, Sheriff participated in the peace negotiation meeting last Monday that lasted over for hours which led to the communique on the resolutions of the meeting, there was no record that he made remarkable objections to the issues but resorted to articulate contrary decisions after the communique.
Ojougboh, speaking for the Sheriff faction, insisted that the terms of agreement with an earlier reconciliation committee led by Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, former Deputy Senate President, and Governor Seriake Henry Dickson of Bayelsa State, specified that Sheriff should chair a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting which Makarfi will attend as a member of the BOT. He added that they agreed that a new convention committee will be appointed at the meeting.
The Board of Trustees had after the prolonged Monday meeting in Abuja resolved that the PDP will convene the next National Convention in Abuja contrary to initial arrangement of Port Harcourt. The Board further resolved that the Convention Committee led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State be dissolved and a new committee appointed. These were part of the conditions Sheriff earlier gave for peace to be restored in the party.
Walid Jibrin also disclosed that both the Convention Committee and the Board of Trustees will be approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC).
These concessions were, however, rejected by Sheriff, who insists on sole control of the entire process.
“We completely reject the vote of confidence passed on the illegal caretaker committee because a committee that has failed to successfully organize a convention on two occasions is a failure. We, therefore, call on his friends and associates and family to advise him to do the needful and resign now to save multi-party democracy in Nigeria and stop impunity that has been the bone of internal democracy,” Ojougboh had declared. He maintained that the BoT Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, has caused deeper crisis in the party. “In any case his tenure has expired as he has spent more than 10 years as Secretary and Chairman of BoT which runs contrary to the Constitution,” Ojougboh had contended.
In PDP’s earlier efforts toward rebuilding the party, an elders forum was constituted not only to reconcile party members but also to reconnect the PDP with leaders who abandoned the party in anger. This culminated into visitations and appeals to Alhaji Adamu Ciorma, Chief Tony Anenih and others.
Ciroma, hosting the PDP elders led by Jibrin, Mantu, Professor Jerry Gana and others, admonished PDP elders to avoid making mistakes of the past which led to the loss of power to the APC. He, unequivocally, remarked that PDP made some mistakes and lost power to APC, stating that APC is already making mistakes like the PDP. Ciroma advocated all-inclusive participation in the struggle to regain power from the APC.
The PDP elders also visited former President Goodluck Jonathan on the same mission, soliciting his intervention in the lingering conflicts and the efforts to rebuild the party.
The former President, though, acknowledged the desiderata for all stakeholders to be involved in repositioning the PDP and promoting democracy in the country, he made no categorical commitment of personal involvement to rebuild the PDP.
It was observed that the PDP was making success at this stage of reconciliation and rebuilding but the success became pulsated by Sheriff’s unrepentant stance which has thrown the party into a seeming trajectory of orbital conflicts.
The orbital conflicts in the party became writ large by the emergent judicial anarchy, which degenerated into alternating judgments within parallel jurisdiction. Sheriff has been leveraging on this to deepen the gulf of intractable crisis in the party since his removal as acting national chairman on May 21, 2016 at the national convention in Port Harcourt.
There are indications that the emerging order in the PDP has created new forces of change that have gone beyond Sheriff and his group. Sheriff, thus, hypothetically, found solace in the court to scuttle the change process.
Accordingly, the failure of the August 17, 2016, National Convention in Port Harcourt precipitated by conflicting court orders threw the PDP into a new phase of conflict culminating into the extension of the Caretaker Committee led by Makarfi to 12 months. That failure frustrated the election of substantive members of the National Working Committee that will provide administration for the party at the Secretariat.
More so, Sheriff’s demand for the resignation of the BoT Chairman, Walid Jibrin is widely perceived as an attempt to cripple the party; party stakeholders have expressed that this is one controversy the PDP cannot afford to accommodate in its build up to 2019.
However, the PDP still has the open window to pursue its cases to logical conclusion at the Appeal Court with urgency. If the negotiation and consensus option fails, the court process provides an alternative interventionist mechanism to resolve the conflicts. This is more so since Justice Okon Abang from whom Sheriff has been receiving favourable judgements and orders is being investigated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) following petitions on allegations of ‘compromising judicial processes’.
Meanwhile, PDP stakeholders and some elder statesmen across the country have continued to commend Walid Jibrin, the BoT Chairman, on his efforts to restore peace in the party. The BoT chairman has also assured of successful resolution of the conflicts, reconciliation of members and repositioning the PDP for 2019.