The consensus in the country right now is that the PDP is in crisis, purportedly so and a protracted one for that matter. Between April 2015 when the party lost the federal government to the APC and now, the party has attempted two national conventions with the aim of establishing a new national leadership to steer its affairs; albeit unsuccessful. The status quo today is that we have a legitimate national chairman in Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, whose leadership is validated by the judgements of two Federal High Courts and most recently, the Court of Appeal. On the flipside, there is the Senator Ahmed Makarfi Caretaker Committee that is still claiming rights to the leadership of the party. The caretaker committee was a creation of the botched first convention; and this is the point where my intervention will start.
Let it be stated ‘inter alia’ that Governors Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state and Nyesom Wike of Rivers state were the ‘fons et origo’, that is, the ‘Source and Origin’ of the emergence of Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the PDP. As at that time, the party was in a lull and devoid of life – expectedly so – as the party had just suffered a major reverse after sixteen years of luxuriating in unfettered power. Fayose precisely, in conjunction with Wike lured Sheriff to come into the PDP and installed him as the chairman. These governors gave us laudable and pristine reasons why Sheriff was the best man for the PDP. They wallowed in valiant adulation of the Borno political juggernaut, just to convince us he is the man to put the PDP on the path of recovery and electoral victory even as early as 2019. They told us he was experienced, well-connected, detribalized, popular and has the financial muscle to run the party. Truly, he exudes those qualities and we all accepted him.
Today, these same men have declared Sheriff a ‘persona non grata’ and are daggers drawn with him. The question is, what has changed, when did the affection diminish and why has Fayose declared that himself and Sherriff have become parallel lines that can never meet? Be that as it may, disagreements are abiding parts of politics and as they say, there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, but permanent interest. Obviously, the interests of Fayose and Wike no longer align with that of Sheriff, hence the Armageddon in the party. The key word here is interest. What interest is pushing these governors to the extent of pushing the party to the precipice? It may not be too far from ambition, greed, ego and self-seeking pursuits. The history of our party is replete with how governors have always constituted themselves into a powerful bloc that determines what happens and who gets what in the party.
They held many of our Presidents hostage far too many times and whenever important decisions were to be taken, these governors only needed to meet in one lodge in Abuja and foist their wishes on the party; such that Obasanjo, Yaradua and Jonathan all deferred to them at crucial times. The tyranny of ‘governors caucus’ over other constituted bodies was too overbearing; yet that bloc is not recognized in the constitution of our party, which lists the National Convention, Board of Trustees, National Executive Committee, National Working Committee and National Caucus as recognized bodies of the party. Therefore, where did these governors derive the power to arbitrate the course of events in our party? Even if they have such licentiousness in their respective states, could they in all morality exert such authority on the party in whole? Definitely, they do not have it, as it is crass mockery of our constitution and a ridiculing aberration that must be stopped.
After the 2015 loss, it was expected that all self-seeking tendencies should stop and everyone would unite to reshape the party. One of such sobering redress ought to be that, imposition of leaders and all acts of impunity should stop. Decisions should become collective and agreements reached by consensus of the majority. Fayose and Wike wanted to perpetuate that tradition by seizing control of the party especially in the absence of an executive head in the mould of a President – who ordinarily will be the ‘de facto’ leader of the party. Fayose and Wike’s actions are moderated by two agenda. Firstly, both want to be leaders of the party in their zones (southwest and south south respectively) and also national leaders of the party. Secondly, both want to be Vice Presidential candidates of the party come 2019 elections. These self-centeredness pushed them to search for a man who will be malleable to their biddings and install him as national chairman; and in their deviant thinking, they thought that man was Sheriff.
Prior to the first convention in Porthacourt, they struck various agreements with Sheriff based on the two pronged agenda enunciated above, but what truncated that trust and agreement had to do with the failure of Fayose to successfully control the southwest; where he got more than a match in Senator Buruji Kashamu – a man who singlehandedly navigated the path to Ekiti government house for him a second time. Fayose and Kashamu fell out over the southwest zonal executive, the position of the National Secretary and Fayose’s support to a renegade group in ogun state PDP. The courts retained the Makanjuola Ogundipe zonal executive and Prof. Wale Oladipo as National secretary- all loyal to Kashamu. Almost at the same time, Kashamu had developed a strong relationship with Sheriff to the utter dismay of Fayose who would have none of that and declared a war. He transferred that frustration to the national level by recruiting Wike to fight Sheriff and Kashamu.
On the eve of that convention, Fayose convinced Wike to ditch Sheriff and one of the planks used was to force Sheriff to sign a prepared document containing unfavourable conditions, which he refused to sign. He immediately outsmarted both governors by addressing a press conference to postpone the convention. Fayose and Wike, dazed by that move from Sheriff, contrived an illegality by creating a caretaker committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi; and that set the stage for the crisis in the party today. When reason prevailed and a second convention was planned, both governors again wanted to midwife who will emerge the new chairman, and pronto, they settled for the pliable and little-experienced Jimi Agbaje from Lagos state. Yet again, Sheriff, who would have none of such imposition, went to court and stopped the second convention. The status quo remained until the Makarfi group challenged the judgments of the Federal High Courts that affirmed Sheriff.
Prior to the judgement of the appeal court, Fayose refused all entreaties for peace and amicable political solution to the crisis as spearheaded by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state. He said the best bet was for all parties to wait for the appeal court ruling and abide with it; and an agreement to this effect was even reached by Sheriff and Makarfi. Contrary to their expectation, the appeal court ruled in favour of Ali Modu Sheriff. Again, Fayose and Wike made a volte face, refusing to accept the decision of the appellate court. This is actually the crux of the matter. What is Fayose and Wike looking for? What is Makarfi looking for? Rather than work with Sheriff to plan an all-inclusive national convention that will usher in a more enduring leadership, they have chosen the macabre dance by heading to the Supreme Court. The truth is, the Makarfi caretaker committee is an abnormality and unsustainable contraption created by two governors with bloated egos and vaunting ambition.
They forgot that Article 33, 1a of the PDP constitution clearly indicates that the national chairman of the party (in this case Sheriff) is the Chairman of the national convention and that article 35, 1a of same document vests the power to “summon and convene” the national convention to the national chairman. Under the current circumstance, Sheriff postponed the convention few hours before it was to start, suffice to say that is was not convened; which meant that the gathering of PDP members in Portharcourt was mere excursion to the garden city. Consequently, the decision by Fayose, Wike, Secondus and other dissidents to move into the convention ground was ‘ultra vires’; thus rendering any decision taken therefrom – invalid, worthless and of no effect before the law. Therefore Makarfi caretaker committee remains an alien before the statue books. One then wonders, what logic or grounds are they hinging their wild hope that the Supreme Court will upturn the appeal court decision. From the foregoing, the ‘prima facie’ of their case is pathetically faulty and the ground of their appeal to the apex court is fundamentally defective.
Having fallen flat before the law in this extant matter, does it not make sense that they desist from that ludicrous path and embrace a political solution? Even when former President Goodluck Jonathan intervened few days ago by calling a meeting of the warring divide, Fayose and Wike again displayed their predilection for illegality and malicious disregard for judicial pronouncements when contrary to the agreed terms for that meeting, they nudged the master of ceremony not to recognize Sheriff as the national chairman, neither did they reserve his seat nor allow him to make remarks at the meeting in his capacity as the national chairman – subject to his validation by the appeal court. The last straw that revealed the shenanigans and ulterior motives of Fayose was his appearance on Politics Today, a primetime political show of Channels Television; where he went berserk to castigate Sheriff and alluded to the fact that, his group were not going to deal with him even if the supreme court upholds the appeal court verdict – which to observers, is indicative of an intention to leave the PDP for another party.
Fayose, Wike, Makarfi and their collaborators are fast becoming the enemy of the PDP and they do not need to destroy the party before going to another platform. It is gladdening that a few other governors and leaders of the party are now reasonable and have urged that it is easier to implement a political solution right now by simply working with Sheriff to convene a convention as early as June when a new set of national officers will emerge and Sheriff leaves; but the fixated animosity, inordinate agenda and selfish schemes of Fayose have prevented him from seeing the loftiness of that idea, which was captured in Governor Dickson’s peace proposal among other items. It is time to halt the festering crisis within the PDP by stopping Fayose and Wike from their continuous shenanigans and deliberate subterfuge. No doubt, the PDP is riding a rough patch but to bend the corner, it must be through collective effort and that cannot be achieved through the narrow wishes, self-conceited gambit of two scheming governors. The PDP is bigger than anybody and whether they are with us or not, we shall continue to remain a strong and prosperous party.
Bolaji Adeniji is a Public Affairs Pundit, Communication Consultant and also the State Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Ogun State.